Patent Reform Voted Out of Committee

In yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S.23) was voted out of committee to the Senate floor. This is the third time a patent reform bill has been moved to the full Senate since 2008. As the current reform bill is viewed as a compromise, not to mention politically hyped as an economic stimulus, it may be that the third time’s the charm. Certainly, not since since Star Wars Episode III have so many patent professionals (i.e., nerds) been interested in the actions of a Senate.

In yesterday’s webcast of the meeting, there was a significant amount of discussion on potential amendments to the current bill. The most discussed was the concept of a special proceeding to invalidate business method patents.  The business method proposal is to provide an efficient administrative mechanism by which business method patents can be easily invalidated. (As if the USPTO wont have enough to do in view of the significant post grant proposals already in the bill). It is unclear whether this amendment will provide an exception to the first window of the proposed post grant review, whereby current business method patents may be challenged under 35 U.S.C. sec. 101, or some other type of unique program.

Over the next few months, this legislation is likely to be vigorously debated, and perhaps significantly refined. In Yoda speak—- Begun, this patent reform war has.