If a patent application is filed and the filing fees are paid, it could be revoked but not terminated within the period of its life, say, 20 years from the filing date. If a patent is granted, it could be revoked but not terminated. In turn, the appicant or patentee should give a step back. His intellectual rights are not protected during the period being revoked. Anyone may utilize the invention during that period without paying the roylty fees at any time.
For example, if an inventor has filed an application and paid the filing fees, but he does not find a buyer and does not have an examination until 5 years later from the filing date, then the application is revoked during this period, anyone may utilize the invention freely during those 5 years and do not have to pay anything even after the patent is granted.
If the patent is issued 6 years later from the filing date, and tends to not sell well, the patentee may not pay the maintenance fees. And the patent is roylty free until the patentee paid 7.5 years after grant when he sees the patent tends to sell well.
As a result, many of the applications shall find it out that it is not in a hurry to be examined at all. Thus the patent office will free tension geatly and it will take much quicker speed to examine the applications really in a hurry.
Also, for one especially an indepent inventor who could not afford the patent fees, he could wait until he has sold out his invention to start an exmination.
There are as many as more than 700,000 applications piled up in the USPTO and it usually takes as long as almost 3 years to grant a patent.
Also, there are inventors who are individuals and could not afford the high amount of the government fees although there are some discounts or tradeoffs.
These difficulties will get even more huge after the change from the first-to-invent system to the first-to-file system. Because an inventor have to file an application as soon as possible to protect his ideas.
There is a suggestion made attemped to solve this problem. The method discussed as follows may be called as Revoked-but-Not-Terminated(RNT).
This is the most difficult aspect of engineering. You create things and lawyers make billions out of it. Sometimes I do not know the one to choose. Leave patents and get lawyers out of this. But Congress full of lawyers seem to keep them in bsuiness more.
We have to look at the final bill when it passed both houses. But, from what I have heard so far, this bill offers very few improvements for small companies and individual inventors and is heavily tilted toward the interests of behemoths like Intel and IBM. If so this is the wrong kind of bill, if the goal is to further and improve our innovation processes as a nation.
And, of course, there will always be disagreement about what patent reform is the right reform. But I think almost everyone agrees that the current system needs to be changed. Just about any change would be an improvement and this certainly looks like it has a number of improvements for small companies and individuals.