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Thursday Dec 20, 2012

Congress Acts on AIA Corrections Bill

Guest Blog by Dana Colarulli, Director, Office of Governmental Affairs

While the 112th Congress will be focusing much of its attention on more prominent issues before it adjourns, a “technical corrections” bill to amend provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) passed the House this past Tuesday and is now being considered by the Senate. Even though the USPTO has not yet completed issuance and implementation of all the various rules mandated by the act, stakeholders and the USPTO have identified corrections, clarifications, and improvements to the law that require congressional action.

The bill, H.R. 6621, makes a number of corrections and improvements to patent law which have been identified as necessary or advisable during the public reviews of proposed rulemaking, as well as discussions and consultations that occurred during the past year. The proposed changes include amendments to specify effective dates where they were omitted; correcting drafting errors and omissions; fixing “dead zones” that inadvertently make it impossible to seek Post Grant Review (PGR) or Inter Partes Review (IPR) during certain time periods; clarifying patent term adjustments prospectively; eliminating unnecessary limits on who may file an international application designating the United States; clarifying patent and trademark fee management issues; and clarifying when a derivation proceeding can be instituted. The bill also includes provisions that better coordinate the terms of Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) and Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC) members—to address issues that have been discussed in those bodies in recent years and highlighted due to the additional responsibilities for PPAC required by the AIA related to Section 10 fee setting authority. Finally, the bill also requires the USPTO to report on the handling of pre-1995, pre-Uruguay Round applications that have now been pending for more than a decade and a half.

This bill does not address one issue related to the estoppel standard for possible federal court litigation following the completion of a post-grant review proceeding. Clarity is needed to ensure that the provision functions as Congress intended and I am hopeful it will be addressed in a future bill in the next Congress.

It is important to move ahead this year with this pending legislation containing helpful amendments that will add certainty to the statute, as implementation of the far reaching changes in the AIA continues.


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