US patent reform jumps through second hoop
It's only taken 59 years – so far
The US House of Representatives has passed a patent-reform bill that supporters say will boost the development of American politicians' favorite four-letter word: jobs.
"The Patent Reform Act is a key part of any jobs agenda," argues the bill's Senate sponsor, Patrick Leahy (Dem-VT). "We can help unleash innovation and promote American invention, all without adding a penny to the deficit. This is commonsense, bipartisan legislation."
The House bill, H.R. 1249, aka the "America Invents Act", passed on Thursday with a vote of 304-117. A nearly identical bill, S. 23, passed the Senate in March by an even more lopsided margin of 95-5.
One major reform in both the House and Senate versions of the bill is a change from the current "invented first" system to a "filed first" system. Doing so would not only bring the US system in line with those in the majority of countries, but also guard against Johnny-come-lately litigants popping up to challenge patent applications by claiming previous inventions.
Both bills include a raft of protections and appeal methods to protect legitimate opposition to patent filings, but supporters contend that the Act would go a long way towards keeping patent disputes from unnecessarily clogging the courts and stifling product innovation.
Another helpful change would be the Act's modification to how the US Patent and Trademark Office is funded. Currently, the USPTO relies on appropriations from an increasingly stingy Congress to pay its bills – and many of the Act's supporters argue that this funding method has kept the office understaffed.
Both the House and Senate versions of the Act would allow the USPTO to set and collect its own fees. There is one wrinkle, however: the Senate version would let the USPTO keep all the fees. The House version, however, would require that a certain dollar amount be appropriated to the USPTO, and if the fees collected exceeded that amount, Congress would decide whether that overage would go to the USPTO.
While the passage of the Act by such large margins in both houses of Congress is encouraging to those who regard the USPTO as an embarrassing train wreck, it's not yet law. Before it goes to President Obama's desk for his signature – and he has said that he'd sign a patent-reform bill – the two versions of the bills must be reconciled in a House and Senate conference committee.
With the current level of partisan bad blood boiling on Capitol Hill, and with both parties embroiled in a debt ceiling–debate death match, a swift reconciliation is unlikely.
But if – when? – the two versions can be successfuly combined and signed by Obama, the Act would be the first significant change to the US patent system since the Patent Act of 1952.
It's about time. ®
I'm going to need someone to point out why moving from "invented first" to "filed first" is a good thing?
Surely that simply means that if you are 'attacked' by an aggressive litigator, showing prior art (even if it was work you did) stops being possible?
Might be missing the point here, but it doesn't read like a good change to me. If anything it makes things worse, because it puts people in the position of "wow, I invented this but I _have_ to patent it otherwise someone else might file first and sue me for my own invention"
Anyone care to clarify?
Anon cos I'm ill and am quite possibly missing the obvious.
Paris cos I'm ill and need the boost!
Still no end in sight then
to the insanity of Software Patents. It just makes me despair every time I read about some new patent troll claiming they invented "Boolean algebra" or "selling stuff online" or "breathing" or some such idiocy. The current Oracle/Google spat is a case in point. Oracle are claiming a huge number of infringements & loads of them have been thrown out, including stuff from old CS textbooks etc. What a joke.
Invent first doesn't cause trolls
Invent first is reckoned to help big companies.
Challenging somebody else patent to show that it was already known is easy, you just have to show that is was published somewhere in the past - even a 60year old Disney cartoon will do.
Challenging a patent and getting one granted to you because you invented it first is tricky. It requires that you an prove when you invented it and that you didn't let anyone else know. That usually takes lab note books signed off by company lawyers and audited trails fro all emails/documents - easier for IBM than one man in a garage.
Trolls are caused by the USPTO allowing patents on very broad methods and allowing the patent holder to shop around for a favourable court district to try it in.