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Senate begins debate on patent reform

The Senate on Monday began its consideration of legislation that would undertake a comprehensive reform of the nation's patent system, a long-standing priority of many members of the tech sector that has foundered in the three preceding congresses.

The bill's sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), took to the floor to introduce and endorse the legislation, along with co-sponsors Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

"This is commonsense and bipartisan legislation," Leahy said, noting that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hasn't seen a major update in more than half a century. "This is an idea that cuts across the political spectrum."

In the meantime, the office is laboring under a backlog of more than 700,000 applications, a condition Hatch said "represents dynamic economic growth waiting to be unleashed."

Leahy touts the legislation as deficit-neutral, noting that the U.S. PTO is funded through filing fees. Under the Patent Reform Act, the office would have new authority to set fees, "provided that patent and trademark fee amounts are in the aggregate set to recover the estimated cost to the Office for processing, activities, services and materials relating to patents and trademarks, respectively, including proportionate shares of the administrative costs of the Office."

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