WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 1908, also known as the Patent Reform Act of 2007, the first step toward bringing the nation's patent laws in line with international statutes.
The House passed the bill by a vote of 225-175. The bill calls for a switch from “first-to-invent” system to a “first-to-file” system. The former is thought to benefit small inventors, who may be less experienced with the patent application system. First-to-file is said to facilitate the rights determinations, and is used by other major countries.
The bill also eliminates the expansion of prior user rights; eliminates the “best mode” requirement, used by the US PTO to assess which of competing applications was superior; permits protests prior to application approvals; and reverses a bill passed in 2000 under which patent applications are publicized (which is said to give forewarning to competitors).
Sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), H.R. 1908 is the culmination of years of study and debate by policy makers, academics, industry leaders and legal scholars seeking to update the patent system. The last major changes came in 1952.
The Act adopts many of the proposals recommended by a 2003 report by the Federal Trade Commission and a 2004 report by the National Academy of Sciences.
In a statement, Jonathan Yarowsky, policy counsel and spokesperson for the Coalition for Patent Fairness, called the current patent system "bogged down by delays, prolonged disputes and confusing jurisprudence. This comprehensive legislation is much needed, and will help drive innovation, which itself is the driver for American competitiveness and consumer choice." The group supports the new bill.