A question of firsts

The Patent Reform Act of 2007, passed last September by the U.S. House of Representatives and currently under consideration by the Senate, seeks to make several changes to current patent laws.

Backers believe the legislation will bring U.S. patent regulations in line with those around the rest of the world. Currently, the United States is the only country using a first-to-invent system that grants patents to those claiming the earliest invention date. Critics say this system often requires the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to become involved in very complicated and time-consuming investigations when patent claims are contested.

The Patent Reform Act would change the current system to the first-to-file method used in other countries. Under this system, whoever is first to file a patent application for protection of an invention has the right to the grant of a patent. Those who favor first-to-file say it would bring certainty to the process, while opponents believe it’s unfair to smaller businesses and first-time inventors that aren’t as familiar with the patent system.

To learn more about the Patent Reform Act of 2007, read the legislation itself or get an update on its current status, go to: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1908

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