Modifications to the patent law were finally passed by Congress this week -- the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Although referred to as “patent reform,” commentators have noted that the Act does little to “reform” the problems associated with the patent system—notably, an underfunded PTO, inadequate examination procedures, and burdensome litigation. In the end, the Act contained quite a bit of special interest policy-making that favors large companies over independent inventors. The major change of the Act is that the U.S. switches to a first-to-file system in March 2013, 18 months after enactment. You'll find a summary of the Act's provisions here and here is a timeline detailing when the changes in the Act go into effect.