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17 comments

Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

Posted November 21, 2011 9:08 AM

In September, President Obama signed the America Invents Act. The act is supposed to simplify the application system by making it a "first to file" rather than a "first to invent" system. It also lets the Patent and Trademark office set its own fees, but mandates discounts up to 75% for small companies and individuals. What do you think? Is this act good for the country? Will it help or hurt engineers?

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#1

Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 12:05 AM

Does the America Invents Act help engineers? No.

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#2
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 3:23 AM

Inventors help them selves or are helped, assisted, encouraged, discouraged by their peers. The moment investments are involved the invention becomes secondary and the industries involved might as well finance something AAA. The small time inventor has only the clout of one in a thousand.

IP is a commodity, something "THEY?" want to see as an entry into the market. Right here and now, if you don't have a trading, incorporated company nobody will even talk to you. If the rules which guard 'the system' are not upheld, it will cost dearly, not only the inventor......

A patent is only a certificate. To make something from it has nothing to do with a changed act. The inventor will still have the challenge to convince others that 'this is the next sliced bread'. The inventor has to employ attorneys to fend off noxious infringement claims. Gosh I love'm.

Darwin rules more than any legislation or change of politics. Nobody ever told me to become an inventor. Its just always been that way and I know from meeting several other inventors were their priorities lie. It is not in the IP business that's for sure.

Being absorbed by a not helpful system is our biggest challenge. Again Darwin sets in, if we deserve it or not. There might be a good reason for trying to keeping us small.

Hope all goes well, Ky.

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#4
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 6:48 AM

What is the real meaning of "first to invent"?. Is it the theory or concept or the complete design which need design experience?. I think the concept or theory should be given patent and afterwards any design engineer can develop the product by paying royalty to the "inventor".

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#5
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 11:54 AM

Priority -- who was first to invent -- is now determined by official documents, such as a provisional patent application. Filing a provisional is cheap and gives you a year to file your formal, non-provisional patent application. If you don't, you lose that priority date. No longer can priority be disputed by anecdotes, lab notebooks, letters mailed to yourself, swearing matches, etc. The new act is a big improvement, in my opinion, because it gives certainty and security to intellectual property. I also like the reduced fees for microbusinesses, i.e. startups.

You are right that the concept is what is patented -- a much broader grant of exclusive rights than just the particular embodiments of the concept. The key thing to remember is that the filing on which priority is based must be an "enabling disclosure" of the concept. It has to have sufficient detail to be a "reduction to practice" even though a working model has not been built yet.

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#6
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 6:33 PM

In the beginning, the patent office required that a working model of the invention be submitted with the application. The concept of patenting a "concept" is a modern perversion. If the idea or concept can not be demonstrated in a working model, it should not be patentable.

In my mind, this is the most important requirement for protecting the small-time operator. He doesn't have to worry about the big boys and their armies of lawyers dreaming up all sorts of spurious "first to file" claims...

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#9
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 10:25 AM

I'm not saying I necessarily disagree with you, but there are definite problems with having a working model requirement.

Take for instance the invention that require permits to build/produce or special licensing to acquire materials. Or a little less problematic, a prototype with a cost outside the realm of the inventor. (Hopefully the ramifications are apparent.)

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#3

Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 4:59 AM

The problem with first to invent is that once a product is seen to have a viable market, a prior inventor can pop out of the woodwork with a challenge. At this stage the investors may have spent large on production facilities or market research. Potential investors correctly factor in this possible future problem, and are either reluctant to put up funding, or they will ask for a higher premium to cover the additional risk. First to file eliminates this problem, and should increase the availability, or decrease the cost of development funding.

Any legislation that potentially increases the flow of lower cost development funding has to be good for engineers.

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#7
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/22/2011 6:38 PM

You get a GA from me for the "Any legislation that potentially increases the flow of lower cost development funding has to be good for engineers."

Now, how does the new legislation achieve this? I haven't read the full act, only a variety of pro and con commentaries, so I could be missing something. My interpretation of the impact this law will have is that it will perpetrate a broken system to the advantage of the big boys while raising the bar to entry for us little guys.

One should sit up and take notcie when the proponents seem to be associated more with the legal profession than with any technical field...

