USPTO considering deferred examination option for patent applications

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently announced that it is seeking public input on whether to adopt a process that will defer examination of patent applications until the applicant submits an express request for examination. 

Many foreign patent offices require patent applicants to expressly request examination before they review the applications.  The reasons for deferred examination include (i) allowing time for applicants to assess the market value of an invention before moving forward with examination, and (ii) avoiding having examiners spend time reviewing applications that applicants ultimately plan to abandon. 

USPTO regulations currently permit applicants to request deferral of examination for up to three years.  However, the USPTO reports that this option has been elected in less than 200 applications since it became available in November 2000.  In contrast, some other countries automatically defer examination until the applicant expressly requests it. 

In order to assess public interest in a deferred examination option, the USPTO will hold a roundtable discussion on February 12, 2009 at the USPTO offices.  Anyone who would like to participate in the discussion must register by Feburary 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm US eastern time.  Also, the USPTO plans to make the discussion available for viewing via webcast.  Interested parties may submit written comments to the USPTO through February 26, 2009.

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