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How The New Patent Law May Affect Businesses

Publication Date: 
February 29, 2012
Legal Zoom
Michelle Fabio

Professor Mark A. Lemley discussed the America Invents Act of 2011 and predicted how it would influence patent law in the United States. Michelle Fabio of Legal Zoom wrote the following story.

With the America Invents Act (AIA), signed by President Obama on September 16, 2011, the United States will change from a “first to invent” system to a “first inventor to file” system for patent rights. Because of this seismic shift in U.S. patent law (some are calling it the biggest change in the laws in nearly 150 years), it is more important than ever for independent inventors seeking protection for their inventions to file their applications as quickly as possible. To say that this gives new meaning to the cliché “Race to the Patent Office” is something of an understatement.

With its shift to “first inventor to file,” the AIA is intended to streamline the patenting process by limiting certain types of challenges to patent applications, thus (at least in theory) getting the invention to the market faster. Another goal of the Act is to bring the U.S. in line with Europe, Canada and most other first-world nations who already follow a “first to file” system. This international sameness is viewed as important, as intellectual property takes on increasing international dimensions, and is also meant to improve international protection for those seeking it.


Still, not everyone believes that such massive effects from the changes on the horizon are inevitable. Stanford University Law Professor Mark A. Lemley, who heads the school’s program in Law, Science & Technology, told LegalZoom that although “the AIA makes a number of changes of great interest to patent lawyers…it won’t change the fundamental economics of the patent system.”