The United States has a modified first-to-invent to a first-to-file patent system. Unlike a true first-to-file system, the modified first-to-file system of the United States only requires relative novelty, not absolute novelty.
What is a first-to-file patent system?
Under a first inventor to file rule, the first inventor to file a patent application with the patent office is awarded the patent to the invention. That’s true, even if the second inventor to file was the first to invent. For example, assume that the second inventor to file conceived the invention on January 1 but filed on April 1. The first inventor to file conceived the invention on February 1 but filed on March 1. The first inventor to file invented the invention after the second inventor to file but is awarded the patent because he or she was the first inventor to file.
What is absolute novelty?
Under a true first inventor to file system, you must file the patent application before any sort of public marketing of the invention. If the inventor markets the invention prior to filing the patent application, the inventor cannot obtain a patent. The invention is dedicated to the public.
What is relative novelty?
The modified first inventor to file rule in the United States does not require inventors to file before any marketing. In the United States, the inventor has up to one year to file a patent application after marketing efforts start. Marketing efforts are public demonstration, offer for sale, or printed publication (e.g., webpage, brochure or displaying at a trade show).