Major Changes in Patent Law

Patent laws in the United States recently received a major overhaul with significant changes for inventors.  One of the most important changes is from a “first to invent” system, where the first person to actually invent is granted a patent, to a “first inventor to file” system where the first filing date wins, regardless of who was the earliest inventor.

Under the old system, if two companies are competing and each invent the same invention independently; the company that can prove they were the first to actually write down details of the invention would be awarded the patent, even if the other company filed their patent first.  Patents filed on or before March 15, 2013 will be evaluated under this old system.

Under the new system, that takes effect March 16, 2013, the first “inventor” to file will be awarded the patent.  So who is an “inventor”?  In patent law the “inventor” includes everyone that contributed to developing the idea (listed in a claim) of how the patent works.  As with all legal matters, there are presumptions in the law, and to overcome those presumptions you need proof.  The new law presumes that the first person to file a patent application is an inventor and is telling the truth.  Part of a patent application is a signed oath stating that the person filing the patent application is the inventor.  The information provided in this application is presumed true unless you can prove that it is not true.

With this change in patent law it becomes even more important for an inventor or company to keep the invention secret at least until a patent is filed, and to file sooner rather than later. If you do not keep the invention secret before filing, someone else may see your invention, claim that they invented it, and file a patent application first.  In this case you would need proof that they learned of the patent from you, and did not develop it on their own.  Without that proof an unethical competitor could steal your invention and later file a lawsuit against you requiring you to stop using it or pay royalties.

It is more important than ever to work with an experienced patent attorney at the early stages of product development to ensure the best possible protection of your intellectual property. The Carroll Law Firm has a patent attorney on staff who can assist you with all of your intellectual property needs.

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