updated 3/14/2011 2:10:34 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:10:34

The U.S. Senate’s passage of an overhaul of the patent system earlier this week could be good news for small businesses and entrepreneurs whose attempts at innovation have been thwarted by expensive patenting fees and a huge backlog at the patent office, a law professor says.

One of the most important aspects of the reform, from a small business standpoint, is that it would allow the Patent Office to keep its fees, rather than having them diverted to the rest of the federal government, said Michael Carrier, a professor at Rutgers Law School who specializes in intellectual property law.

“This change would reduce the staggering backlog facing the office, where 700,000 patents currently lie unexamined and another 500,000 are in the process of being reviewed. Of the changes in the legislation, this would have the most direct effect on innovation by making it more likely that patents will be reviewed in time so they could be used in quickly evolving markets,” Carrier told BusinessNewsDaily.

The likely outcome for small business would be that quicker patent review would allow for more innovation, Carrier said.

Carrier said the bill also would allow the Patent Office to set its fees, which could, potentially, result in reduced fees for smaller companies.

“It would lower costs and bring the U.S. into line with the rest of the world, which awards patents to the first to file an application, rather than first to invent. And it would create a new procedure by which third parties could challenge patents after they have been issued,” said Carrier, who recently authored the book “Innovation for the 21st Century” (Oxford University Press, 2009).

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to introduce its own patent reform bill.

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