Inventors need to file early under Patent Reform Act

On March 8th, 2011 the U.S. Senate passed the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S.23) by a vote of 95 - 5.  Now it is on to the House where a similar bill is being crafted.  This is an important bill for small businesses, individual inventors, and Venture Capitalists that invest in intellectual property, to keep tabs on and review.  (Get the full bill document here)

Primarily, inventors will need to understand that they will need to persue filing earlier as compared to the current system.  This in turn will drive the need for early knowledge in the innovation process to ensure that ideas are sound and developed fully under the likely shorter development cycles.  Other changes that involve the USPTO's reexamination procedures.  They are implementing three patent challenges: Pre-Issuance Third-Party Submissions; Third-Party Requested Post-Grant Review; and “Inter Parties Post Grant Review.  These challenges mean that a companies filing must stand up to any submissions through these new methods.

Another pressure is the modified "Grace Period."  Typically small businesses and inventors use the grace period to allow them to investigate the potential of the idea and seek funding.  This will be different under the proposed bill and affect the approach taken with new ideas.  Though the final bill is not complete and passed, this change has the potential to profoundly affect the innovation and invention process in many ways.  Given that one of the main goal in patent reform is to speed up the patent process it will reduce the time companies have to "get it right."

It is adviseable for companies to learn and understand more about this legislation.  We'll be trying to keep up with it here and would welcome any feedback and comments.

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