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Proposed Patent Act

Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2007 by Jim Ruttler

The House of Representatives has passed revisions to the current Patent Act and it is now being considered by the Senate. The revisions are sweeping and they include a first-to-file system, third party art submissions, post grant proceedings, and required search reports.

Currently, the U.S. is on a first-to-invent system whereby a patent is generally awarded to the first inventor to conceive of an idea regardless of who files first. The first-to-file change means that a patent will be awarded to the first inventor to file regardless of who invented first. The first-to-file system will introduce more certainty, but it will require prompt and expeditious filing of ideas.

Regarding third party submissions, current examination of patent applications is completely sealed off from third parties. Thus, even if a third party knows that a pending patent application is meritless there is nothing that can be done to intervene until after the patent issues. Third party art submssions permit any third party to notify the patent office of other patents, patent applications, or publications that may help the examiner in determing whether a patent should be granted. Third party submissions will assist the examiners with determining patentability, but competitors could abuse the process by filing excessive art submissions.

Presently, the only remedy to invalidate a patent at the patent office is through re-examination proceedings, which are complicated and expensive. The post grant proceedings are an alternative to re-examination proceedings and permit a third party to oppose a patent within one year of issuance. Unless the post grant proceedings are significantly easier and less expensive than current re-examination proceedings, they will probably not add much value.

Prior art searches and search reports are not currently required in new patent applications. However, under the proposed Patent Act the Patent Office may require search reports for everyone but micro-entities, which generally include independent inventors and small businesses. Placing a burden on large businesses to help the Patent Office determine patentability will probably improve patent application examination efficiency.

View the Proposed Patent Act

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