Looking Back at U.S. Patent Law – Big Changes in 2012 (part 2)

U.S. patent law experienced a significant number of changes in 2012, as the America Invents Act, new regulations, USPTO actions and court decisions all left an impact that will affect patent filings for years to come.

In a previous post, we discussed changes that arose due to the America Invents Act, a landmark 2011 law that made sweeping changes to U.S. patent law.  This post, will address other significant changes spurred by the USPTO and the courts.

Increased Resources at USPTO

In 2012, the USPTO opened its first satellite office in Detroit, Michigan.  It also announced plans to open three additional satellite facilities in Dallas, Denver and Silicon Valley.  The three additional offices are expected to open in 2013, and the USPTO hired former Google Deputy General Counsel Michelle Lee to head the Silicon Valley Office.

The USPTO also increased the size of its examining corps by about 17%.  This increase in manpower helped the USPTO reduce the average wait time for a first office action from 28 months in 2011 to 21.9 months in 2012 — a 21% decrease.

Court Decisions

The Federal Circuit was active as usual.  Significant decisions include:

More changes ahead in 2013

2013 is shaping up to be an equally active year for patent law.   In March, the America Invents Act’s final set of regulations will take effect.  These changes will  shift  the U.S. patent system to a  first-to-file system, expand the definition of “prior art,” and begin new derivation proceedings that will allow inventorship challenges to be filed against pending patent applications.

Changes are underway in Europe as well, as the European Patent Office announced plans to make a Unified Patent System available on January 1, 2014.   The new program should reduce filing costs for patents that cover many European countries.  It will also make a Unitary Patent Court available to address patent disputes on a European-Union-wide basis.

Finally, USPTO Director David Kappos will end his tenure in January 2013.  In addition to overseeing America Invents Act implementation, Kappos has been instrumental in implementing process improvements that reduced the USPTO’s backlog of pending patent applications.  The new director will certainly have big shoes to fill.

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