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WASHINGTON - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers outlining the views of the Obama administration on H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act. The legislation to reform the U.S. patent system was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 32 to 3 on April 14, and similar legislation overwhelmingly passed the U.S. Senate on March 8.
The America Invents Act, sponsored by Chairman Smith, enhances the U.S. patent system by increasing certainty of patent rights through implementation of a first-inventor-to-file standard for patent approval while also reducing the need for cost-prohibitive litigation, which all too often ties up new ideas in court, stifling innovation and holding back job creation. It will also allow the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is entirely fee funded, to set and retain the fees it collects from its users. This fee-setting authority will ensure high-quality, timely patent review and address the backlog of patent applications that is currently preventing new innovations from reaching the marketplace. Ultimately, the proposed legislation will provide the most meaningful reforms to the U.S. patent system in 60 years.
Since the beginning of Locke's tenure as Commerce Secretary, reforming the U.S. patent system to support the acceleration of American innovation and competitiveness and drive job creation and economic growth has been one of his top priorities. In meetings with CEOs and U.S. business leaders from companies of all sizes, the shortcomings of the U.S. patent system and the need for reform has almost always been a topic of conversation. Locke and his Director of the USPTO David Kappos have heard from both large-scale innovators and independent inventors, across a variety of industries, as to how an improved patent system can help them bring their ideas to market, grow their businesses and create jobs.
The cost of proving that one was the first to invent under the current first-to-invent system has been prohibitive for many small inventors, generally favoring larger entities better equipped to handle legal challenges. With the appropriate resources to process patents more quickly, inventors will be able to use their intellectual property rights as vehicles to leverage new sources of funding for their innovations. And in a globalized world, comprehensive patent reform will increase productivity by further enabling greater work-sharing between the USPTO and other patent offices around the world. This updated patent infrastructure will level the playing field for small enterprises seeking to participate in the global marketplace - reducing expensive and time-consuming litigation, simplifying the process of acquiring rights and creating a system that mirrors others around the world, all while enhancing American competitiveness and spurring economic growth.
During the last two years, Locke has worked with bipartisan Congressional leaders as they have crafted legislation that is widely supported by industry experts, universities, independent inventors, and the business community, because it will make it easier for America's innovators to produce new technologies that drive economic growth and generate jobs.
Read Locke's letter to House Judiciary Committee leadership on the America Invents Act here.