The new first-inventor-to-file (FITF) provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) have taken effect on March 16, 2013. According to the USPTO’s announcement, the move to a FITF system is “one of the hallmarks of the AIA,” and constitutes “a major step towards harmonization of the U.S. patent system with those of the United States’ major trading partners, allowing greater consistency in the prosecution and enforcement of U.S. patents.”
The AIA guidelines authorise derivation proceedings before the USPTO, which will ensure that a person will not be able to obtain a patent for an invention that he or she did not actually invent, according to a USPTO press release. The AIA also creates a one-year grace period, which will ensure that the patentability of an invention is not defeated by the inventor’s own disclosures, disclosures of information obtained from the inventor, or third party disclosures of the same information as the inventor’s previous public disclosures, it said.
Under the new first-inventor-to-file system, the inventor who files a patent application first will own the rights to the invention. Before that, the USPTO used a “first-to-invent” system, which is at odds with most of the rest of the international community. Prior to the passage of the AIA, the USPTO was the only national patent office using a “first-to-invent” system.