November's advice article
Track One Prioritized Examination Puts Your Innovation in the Fast Lane
On some occasions, time can work against independent inventors and small business owners. The life cycles for many products are notoriously short, and infringement is always a concern. Investors often prefer to back technology that has been granted a patent, but without their financial support, every other operation in a business plan could stall. Speed is an important leverage factor when bringing products to market.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made tremendous progress in shortening pendency from the time an application is filed to when a final decision is made. But even that shorter wait can feel too long for some independent inventors and small businesses. With the passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011, the USPTO implemented Track One Prioritized Examination to give applicants more options for moving their ideas quickly.
What Is Track One?
Track One expedites the examination process of nonprovisional utility or plant applications for an additional fee (Track One is not available for design patent applications). Track One is also available for request for continued examination (RCE) applications. The goal is to provide a final disposition within 12 months of Track One status being granted, but the program is currently producing final dispositions in an average of just six months. Be aware that applications are subject to certain restrictions for Track One eligibility. To find out more about these restrictions, read the Track One frequently asked questions.
Who's Using It?
Track One is used by a wide variety of applicants, from small and micro entities to major corporations and research institutions, from first-time filers to serial inventors. USPTO statistics show that over 48 percent of Track One users are small entities, including micro entities. Track One applications currently are receiving first office actions in an average of 61.6 days and final dispositions in an average of 184 days after being approved for Track One status. By comparison, the pendency numbers on non-Track One applications as of the end of fiscal year 2013-September 30-were 18.2 months and 29.1 months, respectively.
How Do I Get It?
When filing your nonprovisional utility application, you'll need to fill out a Track One request form and use the EFS-Web filing system. Acceptance into the program is not automatic. Currently, it takes an average of 48.7 days for Track One requests to receive a decision regarding acceptance. The AIA authorizes up to 10,000 applications per fiscal year to be approved for Track One, and Track One requests grow steadily each month.
How Much Does it Cost?
The cost for small entities to receive Track One prioritized examination is currently $2,000. That fee is reduced further to $1,000 for micro entities. For non-small entities, the fee is $4,000.
When speed is of the essence, Track One may be worth considering when filing your nonprovisional application.