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In a nod to patent harmonization, the U.S. acceded to the dominant world view when it adjusted the definition of patent term by passing into law the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). Under the URAA, patent term extends from patent issuance to 20 years from the filing date of the underlying patent application, thus providing a variable patent term dependent on issuance date. Previously, the U.S. had simply defined patent term as 17 years from patent issuance. The effective term of a U.S. patent under the current definition will equal the old term of 17 years from issuance when the application spends three years in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) examination. It is the rare U.S. patent application that is under examination for exactly three years, and those in the business and patenting communities are aware that the typical application is examined for longer, and often significantly longer, than three years. To mitigate the potential loss of term due to examination delay, Congress in 1994, and again in 1999, provided for patent term adjustment. Despite the time that has passed, the courts have recently issued some significant decisions interpreting the statute providing for term adjustment, as highlighted below.

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