Obama inks patent reform bill
A patent reform seems to have been long due - patent wars escalated in recent months, but it’s really companies like Lodsys speculatively buying others inventions to profit from them that have underlined the urgency of reform. Two weeks ago, the US Senate finally approved a patent reform bill known as the America Invents Act introducing change into a piece of legislation dating back 50 years ago or so.
The new bill aims to change the way the system functions at its core switching from the first-to-invent to the first-to-file method used in virtually all developed countries. But the bill had to pass one more hurdle before coming into force - the president’s approval. Barack Obama inked the legislation on September 16th, turning it into law and hopefully this will result in the change that this bill projects.
Going over the main highlights of the America Invents Act again, we’ll see that it includes a change in the way the US Patent and Trademark Office receives its funding as the fees it collects will now go directly to a dedicated USPTO fund instead of getting channeled to the Senate as they were previously. Having the Senate as an intermediary meant that a huge chunk of the USPTO budget got diverted elsewhere.
Secondly, the new bi-partisan bill uses the first-to-file system allowing for a window of nine months after the filing, during which other companies could dispute the patent. This ultimately means more control over patents. But it’s not only third parties that will control the system as the USPTO aims to add more examiners and bring its equipment up to date as well.
Most importantly, though, the America Invenst Act will speed up and streamline the patent applications. It was approved with a huge majority of 89 to 9, but the outspoken opposition including the National Small Business Association was quick to mention that the bill will benefit large corporations and that it doesn’t address the specifics of software patents.