Senate Approves Harmful Patent Reform Bill

March 8, 2011

The U.S. Senate this week approved NSBA-opposed patent-reform legislation, the America Invents Act (S. 23)—formerly the Patent Reform Act of 2011.

NSBA contends that the provisions in S. 23 on post-grant patent challenges and its effective elimination of the American grace period would put innovative small firms and startup businesses at greater risk than the current system and would result in a U.S. patent system strongly titled in favor of large incumbent corporations.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) last week introduced an amendment that would have stripped S. 23 of its troubling grace-period provision by striking the section of the bill containing the conversion America’s first-to-invent patent priority system to a first-to-file patent system.

The Feinstein amendment unfortunately was defeated 87-13.

Sens. James Risch (R-Mont.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Mike Crap (R-Idaho), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), and Mark Begich (D-Alask) cosponsored and voted for the amendment. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) also voted for it. NSBA commends them.

S. 23, which was introduced Jan. 25, 2011 by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair and ranking member, respecitvely, of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The bill was approved 95-5, and was supported by the administration of President Barack Obama.

The U.S. House of Representatives has not yet turned its attention to patent reform and is likely to craft its own reform legislation. NSBA is hopeful that the House will listen to the concerns of America’s small buisnesses and avoid language similar to that in the Senate bill which stands to seriously hinder innovation among small firms.

Please click here for more information on NSBA’s position on the Patent Reform Act.