On Friday, September 16, 2011, President Obama signed into law “The America Invents Act” (“AIA”) which passed the Senate on September 8, 2011, by a vote of 89-9. The AIA passed the House of Representatives on June 23rd by a vote of 304-117. The measure, which is the product of a seven-years-long legislative battle among patent policy stakeholders, changes how patents are obtained and enforced in the United States. Important reforms to patent law are incorporated into the AIA and, just as significantly, several controversial proposed changes were deleted from the AIA before final passage.
Starting with President Obama’s State of the Union Address in January, where he made innovation and job creation key elements of his speech and specifically embraced passage of patent reform as a means of addressing both issues, patent reform was well positioned to be enacted in 2011. Moreover, Congress was desperate for legislative accomplishments in an environment where partisan differences, a weak economy, and government fiscal concerns dominated. Longstanding pro-reform coalitions and associations continued to expend considerable resources on the bill. Passage was deemed virtually assured when the Chairmen of the Judiciary Committees – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) – essentially agreed this summer on a common piece of legislation. But, as explained below, nothing’s ever as simple as it seems in Washington.
Lechleiter, Foreman, Kullman, Mathews, Hyndman, Leahy, Smith, Goodlatte, Watt, Moran, Poppy, Kappos and Blank Smile while Obama signs the America Invents Act into Law.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being present at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to witness President Obama sign into law the America Invents Act.
President Obama started by commending the students of what he called “One of the best high schools in the country.” He mentioned that; “We have an exhibit of some of the projects that you guys are doing, including the fist high school student satellite, a wheel chair controlled by brain waves, robotics and more.” He made the crowd smile when he jokingly said; “I am hoping that I will learn something just by being close to you; through osmosis. I already feel smart just standing here.”
The United States Senate passed the America Invents Act by a vote of 89-9 on September 8, 2011, which means that the much anticipated, discussed, reviled and acclaimed legislation (depending on your viewpoint) will become law very soon. According to Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, the President has 10 days to sign the legislation or it would become law without his signature.
Article I, Section 7, in relevant part reads:
If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
Thus, the question about when the America Invents Act will become the law of the land depends specifically on when it will be “presented to” President Obama. As of the writing of this articler there is nothing on the White House web page of pending legislation likely to be signed in the coming days. Since the Administration has been so vocally supportive of the bill an Obama signature seems virtually guaranteed in the coming days, and then the fun starts.
It looks like my prediction on Tuesday that the Senate would pass H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act, prior to President Obama’s much anticipated jobs and economy speech that begins at 7:00pm ET today, Thursday, September 8, 2011. The Senate voted to pass H.R. 1249 and send the House version of the America Invents Act to the White House for President Obama’s signature by a vote of 89 to 9. The Coburn Amendment, which would have once and for all put an end to fee diversion, was unsuccessful, being tabled by a vote of 50 to 48.
Beginning at 4:00pm ET the Senate started considering three separate amendments to H.R. 1249. The passage of any would have required the legislation to ping back to the House of Representatives, but that was not to happen.
What should you expect from President Obama’s jobs speech tomorrow? Sadly, not much.
The president says that’s the fault of recalcitrant Republicans in Congress. Republicans in Congress say it’s the fault of a president who is hostile to business.
But the real reason we are not putting people back to work three long years into the recession is that Washington is afflicted with a totally-bipartisan cluelessness about how to create jobs.
As I argued in my “Labor Day Message for President Obama” in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, there is a great deal that the president and congress can do to create millions of new jobs quickly, if only they would stop their ideological bickering and instead “focus on a few practical, low-cost measures that we know will create lots of jobs quickly.”
The United States Senate voted 93 to 5 earlier this evening to end debate on patent reform, which should set up a vote on H.R. 1249 in the coming days.
The United States Senate first passed its own version of patent reform, dubbed the America Invents Act – S. 23, in February 2011. The House of Representatives took up patent reform in the Spring, ultimately passing H.R. 1249, also dubbed the America Invents Act. Because the House version of patent reform was not identical to the Senate version of patent reform the legislation pinged back to the Senate. Immediately before the Senate went out on its annual August recess Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed for cloture on H.R. 1249, scheduling the Senate’s first day back after the August recess as the day for the cloture vote. That cloture vote is what passed by a vote of 93-5.
Victoria Espinel, White House IP Enforcement Coordinator
Counterfeiting is an enormous problem for businesses all over the world. Counterfeiters rip off name brand products, making cheap knock-offs, easily (and conservatively) costing many hundreds of millions of dollars each year. According to the International Quality & Productivity Center: “The counterfeit and gray market luxury goods trade is so big that experts estimate it to be anywhere from $300 – $600 billion globally.”
There are always those who will dispute whatever estimates are made about the level of counterfeiting present in the global marketplace, and $300 to $600 billion does seem quite high. The trouble with those who challenge the estimates is that they have absolutely no proof of their own, just suspicions. Those who claim to have proof only engage in the totally disingenuous charade of pretending that a $10 name brand product sold for $1 is properly characterized as a $1 loss because that was what the counterfeit consumer paid. Such intellectually dishonest and near deceitful conclusions do nothing other than excuse criminal activity and ignore the obvious. When someone purchases a knock-off for $1 there is no need for that person to spend $10 for the name brand product. Calling this a $1 loss makes taking anything the counterfeit apologists say almost impossible to take seriously.
You hear a lot these days about the need to protect Intellectual Property and capture innovation, but you don’t hear much about the traditional expense involved. There’s a reason for that: given the constantly evolving, “wild west” nature of today’s technical frontier, it is often prohibitively expensive for the little guy to cover all the bases and keep up with all the changes. Small businesses have had few options for affordable, comprehensive preparedness on the IP front, and in the wake of the recession, you’re likely to hear a lot more about the need to cut legal spending than you are about performing more audits and hiring more lawyers.
Companies are beginning to tackle this paradox by practicing the word on the lips of everyone from David Kappos (Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO) to Robert L. Stoll (Commissioner for Patents, USPTO), to business leaders, to even President Obama – innovation. But what good is innovation in and of itself? The innovation our leaders want demands adequate protections in place to turn those promising innovations into business assets.