United States Patent Reform

A hot topic of interest  has been the patent reform bill currently under review in congress.  This increased attention to the current aged (and decaying) patent system is a result of the need to foster innovation in the U.S. and reward those seeking to create new technologies and consequently, and more importantly, jobs.  While many oppose the bill, the new reform looks promising to individual inventors and should help level the playing field with larger organizations.

The bill allows the USPTO to determine it’s own fee structure,  giving it power to create new categories and options for inventors to choose from when filing their patent or trademark applications. As implied by David Kappos, the new power would enable the office to cater to small businesses and individual inventors, giving them severely reduced rates compared to larger organizations.  Another focus of the reform is the efficiency of the patent office.  With a backlog of over 750,000 patent applications, the unbridled innovation and economic expansion the U.S.  craves right now is virtually impossible.   An almost comical situation, the USPTO infrastructure which is responsible for protecting the most cutting edge technologies, is one of the most antiquated organizations in the United States government.  A massive overhaul of the patent filing process is long overdue, and will greatly expedite the application and issuance processes.

A misconception regarding this bill is the “First to File” policy change.  Many individuals understand the reform to change the policy from the “first to invent” to a “first to file” system.   In the current patent system, rights are assigned to the first inventor to conceive the idea, not the first to file an application with the USPTO.  The confusion in the change is that the new system will adopt a “first INVENTOR to file” policy.  This means that the patent will be issued to the first inventor who developed the invention.  This change is important for inventors wishing to enter a global marketplace as most other countries use this type of system, and the inventor’s transition to an international product will be much smoother.

Finally the new bill empowers the office to enter a post-grant review policy for challenging patents.  With an efficient means of regulating and controlling patent appeals, inventors and the USPTO will be less tied down with frivolous litigation and remain free to work on new applications.

Although the bill is not expected to pass in it’s current form, any improvement to the current patent system is certainly welcomed.  We hope this reform will yield the benefits Kappos has promised to the individual inventors, but it is in the government’s hands now.