Obama administration backs House patent reform bill

The Commerce Department on Tuesday expressed support for the patent reform bill pending in the House, indicating the legislation is likely to become law in the near future.

The America Invents Act passed the House Judiciary Committee last month and is similar to a bill that passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support in March. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) worked closely with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in crafting the bill with an eye on getting it in front of President Obama this summer.

"We look forward to working with Congress toward prompt passage of legislation that will enable more timely and quality-focused examination of patent applications, establish a secure funding mechanism for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and reduce litigation uncertainties and costs," wrote Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in a letter to Smith and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.)

Locke expressed the administration's strong support for a switch from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system, arguing it would bring the U.S. in line with its economic competitors. Locke said the administration also favors allowing the USPTO to keep the fees it collects and establishing a new post-grant review proceeding.

Patent reform has been one of the business community's main policy priorities in recent months. With support on both sides of the aisle and the White House, a bill could reach Obama's desk as soon as next month.

--This article was updated on Wednesday at 1:17 p.m. A previous version stated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has actively supported the bill; the Chamber has not taken a position on the America Invents Act.