On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act into law.
As outlined below, several important changes take effect on the date of enactment (September 16, 2011), including some significant litigation-related changes and the new standard for instituting inter partes reexamination.
A few other changes take effect in 10 days (September 26, 2011), including a new 15-percent surcharge on most USPTO fees and the availability of fee-based expedited examination (Track I).
Most other changes take effect in one year (September 16, 2012), although the changes to the definition of prior art (including the "first-to-file" provisions) and new post-grant review proceedings will not take effect for 18 months (March 16, 2013) except for a narrow subset of business method patents that will be subject to post-grant review as of September 16, 2012 under transitional provisions. In addition, certain business method patents may be subject to post-grant review after one year (September 16, 2012). Many of these changes will be significantly impacted by implementation rules, a process just beginning at the USPTO (see foley.com/patentreform for more information on how to submit comments in the rulemaking process).
This patent reform is certain to have profound changes in how patents are prepared, obtained, licensed and enforced in the United States.