News out of Washington is that the Patent Reform Act is off again.  The main issue of debate appears to be the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office funding provisions in H.R. 1249, “The America Invents Act.”

Section 22 of the Judiciary Committee reported bill allows the USPTO to retain all user fees to use for operations, preventing the fees from being redirected to other non-USPTO purposes.  The news came after a gaggle of modifications were submitted for vote.  See 86 pages of proposed HR 1249 Amendments here!

H.R. 1249, would move the U.S. to a “first-to-file” patent system similar to most of the rest of the developed world.  In contrast, the U.S. system relies on a determination of who invented first.  The bill creates a sort of “first-inventor-to-file” process in which priority will be given to patents that are filed first. However, it also creates a new “derivation” process that will be used to ensure that the first person to file for a patent is also the first inventor.

COPY WRONG: GOP FIGHT DELAYS PATENT BILL — The House Rules Committee postponed a planned Tuesday afternoon markup of legislation that would rewrite patent law because of an unresolved dispute over whether to give the Patent and Trademark Office full control over the money that it raises through fees or continue to require an annual congressional appropriation for its budget. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office says he’s confident the bill will still be up this week, as planned. But it’s a serious enough disagreement that it will require either a “fix” or a change of heart by some of the opponents. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) criticized Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for allowing the floor vote to be postponed during a closed-door session on Monday night, according to Republican sources who spoke to POLITICO’s John Bresnahan. Boehner said “he didn’t agree with how they dealt with fees or funding mechanism,” one of the sources added.

Proponents say PTO should be able to keep all of the funds it raises through fees — rather than worry about appropriators diverting a portion of its income for other programs — in order to address a backlog of pending requests. Opponents worry that taking PTO out of the annual appropriations process will give PTO too much autonomy and too little oversight. The bill would require the director of the office to submit an annual report to the appropriations committees in the House and Senate detailing PTO’s financial plans. Still, it’s a fight that pits authorizers (who would gain authority) against appropriators (who would lose it). Put Boehner in the appropriators’ camp on this one.

If you’re cynical (and I’m not saying I am) then you might be inclined to think that “patent reform” will go on and on as long as campaign contributions keep flowing in.

See the HR1249 Amendment Summaries here.

See the Managers Amendment by Rep. Smith here.

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