Meaningful Patent Reform; Pass Legislation to Maintain America's Competitive Edge
Byline: Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
During the course of our work in the Senate, we have often found ourselves on opposite sides of controversial legislation. While we agree to disagree on some questions that come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have long been close partners on intellectual property issues. For several years, modernizing the patent system has been at the front and center of our mutual legislative agenda. Meaningful patent reform is crucial to America's ability to maintain its competitive edge in the world, and now - after years of careful spadework - Congress has the chance to move forward.
The Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S.1145) is the product of years of deliberation and study within Congress and by many esteemed agencies and institutions, including dozens of hearings with the testimony of scores of witnesses, extensive and substantive mark-up sessions, and hundreds of meetings and discussions with countless stakeholders representing a sweeping array of interests in the patent system.
The Constitution specifically directed Congress to enact a patent law, and Congress has periodically modernized that law over the last two centuries. But the current law was last thoroughly updated more than 50 years ago, and much has changed since then. Think about this: The last time the patent system was significantly changed, the structure of DNA had not been discovered; gasoline was around 27 cents a gallon; and we had not yet sent a man to the moon. Our economy is no longer defined by assembly lines and brick-and-mortar production; we are living in the Information Age, and the products and processes that are being patented are changing as quickly as the times themselves. Unfortunately, Congress has neglected to modernize our patent system to keep pace with the boom in American innovation. Recent Supreme Court decisions have nudged things in the right direction, reflecting the growing sense that questionable patents are too easy to get and too hard to challenge. But the Court is constrained in its decisions by the laws on the books. It is time to dust off and refresh our patent laws.
If we are to maintain our position at the forefront of the global economy and continue to lead the world in innovation and production, we need an efficient and streamlined patent system that issues high-quality patents while limiting wheel spinning and counterproductive litigation. Our bipartisan reform bill is a solid step toward achieving these goals.
In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission reported that patents of questionable validity were inhibiting innovation and competition, harming consumers and businesses and our overall economy. The FTC further found that relying on court battles to challenge questionable patents was unduly costly and cumbersome. To address this problem, our bill would set up an administrative, post-grant review procedure. …