Patent Law Overhaul Expected to Limit Litigation, Spur Filings

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The most significant changes to patent law in 60 years go into effect today -- and experts say they will limit litigation, spur more filings to protect inventors and put the United States on the same footing as patent systems overseas.

Plus, patent filing fees will be slashed to $300 for little guys such as Logan Powell.

The recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business has high hopes for the business he co-founded, Krowder.com, in the South Side. The e-commerce website not only would match buyers with sellers but take bids for delivery of the goods.

"We wanted to stake our claim first to mark our place in time so that if anyone files after us, we'll have the rights," said Powell, whose young company awaits its first patent.

Called the America Invents Act, the legislation will be signed into law by President Obama today during a ceremony in Alexandria, Va., the White House announced on Thursday.

"It will give a boost to American companies and inventors who have suffered costly delays and unnecessary litigation, and let them focus instead on innovation and job creation," a White House statement said. It called the bill the "most significant reform" of patent law since 1952.

The federal Patent and Trademark Office has a backlog of 1.2 million pending patents, including about 700,000 that have yet to be reviewed.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, an Oakton, Va.- based trade group, called the bill "long overdue."

"Patent reform is needed to clarify and simplify the system, to properly protect legitimate patents and to reduce costs in the system, including when it comes to litigation and the international marketplace," the council said. "All of this would aid small businesses and the overall economy."

Experts say the reforms should curtail excessive patent infringement lawsuits, including "false marking" complaints. Those are filed by disinterested parties against makers of products who haven't removed their patent marks from products with a protection that expired.

The new law states that expired, or incorrectly labeled, patent markings may be grounds for lawsuits only from parties who suffered injury, usually competitors, attorneys said. …