When patent applicants receive a final rejection from the USPTO, they currently have three options: (1) appeal the final rejection, (2) abandon the application, or (3) amend the claims and file a request for continued examination (RCE). Currently, many applicants file an RCE because it receives priority over new applications, with USPTO review occurring within two months of filing.
The USPTO recently issued a notice stating that it will change that procedure. The change will delay action on (and this remove some of the benefit of) RCEs. My colleagues Dan Scolnick and Paul Legaard have prepared a summary of the new USPTO procedures. The summary is available at the Pepper Hamilton website by clicking here. The USPTO notice is available at the USPTO website via this link.