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Blog Category: America Invents Act

2011: A Great Year for American Inventors and Innovation

Photo of USPTO Headquarters

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

As December draws to a close , it’s difficult to imagine a more historic year for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) than 2011. The dedication and hard work of our talented public servants has enabled the Agency to make significant strides in the quality, efficiency, and certainty of patents and trademarks granted to technological enterprises. And our collaboration with the small business community has allowed us to level the competitive playing field by offering new tools and resources for independent inventors to acquire intellectual property rights with more ease. As this year comes to an end, I want to take a moment to recount what our extended USPTO family has helped accomplish for American inventors and American innovation, through the lens of a few numbers and key dates that were important this year.

USPTO: Boosting Small Business with the New Patent Law

The president signing the bill

When President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law six weeks ago, he did more than just implement the largest patent reform since 1836. The AIA aims to help small business secure patent protection for their inventions in a variety of ways. The Act offers not only favorable legal provisions, but also establishes studies and programs to further investigate how Congress may assist small businesses in the future. The provisions in the AIA help simplify the patent law, promote the disclosure of inventions, and establish procedures to remove bad patents from the intellectual property (IP) system early.

By introducing provisions that speed the patent application process and enhance the quality review of patent applications, the AIA enables applicants to secure an examination of an application in one-third the regular time from an average of 3 years to an average of 12 months. Additional provisions will provide an avenue that small businesses may use to challenge bad patents and receive a decision within 12 months. This changes the current practice where decisions on patent validity are determined through district court litigation and may take several years at significantly greater expense.

Building a 21st Century Patent and Trademark Office

Director Kappos takes questions while at the Brookings Institute

Today, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos addressed the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, outlining how comprehensive patent reform, signed into law by President Obama two weeks ago today, impacts American innovation, American jobs and American leadership. Representing the most significant overhaul of the U.S. patent system in a generation, the America Invents Act (AIA) transforms how patents are obtained, challenged, and valued in acquisition, licensing, and litigation settlement discussions.

In the centuries since the first patent examiner—Thomas Jefferson—reviewed and granted the first U.S. patent, our nation has observed sweeping revolutions in the pace of innovation—but with no comprehensive legislative adjustment in patent policy.

By building out the world’s only 21st century Patent and Trademark Office, equipped to manage the demands of a globalized economy, this new law enables a better resourced USPTO to grant intellectual property rights with greater speed, greater quality, greater clarity and greater enforceability. It also advances the President’s overall strategy of deploying American innovation to build businesses and build jobs.

Acting Secretary Blank and USPTO Director Kappos Join President Obama at the America Invents Act Signing Ceremony

President Barack Obama signs the America Invents Act into law at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

At a ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, President Obama today signed the America Invents Act into law, representing historic patent reform legislation that will help American entrepreneurs and businesses bring their inventions to market sooner, creating new businesses and new jobs. Passed with the president’s consistent leadership and strong bipartisan support, the America Invents Act represents the most significant reform of the Patent Act since 1952, and will help American companies and inventors who have suffered costly delays and unnecessary litigation focus on innovation and job creation.

Innovation is the primary source of economic growth, job creation,
and U.S. competitiveness in today’s global economy. An efficiently operating intellectual property system is critical to our ability to spur innovation and bring new services and products to the marketplace faster. For investors, patents are strong indicators of market potential for new companies; and for inventors, they are often vital to attracting investment. 

"Our success in creating the conditions that spur new ideas, and our commitment to investing in the education, research and development priorities that help shape our country’s innovation infrastructure, will determine the opportunities of future generations,” Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said. “These issues will determine whether or not America is home to the industries that will fuel economic growth–and the jobs that come with it - in the 21st century.”

Aneesh Chopra, on the White House Blog, said, "By transitioning to a simpler, more objective, and more inventor-friendly system of issuing patents, the new Act helps ensure that independent inventors and small entities have greater clarity and certainty over their property rights and will be able to navigate the patent system on a more equitable footing with large enterprises."

The Act also establishes a new in-house review process for challenging patents—a process that is faster and significantly cheaper than litigation, which too often stymies technological growth. By resolving disputes about patent rights earlier, more efficiently, and at lower cost, we can  add greater certainty to—and cultivate greater confidence it—the American patent system."

United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra hosted an Open for Questions event on WhiteHouse.gov at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 16th. If you missed it, you can watch the entire Q&A session on the White House blog.

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA)

On September 8, the Senate passed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), H.R. 1249, by a vote of 89-9.  The bill now will be sent to the President for his signature.

This legislation has been a major priority of the Department of Commerce and the Office of General Counsel since the beginning of this Administration.  The AIA marks the first comprehensive reform to U.S. patent law in 60 years and transforms the patent system to accommodate the needs of 21st Century inventors and businesses. 

At a time of great need for the U.S. economy, the AIA will foster American innovation, provide greater certainty to businesses and inventors, and promote job growth.  Fundamental changes to the patent system made by the legislation include:

  • Establishing a “first-inventor-to-file,” which will simplify the U.S. patent application system and harmonize it with others around the world;
  • Providing the opportunity for third parties to submit information regarding pending patent applications and creating a post-grant opposition proceeding to identify patents that should not have been granted.  Both these changes will improve patent quality, which will promote investment and job growth;
  • Improving the system to administratively challenge patents, which will speed adjudication of meritorious challenges and provide faster resolution and certainty for patent holders facing unsubstantiated challenges; and
  • Reducing fees for small and micro-entities by as much as 75%, which will foster innovation.

The AIA requires a series of rulemakings and studies, which will need to be completed expeditiously.  The Office of General Counsel will be working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to complete the work as quickly as possible and to bring the benefits of the legislation to consumers and businesses alike.  Implementation Effort

Secretary Locke Outlines Administration’s Views on Patent Reform

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers outlining the views of the Obama administration on patent reform legislation currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The America Invents Act increases the certainty of patent rights by implementing a first-inventor-to-file system for patent approval, which reduces the need for cost-prohibitive litigation that often ties up new ideas in court, stifling innovation and holding back job creation. It will also allow the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to set and retain the fees it collects from its users. The USPTO is entirely fee-funded, and this fee-setting authority will ensure high-quality, timely patent review and address the backlog of patent applications that is currently preventing new innovations from reaching the marketplace.

Since the beginning of Locke’s tenure as Commerce Secretary, reforming the U.S. patent system to support the acceleration of American innovation and competitiveness and drive job creation and economic growth has been one of his top priorities. In meetings with CEOs and U.S. business leaders from companies of all sizes, the shortcomings of the U.S. patent system and the need for reform has almost always been a topic of conversation.

During the last two years, Locke has worked with bipartisan Congressional leaders as they have crafted legislation that is widely supported by industry experts, universities, independent inventors, and the business community, because it will make it easier for America’s innovators to produce new technologies that drive economic growth and create jobs.