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Patent Reform Debates Gear Up

Mark Marich

Congress has been grappling with patent reform for nearly a decade.  Several reform bills have passed in past Congresses, but none have made it into law.  A new series of debates is set to begin anew in the 111th Congress. 

Last week, the leadership of both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees introduced the Patent Reform Act of 2009 (S.515/H.R. 1260). The proposal, which is already generated heated debate, contains a host of key provisions, including:

•    First to File: Under this system, those who are “first to file” have priority consider for patents. Under current rules, this priority is given to the “first to invent,” a process that has contributed to extensive confusion and litigation.
•    Expanded Re-examination: Provides extended time and other procedures to re-examine competing patent claims.
•    Post-Grant Review: Allows for extended review of contested patents after a patent is granted.
•    Damage Limitations: Places limits on damages for patent infringement.

At present, the information technology industry is strongly backing the bill, especially the damage limitation provisions. Opposition will likely focus on these provisions, as well as concerns about the “first to file” system. Stay tuned for more details.

To learn more about the Patent Reform Act of 2009 (S.515/H.R. 1260), visit the Library of Congress’ THOMAS website at

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