U.S. Patent Law Changes for Corporate Entities

Effective September 16, 2012 under the AIA, the following important changes take effect for corporate entities applying for patent protection:

  1. Allowed to be “Patent Applicant”.  Corporate entities can now file patent applications in their own name instead of the name of the inventors as previously required.  Basically, any corporate entity that can show a proprietary interest in the patent rights will be able to apply for patent protection as the “patent applicant”.
  2. Must be Filed by Registered Patent Attorney.  Included within the new changes are requirements that corporate entities cannot file patent applications pro se(including provisional patent applications) and now must file patent applications via a U.S. Registered Patent Attorney. 

A good discussion regarding the new rule changes is located at Patenty-O.

Are Provisional Patent Applications Published?

The general rule is that provisional patent applications are not published by the U.S. Patent Office.  However, there are situations where a provisional patent application may become publicly available for the public to inspect.  See http://www.patent-ideas.com/Provisional-Patent-Applications/Are-Provisional-Patent-Applications-Published.aspx for more information about the publication of provisional patent applications and the possible public availability of a provisional patent application.

Benefits of Using Provisional Patent Applications for Inventors and Small Businesses

Provisional patent applications (PPA) can be an extremely valuable tool for inventors and small businesses. PPAs provide inventors with one-year of “patent pending” and then automatically expire. It is therefore important to have a formal patent application (a.k.a. “non-provisional patent application”) filed during this one-year pendency period so your formal patent application is able to claim priority to the PPA’s earlier filing date.

A well-drafted PPA can potentially be licensed or sold to a third-party during the one-year period of patent pending. It is important to note that a poorly drafted PPA can have the opposite effect by deterring a potential purchaser or licensor. Also, if you are manufacturing displaying your product or displaying it at a product show, you can put the “Patent Pending” notice on the product during the one-year period.

Finally, a PPA is significantly easier to draft than a formal patent application which requires the complex claims section and is examined by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Using commercial tools such as PatentWizard software (owned by Neustel Software, Inc.), you will be able to easily prepare your own quality PPA at a fraction of what a patent attorney would charge – and you just might write a better PPA!