Yesterday, the Senate voted 89-9 to pass legislation that will dramatically change the U.S. patent system. President Obama is expected to sign it into law.
The reform legislation revises U.S. patent law so that patents are granted to those who are the “first to file” for a patent, which is a system widely used in Europe and Asia. Currently, the U.S. has a “first to invent” patent-awarding system.
Supporters of the patent overhaul say the redesigned system will deter frivolous lawsuits filed by patent trolls. Patent-reform supporters also are happy with another component of the bill that allows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to raise its fees, which will help the understaffed office process patent applications more quickly.
However, many small businesses and individual inventors oppose the system change because they aren’t armed with large in-house legal departments or patent attorneys to handle patent-related matters.
The legislation also allows third parties to challenge awarded patents. Additionally, it creates a grace period for inventors to file patent applications after their inventions are publicly introduced.