As I was reminded by Wired.com, the “Leahy-Smith America Invents Act” took effect today. Gone are the days of being able to invent something and relying on lab journals or other documentation as prior art. If someone files a patent application on your invention before you, they get the patent, even if they weren’t the first to invent it. There are a few exceptions though, including situations where the invention is in use, for sale or disclosed in a publication other than the inventor’s own.
So, if you have something that you invented and haven’t patented yet, now is the time to patent it. You can’t wait a couple years until you have time to further develop the idea because someone else might patent it first. This feels like even more pressure on the little guy since a large corporation could patent thousands of concepts quickly to prevent another company from holding the patent. They don’t even have to worry if someone else invented it first. If they’re first to file, they’re golden. As a nod to smaller inventors, the law provides a larger discount for micro-entities with less than three times the national median household income and less than four previously filed patent applications. That’s small consolation though since the majority of the costs of filing are related to attorney fees. For some more information on the implementation of the law, including some videos on prior art, visit the USPTO site.