Report: Patent Reform Passage Near in Senate

IP Watchdog is reporting that Senate passage of the patent reform bill, S. 515, may be near.

He reported yesterday that an agreement has been reached between the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), on changes to the patent reform bill.  These changes have won the support of Sen. Sessions.  The details of these changes are not yet available.

In a disturbing development on patent reform (albeit par for the course in the current Congress), Sen. Leahy seems to be unable to secure floor time before the entire Senate to debate the bill.  That doesn’t seem to be an impediment to its passage, however.  IP Watchdog reports that Sen. Leahy plans to “hotline” the bill.  I was not familiar with that term.  Apparently it means that the bill’s sponsor will ask for unanimous consent from the entire Senate to simply deem the bill as passed.  Not only will there be no debate on the bill in the Senate, but there will be no record of votes on the bill.

It gets worse.  This isn’t like a voice vote where the chair calls the vote and those in favor say “aye”.  Instead, anyone dissenting from the procedure must call the leader’s office and state that they object to the procedure.  As IP Watchdog characterizes it:  “instead of requiring explicit unanimous consent to pass a bill, the hotline process really only requires a lack of dissent.”

Whether or not you agree with the merits of the patent reform bill, this is simply politics at its worst.  We need some kind of patent reform, but we need it to be done in the open.  We need open debate and open on-the-record votes.  Government that operates in secret is not accountable to the people that elect the leaders.  Although I do not object to the merits as strongly as Mr. Boundy, I concur with his call to voice your displeasure with this situation to your congressional representatives.  This piece of reform legislation is too comprehensive for passage based on back room deals.

The only good news on this front is that we don’t yet know what will happen in the House.  But, I am not overly optimistic that this sort of political gamesmanship won’t happen there as well.  And the House passed a patent reform bill in the last Congress that died in the Senate.

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One Response to “Report: Patent Reform Passage Near in Senate”

  1. Dale B. Halling Says:

    Matt

    This bill is still damaging to the small inventor, does not solve the patent office backlog, does not solve the insanity of KSR and eBay and now the Myriad cases. Let’s hope sanity prevails and this bill dies.

    Here are my suggestions for real patent reform that would not only help small inventors but the US economy.
    1) Repeal Publication: This would restore the social contract
    2) Repeal KSR: A subject standard of patentability just increases costs and uncertainty associated with the patent process. KSR makes bureaucrats the ultimate arbiter of what is patentable instead of logic.
    3) Repay PTO: Congress should repay the over $1B it stole from inventors with interest.
    4) Regional Offices for PTO: This would ensure steady funding of the PTO and increase examiner retention
    5) Repeal eBay: This decision is logical absurdity. If a patent gives you the right to exclude, then if you win a patent infringement case you must be able to enforce your only right – the right to exclude
    6) Eliminate “Combination of Known Elements”: The fact that the Supreme Court does not understand that every invention in the history of the world is a combination of known elements is pinnacle of ignorance. Have they ever heard of “conservation of matter and energy”?
    7) Patent Reciprocity: If you drive your car across the border into Canada you do not lose title to your car. If you take your manuscript across the border into Canada you do not lose the copyright to your manuscript. But, if you take your invention across the border into Canada, you lose your patent protection and anyone can steal the invention – not the physical embodiment, but the underlying invention.
    Patent reciprocity would automatically provide patent rights in a foreign country when you obtained a patent in the US and vice versa. This idea was first proposed by the US in the mid 1800s according to B. Zorina Kahn’s book “The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920“. Unfortunately, the idea died and since then patent rights have been part of the convoluted process of trade negotiations.
    Patent reciprocity would significantly increase the value of patents and increase the value of research and development. As a result, it would spur investment in innovation. Reciprocity would increase the valuation of technology start-up companies in all countries that participated. It would also increase per capita income.

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