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Today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published its first set of patent applications under the American Inventors Protection Act, a 1999 law making far-reaching changes to the U.S. patent system.
"Publication of patent applications before a patent is granted is one of the most fundamentally significant changes to the U.S. patent system in over 100 years, said Nicholas Godici, acting Under Secretary of Commerce and acting Director of the USPTO. "Published applications will become an important reservoir of reference materials for patent examiners and a valuable resource to the public as the volume of published applications increases."
Forty-seven applications were published in a variety of technical fields including surgical devices, chemical processes, and business methods. The published patent applications may be viewed as images or text searched at http://www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html. New applications are published every Thursday. The number of patent applications published by USPTO is anticipated to increase over the next 18 months until roughly 3,500 applications are published weekly.
Publication of patent applications is now required for the vast majority of filings made on or after November 29, 2000. Publication occurs after expiration of an 18-month period following the earliest effective filing date. The earliest effective filing date may be influenced by a number of factors, including foreign filing. Previously U.S. patent applications were held in confidence until a patent was granted, while other major patent offices around the world have a history of publishing patent applications.
An important procedure under the new law allows an inventor to request early publication of an application. The first group of published applications includes one published at the inventor's request. This application was filed in June 1999 and, therefore, was not required to be published. By requesting voluntary publication, the applicant will enjoy the potential benefit of provisional rights to reasonable royalties from others who make, use, sell, or import the invention during the period between the time the patent application is published and the patent is granted.