August's advice article

Prioritized Examination Popular with Small and Micro Entities

Independent inventors are increasingly taking advantage of a service that puts their patent applications in the examination fast lane.

Since 2012, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has offered a prioritized examination process called Track One, which potentially reduces the amount of time for a patent to issue. Track One is a type of petition available to utility or plant patent applicants. Applicants must satisfy the requirements for Track One and pay the required fees, but they can expect a final disposition in an average of just 12 months after being granted Track One status. The USPTO accepts up to 10,000 Track One cases per year, and the number of applications the office has received has steadily increased since inception.

Currently, 52 percent of all Track One users are small and micro entity applicants (see slide 10 of May 2015 Patent Public Advisory report). One reason many small and micro entities are turning to Track One is the steep discounts they receive when using the program. The Prioritized Examination fee for Track One, which is additional to the other fees associated with filing and prosecuting a patent, is currently $4,000. However, for small entities that amount is reduced 50 percent to $2,000 and for micro entities it is further reduced another 25 percent to just $1,000. The corresponding Track One processing fee, which is normally $140, is reduced to $70 and $35, respectively. Applicants should be sure to check that they meet the definitions of small or  micro entities.

Getting a patent issued sooner provides many competitive advantages for inventors. Research shows nearly three quarters of investor-backed firms in the United States indicate their patents were a key to obtaining funding.

Track One users should keep in mind that under the program, the USPTO processes applications faster, but times for applicants to respond to office actions are also reduced. If applicants are late in responding, the examination will continue, but the application will lose its Track One status, and the applicant will not be refunded the Track One fees.

Requesting prioritized examination is simple, but is only available when filing online using the USPTO’s online filing system (EFS-Web). Please visit the Track One Web page for more information. The Office of Petitions also provides detailed instructions regarding requesting Track One prioritized examination.

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The USPTO gives you useful information and non-legal advice in the areas of patents and trademarks. The patent and trademark statutes and regulations should be consulted before attempting to apply for a patent or register a trademark. These laws and the application process can be complicated. If you have intellectual property that could be patented or registered as a trademark, the use of an attorney or agent who is qualified to represent you in the USPTO is advised.