In our newest Patently-O Patent Law Journal article, former Xerox patent counsel Paul Morgan highlights two important ambiguities in the new 35 U.S.C. § 102(a)(1) as defined by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. This provision replaces Sections 102(a) and 102(b) and, beginning in March 2013 will serve as the fundamental definition of prior art in the US patent system. Under the new statute, no patent can issue if "the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention." The language "otherwise available to the public" is new to the patent statute. Morgan makes the counterintuitive case that the catchall phrase actually serve the purpose of limiting limit the scope of prior art under the statute. In particular, the language suggests that the other types of art identified in the statute are also "available to the public." If so, this statutory change could be seen to overrule doctrines that bar patent rights based upon secret commercialization by the patentee. See, for example, Metallizing Engineering Co. v. Kenyon Bearing & Auto Parts Co., 153 F. 2d 516, 520 (2nd Cir. 1946).
Read the article: Paul Morgan, The Ambiguity in Section 102(a)(1) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Review 29. Download Morgan.2011.AIAAmbiguities