American Patent Office Reinvents Itself

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2012-08-15

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), a sweeping revision of existing patent legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in September 2011 took the final deployment steps Aug. 14.

uspto_small.pngWith the U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) publication of the final rules governing three administrative trial provisions of the AIA, the stage has been set for the next generation of patent battles. In summary, the final set of rules “offer a third party a timely, cost-effective alternative to district court litigation for challenging the patentability of a claimed invention in an issued patent,” according to the USPTO press release.

Now I’m not a lawyer, and even after speaking with Matthew Kreeger, a member of Morrison & Foerster’s intellectual-property litigation and patent-litigation practice groups, I can’t say with certainty that I fully understand what the patent changes will mean for IT managers.

According to Kreeger, the AIA brings U.S. patent law in line with patent practices of industrial countries in the rest of the world.

Here’s what I did learn. The change from first-to-invent to first-to-file is huge. Where the software industry clashed with the life sciences industry, there was not much change in the law. Filing fees will skyrocket to pay for the administrative apparatus necessary to render decisions within the one-year time frame mandated by the statute. And finally, the main body of the law comes into effect in March 2013, so there is still a bit of time for IT managers to get a handle on what the patent changes will mean for strategic decisions.

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