The need to re-vamp the countries almost ancient patent system was great. Thankfully, the Obama administration answered the call. The President signed sweeping reform to change the system for determining priority for inventions at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Formally known as the America Invents Act, the law also aims to shore up more financing for an agency that’s suffered through years-long applications backlogs and out-of-date computer systems.
The law changed the previous “first to invent” system that has long been the standard for getting a patent in the U.S., to a “first to file” basis. The hope is that the move will help simplify the patent process for companies aiming to file applications in multiple countries, which use the “first to file” system. In addition, the reforms will help reduce the time it takes to get a patent and lower the number of frivolous patents. However, although these changes are positive, many small business owners and entrepreneurs are unsure of how the new legislation will affect them.
Some are concerned that the cost for filing a patent through the new system could drive overall costs higher, and, in the process, favor bigger companies that can afford to file for patents more frequently. Under the former, first-to-invent system, there was a one-year grace period that gave inventors time to perfect their inventions. This grace period has been eliminated. Now, inventors who want to protect their invention must pay for their patent first. Unfortunately, filing a patent is not cheap. Costs can range from $7,000-$10,000, thus making it difficult for many to file.
Given the uncertainty of these new rules, small business owners and entrepreneurs should keep several things in mind regarding the patent process. First, keep your invention secret! First to file means just that, the first to file, and have their patent accepted, is the owner. As such, keeping your cards abreast will help avoid a possibly costly and heart wrenching mistake in the future. Next, file quickly! Once you have determined that you do want to file a patent, don’t delay! Even if you have kept your ideas to yourself, you never know who else may have developed the same ideas. In the new land of patents, speed rules. Finally, do your research. Similar to filing a trademark, filing a patent may be confusing. Consider consulting an attorney before you file. In addition, make sure you visit the USPTO website. Thoroughly read all of the material surrounding patent applications to ensure you fully understand what the process requires.
Now that you know what to do, get out there and get inventing! If you obtain a patent for a good or service, consider starting your own business. MyCorporation can help you get started!