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Lawmakers in Washington are considering changes to the patent code that would bring U.S. law closer to intellectual property standards in the rest of the industrialized world. They want to change the U.S. patent system from the uniquely American “first to invent” to “the first to file” standard the rest of the world uses. The idea of the Patent Reform Act of 2005, HR 2795, which could emerge from a House of Representatives subcommittee after Labor Day, is to make the system work more efficiently and make the process of obtaining a patent less expensive and less prone to litigation. Some patent attorneys and trade associations welcome the proposed reforms as the long overdue, objective revamping of an outdated, subjective system-the most sweeping systemic changes in half a century. Others, however, say that the problem of inadequate funding for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) should be addressed before specific reforms are hashed out, and that the scope of injunctions under the proposed reform and other provisions need more consideration. Herbert C. Wamsley, executive director of Intellectual Property Owners Association, a Washington-based trade group representing intellectual property owners in all industries and technology fields, called the proposed legislation “probably the biggest attempted rewrite of the patent code since 1952. “The reforms will help bring legal certainty to patent law, and some of them will address the quality of patents and reduce litigation costs,” Wamsley said, adding that bringing U.S. patent law more in line with the rest of the world could also begin to lay the groundwork for “an international agreement to harmonize patent systems.” But the intellectual property community has yet to see which measures will make it out of committee, and not everyone shares Wamsley’s sanguine outlook. Catriona M. Collins, a patent litigator at Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman in New York, is among a number of lawyers who say it makes no sense to discuss reforming the system without first adequately funding the PTO.
The Patent Act of 2005

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