Obama to sign off on patent system overhaul

President Obama will announce new initiatives the White House says will speed up research breakthroughs from labs to the marketplace Friday as he signs legislation overhauling the nation’s patent and trademark laws.  

Obama is scheduled to sign the America Invents Act at an event in Virginia that will serve as the culmination of a six-year campaign by corporate supporters to change the U.S. from a first-to-invent to first-to-file patent system.  

“The America Invents Act is the most significant reform of the Patent Act since 1952,” Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters during a press briefing previewing the signing.  

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“It will help America’s entrepreneurs and businesses turn their ideas into new products and new jobs,” he added. “It will help long-term growth, increasing the number of jobs, the growth and competitiveness of the American economy, and the wages of our workers for years and decades to come.”  

According to Furman, Obama will also announce on Friday the launch of a new National Institute of Health center that will “help companies reduce the time and costs required to develop life-saving drugs, making it easier for start-ups to commercialize the biomedical inventions made by NIH and [Food and Drug Administration] researchers.”  

The administration will also develop a bio-economy blueprint to create jobs and address key national challenges in health, energy and agriculture, added Furman.  

Partnering with 140 university presidents to speed research breakthroughs to market, the administration will also announce a new prize — supported by the National Science Foundation and the Coulter Foundation — to reward those universities that make the most progress in accelerating economic growth and job creation.  

These initiatives coincide with the passage of the America Invents Act, legislation Obama has publicly championed to cut down on patent process delays and litigation.  

The act passed the Senate last week 89-9, after passing 304-117 in the House in June. Some lawmakers argued, however, that the reforms would stack the process in favor of large, well-funded corporations.  

"This isn’t a patent-reform bill,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) before the Senate vote on Sept. 8. “This is big corporation patent legislation that tramples on the rights of small inventors. ... It is siding with corporate interests against the little guy.”  

David Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, argues the legislation will speed the patent process, spurring job growth.  

“Fundamentally, this legislation is about turning American ingenuity into American jobs,” he said. “It’s about making the patent system an accelerant to our country’s economic growth.”  

Passage of the legislation is “a tremendous downpayment on the aggressive jobs agenda that President Obama has laid out for our country,” Kappos added. “It will enable us speed the delivery of patents into the marketplace and therefore enable our country to speed the delivery of innovative goods and services to their marketplace.”  

Passage of the America Invents Act will also spur job growth within the Patent and Trademark Office itself. The PTO plans to hire between 1,500 and 2,000 new patent examiners within fiscal year 2012, as well as up to 100 new administrative law judges to streamline the patent re-examination process, said Kappos.