On April 14, 2011, the America Invents Act continued to move forward as the House Judiciary Committee voted 32 to 3 in favor of sending the patent reform bill to the House floor for consideration. In March, the Senate approved a similar bill by a wide margin of 95 to 5. Both bills would change the United States from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file patent system. More information on the Senate bill and different filing systems can be found in our previous posts on the subject.
Urging support among his colleagues, the bill’s primary sponsor, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith (R-TX), stated that “[t]he current patent system is outdated and dragged down by frivolous lawsuits and uncertainty regarding patent ownership. Unwarranted lawsuits that typically cost $5 million to defend prevent legitimate inventors and industrious companies from creating products and generating jobs.”
However, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI), one of the members who voted against the bill, questioned the constitutionality of the move to a first-to-file system, arguing that “our courts from the earliest days of the republic have recognized that the right that is contained in the Constitution accrues from the time of the invention rather than the time the invention is patented.” Also voting against the bill were Rep. Conyers (D- MI) and Rep. King (R-IA).
While the America Invents Act continues its march toward becoming law, there are still opportunities for significant amendments. Not only will the full House have a chance to amend or reject the bill, but even if approved, the House and Senate bills must then be reconciled and approved by both chambers before finally heading to President Obama’s desk.
As the bill moves through this process, the summary and present status can be found on the Library of Congress’s legislative information website, THOMAS. The House Judiciary Committee has also established a website with full details of its markup of the bill.