A Brief History of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Patents
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary was established in 1816 as one of the first standing Senate committees. Initially, the Committee's jurisdiction extended to oversight of the government's issuance of patents. In 1837, this responsibility shifted when the standing Senate Committee on Patents was created to specifically oversee and manage a growing number of patent issuances and requests. Legislation considered and reported by the Committee on Patents between 1840 and 1890 dealt with patent, copyright, and trademark laws.
During this time, the Committee on Patents frequently drafted private legislation, which typically stemmed from a petition filed by an individual for "redress of grievances" (see First Amendment, U.S. Constitution). In many cases, the legislation would address protections not provided to an inventor by existing patent law. Congress would then vote to amend the patent law to correct any inadequacies addressed by the private legislation. Jurisdiction returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks with the enactment of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the most comprehensive reorganization of Congress to date.
In recent years, several bipartisan efforts have emerged to modernize and reform existing patent law. The Senate passed the America Invents Act on March 9, 2011. The House of Representatives passed companion legislation on June 23, 2011. The Senate will resume consideration of the America Invents Act on September 6.