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Significant Legislation

Significant Legislation in Patent Law

Significant Legislation in Patent Law

Throughout the history of American patent law, significant changes have come about directly or indirectly due to the passage of Congressional legislation. In some cases, Congress has devised laws aimed directly at altering the protection of patent rights in the United States, while in other cases the need to revise business or legal practices has indirectly impinged on patent law.

The latter category includes varying cases made over a wide span of time. An early example can be found in the passage of the Sherman Antitrust ActEvarts Act of 1891United States Code System in 1926prima facie evidence for the validity of laws. The section of the code dealing with patents, Article 35, like the other forty-nine Articles did not effect as a source for legal enforcement and punishment in its own right until laws were passed to do so, in its case with the 1952 Patent Act.

Among recent pieces of legislation that have directly taken aim at patent rights issues, the General Agreement on Tariffs and TradeIntellectual Property and Communications Omnibus Reform Act in 1999. If you need legal advice and assistance, contact patent lawyers.

The History of American Patent Law

The History of American Patent Law

Patent law 

Interest in the creation of the United States Code can be dated back to the efforts of individual publishing companies, who created guides to federal laws to serve the interests and practical purposes of other private individuals but without any official endorsement from the U.S. government. The first true precursor to the United States Code was passed into law by Congress on June 22, 1874 as the "Revised Statutes." 

This codified form referred to the federal statutes in effect as of December 1, 1873. At this point an important point came up, one that has continued to relate to patent law and other subjects for federal codification, that of whether law codes could function as sources for legal enforcement themselves, or simply as prima facie evidence on those laws. The Revised Statutes, which underwent corrections in 1878, were given legal force as "positive" or statutory laws. 

The Revised Statutes ceased to function effectively, however, due to Congress's failure to update them with the new laws that had been passed. In time, legal scholars and professionals once again had to look in different places for federal statutes. After the lapsing of the Revised Statutes, a second program was carried out by Congress to provide for a general legal framework for the United States. In a ten-year period, from 1897 to 1907, Congress studied existing federal statutes for the purpose of gathering them together but never carried the project to completion, in the absence of which new private publications were issued.

A third effort to create the United States Code took place in the 1920s, this time successfully. In 1925, an initial model for the completed code was created by the House Committee on Revisions of Laws comprising sixty different "titles" or sections, unlike the fifty title code that would later be issued. In 1926 the work conducted by the Congressional committee received legislative approval and the Code passed on law by the decision of the 69th session of Congress. The initial House Resolution, made on April 12, 1926, mandated that the law would be in positive effect after June 30, 1927. 

Before the bill could be signed into law, however, it was decided that the likelihood of mistakes being present in the law mitigated against the wisdom of making the Code a source for statutes. With this in mind, the Senate made an amendment to the legislation making the Code a prima facie source for legal evidence. This decision was later borne out by the discovery of 537 textual errors, included eighty-eight greatly affecting the substance of laws. With the legislation thus improved, President Coolidge signed the legislation on June 30, 1926.

 The United Code was first issued as a single, bound text publication. Because the prior work conducted by private parties was at this point in advance of governmental regulations, this first edition contained cross-references to the non-official publications United States Compiled Statutes Annotated and Federal Statutes Annotated. A 1928 law established the principle that a period of several years would intervene between new issues of the Code, originally set at five, and later extended to six years.

With the initial publication of the United States Code, the laws did not hold any power in the American legal system, but merely served as prima facie evidence in legal proceedings. Further work on the development of the United States Code was directed toward the end of putting the Code's provisions into effect as positive laws. In the late 1940s, increasing numbers of Americans involved in the practice of patent law, such as inventors and industrialists, issued complaints about how the field was being treated by the courts under common law. 

With a mind to providing a consistent set of rules for the intellectual property rights due to inventions, the House sub-committee tasked with reordering the 1926 United States Code incorporated patent law as one of their main concerns. The larger movement for making the Code effective on a statutory basis had begun in 1947.

With the passage of the 1952 Patent Act, American patent law was placed in the larger framework of the United States Code. The specific portion of the United States Code dealing with patent law is Title 35. The Code has 50 different "Titles" or sections, each addressed to a different subject for federal law. Despite being present in the Code, a Title cannot be assumed to be in positive or statutory effect. 

At present Congress has not fully implemented the United States, in which only twenty-three Titles are currently effective as sources for law. After 1975, the United States Code has existed under the institutional guidance of the Office of Law Revision Counsel, which operates out of the House.

The United States Code refers specifically to federal legislation and excludes state and local laws, as well as federal court decisions and the regulations of federal agencies. The latter are offered instead in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). The Federal Register contains new regulations and those pending approval. The initial Revised Statutes are still relevant to certain sections of the Code, in particular those which have yet to be implemented on a statutory basis. Contact patent lawyers to review your case.


The Evarts Act 1891

The Evarts Act 1891

The Evarts Act of 1891 created the United States court of appeals system. It is named for Senator William M. Evarts, the main advocate for the law’s passage. It is also referred to as the Judiciary Act of 1891 and the Circuit Courts of Appeals Act. This legislation created the system of the court of appeals in the United States. With the existence of a specific system of courts of appeals, such actions, such as patent court proceedings, could be moved out of the district and circuit courts.

