Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) tore into the federal government’s practice of diverting tens of millions of dollars annually from patent fees to other purposes as “immoral” and offered an amendment to right the wrong.

“It’s immoral to take money from a specific purpose and not apply it to the purpose it was intended under the statute,” said Coburn.

Coburn said it was this diverting that has clogged up the system leaving 713,000 patents untouched. He said the fee money was intended to be used to process patents. Coburn said it currently takes 26 months before a patent officer even touches a patent after it has been filed.

“If we want to stay on top of innovation we cannot allow that process to continue,” said Coburn. “Now we are actually going to spend the patent money on patents.”

Coburn touted his amendment as the perfect antidote to the current system. 

“This is a moral response to an immoral thing we have been doing,” said Coburn.