US Patent Reform: America Invents Act Passed

On September 16th President Obama signed The America Invents Act, introducing some much-needed reforms to the American IP regime.

Key components include:

• Reduction of patent backlog
The law allocates additional resources to the USPTO, which will, hopefully, enable the agency to reduce the current backlog of 680,000 applications.

• Reducing litigation
The USPTO will now offer patent owners new tools, which lawmakers believe will enable many patent disputes to be resolved without the need for expensive litigation.

• Increasing patent quality
Additional resources, tools and new management processes will be allocated to ensure that patents granted are of higher quality, i.e., less likely to be overturned or disputed.

• New fast-track option for Patent Processing
If you can afford to take advantage of this new option, and meet the criteria, wait time can be reduced from 3+ years to 12 months.

• Better protection abroad
Harmonizing the US patent process with legislation in other countries will, in principle, provide more efficient and predictable protection for American patent owners abroad.

The overall goal of the legislation is to stimulate innovation by making the patent process more efficient and effective.

Business Week describes the legislation as “The Biggest Overhaul of the Patent System Since 1952” and quotes Senator Patrick Leahy, who co-sponsored the measure:

The America Invents Act will ensure that inventors large and small maintain the competitive edge that has put America at the pinnacle of global innovation.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legislation is that it embraces first-to-file for new patents, as opposed to the current first-to-invent standard. For one of many perspectives on this, read Paul Kedrosky’s blog post, Patent Reform: Romance vs Pragmatism.  Only time will tell just what the impact of this reform will be, but several commentators observed that the Act does little or nothing to curb the activities of so-called patent trolls.

This important piece of legislation contains a number of additional provisions. More information can be found at the USPTO web site and at IP Watch.

Post written by Peter Bloch

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