House Republicans Overcome Internal Division to Pass Patent Bill

Posted June 23, 2011 at 4:54pm

Updated: 7:53 p.m.

The House passed an overhaul of the Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, despite pressure from a host of GOP factions to kill the legislation.

The bill would reform how the office is funded and how it regulates inventions, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor had regarded it as Republicans’ chance to advance a major policy measure through the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate. But social conservatives, fiscal hawks and others in the Virginia Republican’s chamber nearly derailed it this week, and 67 Republicans voted against passage Thursday, as did 50 Democrats.

Despite the ultimate 304-117 victory in the House, the bill has a dim future in the Senate. Sen. Tom Coburn has already announced he will oppose the measure. The Oklahoma Republican has long pushed to strip Congressional appropriators of their oversight of the Patent and Trademark Office’s finances, arguing that because the office sustains itself on fees it collects, it should control its funding.

House appropriators, however, refused to relinquish their control.

“Unfortunately, the Appropriations Committee has a poor record of managing such accounts responsibly and honestly in this area and others,” Coburn said. “There is no reason to believe they won’t continue to do the same with the patent account.”