Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Does First Inventor To File REALLY favor Big Business?
Patent reform is now a reality. The bill is in the hands of
President and it’s
expected that it will be signed into law on Friday. One of the significant and controversial changes
in the America Invents Act is that patents will now be awarded to the first
inventor to file, rather than the first inventor. Every time first-to-file has been proposed
for the U.S., many commentators would cry out that first-to-file is bad for
small companies and individual inventors since large corporations have the
resources needed to get applications on file fast. Clearly, big corporations have financial
resources, but does that really mean that they have an edge in a first-to-file
In a race to the patent office, speed and agility will be at a premium. Currently at many large companies, the large budget – those resources that the commentators all fear- comes with a price. Layers of corporate bureaucracy make the process from invention to filing fairly long. Many months, sometimes years may pass before an application is filed. For these large companies to succeed in a first-to-file paradigm, the process currently used to identify inventions, gather and evaluate invention disclosures from inventors, approve a disclosure for filing, prepare the application, and approve the application for filing need to be reviewed and streamlined. These companies are currently built for power, not speed, and need to change their thinking or suffer a disadvantage in the first-to-file system.
In contrast, small companies, should be able to move quickly to get applications for important inventions on file. Budget will, of course, play a part in the decision to move forward, but its certainly not the only (or main) factor that will determine who has the advantage in the new first inventor to file paradigm. The reduced patent office fees available for small entities, the strategic use of provisional patent applications, and a lower cost “Track 3” filing system that will be rolled out by the patent office that will allow applicants to pay a lower fee to file while deferring examination for a later date, should provide small entities with the tools needed to insure that the first inventor to file system serves them well.
In short, I don’t believe that the first inventor to file system will inherently favor big entities over small. It will ultimately favor those that adapt best to the new system. Ladies and gentleman, start your engines – the race to the patent office is on.