Sunday, June 6, 2010

USPTO proposes a tiered (instead of tired?) approach to patent examination

The USPTO announced Thursday a plan to change the way patent applications are processed. The proposed plan would give applicants the option of choosing one of three paths for examination, based on their perception of the necessity of a quick examination and willingness or ability to pay extra for a faster examination.

The proposed three-track plan would send applications down one of the following paths:

  • A "priority" track, in which applicants pay an extra fee to have their application pushed to the top of the pile.
  • A middle track, in which applications are examined in the order in which they come in, which is identical to the way in which virtually all applications are currently processed.
  • A slow track, in which applicants can choose to delay examination of their patents for up to 30 months.
The slow track kind of baffles me. I do understand that some applicants may benefit from a greater amount of time for market research, product development, etc. It's just that I've never known anyone to complain that an application was examined too quickly...

Anyhow, the arguments for and against will commence as the USPTO seeks public comment for advice on whether or not to do the program, how to determine the fees, and some additional aspects of the Office's proposal to reduce examination backlog time. There's a nice treatment of the piece from the Wall Street Journal here. Here's a link to the official Federal Register Notice.

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