The America Invents Act and patent law changes, part 1

Glenn W. Peterson

Whether inventions are devices or processes, entrepreneurs and businesses in Sacramento, California, should be able to capitalize on their ideas without fear of having them copied and sold by someone else. Patent law in the United States is intended to encourage that innovation, and according to CBS News, the America Invents Act changed and updated several aspects of patent law in 2011.

Individual inventors and small businesses used to be at a disadvantage when it came to patents because the filing fees and associated costs can be very expensive. However, the new Act has created a micro-entity status specifically for those that may not have the funds to file, specifically, small companies and inventors. Those with four or fewer patents may qualify, and the fees are about 75 percent less than the standard.

Under the new Act, the first person to file for a patent of an invention is the one who obtains it. Before, there had to be proof that no one else had come up with the idea first, which had the potential to lead to significant litigation. However, if someone develops a new process and begins using it without a patent, another person or entity may still duplicate and patent it. The original inventor may then be forced to pay damages.

One thing the America Invents Act does not address is the problem known as “patent trolling.” According to the Atlantic, this is the process of filing for deliberately vague patents that are never intended for use. Instead, “trolls” threaten expensive litigation against anyone who comes up with similar technology, often resulting in an out-of-court settlement.

In part two of this series, the threat of patent trolls and more recent court decisions that may affect their unethical practices will be discussed.