In September 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law, effectively reforming the patent system in the U.S. Many agreed that the patent system in the U.S. was out of date and needed updating. However, not everyone agrees that the new law is the best way of doing so. Those seeking to file or protect patents need to understand the details of the new AIA and some tips for filing and protecting from patent infringement in the future.
Details of the America Invents Act
One of the major changes that the AIA instituted was that it changed the patent system from the old "first to invent" standard to a new "first to file" standard. Supporters of the law believe that this will assist people filing for patents in multiple countries, as many other countries use a "first to file" system. However, critics allege that this will prevent individual inventors and small business from getting patents by making it prohibitively expensive to do so.
Under the "first to invent" system, inventors had a one-year grace period where they could find investors to help pay for the patent application fee and determine whether there is a market for their invention. Now, inventors need to file right away to protect their ideas, and many do not have the $7,000 to $10,000 it costs to file a patent application.
The AIA also has a post-grant review of patents, which allows others to challenge patents that the Patent Office has already granted. Critics say the review process will drive the cost of obtaining a patent even higher.
Another feature of the AIA is a fast-track provision, under which the Patent Office guarantees a 12 month processing time for applications rather than the current three year wait that most applications take. Supporters of the AIA hope that the Act will reduce the backlog of patent applications, prevent litigation about patents by offering inventors alternatives to court and produce better patents with its tighter patent issuing guidelines.
Tips for Protecting Patents Under the America Invents Act
Small business and solo inventors should follow three tips for obtaining and protecting patents under the AIA:
• File as soon as possible: the new first to file system means that whoever files first gets the patent, regardless of who invented it
• Keep inventions secret: if others can reverse-engineer a product, the patent holder cannot protect it
• Get a partner: find others to help finance application fees and any legal challenges may ease the burden and make obtaining and defending patents easier
The AIA has brought some dramatic changes to intellectual property in the U.S. If you are an inventor who is looking to protect your ideas, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney who can discuss your options with you.