Byte.com: Internet Patents Are Changing The Rules

[ Thanks to Don
for this link. ]

“Title 35 of the United States Code enacted on July 19, 1952 by
an Act of Congress and having taken effect on January 1, 1953, is
the set of laws that govern U.S. patents. It has been amended many
times since then, most recently on November 29, 1999, through
Public Law 106-113 (including Senate bill 1948 of the 106th
Congress whose Title IV pertains to patents), whereby a number of
changes were made to incorporate the World Trade Organization
treaty on patents that resulted from the Uruguay Round Agreements
Act, and to make the Patent and Trademark Office more efficient.
Several important changes to principles of infringement and right
of priority and the process of dispute resolution were also made by
this recent legislation. These changes and the general use of
technology in almost every business process make patent law more
important to the future of every industry….”

“The final class of patent, statutory, does not afford any legal
protection to the patentee, but does convey legal protection to the
general public by registering the invention and thereby formally
declaring it to be prior art for the purpose of future patent
filings. This class of patent is most commonly used to register
inventions made by the U.S. Government and it is known as Statutory
Invention Registration, or SIR.”

Anyone can apply to receive SIR patent status for a novel
invention, and there is only a small one-time fee for this type of
patent compared to the larger and periodic fees required to receive
and maintain a regular patent. However, statutory patents are only
used when the patentee wants to guarantee that no third party will
ever be able to claim patent protection for an invention. This
makes SIR a very interesting, if currently overlooked, option for
protecting open source inventions.
…When searching at the
U.S. Patent Office website, you can find SIR patents designated
with the prefix of “H”. Section 157 of USC Title 35 defines SIR.
There is a window of opportunity in which a patent can be filed.
After that window closes, the opportunity to patent is gone for
everyone because the public disclosure and use of the invention
stops the clock and marks the date on which the invention became
public prior art. If you or another party fail to secure a filing
date within a year of that event, the effect is a little like
filing a Statutory Invention Registration to secure rights for the
public, the invention becomes de facto public domain. A variety of
factors combine to establish a special right of priority and unique
status for the person who files a patent application or reveals a
novel new invention first. In particular, public disclosure of an
invention by you does not prevent you from obtaining a patent on
the invention, provided that you file for patent protection within
one year of disclosure.”