Patent Reform Act of 2007 - Part 4
You are no doubt on the edge of your seat waiting to see what other changes are in store if the Patent Reform Act of 2007 is enacted. Well, wait no longer, this blog post brings to you not one, but two more proposed changes to the current Patent System: (1) Prior User Rights and (2) Best Mode Requirement Violations.
You might be asking yourself, “Self, what are prior user rights?” Well, prior user rights (also called the first inventor defense) stem from 35 U.S.C. § 273. Currently, 35 U.S.C. § 273 provides a limited defense for actions that would normally constitute infringement if the person “actually reduced the subject matter to practice at least 1 year before the effective filing date of such patent, and commercially used the subject matter before the effective filing date of such patent.” The defense is narrowly tailored so that “[a] person may not assert the defense under this section unless the invention for which the defense is asserted is for a method.” In other words, the defense is limited to business method patents.
After the State Street Bank decision, the USPTO experienced a huge surge of business method applications as well as a huge lack of adequate prior art to judge the novelty and obviousness of these applications. Consequently, litigation erupted and the prior user defense was enacted to remedy the effects of the enforcement of poor-quality business method patents.
The Patent Reform Act proposed to widen the scope of the prior user defense by eliminating the business method patent limitation so that users of all types of inventions would have been able to use the defense. But as amended and passed, the legislation does not include any such changes to the prior user defense. Instead, the legislation requires the USPTO to prepare a report for Congress detailing their findings and recommendations on the operation of prior user rights in several selected countries.
The Patent Reform Act, if enacted, would also affect violations of the best mode requirement. What is the best mode requirement, you might ask. Well, funny you ask, because I just so happen to have a brief explanation. Currently, under 35 U.S.C. § 112 a specification must, among other elements, “set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor of carrying out his invention.” Under the current law, a defendant in an infringement action could assert invalidity as a defense if the patentee failed to set forth the best mode of carrying out his invention. 35 U.S.C. § 282(3).
But according to the Judiciary Committee Report there were several problems involved in litigating violations of the best mode requirement since it is so subjective. So the Patent Reform Act amended the defenses available to potential infringers by making failure to meet the best mode requirement unavailable as a defense to infringement. Now, the Patent Reform Act, if enacted, replaces Section 282(3) and states that invalidity of a patent or failure to comply with any requirement of Section 112 “other than the requirement that the specification shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor of carrying out his invention” is an available defense.