Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2021
About the bill:
On September 21, 2021, Senators Patrick Leahy and Thomas Tillis introduced the Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2021. According to Leahy’s official press release, the proposed bill “requires the Patent Office’s satellite offices to conduct outreach to increase participation in the patent system by women, people of color, military veterans, individual inventors, and other groups that are underrepresented in the system.”
(b) CONSIDERATIONS.—In developing the pilot program required under subsection (a), the Director shall es18 tablish—
(1) a notification process to notify a prospective patent applicant seeking an assessment described in that subsection that any assessment so provided may not be considered an official ruling of patentability from the Office;
(2) conditions to determine eligibility for the pilot program, taking into consideration available re3sources;
(3) reasonable limitations on the amount of time to be spent providing assistance to each indvidual first-time prospective patent applicant; and<
(4) procedures for referring prospective patent applicants to legal counsel, including through the patent pro bono programs.
Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2021, S. 2773, 117th Cong. (2021).
Pilot program for first-time patent applicants:
New legislation proposes pre-prosecution pilot program to assist first-time patent applicants. The program will provide a viability assessment from the Patent Office that is not an official patentability ruling. Additionally, the program will establish procedures for the Patent Office to refer the prospective applicants to the legal counsel, including the patent pro bono program.
Patent Viability Assessment:
This program will require the Patent Office to determine a new standard of viability at pre-prosecution. Viability will be different than the patentability standard used during examination. Therefore, the viability evaluation is not considered an official patentability ruling. The Patent Office will determine the difference between the two standards and delineate how a pre-prosecution assessment differs from an examination for patentability.
referral to Legal Counsel:
The Patent Office will also assist first-time applicants that participate in connecting with legal counsel. The proposed bill includes the patent pro bono program but does not specify how the Patent Office will refer potential applicants to private counsel.
Impact on the IP Ecosystem:
Pre-prosecution programs like these seek to help improve the overall efficiency of the IP ecosystem. First-time applicants often do not know what to expect when filing with the Patent Office. A cost-effective program like this enables inventors to understand the potential to protect their intellectual property. Additionally, this will benefit the patent office by providing a streamlined approach to reviewing applications that do not require complete examination.
Offering a preliminary viability review will help reduce the number of unnecessary patents filed each year by giving first-time filers an inexpensive method to review their invention. Ultimately, this will lead to higher quality patents and allow the Patent Office to operate more effectively to grant inventors their patent rights.
More bills on the horizon:
Just one week following the introduction of the Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2021, Leahy also introduced the Restoring the America Invents Act with Senator John Cornyn. The act proposes several changes to Title 35, United States Code. Click here to learn more.
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