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Leahy tells AIPLA: There’s still work to be done

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont last week expressed his gratitude to a crowd of AIPLA Annual Meeting attendees for their help in getting the America Invents Act through Congress (free access)

"There are a lot of people in this room who were absolutely essential to getting [patent reform] done," said Leahy. "I want to just say thank you."

Leahy - who was held at knifepoint by The Joker in "The Dark Knight" - developed his love of IP through photography, and has been championing IP rights throughout his 37-year career in the Senate.

While severe partisanship has characterized most other congressional debates over the past year, Leahy said that the America Invents Act, which the Senate passed by a vote of 89-9, gave Congress a chance to show the American people that Democrats and Republicans can work together on some issues.

"You couldn't get a vote of 89-9 on a bill saying the sun was going to rise in the East tomorrow," joked Leahy.

However, there is still work to be done, Leahy warned. Referring to the compromise made by the House on the issue of USPTO funding, Leahy urged the audience members to do their part to make sure the patent fees they pay remain accessible to the Office. "You have to make sure the PTO is fully funded," he said.

He thanked AIPLA Executive Director Q. Todd Dickinson for his work on the bill and for his commitment to making sure the USPTO has access to user fees going forward.

Leahy also addressed a topic raised by Dickinson during Thursday's Q&A discussion with USPTO Director David Kappos, when he noted that one of the next steps after patent reform passage is to confirm more judges.

"There is little question the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is going to be extremely important in implementation of the America Invents Act," said Leahy, with a nod to the Federal Circuit judges sitting to his left—Chief Judge Randall Rader, Senior Judge Arthur Gajarsa and Judge Sharon Prost.

In Thursday's Q&A, Dickinson asked Kappos in jest if he would be willing to share any of his fees with the Federal Circuit, considering the increasing number of issues in the America Invents Act are likely to generate for the Court. "It puts a lot more pressure on the Federal Circuit," said Kappos. "I think that's just inevitable."

Departing from the topic of patent reform, Leahy mentioned that he is fighting a battle on another IP front—rogue websites. "The growth of the digital marketplace is extraordinary and can be helpful to businesses, but you also have rampant copyright infringement and counterfeiting." When this includes products such as pharmaceuticals, "people die," he said.

Leahy's Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property of 2011 (The Protect IP Act), was introduced in May and would increase the ability of the Attorney General and IP owners to shut down sites hosting infringing content.

It has been opposed by some, but Leahy said there have to be limits. "Crime is crime—the Internet should be open, but not lawless."

For more reports from the AIPLA annual meeting, see the dedicated topic page or read the AIPLA Daily Report (PDF reader required)

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