President Obama signed into law the American Invents Act this past Friday with the intent of reforming the patent process in the US. But will it streamline the process or provide more fuel for the antics of corporations and trolls?
Obama says that the patent reform is intended to speed up the time between submitting a patent, and getting that product out to the marketplace (patents could be awarded in 12 month or less).
The law supports those who are the "first to file" as opposed to the "first to invent". What that means is that up until now, patent researchers have had to go and prove that the concepts described in any patent application don't already exist in the real world, eating up time and money in the process. There are several hundred thousand applications that are backlogged. But now, all IP rights will go to the person who hands in their paperwork first, regardless of whether or not they created something first.
Most of the world follows the first to file system, and supporters of the bill believe that the increase in processed patent applications and hiring of patent inspectors will spur jobs creations by allowing inventors to get the funding they need to begin the actual production stage of their creations. Companies such as Microsoft praise the bill, telling the Seattle P.I. that the new inclusion of a system that allows questionable patents to be challenged for nine months after they're awarded will help deter patent trolling.
But there are naysayers as well. Both BetaBlog and NPR spoke to experts who believe that the bill actually does little to address the issue of patent trolls, especially with regard to small-time inventors and startups who really drive innovation. While corporations will have an easier time smashing patent trolls through the courts, the system, structurally speaking, does little to deter trolls from filing bad patents from the get go (though apparently, the bill includes ways for inventors to "avoid litigation").
We've lamented the effect patent trolls have had on American inventors. Even more than the backlog of applications, they pose the single biggest threat to innovation in this country. So while the American Invents Act certainly fixes a few glaring issues within the patent office, it fails to address the biggest one of them all, which is a bit disappointing. [White House, BetaBlog, NPR, Seattle PI]