The America Invents Act of 2011 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on April 14th, 2011 by a vote of 32-3, after being passed by the Senate in March. This act proposes some of the most significant changes for patent since at least 50 years. One of the most controversial changes in the act is going from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system. Under the proposed act, the inventor that is first to file a patent application is awarded priority, instead of the inventor that is first to conceive or first to reduce to practice under the current system.
Some people have heavily criticized this change, even going as far as calling the act unconstitutional. The gist of these arguments is that it would be unfair to not award a patent to the first inventor. However, there are also many reasons why the change would be good. If a patent is valued for bringing inventions to the public, rather than the exclusive rights it gives to the inventor, then the change makes a lot of sense since it would give inventors an incentive to file an application faster. This in turn means that the patent will expire sooner, and become free to the public.
Another advantage to the change is the reduced transaction costs. If the act is passed, it will no longer be necessary to spend time and resources determining who the true first inventor is. Inventors will also have more certainty when it comes to knowing whether they will get a patent or not.