By James R. Gourley
The patent regime of the United States was set up by Congress to enable innovators to protect their ideas through monopoly ownership for a limited period of time. Because there are almost always many different individuals and groups working on solutions to problems that exist in the marketplace, it is not uncommon for several different people to independently arrive at the solution around the same time.
In this scenario, under the “first-to-invent” system currently used by the United States, the patent monopoly will generally be granted to the first inventor, even if a later inventor was the first inventor to file a patent application. Such an outcome is unique to the United States, as every other industrialized country uses a “first-to-file” system in which the patent monopoly is awarded to the first inventor to file.