As Congress returns this week for a lame duck session that will focus on a new budget and the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts, there is some speculation in the patent world on the fate of Patent Reform in the 111th Congress.
Normally, one would assume that the legislature will focus on the important economic issues and leave the other issues until next year, but that’s not how the US Congress works. It is quite possible that the legislation, probably the Senate bill S. 515, will simply be tacked on to another piece of legislation that must be passed by the Congress. Many congressmen won’t even realize that the Patent Reform provisions are in the bill.
In 1999, the last time the Patent Act was significantly amended, the American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA) was tacked onto an omnibus spending bill. The AIPA was part of a $385 billion government spending bill that included the Anti-Cybersquatting Act and the Satellite Home Viewer Act. It was passed near the end of the congressional session with the House passing several continuing resolutions to keep the government running in the meantime.
Similarly in 2010, Congress could not pass a budget prior to adjourning for the mid-term elections at the end of September. A continuing resolution was passed to keep the government running until December 3. Now, the lame duck Congress must pass a new budget. Will it include Patent Reform? Should it include Patent Reform without proper debate? There seems to at least be sufficient support to put a stop to the false marking cases.
If not, the dynamics will change a bit in the House with Republicans taking control. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will chair the House Judiciary Committee. He has been an advocate of Patent Reform, co-sponsoring the 2007 Patent Reform Act that passed the House but did not receive a floor vote in the Senate.
In the Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) won an easy re-election and will continue to chair the Judiciary Committee. The Democrats did lose 3 members of the Committee. Sen. Arlen Spector (D-PA) lost in the Democratic Primary, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) was defeated for re-election, and Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE) did not run for Vice President Joe Biden’s seat that he was holding until the special election in Delaware.
HT: Hal Wegner