Beginning at about 12:30pm Eastern Time today the United States Senate closed debate on the amendment offered by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) relating to the removal of first-to-file provisions from the patent reform bill S. 23.
The Senate Roll was called and a vote taken on whether to table the Feinstein Amendment. The votes were 87 in favor and 13 against, thereby killing the Feinstein Amendment and keeping the first-to-file provisions within S. 23.
A Manager’s Amendment earlier in the week added provisions that would end fee diversion and allow the United States Patent and Trademark Office to keep the fees it collects. This along with fee setting authority, already previously in Section 9 of S. 23, means that enactment of the Senate version of patent reform would be extremely beneficial to the Patent Office and allow processing of applications to become more efficient, thereby decreasing average pendency and decreasing the patent backlog.
The Manager’s Amendment also reportedly removed the controversial damage provisions, which would have made it easier to limit damages for the infringement of allegedly minor patents. Such a provision would have made it easier for would-be infringers to make a business decision to infringe, and has been one of the most controversial provisions over the last 5+ years of debate on patent reform.