PTO Ponders Axing Fast Track Patent Examination

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  • Fewer than 200 annual applicants since more popular Track One introduced
  • PTO also updating program to reflect patent law changes

By Joseph Marks

Aug. 15 — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may cancel a fast-track option for patent reviews known as “accelerated examination,” according to a Federal Register notice by the agency that will be published Aug. 16.

The program, launched in 2006, has fallen out of favor since a separate fast-track option called “Track One” was established in 2011, according to the notice. Fewer than 200 applicants requested accelerated examination in 2015, the PTO said.

The agency plans to publish a request for comment in the Federal Register asking whether it’s worth retaining the accelerated examination program given Track One’s greater popularity, according to the notice, which primarily describes updating the program’s governing language to reflect patent law changes since 2006.

Patent seekers can request accelerated examinations for a variety of reasons, including if the invention is in a particularly vital area for society, such as cancer research, or if the inventor is older than 65 or might become too ill to participate in a review process with a standard wait time. Applicants seeking accelerated examination must complete a lengthy search of similar patents before applying.

Applicants who are granted accelerated examination are allowed to skip ahead of applications that were filed earlier. Examiners aim to complete their reviews within one year.

Examiners also try to complete Track One expedited reviews in about one year, but those reviews are available to anyone seeking a plant or utility patent who’s willing to pay a fee that ranges between $2,000 and $4,000. Track One applications don't require a search of similar patents.

Nearly 1,300 patent filers sought accelerated examination in 2011, the year Track One was introduced, compared with just 159 in 2015, according to PTO data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Marks in Washington at jmarks@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

For More Information

The pre-publication Federal Register notice is available at: http://src.bna.com/hJw

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