On September 16, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act, significantly reforming the U.S. patent system by granting protection to the first person to file a patent rather than the current "first-to-invent" process, Indiana Lawyer reported in its article, "U.S. Sees Most Significant Patent Reform in Decades."
The first-to-file method, used by most other systems around the world, gives priority in deciding who owns an invention's patent to the first person or entity to file for the patent, regardless of date of invention. Adam Cox, an intellectual property attorney with Baker & Daniels, isn't sure if the new first-to-file system will have a practical impact, but he finds the change troubling.
"In the U.S., we've always valued individual rights and the image of the garage inventor is very pertinent in our culture," Cox said, mentioning iconic inventors like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
"The thought of the garage inventor who invents first but delays filing and eventually loses to the big company who invents later but files faster is troubling. That is one reason we've always operated under the first-to-invent system, and this flips that notion on its head," Cox told Indiana Lawyer.
Cox added that small individual inventors are often passionate and motivated to file quickly, so he says the impact may be less than critics expect.Indiana Lawyer reported that the bill is designed to streamline the patent process, eliminate backlog of patent applications, reduce the time it takes for a patent to be approved, and reduce litigation and costs associated with challenging or defending a patent.