CRS Report on Patent Reform
Pending legislation introduced in the 110th Congress arguably would work the
most sweeping reforms to the U.S. patent system since the nineteenth century.
However, many of these proposals, such as pre-issuance publication, prior user
rights, and oppositions, have already been implemented in U.S. law to a more limited
extent. These and other proposed modifications, such as the first-inventor-to-file
priority system and elimination of the best mode requirement, also reflect the
decades-old patent practices of Europe, Japan, and our other leading trading partners. As well, many of these suggested changes enjoy the support of diverse institutions, including the Federal Trade Commission, National Academies, economists, industry representatives, attorneys, and legal academics.
Other knowledgeable observers are nonetheless concerned that certain of these
proposals would weaken the patent right, thereby diminishing needed incentives for
innovation. Some also believe that changes of this magnitude, occurring at the same
time, do not present the most prudent course for the patent system. Patent reform
therefore confronts Congress with difficult legal, practical, and policy issues, but also
with the apparent possibility for altering and potentially improving the legal regime
that has long been recognized as an engine of innovation within the U.S. economy.