There’s a nice summary of the recent changes in U.S. patent law in the Jan. issue of Physics Today, and their relevance to academic scientists and engineers. The American Invents Act moves the U.S. from a first-to-invent system to a (modified) first-to-file system. Under the pure first-to-file system used by most countries, publication of an idea or invention prior to filing a patent application will prevent an inventor from obtaining a patent. The AIA retains a one-year grace period for publications authored by the inventor (the inventor’s own work) or derived from the inventor’s work. The article has a nice flowchart that explains how the one-year grace period works.
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