The House of Representatives passed two major intellectual property bills yesterday (March 3): the Patent and Trademark Act and the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act. Both bipartisan bills

The House of Representatives passed two major intellectual property bills yesterday (March 3): the Patent and Trademark Act and the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act. Both bipartisan bills were authored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., and had widespread support from the intellectual-property and high-tech communities.

The two bills now go to the Senate for deliberation.

The CARP reform bill, H.R. 1417, is important to artists, songwriters, music publishers and Webcasters who now deal with a laborious and expensive royalty rate and distribution system. The current CARP system, which empanels part-time adminstrative law judges often unfamiliar with copyright law and the music marketplace, has been roundly criticized in all quarters.

"What happens now, for example, is that songwriters are not left with much of a royalty payment because the process is too lengthy and too costly," explains Smith in a statement. "If the songwriter cannot make enough money from his creations to support himself, then he will no longer be able to create and our economy and our society will be the loser."

Rep. Smith's patent and trademark bill, H.R. 1561, would prevent the Patent and Trademark Office from diverting the fees paid by expectant patent holders to unconnected government programs. This "diversionary funds" practice has been in place since the first Bush administration in 1992.

The bill also calls for an additional 1,000 patent examiners to be hired, which would enable an estimated 140,000 more patents to be issued over the next five years. There is currently a backlog of unexamined patent applications.

"Technology is the engine that drives our economy. We must do whatever we can to ensure this industry has the tools it needs to compete in the global market," Smith says.

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