US Patent Reform Bill Signed into Law  

The much-debated US patent reform legislation initiated six years ago was finally signed into law in the form of America Invents Act by US President Obama on 16 September 2011. It represents a major overhaul of the country’s patent system since 1952.

First and foremost, the new law switches the “first-to-invent” U.S. patent system to a “first-to-file” one, i.e. the right to the grant of a patent for a given invention lies with the first inventor(s) to file a patent application for protection of that invention. There is a grace period of 18 months for this provision so that any application filed before March 16, 2013 will be examined under the current patent law.

The Act also changes the present fee structure and allows US Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) to set its own fees (revised fee schedule available at: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee092611.htm#patapp). Predominantly, a 15% surcharge will be imposed on most fees effective 26 September 2011, and starting from 60 days after the date of enactment, applications that are not filed electronically will be charged US$ 200-400.

Other important elements of the revised law include: prioritized examination which expedites applications deemed important to national economy or competitiveness, and post grant review and inter partes review proceedings introduced as cost-effective alternative legal forums at USPTO for challenging issued patents. 

Except stated otherwise in the Act, most of the provisions thereof will take effect upon the expiration of a one-year period from the date of enactment. For more details of the new US patent law, USPTO has the full text of America Invents Act at http://www.uspto.gov/aia_implementation/bills-112hr1249enr.pdf and effective dates for implementation of respective provisions at http://www.uspto.gov/aia_implementation/aia-effective-dates.pdf.