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First-to-File Patent Reform Bill Goes to House; Small Businesses Oppose Change

Posted Mar 28, 2011 12:03 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A patent reform bill that switches to a “first to file” system passed the Senate and heads to the House, with lobbying support from a large law firm.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and the Palmetto Group were paid $1.4 million by a coalition backing the America Invents Act, the Washington Post reports. Supporting the coalition are companies that include Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Dow Chemical, BP and General Electric.

Akin Gump isn’t the only law and lobbying firm with a piece of the action, according to the Post. At least 100 lobbying shops have represented 267 groups on the proposed law in just the last year alone.

The bill would change the current system that protects those who were first to invent an idea, according to the Post and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). The bill's first-to-file system is favored by big companies, the Post says, “which are adept at filing patents often and early and hope the new system will help keep disputes over patent ownership out of court.”

Some opponents fear the legislation would hurt small inventors, while others, including some high-tech and pharmaceutical companies, want more curbs on patent challenges, the Wall Street Journal says. Also opposing the bill are some conservative groups such as the American Conservative Union and the Gun Owners of America.

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