America Invents Act
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA) changed the patent system in favor of big corporations and against small inventors. The AIA embraced the mistaken notion of patents as being "public rights" dependent entirely on the whim of government. The law reduced the value of patents by creating new ways to challenge a patent that has already been issued. The full text of this 59-page bad law is available online, and cites "inter partes" 60 times.
The AIA changed the ownership of patent rights from "the first to invent," to the "first to file," effective as of March 16, 2013. Big companies that invent nothing can obtain patents rights superior to the inventor by merely filing first with the Patent & Trademark Office. The AIA rewards filing for patents with priority over being the first to invent.
The AIA also established, as of the date it became law on September 16, 2011, that a failure to disclose the best mode shall no longer be a basis for cancellation of a patent in patent validity or infringement proceedings.
Stated purpose, and the underlying motivation
The stated purpose of the AIA was supposedly to help corporations avoid litigation when threatened by patent holders on claims of doubtful validity, such as so-called "business methods" patents. Specifically, the law states that the goal of the AIA is to establish a “more efficient system for challenging patents that should not have issued.” H.R. Rep No. 112-98, at 39-40.
The real underlying motivation, however, was to tilt the playing field in favor of big corporations and against small inventors who are responsible for most of the innovation.9
Micro Entity Status
The AIA establishes a category of "Micro Entity" by which a patent applicant can receive a 75% reduction in government fees. The two ways to qualify are either by having gross income at or below $160,971, or is closely associated with a U.S. institution of higher education.