WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) joined several trade associations in backing the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) and sought support from all members of the Senate in a letter sent this week. H.R. 1249, which is named for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), would alter the patent application system by awarding a patent to the first inventor to file a given application. The legislation also provides greater time for the public to provide input on a patent and changes the rules under which an existing patent may be challenged. Section 18 of the bill would protect credit unions and other businesses from outside claims that some specific customer service, payment and marketing practices have already been claimed under existing business method patents. These patent challenges, which are often brought by non-practicing entities, can become expensive for credit unions and others if they are heard in court. CUNA and others said they “strongly support Section 18 of the bill, which addresses the issue of poor-quality business-method patents,” and urged members of the Senate to “oppose any effort to strike or weaken this section.” Overall, the letter noted that enactment of H.R. 1249 “will spur innovation, creating jobs and ensure that the Patent and Trademark Office has the tools necessary to maintain our patent system as the best in the world.” The letter was cosigned by the American Bankers Association, the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Financial Services Association, the American Insurance Association, the Clearing House Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. H.R. 1249 was approved for Senate discussion on Tuesday, and a final vote on the bill could come as soon as today. The bill passed the House by a 304 to 117 vote in late June, and similar legislation received nearly unanimous support in the Senate earlier this year.