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House passes patent overhaul legislation

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Friday approved the Patent Reform Act of 2007 [HR 1908 summary], the first overhaul of current US patent laws in more than 50 years. The bill passed 220-175 [roll call], with most Democrats supporting its passage, and most Republican opposed. US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] and other leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee approved [JURIST report] a similar bill in the Senate this spring and hope to bring that to a vote this fall. The reforms would change the current system of granting patent rights to the first inventor and instead adopt a "first-to-file" system, recognizing patent rights in the first person who actually files for patents. The bill would amend the system of post-patent review for those seeking to challenge the validity of a patent and would impose more stringent regulations for awarding damages in infringement cases, based on the value of the patent infringement. It would also make it easier for American inventors to secure patents overseas by bringing the US system in line with patent systems in Europe and Japan.

Many industry leaders have called for patent reforms [JURIST report] to curb abusive litigation and protect technological development, but some pharmaceutical companies and smaller inventors say that the proposed changes would give even more patent control to larger companies. Consumer groups, major high-tech companies, financial associations and farm groups are strongly backing the reformed patent laws. AP has more.

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