Patent Reform Debate Moves to Senate in January 2014

Yesterday afternoon, the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309) passed through the House with ease by a vote of 325-91. The bill was quickly debated (3 hours) and only slightly amended. The one noteworthy change was the removal of the provision designed to repeal 35 U.S.C. § 145. As a reminder, 145 actions allow unsuccessful applicants for patents to challenge the denial of patent protection by the USPTO in District Court rather than the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). (The main benefit of the district court route over the CAFC is the ability to introduce new evidence).

145 actions are exceedingly rare. When instituted such suits can be a significant drain on the Solicitor’s Office of the USPTO, hence the original proposal to repeal 145. It seems legislators failed to realize some patentees like having an option 99.9% will never use.

With the House bill passed, debate will head to the Senate. It is expected that the Leahy bill will be revised to track H.R. 3309 so that conference can be avoided, and “reforms” can  delivered for presidential signature in the early weeks of 2014.