IBM knows something about the U.S. patent system. We invest billions each year in research and development, and the vast majority of our patents are filed in the U.S. In fact, IBM has received more U.S. patents than any organization - for 18 years in a row. Patents not only help us protect our significant R&D investment, they also provide freedom of action for our businesses around the globe.

Securing and protecting the intellectual property rights that result from innovation is essential to U.S. competitiveness around the world. We live in an age in which cutting-edge inventions occur in complex areas, such as biotechnology and information technology. However, it currently takes far too long - up to three years or more - for a patent application to maneuver through the system, in part because of increased complexity and overburdened examiners. H.R. 1249 will provide the patent office the tools needed to reduce this backlog, while improving the quality of patents that are issued.

The House's proposed patent bill is substantially consistent with the patent legislation recently approved by the Senate in a landslide 95-5 vote. This common-sense set of reforms addresses the concerns of all stakeholders and will significantly enhance patent quality. The House and Senate have never been closer to reaching consensus on patent reform. Failure to act on patent reform now would be bad for the U.S. economy and a disappointing missed opportunity.

Lawmakers have struggled for years to achieve a compromise on this important, issue. Through debate and compromise, controversial provisions in previous bills have been amended or removed - in some cases - because the issue was resolved in the courts. This progress is captured in the America Invents Act, a reasonable piece of legislation that will stimulate innovation and strengthen our nation's competitiveness in the global economy.

Like other inventors, IBM understands and appreciates the importance of strong intellectual property laws. The proposed House bill is a balanced compromise that represents the interests of inventors and innovators – both large and small. Passage of this legislation would give our nation the world-class patent system it deserves, and the time to enact it is now.

Dr. John E. Kelly III is senior vice president and director of IBM Research