December's featured article
USPTO Moves Quickly to Implement America Invents Act
As always, the devil is in the details. That has been the challenge for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) during the past two months as the agency began implementing the various rulemakings, studies and programs mandated by the America Invents Act. The agency has also launched an extensive public outreach effort featuring webinars, speaking engagements across the country, and continual updates of the America Invents Act Implementation Guide on USPTO.gov.
To date, the agency has met all deadlines established by the legislation and is on track to meet all of its obligations during the first year of the law's existence.
Several items are of particular interest to the small entity inventor community. The pro bono program requirement of the America Invents Act is already up and running in Minneapolis as a pilot and plans are well underway to expand the pro bono program to other cities throughout the country during the next year. The USPTO is also participating in a task force with Chief Judge Randall Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and members of the patent bar. The task force is seeking ways to expand the pro bono program throughout the United States.
Secondly, the America Invents Act requires the USPTO to conduct an international patent protection study and complete it by mid-January 2012. The agency published a Federal Register notice in October seeking comments and held two public hearings. A transcript of the hearings and all of the written comments has been posted online. The USPTO will publish its report based on the public feedback and independent research in January.
Finally, on November 15, the financial incentive for filing patent applications electronically went into effect. From that date on, all applicants who file paper applications will pay a $400 surcharge, reduced to $200 for small entity filers. Regardless of the incentive, everyone should want to file electronically anyway. The system offers inventors the opportunity to file patent applications and other patent documents in a fraction of the time and at substantially less cost than paper filings. Inventors forgo printing, postage and courier costs, and receive immediate notification that submissions have been received. 93 percent of filers use the electronic system.
The Office of the Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development made four presentations on the America Invents Act at independent inventor meetings in Texas and California in October. Plans are being made for additional presentations throughout the country in 2012. In addition, the office will devote the January online inventors chat to the status of the law's implementation. To keep up-to-date on all the latest developments regarding the America Invents Act, all readers of Inventors Eye should visit the USPTO America Invents Act Implementation Guide regularly.