On March 8, 2011, the U.S. Senate passed its version of proposed patent reform, the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S.23), by a 95-5 vote. Among other things, the Patent Reform Act would generally establish a first-to-file system to replace the current first-to-invent system, bringing U.S. law closer to that of other jurisdictions around the world. Some commentators have noted that if ultimately signed into law, this bill would constitute the most significant patent law overhaul in over a half-century.
In contrast to the current system, the bill would allow not only the actual inventor to file a patent application, as presently required, but would also allow a person to whom an inventor has assigned (or is under an obligation to assign) an invention to file an application.
For trademark practitioners familiar with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, it may be interesting to note that the bill would also rename the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, presumably since interference proceedings would no longer pertain. If enacted, we would thus have the “TTAB” for trademarks, and the “PTAB” for patents.
Of course, there still remain the hurdles of passage and/or modification of this bill or a counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, and finally the President’s signature into law.