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AIA Blog

Thursday Oct 17, 2013

Message From Janet Gongola, Patent Reform Coordinator: Options for Expedited Patent Application Examination, Including Prioritized Examination Under The AIA

The USPTO currently offers three alternative programs that provide applicants with the opportunity to expedite examination of their patent applications.  These three programs are: (i) Prioritized Examination (also known as “Track One”), which was introduced by the AIA; (ii) Accelerated Examination (AE); and (iii) the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH).  By taking advantage of these expedited examination processes, applicants may capitalize on their exclusive patent rights sooner than through conventional examination, especially in areas where the technology is rapidly evolving.

More specifically, in the Prioritized Examination and the AE programs, applicants receive a first action on the merits in less than 5 months and a final decision from the examiner within 12 months from the grant of the request.  In the PPH program, applicants receive a first action on the merits within 2 to 3 months from the grant of the request.   The chart below illustrates the first action pendency data of the three programs as compared with conventional examination for fiscal year 2013.

Graph of FY 2013 First Action Pendency

To enter into one of the agency’s expedited examination programs, patent applicants must satisfy certain requirements largely focused on the size of the application as well as payment of an additional fee. 

In the case of Prioritized Examination, applicants can submit no more than 4 independent claims and no more than 30 total claims.  Applicants also must pay a $4000 fee, which is reduced to $2000 for small entities and to $1000 for micro entities.  Applicants further must electronically file their applications, and the applications must be complete on filing. 

In the case of AE, applicants can submit no more than 3 independent claims and no more than 20 total claims.  Applicants also must pay a $140 fee, which is reduced to $70 for small entities and to $35 for micro entities.  Applicants further must submit pre-examination search documents and an “examination support document.”  The requirement for pre-examination search documents and an “examination support document” is a key distinction between AE and Prioritized Examination.

In the case of PPH, there are no petition fees or limits on the number of claims, unlike for Prioritized Examination and AE.  However, a foreign patent office that participates in the PPH must have found at least one claim to be allowable for the application to receive expedited examination in the USPTO.   Currently, there are more than two dozen participating foreign patent offices.  

Here is a quick reference table summarizing the features and requirements of the three expedited examination programs available at the USPTO.  For more information about any individual programs, the Office has created specialized micro-site. 

Fast Examination Table: http://www.uspto.gov/aia_implementation/fast_exam_table20130912v1017.pdf

Prioritized Examination: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/Track_One.jsp.

ccelerated Examination: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/process/file/accelerated/index.jsp

Patent Prosecution Highway: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/pph/index.jsp.

 

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