U.S. Patent Laws: Understanding the America Invents Act (AIA)
With the passage of the “America Invents Act” (AIA), the United States government has decided to conform its patent laws to the international “First-to-File” standard. Essentially, this standard awards the inventor who first files his idea or invention to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As long as the innovation was not previously published or otherwise made available to the public by anyone else, this first-filer gets priority patent rights to the innovation.
On March 16, 2013, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”) switched U.S. Patent Law to a “First-to-File” standard. From that point forward, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) no longer recognizes inventors who were the first to conceive of their idea or invention, but were not the first to file a patent application to the USPTO.
For instance, before the enactment of the “First-to-File” standard, an inventor could take his time to experiment and further develop his idea before filing for a patent. So long as the inventor kept good dated records of his progress prior to patent filing (known as the “Poor Man’s Patent”), the USPTO would allow the inventor to use these records to back date his invention’s priority date. In this way, even if another inventor filed for a patent on the same idea before the first inventor could do the same, the first inventor would be allowed use his dated records to prove his earlier conception of the invention.
The AIA no longer recognizes the “Poor Man’s Patent”. Since first inventors (though not first patent-filers) are no longer be granted protection by the new “First-to-File” standard, all inventors are encouraged to file for patent or provisional protection as soon as they can. Fortunately, the patent filing fees for solo inventors and startup entrepreneurs have been tremendously reduced.
If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney. Discuss Your Patent Needs with a Professional.
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