2013 saw many great inventions – Bone induction headphones that bypass your eardrum, thus allowing you to still hear road traffic; instant eyeglasses that allow you to switch your prescription with a twist of a removable dial – no doctor required; and a free online college course system that allows every person in the world to receive an Ivy League-esque education. If you are like the millions of inventors that are striving to make 2014 just as exciting as 2013, it helps to become familiar with the hoops and hurdles that you will be forced to traverse if you hope to bring your innovations to the light of day. The biggest obstacle for most inventors is the legal aspect of the entire process. To help you remain within the law, here are a few 2014 legal updates for inventors you’ll want to keep in mind as you attempt to revolutionize the world one new product at a time.
Inventor-to-File Patent System
The first of several updates for inventors in 2014 is a revision to the US’s current ‘first-to-patent’ patent system. The previous version of the first-to-patent system allowed the date of the invention to supersede the date of the actual patent filing. Now, according to changes to the law established by the America Invents Act or AIA, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in September of 2011, all patents filed after March 16, 2013 will be classified as ‘first-inventor-to-file’. This is known as the ‘first-to-file’ system. So what does this truly mean for inventors?
Let’s say that you invent a steering wheel that detects the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system through hand sweat. You came up with the idea in January but it took you six full months to develop the idea enough to create a working prototype. This led you to file a patent in July of that same year.
Now let’s suppose that another inventor on the other side of the country comes up with the same alcohol-detection steering wheel idea in May and then files the patent in June. Who gets the patent when this happens?
Under pre-AIA rules, you would get the patent because you came up with the idea first all the way back in January. Yet things aren’t that simple now that 2014 legal updates for inventors have presently taken effect.
Under the new rules, unless you made a public disclosure regarding the invention prior to the time of filing for the patent in question, the other inventor would be deemed to be the rightful holder of the patent because he filed for the patent first. This is where the term ‘first-to-file’ comes into play.
So you would need to make a disclosure before you filed if you hoped to receive patent rights. This could occur in a Tweet, a Facebook post or a presentation at a trade show. Keep in mind that these updates for inventors in 2014 only apply to US law. Internationally, you may not receive the rights to the patent just because you made a public disclosure.
The lesson here is to go out and do all you can to secure to rights to any patents you feel you have the rights to under the new 2014 legal updates for inventors. Make public disclosures and rush down to the patent office the moment you feel that you have the next big invention well within your grasp. With minds coming together in all new ways, with technology rapidly advancing and with time itself seeming to tick by faster with every passing hour, inventors must be quick on their feet if they want their names listed in the history books next to one or more of the world’s must-have inventions.
Now that you have a better understanding of patent law and you are well aware that, due to 2014 legal updates for inventors, you should never assume that you have the rights to an invention just because you conceived of it first; you will be well-prepared to weather any patent objections that you may face along the way. For an extra line of defense and mostly because every inventor should have one, you might want to seek out the help of a qualified patent attorney. An attorney can further educate you on patent law, keep you informed of the latest legal updates and help you secure any patents that you may have a right to, but that are being contested by other inventors. This will give you peace of mind and, let’s face it; peace of mind is the best state of mind to be in when inventing a better tomorrow.