America Invents Act

The America Invents Act (“AIA”) is a major patent reform legislation that was enacted in the United States on September 16, 2011. It represents the most significant change to the U.S. patent system in several decades and brings the U.S. patent system more in line with international patent standards. The primary goals of the America Invents Act are to improve patent quality, enhance patent examination processes, harmonize U.S. patent laws with those of other countries, and provide more efficient mechanisms for challenging patent validity. Some key provisions and changes introduced by the AIA include:

Shift from First-to-Invent to First-Inventor-to-File: The AIA changed the U.S. patent system from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-inventor-to-file” system. This means that the right to a patent is granted to the first inventor who files a patent application, regardless of who was the first to invent the claimed subject matter.

Post-Grant Review Proceedings: The AIA introduced new post-grant review procedures, such as inter partes review (“IPR”) and post-grant review (PGR), which allow third parties to challenge the validity of issued patents before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These proceedings provide an alternative to litigation for resolving patent disputes.

Prior Art Consideration: The AIA expanded the definition of prior art by including public use or sale anywhere in the world, even if it occurred before the filing date of the patent application. This change aims to promote greater global harmonization in patent standards.

Supplemental Examination: The AIA introduced a new procedure called “supplemental examination,” allowing patent owners to request the USPTO to consider additional information relevant to the patent’s validity. This procedure provides a mechanism for patent owners to address potential issues of inequitable conduct.

Micro-Entity Status: The AIA established a new category of patent applicants called “micro-entities,” which are eligible for reduced fees for filing patent applications. Micro-entities include small inventors, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

Fee Setting and USPTO Funding: The AIA provided the USPTO with greater authority to set and adjust patent fees, aiming to help the USPTO operate on a more sustainable funding model.

The America Invents Act was intended to modernize the U.S. patent system and align it with international patent practices. Its provisions have had a significant impact on patent law, patent examination procedures, and the ways in which patent disputes are resolved in the United States.