Getting Patents Fast: 4 Paths to Patent Acceleration
When it comes to high tech innovation, timing is everything.
It's a frustrating reality faced by entrepreneurs that the pace of the patent application process—which can take anywhere from 2 to 5 years—is often dramatically out of sync with the rapidly evolving high tech sector. Even as initiatives enacted as part of the America Invents Act — which was signed into law over the summer — attempt to address this problem, the backlog of patents awaiting examination by the USPTO has been cited at well over 700,000.
The average 27 month wait time from filing a patent to receiving a first office action is especially onerous within the startup community, where competition for investor funding is fierce and early confirmation of a secured patent can offer an immediate boost to a company’s asset value. For some companies, it may make strategic sense to accelerate a patent application. In recent years, the patent office has created a spectrum of fast-track options to suit different time lines and budgets. Here, we review three possible strategies for maneuvering your application to the front of the line.
Track 1 Prioritized Examination
On September 26, 2011, the President signed into law the Leahy-Smith American Invents Act. Among its many revisions to the patent system is a new Prioritized Examination ("PE"). The PE program allows applicants to pay a premium fee to place applications on a prioritized track. The USPTO says that its goal is to provide a final disposition of the application within a year, on average. This track offers a good option where cost-effective, immediate feedback is desired for a given application.
The USPTO created the Accelerated Examination (AE) Program in 2006 to provide applicants an avenue for securing patents quickly. Although these AE applications initially require more time, resources and analysis on the part of the practitioner, the resulting claim sets tend to be strong and enable faster allowance, possibly within just a few months of being accepted into the AE program. In the long run, this option may therefore prove the most economical, as it can prevent years of back-and-forth with the examiner to achieve allowance for an application that sometimes happens with standard or Track One Prioritized applications.
Green Tech Pilot Program
Launched in 2009 as part of an effort to manage the USPTO’s backlog of 700,000-plus filed patent applications, the Green Tech Pilot Program accords “special status” to pending patent applications related to green technologies. Applications that meet Green Tech Pilot Program eligibility requirements are processed in as little as six to twelve months. Since the program’s inception, our firm has assisted in securing some half-dozen patents for our clients through the program, and expects at least 20 additional accelerated first actions over the next 12 months.
Special Status Based on Age or Health of Applicant
In addition to prioritizing green technology applications, the USPTO also grants “special status” to applications if the applicant is over 65 years of age or in poor health. Such applications also carry a 6-12 month processing time.