How a 1999 Intellectual Property Law Still Protects Inventors Today

When Congress voted the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 into law, a number of important reforms came into being. Many of these reforms were aimed at helping independent inventors protect their ideas and avoid fraudulent invention promotion companies.

Among its titles, the law required the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to publish patent applications 18 months after filing. This publication serves as public notice of an inventor’s rights. Now that the invention has been made public, it’s possible for the owner to put others on notice of those rights if they believe their invention is being infringed. Not only does publication grant invention owners the power to seek damages from others who are infringing, but it also entitles the owner to treble damages.

The act also addressed the sometimes-considerable patent prosecution delays at the USPTO. Applications may stall for weeks or months while overworked patent examiners sift through paperwork. Arguably, this meant that inventors were missing out on a considerable portion of their patent’s term. The act corrected this imbalance by enacting patent term adjustments that were added to the end of a patent’s term to make up for the prosecution delays. Inventors could now enjoy a longer term during which their patent was enforceable.

Just as importantly, the act made it easier for inventors to protect themselves and their ideas from unscrupulous invention promotion companies. Dozens of these companies exist in the U.S. They tell inventors that they will market their invention. However, sizable costs are often involved and little or no promotion activity ever occurs. Thousands of inventors poured a lot of money into invention promotion companies based on empty promises. At the end of the road, their invention had not been marketed, and the inventor was in much worse financial shape with little to show for it.

The American Inventors Protection Act required such invention promotion companies to disclose details about the inventors they had performed services for and the inventions that they had successfully brought to market. Contact information for the inventors is required as well so people who are considering working with these firms can seek a recommendation. The intention of the law was to weed out the disreputable invention promotion companies that were more or less perpetrating fraud on their customers. Savvy inventors should be able to discern whether they are working with a reputable company or not depending upon the company’s track record.

While there may be a number of reputable invention promotion companies out there, it is far better to work with an intellectual property attorney who can guide you through the often difficult and arduous process of patenting an invention. Not only can patent attorneys help shepherd your application through prosecution, but also point you in the direction of reputable firms that will provide genuinely helpful marketing services.

Contact Jeff Williams for reliable advice concerning how to protect your inventions. An experienced Texas patent attorney with comprehensive knowledge of applicable laws, Jeff can help steer your application through the USPTO.