Today the United States Senate passed the America Invents Act (S. 23), a bill that will significantly change U.S. patent filings if enacted. The bill passed by the wide margin of 95-5. If the bill becomes law, it will implement changes such as:
- doing away with the “first inventor wins” patent system in favor of a “first-to-file” patent system (for an excellent description of this change, see a recent post on the Patently-O blog);
- eliminating any “strategy for reducing, avoiding, or deferring tax liability” from eligibility for patenting;
- giving third parties additional opportunities to oppose pending patent applications and granted patents;
- reducing fees for applicants who qualify for micro-entity status;
- giving the USPTO authority to establish additional satellite offices (with Denver rumored to be a front-runner); and
- giving the USPTO the authority to set its own fees, and eliminating diversion of filing fees away from the USPTO.
The full text of the America Invents Act as passed is available here.
When the full text is available, I will provide a link in an update to this post. In the meantime, here is a link to S.23 as it was introduced for debate in 2011.
Patent reform now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives, which will consider its own version of the bill. Last month the Obama administration issued a statement strongly favoring patent reform. After many years of debate, some or all of the changes listed above seem likely to become law in 2011.
Who would have believed it — patent reform has finally passed in one chamber. Given the momentum this issue has right now, I’d expect that some version of the bill will likely pass in the House soon, too. As usual, however, the devil will be in the details; though I can’t imagine much opposition to the fee diversion and fee-setting authority provisions, the first-to-file and post-grant issues may prove somewhat thorny.