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Fighting backlog in patents, Senate approves overhaul

The Senate approved a sweeping reform of the nation’s patent laws on Thursday, sending to President Obama a bill that changes the system for determining priority for inventions at the patent office and provides more financing for an agency beset by application backlogs and outdated computer systems.

After rejecting proposed amendments to a bill approved by the House last June, the Senate voted 89 to 9 to pass the bill, completing an effort of at least six years to overhaul the patent office’s operations and the procedures by which patents can be challenged.

President Obama, who has made his support for the bill a central piece of his focus on promoting jobs, is expected to sign it into law soon.

“Improved patent quality will benefit businesses across the economic spectrum,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who was a primary sponsor of the bill. “For years, low-quality patents have been a drain on our patent system, and in turn our economy, by undermining the value of what it means to hold a patent. Higher-quality patents will infuse greater certainty into the patent system, which will better incentivize investment in American businesses, create jobs and grow our economy.”

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