If you have patents, or plan to in the future, there are important changes you need to be aware of to protect your inventions against competition and avoid risk. Two sets of new patent rules have gone into effect as of September 16th, 2012, with the last set of new rules going into effect on March 16th of next year.
These rules began under the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011 and will cause U.S. law to be comparable to the rest of the world, in regards to how patents are dealt with. The following is what you need to know regarding the new patent rules and your legal responsibilities.
Inventor's Oath or Declaration
A patent applicant is now required to supply less information than previously. The new AIA law has eliminated the need to provide the inventor's country of citizenship, and a first inventor's statement.
From First-To-Invent to First-To-File
Beginning on March 16th of next year the patent will no longer be awarded to the entity who first invented, but to whomever is first to file. Instead of the starting point being the date of invention, it is now the date of the application. If you have an invention you wanted to get a patent for, it is a good idea to file quickly.
You may want to file a provisional patent application that will establish an early filing date. This will be quicker, easier and cheaper. Keep in mind that you have to file a full patent within one year to use the provisional patent filing date.
Faster Dispute Resolutions
Patent disputes can be time consuming and costly. The AIA is now taking this issue out of the district court's hands, and putting it back to the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). This will place more focus on the actual merits of the dispute instead of sideshow tactics by lawyers and other law professionals. The process will be less costly and settle these disputes faster.
There are concerns regarding this change; that putting this extra work on the USPTO will affects the ability to process patent claims in a timely manner. However, the USPTO has hired a large amount of judges to preside over these disputes, and handle the extra work load.
Competitor Input Before Patent Issue
The new rules will now allow a competitor's input before a patent is issued. The new submissions-before-patent-issues will help avoid costly litigation for companies after the fact. If an entity is trying to patent something that interferes with a competitor's business, or they feel it is not a valid patent.
Improved Geographic Diversity
The USPTO will now be required to have a minimum of three satellite locations by September 2014. This geographic diversity will allow easier navigation for small businesses. Offices will be placed to help inventors more effectively than one single office in Washington D.C. Patent examiners who are part of the community in which the inventor lives will be more in touch with their issues and concerns.
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