Patent Reform Bill Heads to The White House

Posted Thursday, September 8, 2011.

Thursday, September 8, 2011: The U.S. Senate today passed the House version of the patent reform bill, H.R. 1249, without amendment. Having been approved by both houses of Congress, the bill now proceeds to the White House. President Obama favors patent reform and is widely expected to sign the bill quickly.

Among the most significant provisions in the bill is a change of the U.S. patent law from a “First to Invent” system to a “First to File” system. The practice of “fee diversion” will still be permitted. However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is given authority to raise the fees it collects for patent filings, leading to more revenue with which the office can hopefully reduce its backlog.

Most of the provisions of the bill take place one year from enactment of the legislation, although at least one takes effect immediately. The “False Marking” statute will be amended so that only the U.S. government can bring a false marking action, with the effective date of that portion of the bill being the date the bill itself is signed into law. Also, marking an article with an expired patent will no longer violate the statute. These measures will affect false marking suits currently in the pipeline, which may explain the decrease in the number of false marking suits filed in the past few months.

The bill is around 150 pages long and represents the most important revision to patent law in 60 years. There will be a transitional period for applications filed prior to the enactment of the law, so inventors need not worry about unexpected impacts to their pending applications.

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