updated 04:45 pm EDT, Fri September 16, 2011
Laws expected to mitigate patent trolling
After passing a Senate vote by a margin of 89-9, the America Invents Act has become law after receiving a signature from President Obama. The legislation is hailed as the first major reform of the patent system in decades, bringing a wide range of changes, including a first-to-file system, that have been commonplace in many other countries for years.
The reforms aim to give the USPTO more flexibility and resources to help clear the backlog of patent applications, which average nearly three years to pass through the review process. Preventing USPTO funds from being sent elsewhere is expected to help the agency hire additional examiners and purchase necessary equipment.
The first-to-file system will grant patents based on the first application submissions, rather than the first person to invent the technology. Small companies have criticized the provision, arguing that such a method is biased toward large companies that have the resources to quickly draft applications.
Some tech companies had pushed for limits on damages in patent lawsuits to help protect against patent trolls, however the restrictions on payouts were removed before the legislation passed. The new laws are still expected to prevent some companies from filing dubious claims and abusing the system, however.
"Reforming the U.S. patent system will enable businesses of all sizes to obtain clearer and more reliable intellectual property rights in a more expedient fashion, so they can attract investments, develop their products, and hire employees sooner," wrote US government CTO Aneesh Chopra. "By resolving disputes about patent rights earlier, more efficiently, and at lower cost, we can add greater certainty to--and cultivate greater confidence it--the American patent system."