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Senate sends patent bill to president by 89-9 vote

By Jim Abrams
Associated Press / September 9, 2011

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WASHINGTON - A little more than an hour before President Obama’s address to Congress on job creation, the Senate passed and sent him an overhaul of the US patent system that Obama has long endorsed as a way to promote innovation and put Americans back to work.

Proving that Congress can, on occasion, put aside partisan differences, the Senate voted 89-9 for legislation that supporters say will streamline the patent process, reduce costly legal battles, and give the US Patent and Trademark Office the money it needs to process patent applications in a timely fashion.

The measure would switch the United States from the “first-to-invent’’ system to the “first-inventor-to-file’’ system for patent applications. That change would put the United States in line with other industrialized countries.

With passage, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, “we could unleash the genius of our country and put our entrepreneur class to work and create jobs. It can let us compete with the rest of the world.’’

The bill, he added, “is an opportunity to show the American people that Democrats and Republicans can come together to enact meaningful legislation for the American people.’’

Obama has urged Congress to send him what he has called “the most significant patent reform in over half a century.’’ The legislation, which transforms a patent system operating on legislation passed in 1952, passed the Senate in March and the House in June in slightly different form. Yesterday’s Senate vote accepted the House version.

Congress has debated a patent bill every year over the past six years and, before final passage, the Senate had to defeat three proposed amendments that would have forced the bill to return to the House and increased prospects of another deadlock.