The U.S. Senate has approved the America Invents Act (S. 23), the first major overhaul of the U.S. patent system in more than 50 years. Among other matters, the bill, if approved by the House, will give patent protection to the first to invent, prohibit Congress from diverting U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) fees, create a small-business USPTO ombudsman, allow the USPTO to raise fees for applicants, and establish a pilot program for the review of business method patents.

The Senate debated the bill for a week; companion legislation is under development in the House. President Barack Obama (D) issued a statement following the bill’s passage, saying, “I’m pleased that, on a bipartisan basis, the Senate has passed the most significant patent reform in over half a century. This long-overdue reform is vital to our ongoing efforts to modernize America’s patent laws and reduce the backlog of 700,000 patent applications.” He thanked Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) for their leadership on the matter and indicated that he was looking forward to working with the House “to pass patent reform legislation I can sign into law.”