Many patents, still pending
Congress tweaks, but does not overhaul, America’s patent system
Sep 10th 2011 | NEW YORK | from the print edition
AFTER years of dithering, America is set for patent reform. On September 6th a bill proposing to change the system passed its highest procedural hurdle in the Senate. With Barack Obama supportive, this means the America Invents Act could soon be signed into law.
Instead of the “first to invent” principle, which America currently uses, patents will be awarded to inventors who are the “first to file”. This is similar to the system most other countries use. The aim is to avoid long and difficult legal arguments over who was the first to come up with an idea.
As in most cases of patent law it is not going to be that simple. One criticism is that being first-to-file gives big and sophisticated organisations, highly experienced at the difficult job of filing for patents, an advantage over smaller outfits that may be technically brilliant but not legally savvy. Another problem is that first-to-file may make companies rush to put in for a patent before their invention is truly ready.