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U.S. Patent System Undergoes Major Revision Affecting All Inventors!


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office implemented a major revision on March 16 regarding how patents are evaluated. The U.S. was the first country in the world to implement intellectual property rights in 1790 when George Washington signed into law the first patent regulations. The modern patent system went into effect with the passage of the Patent Act in the 1830s. That law basically assigned patent rights to the person that could prove they invented something first, even if some else filed a patent for the same invention at an earlier date. That changed on March 16, 2013.

Under the new patent approval process, the USPTO will issue patents not to the person that can prove they were the first to invent something but instead will issue it to the first person that files a patent request. In effect, one’s ability to navigate the legal filing process more efficiently will have a significant advantage. This new system mirrors mechanisms used around the world by patent offices. Only the U.S. retained a system that was based on “first-to-invent,”  which lead to very lengthy approval times for patents. The goal here is to make patent approvals faster.  

This system may be more efficient but it will likely favor large corporate entities over the innovative individual who decides to build something in his or her garage. These inventors may truly be the first to create something, but they’ll have a difficult time competing against professional inventors and with corporations that have hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for protecting intellectual property. It may also reduce the acquisition price of patents as large buyers realize they have another means to obtain the rights they want; filing first. Finally, the concern is that, entrepreneur inventors will be discouraged from turning their product into a company as the ability to secure intellectual property rights against larger competitors may be more difficult.