Patent reforms became law in the United States on September 16, 2011, when President Barack Obama (D) signed the bipartisan Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, saying it would allow patent applications to be processed three times faster and help jump-start job growth in America. Without additional funds, however, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will be unable to fully implement the legislation when major provisions take effect next year.
According to USPTO Director David Kappos, unless Congress approves an “anomaly” to the continuing budget resolution, the office will “be going on a starvation diet.” The anomaly, usually used to make technical corrections to a resolution that continues spending at current levels, would allow USPTO to meet the new law’s tight deadlines by allowing it to keep the user fees it receives. At a minimum, H.R. 1249 requires USPTO to hire 1,500-2,000 examiners and 100 administrative law judges.
USPTO has issued several documents providing guidance on the law’s requirements, including a table of effective dates and a new fee schedule. Other significant changes include moving from a first-to-invent to a first-tofile system and modifications to and creation of procedures for challenging patent applications and issued patents at the USPTO, thus bypassing costly litigation over patents that should not have been granted. See National Journal, September 16, 2011; BNA U.S. Law Week, September 20, 2011.