The House of Representatives voted 304-117 on June 23 to pass the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), clearing the way for the first overhaul of the U.S. patent system since 1952.
H.R. 1249 will move the U.S. patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-inventor-to-file system, which most other countries currently use. This move should simplify the patent application process and enable U.S. inventors to compete more effectively in the global economy.
The bill includes a number of other provisions that will improve patent quality and reduce litigation costs, including a post-grant opposition proceeding as an alternative to litigation for challenging patent validity.
The most contentious provision, which stalled the bill for several days, would prevent Congress from diverting money from the fees the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) collects. The USPTO has a backlog of more than 700,000 applications which it claims has allowed Congress to redirect more than $800 million in fees since 1990.
This provision is one of the areas that will need to be reconciled with the Senate version (S. 23), which passed in March. The Senate bill would largely remove the USPTO from the federal budget process while the House measure would still require the patent office to get funding approval from Congress.
The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy supporting the bill last week as House members worked to iron out final details. ACE and a coalition of associations working on patent reform sent a last letter of support before the House vote and issued this press release upon the bill’s passage.