Florida inventor challenges America Invents Act

Sometimes, inventors get frustrated with the system by which the federal government grants patents. It takes a very long time, for one thing, and if a patent is rejected, it is not always abundantly clear why patent officers did not accept it. Sometimes the help of an attorney can make the whole affair go more smoothly, but still, no one would call it an easy undertaking.

Recently, a Florida inventor who came up with what he believes is a new and valuable idea for motorcycle windshields filed a legal challenge to the America Invents Act, which promises sweeping changes to the way patents are granted. The biggest problem with the law, which was passed last fall but won’t take effect until March, is that it would overturn the “first to invent” principle in favor of a “first to file” approach.

That means the patent system would no longer use evidence like lab notebooks or prototypes in determining who really came up with an idea and instead would go by who was the first to request a patent idea.

The positive way of looking at this is that it could simplify and streamline the patent-granting process. It would also bring the U.S. into accord with the patent-granting approaches of many European countries and of Japan.

A criticism of it, however, is that it seems to favor large companies that have the resources to file patent applications quickly and frequently at the expense of “the little guy.”

If you follow patent law, either professionally or just because it interests you, do you have any thoughts about the America Invents Act? It’s certainly one of those topics on which reasonably minds could disagree.

Source: The New York Times, “Inventor Challenges a Sweeping Revision in Patent Law,” Steve Lohr, Aug. 26, 2012