On Friday, September 16, President Obama signed legislation reforming the current patent system, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249). The new law makes changes to the application process and expands resources for the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) in an effort to streamline the approval process, reduce the current application backlog, improve patent quality, and ultimately enhance American economic competitiveness.
The America Invents Act implements a first-inventor-to file system, expands the opportunity for the public to submit information to the USPTO concerning patents under examination, and creates a new post-grant opposition proceeding as an alternative to litigation for challenging patents. Both the new first-to-file system and the new post-grant opposition procedure were recommendations of the National Academies in its report, A Patent System for the 21st Century. The new law harmonizes U.S. patent law with that of most major U.S. trade partners.
The USPTO will have expanded fee setting authority and under the new law and can now establish a revolving fund that will allow it to retain the fees that it collects. During the deliberations on the legislation there was some congressional opposition to the new fee-setting authority and the revolving fund, leading to provisions which assure full congressional oversight.
At the bill signing event, President Obama also highlighted university efforts to promote economic development. The Commerce Department released a statement about the university efforts, which were also noted in the White House press release on the event.