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Major changes in US patent laws come into effect

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

This weekend marks a monumental change to U.S patent law. In September 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act, but the legislation which will overhaul the country’s patent system hasn’t been in effect until now.

In January, High Tech Rochester (HTR) held a seminar on intellectual property that highlighted the need for awareness about the change.

HTR’s Bob Kot says the changes will be significant for many of the key industries in the upstate region, and it’s vital that inventors are aware of the pending alterations.

“For technology companies it’s extremely critical because we’re going from a process that we called first to invent to a process called first inventor to file.”

Kot says the change means patents will be granted based on the date the application is filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, rather than the date of the invention.

There has been a recent push from inventors to get their patents filed before Saturday’s deadline, as patents filed by Friday March 15th will be able to take advantage of the old rules.

The advice that is pouring out to researchers, scientists and inventors all over the U.S, for the period after the deadline passes, is simple; don’t wait around. As soon as you have an idea, file a patent application.

There have been concerns in the business community that the switch to a “first to file” system will disadvantage entrepreneurs who don’t have access to a clear intellectual property strategy, or a team of lawyers to give advice.

In a system that effectively creates a ‘race to the patent office’, the fear is that entrepreneurs will lose that race to big businesses every time.

But, Kot says the overall impact of the change is most likely to be neutral, but it will still require some getting used to.

The new patent system is already used in most other countries, and one of the main aims of the change is to create international conformity for US patents.

The legislation is designed to make it faster and easier to get a patent, as well as providing better protection for American intellectual property abroad.

Saturday’s deadline represents the biggest change to U.S patent law in 60 years.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail