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The First to File Patent System and How to Operate Within It

Finding Your Way Through the USPTO Patent System Maze

Once upon a time, in 1331 A.D., the very first English patent was granted. The number of patents issued quickly spread throughout England and the rest of Europe. However, this was not the beginning. There is historical evidence that some level of patent rights was recognized in Ancient Greece in 500 B.C. The patent process continued to develop over the years offering inventors greater protections and durations of protections.

Nearly eight centuries and billions of patents later, another major milestone occurred. The U.S. Congress passed the America Invents Act and changed the U.S. Patent process drastically. Enacted in 2013, the United States Patent system became a “First to File” system. What does all that mean? Since the beginning of the U.S. Patent system, it has operated under a policy of “First to Invent.” The practice was if an inventor could prove to be the first to conceive the idea and reduce the application of the invention to practice, they would be awarded the patent even if another filed for a patent before them. “First to File” replaces that practice by simply awarding the patent to the inventor who files the patent first. In short, this means that if you have an idea and you intend to patent that idea, you should be very careful who you speak to and under what conditions you disclose any information concerning your invention. Congress had proposed this idea to alleviate the burdensome load on the court systems resulting from inventors fighting to prove they conceived the idea and put it into practice first. Right or wrong, this is the decision that was made. The question became “How does one operate in this new system to navigate themselves to success?”

My belief is that innovation is essential and a crucial element in the betterment of all people. It’s my firm stance that the inventors who conceive of the ideas that become these groundbreaking innovations are entitled to receive every bit of recognition and reward they have coming to them for their contribution. It’s critical that the inventors who conceive and develop their ideas have an awareness of what the “First to File” system is and how to operate within it.

Within the “First to File” system, protection must be the highest priority. Every inventor must understand how to properly protect their idea. They must know who to talk to, have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place, understand the patent and trademark processes, and find a trustworthy patent attorney. These are the crucial steps for any inventor to ensure proper protection of their idea within the “First to File” system.


Tim “The Patent Guy” Riesen

Owner/CEO of The Riesen Design Ltd.

Co-creator of The Patent and Trademark Resource

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