PR Implications of the America Invents Law

America invents and PR communicates.  

That’s how it used to be, but a recently signed patent law is changing how innovative tech companies are announcing their new products.

Signed into law by Pres. Obama on Sept. 16, The America Invents Act is billed as the most sweeping patent law change since 1952.  It promises to help the patent office clear through its backlog of more than 1.2 million patents.  

And while pundits debate just how valuable the reform will be, the primary effect of the new law is to move the U.S. from a system that awarded patents on a “first-to-invent” basis to a system where the company that is “first to file” gets the patent. 

In the past, companies could announce new products before filing a patent and be confident that because they could prove they were the first to invent (by providing “prior art”) they could claim their patent.  In fact, sometimes trade articles describing the technology could be part of this prior art.  

Supporters of the law say a first-to-file model makes it much easier to resolve patent conflicts.  And there is still a prior art provision that protects companies against someone filing a wrongful patent under certain conditions, for example, if the innovation was stolen and then patented. 

That said there are many companies working on similar products that might be able to win the race to the patent office after reading your president’s blog post.

PR must be aware of this change and ask the question of tech clients:  Is your IP protected?  And be willing to wait until these protections are in place before going public.  Even a provisional patent can meet the “first-to-file” mandate.

Thanks to DJA client SEVEN Networks for bringing the implications of this law to our attention.