Yesterday, on a lark, we posted about patents. Little did we know. Today, we have word that the U.S. Senate approved the America Invents Act on a 91-9 vote. The bill will implement sweeping changes to the U.S. patent system for the first time since 1948. The bill had already passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a similarly lopsided vote, and President Obama has said he will sign it.
The bill’s major change is that the United States will change from a first-to-invent system, to a first-to-file system. The other major change is that patent fees will no longer be subject to Congressional approval. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will be able to set its own fees, as it deems sufficient to pay for the services it provides.
Backers of the bill say that all this will lead to a clearer process, and rivals won’t get bogged down in as many disputes. However, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), herself a veteran of the high tech networks (a former executive with Real Networks when it was in its infancy), said it will put smaller firms at a major disadvantages. They typically do not have the same resources to seek patents and litigate patent cases as the big boys.
The plant patent we looked at yesterday took almost 16 months from application to issuance. If you have a hot new selection that you want to protect, while getting it to market as soon as possible, that seems like a very long time to wait. Companies that regularly seek plant patents may be glad to learn that the patent reform bill includes an express lane for those who want expedited processing of their application. But — it’ll cost ya.
According to Mondaq.com, a website covering IP issues, “(The) applicant can pay an additional $4,800 ($2,400 for a small entity) to file a request for prioritized examination of a nonprovisional application for an original utility or plant patent. Companies can take advantage of this prioritized examination 10 days after the enactment of this act.”