WASHINGTON (9/9/11)--The Senate yesterday approved by an 89-9 vote the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), which, among other things, 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 types of patent challenges, which are often brought by non-practicing entities, can become expensive for credit unions and others if they are heard in court. Overall, 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. The Credit Union National Association was one of several trade groups that backed the legislation, and sought senate support earlier this week in a letter to congress. The legislation now only needs President Barack Obama’s signature to become law.