The Leahy-Smith American Invents Act (AIA), which became law last fall, presents the most significant changes to patent law in more than 50 years. The AIA was enacted with the goals of harmonization with international laws, addressing patent quality concerns, and reducing litigation expenses. Many provisions of the AIA are already in place and implemented in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and on September 16, 2012, additional provisions will become effective. The key provisions that will become effective include the following:
1. Supplemental Examination. Patent owners will be able to request supplemental examination of an issued patent and possibly inoculate the patent against certain inequitable conduct allegations. If a request for supplemental examination is accepted, the USPTO will institute an ex parte reexamination. The threshold for acceptance is whether a substantial new question of patentability has been raised. Because this new process may be used by a patent owner to “clean up” a patent for litigation, clients may want to monitor any competitor patents going into supplemental examination.
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