Quoting Kae Verens (kae at verens.com):
> as I understand it, US law ignores prior art anyway.
This turns out not to be the case.
A first-to-file rule is followed in most countries other than the
United States. Under the rule, regardless of who the first inventor was,
the person or legal entity who files a patent application first is the
one who is granted the patent.
A first-to-invent rule is followed in the United States. Invention is
generally defined to comprise two steps: conception of the invention and
reduction to practice of the invention. When an inventor conceives of an
invention and diligently reduces the invention to practice (by filing a
patent application, by practicing the invention, and so on), the
inventor's date of invention will be the date of conception. Thus,
provided an inventor is diligent in reducing an application to practice,
he or she will be the first inventor, and the inventor entitled to
patent, even if another files a patent application (reduces the
invention to practice) before the inventor.
In the United States, inventors and their patent agents or attorneys
are required by law to submit any references they are aware of to the
United States Patent and Trademark Office that may be material to the
patentability of the claims in a patent application they have filed. The
patent examiner will then determine if the references qualify as "prior
art" and may then take them into account when examining the patent
application. If the attorney/agent or inventor fails to properly
disclose the potentially relevant references they are aware of, then a
patent can be found invalid for inequitable conduct.
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