SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The U. S. Patent and Trademark Office launches May 4 a program to process patents within 12 months for an extra fee. It currently takes nearly three years to process the average patent, and much longer in some cases.
The program, called Track One, is part of a new three-track system first described in June. The second track would be the same as the existing application process. A third track would let an applicant set a delay of up to 30 months before his patent was examined, essentially getting the paperwork on file for a patent the applicant may not see as a high priority.
"This is simply about letting applicants tell us what's most important to them so we can get to that first," said patent office director David Kappos in a press conference when the program was announced in June. "If we accomplish that much, this will be a success but we think this can also help reduce pendency," he said.
The move comes at a time when Congress is debating patent reform. Current draft bills would give the patent office authority to set and keep its own fees, a measure widely supported.
The goal of the Track One program is to provide a first action on the merits of an application within four months and a final disposition within 12 months after priority status is granted.
The fast track program will be limited to 10,000 applications starting May 4, 2011 through the remainder of fiscal year 2011, ending September 30. The patent office will evaluate this limit at the end of the fiscal year to determine whether changes are needed.
Filing a fast track request cost $4,000, in addition to the usual filing fees for an application. The agency is working to offer a 50 percent discount on the fee for small companies and individuals, something it already offers for its existing fees.
The Track Three option is expected to be available to applicants by September 30, 2011. The official notice of the Track One program is online.
The three-track approach is one of several initiatives Kappos has put in place since being appointed to the job in August 2009. The patent office currently has a backlog of nearly 800,000 applications.