US House approves patent reform bill

The US House of Representatives voted 304-117 Friday in favor of the America Invents Act, the largest potential reform to the US patent system since 1952. If the bill passes it would replace the current "first inventor to use" system with a "first inventor to file" system, making US patents more like the European and Japanese systems. In turn, it also changes the way other inventors can challenge a patent, including revising the appeals system. A similar bill passed the Senate in January. The America Invents Act now goes to reconciliation where differences will be negotiated over between the House and Senate, and then to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the bill.

There have been several significant legal decisions in patent law in the last few months. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Microsoft, holding that a patent will be invalidated only if the challenging party meets the "clear and convincing evidence" standard. The court also held in a separate decision that the Bayh-Doyle Act [35 USC §§ 200-212], which vests patent rights to universities for inventions from federally funded research, did not give Stanford University superior rights to the invention of its employee and thus, the employee could transfer his invention rights to a third party. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that induced patent infringement requires knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement. Also in May, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit restricted the use of the "inequitable conduct" defense for invalidating patents.

(Published by Jurist - June 24, 2011)

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