On Friday, September 16, President Obama signed the America Invents Act of 2011 after the bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate the previous week. This long-awaited legislation will result in major changes to the U.S. patent system, which has operated essentially unaltered for nearly 60 years.
But the America Invents Act has infuriated many of those without fat corporate wallets. Independent inventors, academics, and small business owners wonder how they can beat large corporations to patent when big companies have entire departments devoted solely to technology research and intellectual property — making it possible to file much faster than their smaller competitors.
Some experts say this concern is overblown because the law includes a one-year grace period to protect academics and inventors who disclose their inventions before filing a patent. Robert Merges, a professor of law at University of California, Berkeley, noted in a San Francisco Chronicle article that this provision gives inventors one year to hone their inventions after disclosure. Pamela Samuelson, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Law and Technology, agreed: “The ‘little guy’ inventor story that this rule favors big firms is really a myth.”