San Diego – After several unsuccessful attempts in previous Congresses, the House Judiciary Committee finally passed the America Invents Act by a 32-3 vote. Large companies such as Google, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, General Electric, Apple, Dell, and Facebook have supported the House bill, making it the first significant revamp in the U.S. patent system in sixty years.
Under the new bill, patents will be granted on a first-inventor-to-file system rather than the first-to-invent system of the past. The first-inventor-to-file system has been the international standard, with the U.S. and the Philippines the only countries to still utilize the first-to-invent system.
The House bill has received the backing from the Obama Administration, which has promised to aggressively protect Intellectual Property in the U.S.. In 2009, Obama appointed Victoria Espinel to the position of United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, in which she is responsible for the development and implementation of the Administration’s overall strategy for the enforcement of Intellectual Property. The Administration issued a statement of policy on the matter, saying, “This provision provides greater certainty for innovators, reduces legal costs that often burden small businesses and independent inventors, and makes it easier for innovators to market their inventions in the global marketplace.”
In addition to providing for the first-inventor-to-file standard, the bill would also alter the process by which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues business method patents, which protect the ways that business can be conducted, such as online sales methods or insurance procedures. The new House bill would also eliminate all tax strategy patents, a move that is strongly supported by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Financial Planning Association.
The USPTO will be required to appoint an intermediary to work with small businesses and independent inventors who need guidance through the patent filing process. Pro bono programs will be established through efforts of the USPTO director and Intellectual Property law associations to assist inventors lacking the funds to pay the patent filing fees.
Although having received overwhelming support, the new America Invents Act has faced harsh criticism over the fact that it reserves the right to divert fees collected by the USPTO to other uses. The House Judiciary Committee maintains that while these fees may be diverted, they will remain solely for the use by other areas of the USPTO.