According to a recent change in U.S. patent law, specifically the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or AIA, the system has been switched from first-to-invent to first-to file. This revision means that your invention may be at risk if another entity is able to file an application before you with a similar idea or product. A recent article discusses some tips that will help you navigate these new guidelines.
To determine if you have a new invention, you will need to search internationally. During the application process, your invention will be judged against global inventions before you are able to win the patent. You can also consider filing a provisional application rather than a full application, which holds your patent for a year. This translates to a more affordable application fee and less required information. However, it is important to keep in mind that your provisional application should be consistent with future claims. In addition, a full application needs to be submitted within a year from the filing of your provisional application.
Under the new patent law, confidentiality agreements are more important. If you publicly disclose an invention, you have one year to file for a patent or you risk losing your rights to that invention. Finally, if you can qualify as a microentity by having fewer than four patent applications on record, filing fees for a full application will be dramatically reduced.