The Senate passed the Patent Reform Act 95 to 5 on Tuesday night setting the wheels in motion for the nation's first major patent processing overhaul in more than 60 years.
The major component of the bill would modernize the U.S. patent system, moving it from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system. That change, aimed at reducing patent litigation costs, would bring the U.S. system in line with those of almost every other country in the world. The bill would also take measures to improve the operations of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and to prevent the government from using the money collected to process patents from being used for other purposes.
Last week several Republican senators consumed hours of floor time as they attempted to attach an amendment to the bill that would express the "sense of the Senate" that the Constitution should be amended to force the government to balance the budget. That amendment was defeated by a two-vote margin.
The bill also survived an amendment offered by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Cybersecurity: State Dept. can't verify alleged Clinton hacker's claims The Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief Tech advocates look to target Intel chairman's reelection bid MORE (D-Calif.) that would have stripped language switching the nation’s patent system to a “first-to-file” system, gutting the bill of one of its most fundamental actions. The Senate voted to table that measure 87-13.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyJudiciary Dems seek hearing on voting rights Overnight Cybersecurity: Voter data breaches spark fraud concerns Overnight Regulation: FDA campaign targets smoking in LGBT community MORE (D-Vt.), who managed the floor debate for the bill, often noted the slow progress the non-controversial bill was making through the upper chamber. Just minutes before the vote began an argument between party leadership on budget issues threatened the immediate future of the vote, causing Leahy to express some concern.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began considering several versions of the Patent Reform Act starting in 2005 but ran into opposition and various obstacles along the way.
The five no votes were cast by Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerThe Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief Cruz fouls out in Indiana Carter pledges probe of sex assault testimony MORE (D-Calif.), Maria CantwellMaria CantwellThis week: Congress on track to miss Puerto Rico deadline Week ahead: Senate looks to wrap up energy, water spending bill Senate, House face time crunch on energy bill MORE (D-Wash.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoHousing groups argue Freddie Mac's loss should spur finance reform Bipartisan effort seeks end to budget gimmicks Republicans mum on possibility of Trump filling Supreme Court seat MORE (R-Idaho) and Jim RischJim RischSen. Cory Gardner endorses Cruz GOP lawmakers vie for convention power GOP senator on endorsing Cruz: 'I guess it depends on your definition' MORE (R-Idaho).
The bill will now be sent to the House for consideration.
The Senate adjourned at 7:03 on Tuesday and is scheduled to return at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. At 10:40 a.m. some senators will gather in the chamber to proceed to the House for a joint-session of Congress in order to welcome Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Two budget votes are scheduled for 4 p.m.