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It's The Law

How does the new budget act affect your patent?

By Don Debelak

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The new Patent Reform Act, included in the Omnibus Budget Actsigned by President Clinton last November, includes several keyprovisions that impact inventors:

1. Invention-promotion firms that advertise in mass media, such asradio, TV, magazines and newspapers, must disclose their successrate to all potential customers.

2. Inventors can now bring complaints to the U.S. Patent andTrademark Office (PTO) regarding problems with invention-promotionfirms. While the PTO lacks enforcement powers, it does maintain aregister of complaints and periodically publishes those complaints.(Note: The PTO does have enforcement powers over patent attorneysand patent agents.)

3. Patent-application fees for utility patents have dropped to $345for inventors, and first patent maintenance fees (due 3 1/2 yearsafter the patent is awarded) have dropped to $415.

4. The PTO will now publish patent applications 18 months aftersubmission unless a patent has been issued or the inventordidn't apply for any international patents. This will allowinventors to conduct more thorough patent searches before taking onthe major expense of applying for one.

5. All patent fees will now be kept by the PTO; the funds willallow the agency to improve both service and inventor educationprograms. In years past, as much as $100 million per year had beendiverted from the PTO to other government agencies.

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant and theauthor of Bringing Your Product to Market (John Wiley &Sons). Send him your invention questions at

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