IBM eyes finish line for patent reform


Sheehy said IBM supports the provision because it should help address the existing backlog of more than 750,000 patent applications.

“We are a huge customer of the USPTO as a company and pay fees to have patents examined,” Sheehy said, adding that IBM would be “comfortable” with an increase in those fees. “But we don’t want the money diverted to other places.”

Sheehy praised a post-grant proceeding in the House bill that he said would help weed out bad patents without the need for legislation. IBM also supports a new provision that would allow third-parties to submit prior art — the term for any information or documentation that is relevant to a patent claim — for consideration during a patent application.

He dismissed concerns from small inventors that the legislation favors large firms, arguing the bill doesn’t fundamentally change the patent process.

There aren’t many significant distinctions between the House and the Senate bills in Sheehy’s view, which is unsurprising considering Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) worked closely together in writing their legislation.

However, one element in the House bill that he would like to see in the final law are prior user rights that he said are crucial to technology firms like Intel and IBM. Sheehy said the provision had become largely non-controversial during the debate.

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