Information on Important Patent Law Changes

On December 8, 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. This Act made several significant changes to U.S. patent law, including:

  • a change to the measurement of patent term in the United States (e.g., patents will now provide rights starting on the issue date and will expire 20 years after the earliest effective filing date of the application resulting in the patent);
  • creation of a "provisional application" system (e.g., a low cost, reduced-formalities patent application); and
  • changes to the provisions of U.S. law governing proof of invention to obtain a patent.

Information is available that explains the changes to the US Patent Law made through the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, including: a very brief overview, the Final Rule Publication: Changes to Implement 20-Year Patent Term and Provisional Applications, the patent section of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, the notice announcing proposed rule changes to implement the Act, a slide presentation and a paper that explain the changes to US law and a list of commonly asked questions with answers. The full text of Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which resulted from the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations is also available here. You may also want to review our request for comments on 18-month publication of patent applications, although you should note that the comment periods for this and the 20-year patent term rule changes have expired.

If you need additional information, you can call our toll-free help line (1-800-PTO-2224) that has been set up to answer your questions about the Uruguay Round Agreements Act changes.