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#15
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 6:38 PM

When you are looking for funding to develop an idea, the main obstacle is not the risks involved to any funding that is invested, but what the potential investors /banks/grant providers etc. perceive is the risks to those funds. The whole mess that the banks have got themselves (and us) into, resulted from them lending money on what later turned out to be junk, but at the time they lent, had an AAA rating attached to it. So while banks financed anything that had a certificate stating it was low risk, industry and inventors struggled to get funds, because there is no way of formally classifying the risks attached to an idea in it's early stage of development. The old US patent system did not help much because of the threat of retrospective challenges after a patent had been granted. The new system eliminates that threat and one potential risk. All the other risks, of development overruns, poor marketing, or a newer better alternative trumping your patent still exist, but that is down to the commercial judgement of the investor.

All the other objections I have seen posted here were present in the old system and are still present in the new one. Europe has been working with the system that you are adopting for many years, and employees don't run off and patent behind their employers backs (without being sued and or jailed). The biggest industrial espionage scandal in Europe over the last 50 years was when the CIA were caught passing French industrial secrets to American commercial interests. Current worries about industrial espionage on both sides of the Atlantic come from China, and would exist no matter which patent system was in place.

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#17
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

01/01/2012 7:28 PM

As an Inventor myself I have had real experience in this subject and agree with the change of "first to file". My Patent Attorneys were always pushing for me to sign off on the Patent Application to "file" and searches were made beforehand if my Patent App. was already invented. In fact the foreknowledge of any invention that was even close to mine was declared as references on the Patent App. The Patent Office would challenge you if your Patent App. was the same as an "existing Patent". So the "first to invent" is already addressed by the Patent Office and searches by the Legal Department. The fact of lowering filing fees will help small companies and individuals to want to file an App. and will increase creativity and technology greatly. Last I checked a Patent App. would cost me $5,000 for searching of previous art and creating the Patent App. So I think this is great and if I own the Patent I can sell it and/or get Royalties!

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#8

Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 7:31 AM

I was just on the USPTO website yesterday.

I had read the section on help twice. The help and discounts that are available to individuals and small companies, apply to people that have two or more patents in the process. Thanks.

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#10

Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 10:34 AM

I've been viewing most of this discussion from the vantage of the little guy. In trying to broaden my view a bit I now have a question.

With the "first to invent" philosophy a business is "protected" by all the internal documents that proves it developed the invention.

Under the "first to file" system how would a business who spends the money to invent something be protected from an employee who simply files the idea for him/herself before the business?

The answer is probably simple, but I don't see it.

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#11
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 10:47 AM

It's usually covered by a non-compete clause that the employee signs.

Not only can the employee not steal an idea, they agree not to work on anything remotely similar, or for a competitor for a number of years after termination of employment.

If they tried it, I'm sure the employer would eat them for lunch, way before a patent was approved.

You bring up a good point though. I would imagine that the first to file provision would ratchet up industrial espionage considerably. The lawyers will be busy.

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#12
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 11:03 AM

That type of thought ran through my mind. I've signed something similar doing government work (that one simply stated if I violated it they'd fine and/or imprison me).

Assuming for a moment that the employee could steal the idea and get the patent (and this might not be a valid assumption), would this type of agreement nullify the patent? If it does, then aren't we right back to (more or less) the first to invent rules?

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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 12:55 PM

Yes and no. I would imagine that a patent that was granted in which the information was stolen, would be void. I'm also guessing that this will cause a run on relatively cheap and easy provisional patent applications.

The first to invent, had better cover their butts and file that provisional.

Like I said..............the lawyers will be busy as always. Intellectual property can also be covered by nondisclosure agreements, in which a non filed invention can be discussed, but the NDA prevents one party from taking an idea and running an application ahead of the other.

So if you invented something and wanted to discuss it with a certain company, theoretically an NDA should protect you from them stealing your idea, but not necessarily. If it's a good enough idea, they may decide to file anyway, and make a fortune as you try to sue them, and the case languishes in court forever.

I think the bottom line for the small time inventor, is to file a provisional. It's cheap, easy to do yourself, the language doesn't have to be super specific, and most of all, you're protected.

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#13
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Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/23/2011 12:04 PM

That is why when an "inventor" shows us his invention here in all its glory (Tiltplane?), that its hardly likely that it will ever work, its most probably a scam......

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#16

Re: Does the America Invents Act Help Engineers?

11/29/2011 5:43 AM

So you better file for everything before someone steals your inventions ? Better to file to get that stamped date than worry about being wrong.

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