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Obama signs, and MS supports, patent overhaul bill

Today President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that is being touted as the biggest reform to patent law since 1952.  The America Invents Act changes the way the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hands out patents from a convoluted, drawn-out process of researching who the inventor of a technology was to a first-to-file approach.  This will shift the burden from the PTO to the inventors, greatly reducing the time it takes to get an idea patented.  The America Invents Act also augments the process of challenging patents that have already been granted, and allows the PTO to patent-related fees.   Speaking of the importance of the bill to both innovation and the floundering economy, Obama had this to say:

“Somewhere in that stack of applications could be the next technological breakthrough, the next miracle drug.  We should be making it easier and faster to turn new ideas into jobs.”

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, said in a blog post that the AIA:“will ensure that innovators in our troubled economy can benefit from a predictable and rational patent system, with new tools to eliminate patents that should not have issued and to speed the processing of patents that should be issued."  He went on to say that "a fair, balanced and effective patent system is indispensable to promoting R&D investment, job creation, and economic growth.”

Gutierrez's comments are not surprising given the obscene amount of patent-related squabbles and acquisitions in the past year, which have included Microsoft, Apple, Google, HTC and others.  The potential of companies using patents as weapons has also been credited for recent billion-dollar business moves, such as Google's recent purchase of Motorola Mobility. 

Hopefully, with a more streamlined system and better review process, the patent world can gain a little sanity, while perhaps simultaneously giving the economy a lift in its step.

Source: SeattlePI; Photo: AP(Jacquelyn Martin)

8 Comments
  • is this gona help the METRO UI paten get aproved sooner? lol
  • What he really should have done while he was at it was computerize the PTO... They still do everything via paper and massive floors of file cabinets... How exactly do they search prior art? LOL
  • You're missing the point here. Courtesy of lots of big money lobbying to obfuscate reality - this is a total bend-over for Inventors. To get some perspective on my comments, I am a prolific Inventor, with several dozen US Patents and 50+ Worldwide. These Patents have served as the basis for three Companies and a product line from a large not-for-profit. So suffice to say I've been inside the Patent system a lot over the last 20+ years.The US Patent system is based upon the Constitutional Right of all Inventors to patent their Inventions. That's right - it is literally in the US Constitution, and it was intended to protect the individual Inventors, not big corporations. With the average cost of a US Patent approaching $50k, with world-wide rights costing over double that it should be obvious that most individuals simply cannot run right out to patent their Inventions. It takes time, a lot of time in THIS economy, to create a suitable corporate structure to allow Investors to contribute the needed funds. This is why "First To Invent" has always been the US system - so the little guy has a fair shot.Of course Big $ Companies don't want the little guys to be competitive. Typically, their R&D efforts are many years behind Individual Inventors, but when they Invent something there's no need to spend a few years getting Investors to pay for the patent, they have a big pot of existing $ to draw upon.So basically, this Act will stifle individuals from bothering to Invent in the first place, giving the large companies all the advantages. Little wonder the Republican Congress thought it was such a good idea.
  • Dang. This is exactly what I was thinking (aside from the partisan comment at the end), and I've never done anything with the PTO. So, if you have a good idea, but don't have any money to patent and protect it, DON'T TELL ANYBODY!!!
  • It's a double edged sword here. Making this change hurts people who have real inventions and don't have the resources to get them patented. But on the flip side, it also stops patent trolls from gobbling up tons of patents and using them to go after companies. It's tough to find a middle ground here.
  • It is about time! Now we can stop having these damn wars and Apple can stop complaining about the damn shape of a phone and/or tablet! Before Apple began suing everyone it was okay. Now everyone sues everyone for whatever reason! Some things should obviously be patented but not every thing!
  • Nothing in this Act will have any impact on the Telephone Patent War. This is about who owns the right to an Invention, the guy who Invents it or the first person with enough money to file a Patent on it.The Patent Wars we are seeing relate generally to three issues: violation of "Design" Patents, violation of process Patents, and issue of patent validity in regards to "Obviousness".The first is in the eye of the beholder for the most part, is my Galaxy Tab a knock off of the iPad - well it seems to me that form follows function and tablets have always looked basically like this. And there were Tablets long before the iPad, so who's zooming who here?Apple gets away with convincing people ignorant of the field (ie Judges, Juries and the Public at large) into believing they were the "First" to do or make things - like the point and click PC interface and the touchscreen phone. Imagine how easy it is for their lawyers to obfuscate the innumerable technical processes involved in our little handheld computer/phone combos. Most manufacturers are using technologies that have been patented by others, but until recently there was a sort of "Gentleman's Agreement" not to sue over them as everyone knew it would dissolve into a regressive loop of overlapping patent violations. Only Apple has sen that as somehow a good thing.As to "Obviousness", well, is it obvious to use link a Customer's ordering data to a single mouse click - seems like it to me, but there's that Amazon Patent out there, and there's lots more like that to sue over.SO, NONE of this is related to whether a Patnet will be awarded to the original Inventor, or the first guy with enough money to pay the Lawyers. The ONLY purpose of that is to hand even MORE Patents over to the big companies, and to stifle individual Inventors.
  • honestly it's really just about giving the lawyers something new to litigate. Big small medium ... it doesn't matter. Now that you have a law today that differs from yesterday. Lawyers, lawyers .... lawyers.