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 FeinsteinDems push for panel to probe Russian interference in election Overnight Energy: Senate Dems set to fight water bill White House could make 'torture' report public, says Intel Dem 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 LeahyThe Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy 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 BoxerFight over water bill heats up in Senate Dem senator tears up in farewell speech Overnight Energy: Senate Dems set to fight water bill MORE (D-Calif.), Maria CantwellMaria CantwellSpeaker’s office: No energy bill this year Overnight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up Obama rescinds Arctic offshore drilling proposal MORE (D-Wash.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoRyan lights Capitol Christmas tree Ex-Im faces new problems with Trump GOP debates going big on tax reform MORE (R-Idaho) and Jim RischJim RischGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Research: Infrastructure systems easy to hack, a little slow to patch 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.