On July 29, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), along with Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), introduced a bill entitled “Bring Jobs Back to America: Strategic Manufacturing and Job Repatriation Act.” Section 8 of the bill relates to changes to the patent system.
The first major change is that the bill seeks to eliminate pre-grant publication of patent applications and instead only publish abstracts. This provision will be almost universally opposed by the patent community as less than 7% of patent applications are currently not published prior to issuance. It is difficult to understand the impetus behind this provision. The recent trend in US patent law has been to increase international harmonization. The US was one of the last nations in the world to adopt pre-grant publication when it did so about 10 years ago.
Next, the bill seeks to eliminate much of the so-called “secret” prior art by amending § 102(e) to reduce it almost completely to international applications published in English. No US applications could be used as prior art under this provision any more. Again, what is the impetus behind this amendment?
Finally, the bill directs the PTO to give priority in examination to applications filed by institutions of higher learning or patent holding companies affiliated with such institutions.
Congress does some rather strange and unpredictable things, but this bill is simply too bizzare to be anything other than a political re-election ploy on the part of the sponsors. Given the stalemate over patent reform, it seems highly unlikely that anything resembling the provisions in this bill could be passed.
That being said, there are a number of commentators that are predicting that a lame duck session of Congress may take up patent reform after the elections in November. Stay tuned . . .