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Senator Patrick Leahy and IBM Laud Progress on Patent Reform Legislation Historic Bill Expected To Spur U.S. Innovation and Economic Growth

On Friday, March 11, 2011, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and more than 500 IBMers in Vermont celebrated the overwhelming Senate approval of patent reform legislation as one of the country's first steps toward modernizing the U.S. patent system which is essential to protecting inventors, preserving American innovation leadership and generating economic growth. The bill passed this week, 95 to 5, with a tidal wave of bipartisan support. If passed by the House and signed into law by President Obama, “TheAmerica Invents Act” would be the first comprehensive reform to the U.S. Patent System in nearly 60 years.

Patenting is increasingly important for protecting new innovations and helping a range of entities from entrepreneurs to large-to-medium-size companies to bring ideas to fruition and job creation.

Janette Bombardier, the Senior State Executive for IBM Vermont hosted the Senator. During the Burlington visit, Senator Leahy also recognized the contributions of IBM's technical community which helped Vermont secure its first place rank across the country for per capita patenting in 2010. Of the 887 patents issued to Vermont residents last year, almost 600 were associated with IBM, accounting for two-thirds of Vermont's patent production for 2010. Based on U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data and 2010 U.S Census data, Vermont ranks first in per capita patenting with an output of 1.4175 patents per 1,000 population.

The America Invents Act will have an important impact on inventors in Vermont and across the country, by creating certainty for inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes; providing much needed resources to the USPTO, and fostering efficiencies to help grow the U.S. economy. Key changes established by the legislation include:

  • Providing the USPTO the resources it needs to more effectively manage its operations and begin to reduce the significant patent application backlog. Faster approval means economic growth because innovations can move into the market more quickly.
  • Establishing a "first-inventor-to-file" system, which is a much more efficient way to determine which inventor receives a patent on an invention. This would align the US with the rest of the world, which is important for any businesses that must operate in the increasingly global economy. It also would help with the USPTO's efforts to speed examination by taking advantage of work done by other patent offices.
  • Offering third parties the opportunity to submit information relevant to the patent application to examiners with commentary. This strengthens patents by ensuring examiners have access to often difficult to access information and helps determine which aspects of a patent application are truly novel and deserving of a patent.

IBM invests billions each year in research and development, and the vast majority of the company's patents are filed in the U.S. In 2010, IBM inventors received a record-breaking total of 5,896 U.S. patents while becoming the first company ever issued more than 5,000 patents in a single year. IBM strongly supports S. 23, the America Invents Act, because it works for all members of the intellectual property community, bolsters our nation's competitiveness in the global economy, and stimulates innovation.

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