Senate Approves Possible Reform to Patenting System
The Senate passed the America Invents Act on Tuesday, with the hope of beginning the much needed reform process in the nation’s intellectual property system. Key aims of the bill include a reduction of application backlog, improved transparency, and a move to first-to-file patenting.
One feature of the bill, increased financial autonomy in the Patent and Trademark Office, would allow the agency to decide its own fees and retain funds obtained that way instead of reserving this right for Congress. Such control and asset infusion should let the office begin to develop methods for churning through its extraordinary backlog of potential patents.
The incredible delay in processing, worsening with every passing year, is increasing the average patent processing time to nearly four years. This is far from the established 18 month goal set by the agency. Such failings not only prevent the creation of new businesses and jobs, but cause the loss of an estimated $6.4b surrounding innovations annually, according to the research group London Economics.
The change to first-to-file, as opposed to first-to-invent, patenting might improve the situation by removing the need to go through application contents surrounding proof of invention before a filing. While this does succeed in awarding inventors expedient enough to quickly fill out applications, small businesses fear that larger ones with teams of patent litigators are being given an unneeded advantage.
Another tactic to mitigate backlog problems is the introduction of an expedited review program, allowing fast-tracking for those willing to pay. Fortunately for entrepreneurs, non-enterprise organizations are eligible for a discount.
President Obama expressed his happiness about this first step the Senate has taken toward improving the intellectual property situation. “This long-overdue reform is vital to our ongoing efforts to modernize America’s patent laws and reduce the backlog of 700,000 patent applications...” Whether the House will support the bill remains to be seen, but resistance from lobbyists seems to suggest that at least a few features will be modified.Continued on the next page