Patent Reform Debate: Live Updates From The US House Of Representatives

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Intellectual Property Watch is providing play-by-play action from today’s floor debate of HR 1249, the bill to reform US patent law. IP-Watch Subscribers check back here for updates. Updated Thursday 23 June 6:45pm.

6:45pm – The US House of Representatives passed HR 1249 on Thursday evening – the closest action patent reform has come to being enacted into law in the past 10 years. See the full IP-Watch story here.

Thursday, 23 June, 10:30 – HR 1249 is on the House floor with many amendments lined up. Here is the list:

THURSDAY, JUNE 23RD
On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business. First votes expected: 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Last votes expected: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
One Minute Speeches (15 per side)
Complete Consideration of H.R. 1249 – America Invents Act (Structured Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee / Budget Committee)
The rule provides for no further general debate and makes in order the following amendments:
Reps. John Conyers / Dana Rohrabacher Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Baldwin / Sensenbrenner / Kind Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Gwen Moore Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Gary Peters / James Renacci Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Jared Polis Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Conyers/ Markey / Neal / Pompeo / Garrett / Lance / Gallegly Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Jackie Speier Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Maxine Waters Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. James Sensenbrenner Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Donald Manzullo Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher / Marcy Kaptur Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Schock / Boren / Waters / Sensenbrenner / Franks / Kaptur Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rolled Amendment Votes:
Rep. Lamar Smith Manager’s Amendment

Begin Consideration of H.R. 2219 – Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2012 (Open Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Young / Appropriations Committee)
The rule provides for one hour of general debate and makes in order any amendment offered that complies with the House rules. Members are advised, however, that amendment debate on H.R. 2219 is not expected this week.
Special Order Speeches

9:18 pm – House members left HR 1249 as unfinished business after the “no” votes against the manager’s amendment prevailed. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee, asked for a recorded vote and further debate and action on the amendment was postponed until a time yet to be determined.

8:45 pm – House members are debating the patent reform bill, HR 1249, once again on the chamber’s floor.

Many Democrats are still urging their colleagues to vote against the bill, while most Republicans are supportive of it. The biggest issue is a manager’s amendment passed Tuesday night that would deposit all fees and other money collected by the USPTO above what was originally budgeted into a fund that would be supervised by Congress. Democrats and some Republicans say that language leaves room for those extra fees to be diverted for uses other than those dealing with patent activities, and will end up costing more.

But Republicans, particularly House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier of California, stressed that the bill does not cost more money, it just changes the way the money is classified. They also stressed that the extra money set aside in a reserve fund would only be used by the USPTO, not by any other agency, and only for patent matters.

“Any fees that are collected but not appropriated to the PTO will be placed in a special fund to be used only by the PTO for their operations. This solves the fee diversion issues,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who heads the House Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee.

Those funds “can’t be spent on anything else, but they have to be justified to the Congress before they are appropriated,” he added. Noting that many patent applications don’t get a first look by patent examiners for about three years, Goodlatte urged lawmakers to pass the bill to help make the office more efficient.

“This is the closest we have ever come” to passing patent reform during the past decade, he said.

3:30 pm [revised] – The House has voted 215-189 in favour of considering a rule for patent reform, although Democrats raised a point of order to try to prevent the rule from moving forward. Further debate and a vote on the rule is scheduled for later today.

1:45 pm – Democrats and some Republicans on Wednesday took to the floor of the US House of Representatives to oppose a Republican-crafted manager’s amendment to the patent reform bill.

Former House Judiciary Committee Jim Sensenbrenner, blasted the House Rules Committee for voting out a bill Tuesday night (IPW, US Policy, 22 June 2011) that violates House rules and requested the bill be sent back to the House Judiciary Committee. Arguments are surrounding a technical amendment to the bill that Sensenbrenner and many Democrats say violates Republicans’ own “CutGo” rules – endorsed by the Republican majority to ensure Congress delivers corresponding reductions to offset any new spending.

Since the House Rules Committee adopted the amendment Tuesday night, a slew of stakeholder organisations have criticised it for not definitively ending fee diversion from the US Patent and Trademark Office. The manager’s amendment is attached to HR 1249, the House patent reform bill.

Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Republican amendment is a “$1.1 billion violation.”

“That’s real money that we’re going to have to get from somewhere else and we’re waiving CutGo for the first time in the 112th Congress,” Conyers said, calling it an “outrageous and costly and blatant violation of the House rules they [Republicans] wrote.”

Sensenbrenner, along with Conyers and Rep. Don Manzullo, a Republican from Illinois, introduced an amendment this week to allow the USPTO to keep all the fees it raises and use the money to hire more staff and purchase better equipment to help eliminate the patent backlog, instead of giving Congress the power over those extra fees.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said the measure as it stands doesn’t permit consideration of that amendment – which she says will correct the violation of the rule.

“I’m very disappointed that having worked on the patent reform measures since 1997 that we are yanking defeat from the jaw of victory here today,” Lofgren said. “I cannot support this measure … not only does it violate the rules, it costs the Treasury and it will disempower small, innovative inventors. This is wrong and the amendments that could have been put in order to correct them were not permitted. I think this is really quite a shame.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California who has railed against the bill for days in the media, noted that the Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday night would incur “significant new deficit spending” with post-grant review, first-to-file and other provisions.

“This bill will lay the foundation not only for weaker patent protection for American inventors, but it will also knock the legs out … from us finally being responsible in our spending patterns. This bill is not about making the patent office more efficient,” but about harmonising American patents laws with those of countries overseas, which Rohrabacher says would hurt the American economy and innovation.

If HR 1249 is passed without an outright end to fee diversion – which the Senate-passed bill calls for – the two chambers will have to go to conference to resolve the differences.

Although Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, repeatedly asked why – if there is no intention to allow fees to be diverted from USPTO use – there is a need for the amendment in the first place, House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said it’s routine for agencies to get approval from Congress for transferring such funds.

The manager’s amendment spells out that the extra money taken in by USPTO will be placed in a type of “escrow” account “just for their purposes, just for their use.” When the agency needs the money, it requests it from Congress. “It’s a standard procedure,” Rogers said.

Liza Porteus Viana may be reached at lizapviana@gmail.com.

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