Readers of this site will know that I’m not a fan of intellectual property “rights” in the first place. But to the extent that we insist on honoring IP, the bill passed today in the Senate (its already been approved by the House) seems like a welcome change to the norm:
Among the major changes in the legislation is turning the U.S. patent system into a first-to-file patent system as opposed to a first-to-invent system. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s current use of the first-to-invent system awards a patent based on the conception of the invention, not necessarily when it’s filed. The first-to-file system, as the name suggests, awards a patent to the first person who files for it.
The trick with current copyright law is that anything invented anywhere is considered an Intellectual Property in legal terms. This means that, even if you patented an invention today, if someone says they have the same invention and created it earlier, their IP trumps your IP. This is largely what ties copyright courts in knots.
The down side of this is that it *does*create a potential extra burden for small businesses. Instead of being able to claim an IP simply by having a working invention or schematic, businesses will need to file with the patent office in order for their IP to be legally-binding.
On balance, however, it is difficult to see how any inventor could possibly *not* register their patent with the US Patent Office if they’re serious about their inventions. In the meanwhile, I guess its best to keep your invention under wraps till its go time?