On November 30, Rep. Lamar Smith introduced H.R. 6621, a Bill titled "To correct and improve certain provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act and title 35, United States Code". Because of its late introduction, the Bill would need to be passed and enacted before the new Congressional session begins in early January. The most likely outcome is that no action will be taken and the Bill will be reintroduced in 2013. A second viable alternative is that the language of the Bill will be included as part of a massive fiscal cliff resolution Bill. The Bill includes a number of interesting elements. In that case, there would be virtually no official debate on the Bill or its contents.
Killing pre-GATT applications: There are currently around 200 applications pending that were filed prior to the 1995 patent term changeover. Once issued, those applications will have a patent term of 17 years from the issuance date. If issued as patents, these applications will likely be disruptive to settled interests in various industries. H.R. 6621 would alter the rules for calculating patent term for any application still pending 1-year from the Bill's implementation date. For those applications, the patent term would be 20 years from filing — meaning that those patents will likely be expired. Because of their pre-URAA filing date, those applications would not be eligible for patent term adjustment. At this point, I am unsure how the change would impact applications whose issuance was delayed due to a US Government secrecy order. On 2012, the USPTO has issued 24 applications with pre-URAA filing dates. Of those, five were delayed due to secrecy orders. One example is Patent No US8,278,099 is interesting in that it claims a monoclonal antibody to human thrombopoietin and is owned by Genentech. Prosecution of that application was delayed for 10 years pending the outcome of an interference in a related case. The application makes clear that the claimed antibody could be either isolated from a human or else prepared by recombinant or synthetic methods. This breadth brings the claimed antibody within the ambit of the Myriad gene patent challenge. If isolated human genes are not patentable what about isolated human antibodies? But I digress.
Post-Grant Dead Zone: Once the AIA is fully implemented, an issued patent will be immediately challengeable through a post-grant review. Then, after a nine-month window, challenges will be available through inter partes review. However, the AIA has bit of an implementation issued because (1) post-grant reviews will only be available for patents issued on applications filed on or after March 16, 2013; (2) inter partes reviews are available for all patents, but only those that have been issued for at least 9-months; and (3) the old inter partes reexaminations are no longer available. This creates something of a dead zone in that for the next couple of years patents will not be challengeable through some inter partes system for the first 9-months. H.R. 6621 would eliminate that 9-month dead zone by allowing inter partes reviews to be filed at any time for applications with an effective filing date before March 16, 2013.
Delaying Inventor's Oath: Section 115(f) of the AIA indicates that an either an oath, substitute statement, or sufficient assignment must be submitted prior to the notice of allowance of a patent application. The amendment would push that deadline back to be "no later than the date on which the issue fee for the patent is paid."
Less Patent Term Adjustment: The current language of Section 154(b) suggests an applicant may begin accumulating PTA as of the filing date of an international PCT application that is later followed by a US national stage application. The proposed amendment would eliminate that option by clarifying that the PTA calculations only begin "commencement of the national stage under section 371 in an international application." The change also provides that the PTO calculate PTA with the issuance rather than at the notice of allowance. The amendment would also clarify that PTA challenges may only be filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.
US as International PCT Office: H.R. 6621 would eliminate 35 U.S.C. 373. That section currently limits who may file international PCT applications at the USPTO. Under current rules, at least one of the inventors or the assignee must be a resident or national of the United States of America.
Sharing Fees Between the Patent and Trademark Side: The AIA requires that, for the most part, fees collected on patents be used to cover "administrative costs of the Office relating to patents" while fees collected on the trademark side be used to cover "administrative costs of the Office relating to trademarks." H.R. 6621 would eliminate that restriction and thus allow patent fees to pay for trademark operations and vice versa.
Derivation Proceedings: The AIA eliminated the ongoing viability of interference proceedings (although some will be pending for years) but created a new beast known as a derivation proceeding. H.R. 6621 would clean up the language for initiated a derivation proceeding under 35 U.S.C. §135(a). I need to think some about the language to understand the substance. I have created a rough mark-up of this language. (/media/docs/2012/12/CompareNewOldDerivation.docx).
Noticeably absent from this bill are changes to clarify the new section 102 or to modify the estoppel provisions of post-grant oppositions. Still pending is the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 and the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act of 2012. In my estimation, the first still has a good chance of passing this term while the second does not.