To implement the Evarts Act, Congress formed nine courts–each possessing one district judge and two circuit judges–to form the court of appeals system. Under this system, a court of appeals would have authority over the relevant issues found to arise in decisions made by legally subordinate courts.

After an issue, for instance arising in patent court, had been located by a court of appeals, the issue could be submitted by the presiding judge to the Supreme Court for consideration. This reform was intended in part to free up the Supreme Court to more closely focus on a fewer number of cases. The Supreme Court could choose to either review decisions as certified by a court of appeals, or make judgments on a court of appeals decisions, according to a higher court decision referred to as a writ of certiorari. 

As an exception to the power given to a court of appeals under the Evarts Act, the legislation included a clause specifying specific circumstances in which an appeal could be made first to the Supreme Court without being first heard by a court of appeals.

Presently, the number appeals courts in the United States have risen to thirteen. Patent court decisions may be challenged through a motion submitted for the consideration of one of the courts of appeals. In particular, the Federal circuit court has the power to supervise patent court appeals. 

Outside of this system of courts, there are other legal settings in the United States referred to as courts of appeals yet which do not owe their existence to the Evarts Act. These include the United States  the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims .

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

United States patent laws were significantly altered and affected with the 1994 passage of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). After being approved by Congress, the package of legislation was signed by President Clinton on December 8, 1994. While the entirety of the GATT legislation took effect upon the start of 1996, substantial portions took effect on June 8, 1995, six months from the bill’s passage. 
The first two major changes to American patent law contained in GATT were effected in terms of the period of time for which patents would be in effect and the new availability of a provisional application option. A third major patent law innovation arrived on January 1, 1996, in the form of new regulations on the patenting of inventions created outside the U.S.
Under United States law, patents registered through the presiding United States Patent and Trademark Office. Prior to the approval of GATT, U.S. patent laws had dispensed terms of protection lasting for twenty years. After the legislation went into effect, this period of time was increased to twenty years. The extension of the term for patent protection was, however, less extensive than might be gleaned from a cursory perusal of the changes. 
The original language on terms of protection had specified that the period of seventeen years would commence with the issuance of the patent. In the new system, the twenty-year long period of protection was understood as beginning on the date on which the USPTO received the application for the patent. This change did not mean that a patent was protected from the moment that an application was submitted, but only that for the purposes of determining the end date for the period of protection, the application filing date would be referred to.
This change in the language underlying the changes may have concealed the extent to which the term of protection had not been greatly expanded. As legislators were aware at the time, USPTO filing procedures are not simple or quickly accomplished. A common period of time for the USPTO to take in approving a patent is two years. For that reason, the three-year increase in terms of protection sometimes understood as a legacy of the GATT legislation might be more realistically given as one year.
In regard to this change in language and to the many roadblocks which patent applications may encounter in the course of their journey to approval, the GATT legislation also made a new provision for the event of particularly long registration procedures. If such events as interference proceedings (on the issue of who was the first to invent a technology), secrecy orders (as regards patents impinging on America national security), and initial refusals, later successfully appealed, to issue patent registrations, the applicant could reasonably request that the USPTO give an additional five years for the protection of the patent.
Since the GATT legislation began to take effect on June 8, 1995, the United States’ patent laws have allowed applicants to file provisional applicants, prior to making the primary application. Regular applications require three elements, comprising the specification, a description of the patent’s tasks, a drawing, a visual source for all of the applicable details, and a claim, a statement as to the invention’s originality and effectiveness in accomplishing its purpose. 
Provisional applications need include only the former two elements. In this way, prospective patent holders who have not fully worked out the functionality of their invention can preempt competitors working on similar ideas. The provisional application date does not apply to the term of protection, and it marks the beginning of a one-year period in which the applicant can fully ready the invention for patenting. In the various means through which applications can be challenged under United States patent laws, provisional applications are considered to the benefit of the initial patent applicant.
The last important GATT to go into effect dealt with inventions made abroad. These changes related to interference proceedings, a unique feature of American patent laws under which the individual “first to invent” something under consideration for patent protection is granted patent rights, potentially above the individual “first to file.” In allowing for such an occurrence, the United States differs considerably from the patent laws in effect elsewhere in the world, notably in Europe, where the right of “first to file” is strictly observed. 
An interference proceeding blocks the registration of a patent until the validity of the plaintiff’s charge can be determined. Up to the point on which this portion of GATT took effect, on January 1, 1996, the date on which an invention in another country had been “reduced to practice,” as is the language used for an interference proceeding, was not eligible for consideration, in that patent laws have traditionally been restricted in their jurisdiction to a country’s own borders. 
For this reason, an interference proceeding brought by an inventor from another country against an inventor in this one, before 1996, may well have failed if the American inventor has taken the course of filing first, even if the inventor outside the country had first devised the invention. This change in GATT made the evidence of invention accomplished in another country admissible for the purposes of an interference proceeding.