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Changes in the Patent Law

Recent legislation made some significant changes to the U.S. patent law, and one of the most significant changes was to change the patent system from a “first to invent” system to a “first inventor to file” system.  The current system of granting a patent to the person who first invented the invention will change to a system in which the first inventor to file a patent application will receive the patent if the invention meets the criteria necessary to be patented.  Thus if two patent applications are pending in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at the same time and claim the same invention, the patent will be granted to the person who first filed an application on the invention.

Concern has been expressed to me that if an inventor discloses his or her invention prior to filing a patent application, someone else may see the invention and file a patent application on the invention first before the actual inventor files, and under the “first to file” law will receive the patent on the invention.  This belief is mistaken because under either system, a patent can only be granted on an application filed by an inventor, and not merely someone who learns of an invention from the inventor.  The new system includes a process for determining if the first person to file a patent application actually derived his or her knowledge of the invention from the first inventor.

 

Submitted by Patent Attorney Jeff Proehl

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