On September 6, 2011, in its second item of business after its August break, the United States Senate approved a procedural motion to invoke "cloture" on the House patent reform bill (HR 1249).  This vote spares patent reform from any filibuster, prevents the introduction of new amendments, and sets a 30-hour limit on further debate. The Senate is expected to schedule final debate and vote on the bill very soon.

It is not yet clear whether any amendments were introduced before the final deadline. If not, and the Senate approves the House bill without amendment, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act could become law within a few days. On the other hand, if the Senate approves any amendments, the amended version of the bill would have to go back to the House for its consideration.

The cloture vote was nearly unanimous at 93-5. One notable "nay" vote came from Senator Coburn (R) who wants to save the USPTO from fee diversion. I can't criticize him for standing his ground on this issue, but before the cloture vote, Senator Leahy exhorted his fellow Senators to approve HR 1249 without further amendment and delay, even if it is not the bill that he or she would have written.

In Senator Leahy's words:

"We can no longer stand on a 1950's patent system and expect our innovators to flourish in a 21st century world. Let's go from the 50's into the 21st century and then just unleash the genius of the American people and our inventors in the United States of America!"

With patent reform about to clear its last hurdle, it is time to start preparing for the changes it will bring. Indeed, as outlined in this article, some provisions of HR 1249 have an immediate effective date, and many others will have a retroactive effect.

You can follow further developments on patent reform here and on Foley's patent reform webpage.

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