Another new capability, part of the AIA and in effect now, allows small companies to accelerate patent examination more cheaply. It'll cost $2,400 for entities with fewer than 500 employees, and double that for larger companies. The new fee structure is explained here. It is unclear at this point how much this will accelerate the process, as it changes from patent to patent.
But it should make a difference to small inventors and is perhaps the AIA's greatest change to the patent system, former USPTO staffer Gill says.
That's Section 25, he explains, but he worries that it is one of the lesser-known reforms. Only companies with the legal chops to unearth it will know how to take full advantage of the new acceleration options for all inventors. Getting the word out is something the USPTO must do, Gill says.
Gill knows the problems first-hand. As an executive at a once-promising but now-defunct startup called OQO, holder of a Guinness World Record for the smallest computer ever, he managed IP with an all-star engineering team.
I fail to see how innovations are being stifled. Patrick Ross, USPTO deputy communications director
The tiny OQO faced off in three separate patent-related lawsuits. The firm settled one and the other two were still pending when the company went under, he says.
But the firm had other issues. As the company struggled to stay above water, OQO had some 90 patent applications languishing in the patent office, making it difficult for the firm to raise money, Gill says. "You need assets investors can put money into -- but 18 months just to get the application published and over 30 months to get approval -- well, that is an eternity in tech," Gill says.
So much of the AIA needs to be tested in the real world, he says, and how it all will shake out remains to be seen.
Reaction to AIA
"It's certainly a step in the right direction," the NAS' Merrill says. "We're delighted we had an impact," he adds, while conceding that though the AIA is the biggest change to patent law since 1952, it still "is a modest change" overall.
"My biggest problems with the AIA are problems of omission," the EFF's Samuels says. For example, she explains, there are new opportunities for third-party challenges of questionable patents, but "those challenges are expensive and hard to access."
Another issue, Samuels continues, is that one of the promising new ways to challenge issued patents allows for those challenges to happen only in the first three months.