President to sign Patent Reform Law

by John Lavanga

Today, the President of the United States is expected to sign the America Invents Act into law.  The act, which is a substantial overhaul of the Patent Act, was passed through both houses of congress with overwhelming bi-partisan support, with an 89-9 vote in the Senate and a 304-117 vote in the House of Representatives.  On September 15th, the White House held a press conference to discuss the act. 

Speaking at the Press Conference were Senior White House Economic Adviser Jason Furman, Director of US Patent and Trademark Office David Kappos, and the Chair and CEO of DuPont as well as a Member of the President’s Jobs Council, Ellen Kullman.  Throughout the press conference, the three speakers lauded the act as “the most significant reform of the Patent Act since 1952,” that would allow the US Patent Office to create a fast track option for patents that would be three times faster than the standard approval process.  Economic Adviser Jason Furman cited the fast track for green technology patents as evidence of the economic benefits of a more efficient process, saying that it has increased investment in that field significantly.  The act may also reduce litigation costs by between fifty and one hundred percent, and reduce the “backlog” of about 770,000 patents still being processed.

The passing of the AIA caps the strong efforts of the President to push patent reform throughout his first term, and, according to USPTO Director David Kappos, a decade-long effort to reform the patent process to make “the patent system an accelerant to our country’s economic growth.”  All three speakers speculated that the increased transparency and predictability of the patent system would allow companies more certainty in patent protection therefore allowing venture capitalists to provide capital for development.  Ellen Kulman, the CEO of DuPont, echoed these sentiments, citing the fast track for green technology as a driving force in the patenting of several new DuPont products.

According to Mr. Kappos, though the United States Patent and Trademark Office had already worked through nearly 100,000 backlogged applications since President Obama took office, it was crucial for the America Invents Act to be passed in order to expedite the patent process and work through the roughly 670,000 backlogged applications that remain.  Kappos expects to hire 1500-2000 new patent examiners, as well as 100 new administrative judges to staff the board of patent appeals.  Said Furman, “The America Invents Act is an important part of winning the Future.”

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