In a rare example of bipartisanship, the US Congress passed a patent reform bill, and President Obama has just signed it into law. The America Invents Act is the most significant revamp of the patent system in decades. It aims to speed the review process, weed out bad patents, and ensure the right party gets the patent.
The law will allow the patent office to set fees for patent submissions, and retain that money to hire additional reviewers. The added staff should be able to move the backlog of hundreds of thousands of patents the office currently has. The law also moves the US patent system to a “first-to-file” policy. That means a patent will go to the first person to file it, not the first to create a product.
The last part of the America Invents Act could be the most important. Third-parties are now welcome to dispute a patent before it is approved. This will be handled internally in the patent office. It will be considerably cheaper than litigating the issue once a patent is issued and considered valid by the courts. So the new law won’t prevent broad software patents per se, but it will at least offer innovators the opportunity to challenge shady filings.