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Patent Reform: Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of the America Invents Act

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is implementing the legislation in a manner that makes it easier for American entrepreneurs and businesses to bring their inventions to the marketplace sooner, converting their ideas into new products and new jobs.

On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed into law one of the most significant legislative reforms to the patent system in our Nation’s history. The America Invents Act was passed with the President’s strong leadership last year, after nearly a decade of effort. 

A year later, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is implementing the legislation in a manner that makes it easier for American entrepreneurs and businesses to bring their inventions to the marketplace sooner, converting their ideas into new products and new jobs. It will help companies and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation, and let them focus instead on innovation and job creation.

As a number of important provisions of the law go into effect this week, we can already see substantial progress towards the law’s goals. Patent applications filed today will take nearly 40 percent less time to receive an initial patentability determination on their innovation compared to January 2009. The new Track One program provides a fast-track option for processing within 12 months, and offers discounts for small inventors. And the backlog of patent applications has been reduced to its lowest point in years. The USPTO’s continued focus on improving patent quality will be aided by new trial proceedings that provide an affordable alternative to litigation to review the merits of existing patents.  A final decision in each case will be issued in less than a year. The USPTO has also published for review a proposed fee schedule that will expand an existing 50 percent discount on patent application fees for small entities. A new program for micro-entities—individuals or very small enterprises— offers a 75 percent fee discount.  A USPTO-driven pro bono program—launched first in Minnesota and now being introduced in Colorado and California, with many more locations on tap for 2013—helps cash-strapped inventors receive the legal help they need to obtain patents.The USPTO will also open new satellite offices in Denver, Silicon Valley, and Dallas-Fort Worth, in addition to the first satellite office in Detroit, Michigan that opened in July 2012. These offices will help further reduce the patent application backlog and help local innovators raise capital and get their inventions to market more rapidly.

USPTO leadership has begun engaging with the public via a series of “roadshows.” These roadshows will take place in eight cities and patent practitioners and the public can come to learn about how the America Invents Act is changing the law.

The Commerce Department recently issued a comprehensive report finding that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to our gross domestic product (GDP). Through the implementation of the America Invents Act, and other efforts, the Administration is building a strong and balanced system of intellectual property rights that provides greater certainty and equips businesses of all sizes with the tools they need to develop and export their products faster.

As President Obama explained when he signed the law last year: “We should be encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit wherever we find it. We should be helping American companies compete and sell their products all over the world.  We should be making it easier and faster to turn new ideas into new businesses and new jobs. And we should knock down any barriers that stand in the way.”  

Watch American entrepreneurs discuss the America Invents Act: