The U.S. Patent System moved one step closer to a major overhaul. On Thursday, April 14, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives voted 32-3 in favor of the America Invents Act (Patent Reform Act of 2011).
As mentioned in Professor Sichelman's post, A managers amendment would have changed the definition of prior art to include only (1) patent applications and (2) public disclosures. Under that proposal, non-informing uses, sales, and offers-to-sell would not qualify as prior art. However, that portion of the manager's amendment failed (the rest of the managers amendment passed and is now included within the bill).
The amended act includes a several additional tweaks, including:
- A sunset provision for USPTO fee setting funding authority;
- A limitation that the new post-grant supplemental examination procedure (designed to allow an applicant to wash away the threat of inequitable conduct charges) cannot be used if the USPTO finds that the applicant committed fraud on the patent office during the original prosecution;
- The establishment of a pro bono program for assisting "financially under-resourced" inventors; and
- A few odd statements about the move from "first inventor to use" to "first inventor to file."