Obama Administration Backs Patent Reform Bills  

In letters Tuesday to the Chair (Lamar Smith R-TX) and Ranking Member (John Conyers D-MI )of the House Judiciary Committee, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke lauded the patent reform efforts as currently detailed in S.23 an H.R. 1249. As previously explained, it is expected that Patent Reform will be high on the June 2011 House agenda.  In an attempt to grease the skids a bit, Secretary Locke emphasized the Administration’s economic stimulus rationale, stating:

The Administration continues to strongly support the bipartisan efforts of Congress to enact patent reform legislation that will accelerate innovation, and create new jobs, new industries and new economic opportunities for Americans. Enactment of a balanced bill is an important part of the Administration’s goal of “out-innovating” our economic competitors and winning the future –and it can be done with no cost to taxpayers and no addition to the deficit. (emphasis added)

A copy of the letter can be found (here). With respect to the proposed changes to patent reexamination and the new post grant review mechanism, Secretary Locke explained:

The Administration supports establishing a new post-grant review proceeding and retooling the existing post-grant inter partes reexamination procedure. These proceedings will serve to minimize costs and increase certainty by offering efficient and timely alternatives to litigation as a means of reviewing questions of patent validity. Such proceedings also will provide a check on patent examination, ultimately resulting in higher quality patents. It is important that post-grant review proceedings be designed to prevent delay and abusive challenges, but still enable valid challenges based on meritorious grounds

We believe that the provisions contained in H.R. 1249 -including those covering regulatory authority, threshold and estoppel issues -will adequately address these concerns. Various safeguards and flexibilities are included in the proposed proceedings to enable USPTO to effectively implement and manage them. The bill also establishes a time-limited transitional post-grant review proceeding, which would enable the USPTO, upon petition, to review the validity of a limited range of business method patents to address particular challenges faced in this technology area as a result of case law developments.

The House is expected to pick up H.R.1249 mid-month. The Judiciary reported the bill out yesterday (report here, bill here) With the support of the Obama administration, and the previously expressed support of Republican House leadership, the Patent Reform legislation seems on the fast track to passage before the end of summer.