Apple and a number of other companies have voiced their support for the US Patent Reform Act of 2007, a bipartisan bill currently under consideration in the US Congress.

The proposed legislation calls for some fundamental changes to the way that patents are granted and the way they're litigated in US courts.

Apple is part of the Coalition for Patent Fairness – an organization of companies that include, Autodesk, Cisco Systems, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Palm and Visa. Sponsors of the legislation include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Representatives Howard Berman (D.-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

The Patent Reform Act of 2007 seeks to balance the sharing out of damages, establish fair standards for punitive damages, restrict "forum shopping" to help stop cases by going to specific courts because they historically favour patent claims, and improve patent quality by providing what they describe as "a meaningful second chance" for the US Patent and Trademark Office to review potentially problematic patents in a timely fashion.

The legislation also seeks to create a pure "first to file" system that would grant patents to the first to file an application, rather than the inventor.

The Patent Reform Act of 2007 is actually an update to patent reform legislation introduced during the last Congress. Introduced last August by Senators Hatch and Leahy. The "first to file" proviso is new to this edition of the bill, as is the creation of the system for reviewing the validity of patents after they've been granted, with instructions to prescribe rules to prevent that system's abuse.

More details about the Patent Reform Act of 2007 can be viewed at Senator Leahy's website.