The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 304-117 Friday in favor of the America Invents Act [HR 1249 materials], the largest potential reform to the US patent system since 1952. If the bill passes it would replace the current "first inventor to use" system with a "first inventor to file" system, making US patents more like the European and Japanese systems. In turn, it also changes the way other inventors can challenge a patent, including revising the appeals system. A similar bill [bill materials] passed the Senate in January. The America Invents Act now goes to reconciliation where differences will be negotiated over between the House and Senate, and then to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the bill [CNN report].
There have been several significant legal decisions in patent law in the last few months. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] unanimously ruled [opinion, PDF] against Microsoft [corporate website], holding that a patent will be invalidated only if the challenging party meets the "clear and convincing evidence" standard [JURIST report]. The court also held in a separate decision [JURIST report] that the Bayh-Doyle Act [35 USC §§ 200-212], which vests patent rights to universities for inventions from federally funded research, did not give Stanford University [academic website] superior rights to the invention of its employee and thus, the employee could transfer his invention rights to a third party. In May, the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] that induced patent infringement requires knowledge [JURIST report] that the induced acts constitute patent infringement. Also in May, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] restricted [opinion, PDF] the use of the "inequitable conduct" defense [JURIST report] for invalidating patents.