Examining the Effect of the America Invents Act on the Patent Grace Period
This Note argues that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s interpretation of the new grace period under the America Invents Act (AIA), 35 U.S.C. § 102(b)(1)(B), is overly narrow and that an alternative interpretation proposing a broader reading of the grace period is more appropriate. Evidence for a broader reading includes the effect of each interpretation on the administrative burden at the Patent and Trademark Office, speed of patent disclosure, innovative activity by specific inventor groups, and inventor behavior in patent races. This analysis shows that a narrow interpretation of the grace period creates greater administrative burdens, discourages disclosure, disfavors small inventors and universities, and may make blocking firms in a patent race virtually costless. In contrast, a broad grace period is simpler to administer, accelerates disclosure, supports innovation by small inventors and universities, and provides firms with a defensive maneuver in patent races.