"We can no longer stand on 1950s a patent system and expect our innovators to flourish in a 21st century world," said Leahy from the Senate floor. "Let's unleash the genius of the American people and our inventors in the United States of America."
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, also urged his colleagues to vote for the bill by saying it would act as a job-creating stimulus to the economy.
"It will enhance transparency and patent quality and improve certainty in the patent process," said Grassley. "It will provide stimulus for American business and, obviously, help create jobs."
If cleared by the Senate and signed by Obama, the America Invents Act, H.R. 1249, would change the U.S. from a first-to-invent to a first-inventor-to-file patent system, a move proponents say would bring the U.S. patent system closer to systems already used by most of the rest of the world.
Only five senators voted against the bill: Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Coburn in particular opposed the House bill because it did not include Senate language that he says would ensure all fees collected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office stay with that office and be used for patent processing, not for other purposes.
Supporters say so-called "fee diversion" would end under the House bill, and have said there has been no significant fee diversion in the last decade. But Coburn and several industry groups disagree, and believe the House bill leaves open the chance that USPTO fees could be spent on other priorities.