The pharmaceutical industry has warmly greeted the news that the US Senate has voted to change the country's patent laws which have largely remained untouched since the 1950s.

In a 95-5 vote, the Senate has approved the America Invents Act led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who said the reforms would help the US Patent and Trademark Office work through a backlog of more than 700,000 applications. President Barack Obama noted that the Senate "has passed the most significant patent reform in over half a century" and this "long-overdue reform is vital to our ongoing efforts to modernise America’s patent laws".

The president added that the proposed changes "won’t just increase transparency and certainty for inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses, but help grow our economy and create good jobs". His enthusiasm was echoed by John Castellani, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, who said the bill demonstrates an "appreciation for the importance of intellectual property protection to the US economy and to the jobs – and life-saving innovation – that it provides".

Jim Greenwood, head of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, noted that "patents are often the main assets of small biotech companies, and they rely on this IP to attract investors to fund the lengthy and expensive R&D process". He added that the improvements made by the America Invents Act "would benefit all sectors of the US economy by enhancing patent quality and the efficiency, objectivity, predictability and transparency of the patent system".