At the end of 2012, we missed an important report that Bloomberg Businessweek posted concerning the newly signed US Patent Law Treaties Implantation Act of 2012 – and so we’re going to touch on the report’s main points for the record today. The new law will be in effect within a year. The main purpose of this new law is to harmonize America’s design patent laws with the rest of the world—in particular, by letting “inventors” use a single application filed anywhere in the world to seek design rights in many countries at once. One of Apple’s key weapons in its legal battle against competitors is a special type of patent simply called a “design patent,” which protects the visual appearance of a product. Vocal critics from the Android camp “have denounced these patents as a way to own ’rounded rectangles’, but we may have to get used to seeing a lot more of them,” reported Businessweek.
Furthermore, the new law could offer U.S. designers a new way to fight knockoffs. Apple used its design patents to hammer Samsung for allegedly copying the iPhone and iPad. Design patents have also become more popular as the Supreme Court has taken an increasingly dim view of many conventional utility patents.
The law, which will take effect in about a year, will also increase the design patent term from 14 years to 15 years and allow applicants to seek 100 different design inventions with a single application.
One of the noted keys to the law as mentioned earlier, is “letting inventors use a single application filed anywhere in the world to seek design rights in many countries at once.”
That would mean when design patents, like those we reported about on back on December 28, 2012 and January 15, 2013 get granted in Hong Kong China, they would automatically be granted in the US. That would definitely reduce the paperwork for Apple and remove some of the pressure on the US Patent Office. Additionally, the Businessweek report pointed to the fact that design patent filing costs around $2,500 to $3,000 which will result in great savings as regular utility patent applications costs several times that amount. That will save the top patent assignees including Apple, IBM, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Sony and others a lot of money.
On paper at least, the new law is definitely going to upset the already boisterous Android Camp critics that never end their zombie-like antics and attacks on Apple who are challenging their beloved Samsung and Android creators. How can we not love that? But as we all know, nothing is ever perfect and Businessweek points out that the new laws could in fact strengthen Patent Trolls who cost tech companies $29 Billion in 2011. Apple is a prime target for patent trolls.
And one last note. The Businessweek report mildly described inventors filing “a single application” without delving into any of the details. It’ll be interesting to know what the new application will end up looking like, because from our experience with covering Apple’s design patents weekly, they certainly lack specificity as to exactly what the inventor is trying to patent. Here’s to hoping that there’s some kind of realistic compromise in the design of this new application, or we’re bound to see chaos reign in the court system over the coming years. But that’s a story for another day. For now, the new patent laws kicking in next year appear to be ones that Apple will be able to take advantage of out the gate. And to Apple’s detractors, cry me a river.