This week, the USPTO published a final rule that will allow applicants to speed up the patent examination process in exchange for a substantial fee. Published in the April 4, 2011 edition edition of the Federal Register, the rule implements the first track of a previously-discussed three-track examination process.
The new prioritized examination program will begin on May 4, 2011. In most cases, the new prioritized examination program will result in either allowance or final rejection within 12 months of filing. The price for this expedited review will be $4,000 (regardless of entity size), plus the typical filing, search and examination fees that must accompany an application.
Only new, original applications filed after May 4, 2011 will be eligible for the fast-track program. The request for prioritized examination, all fees, and all inventor declarations must be filed at the time that the application is filed.
This new option does not replace the USPTO’s existing accelerated examination program or Patent Prosecution Highway programs, which allow expedited review in certain situations. However, unlike the existing programs, the new program is not limited to any particular technology area or foreign filing status, and it does not require the applicant to submit detailed search reports with the filing.
UPDATE: In an April 21, 2011 email to USPTO employees, Director David Kappos announced that this program would be suspended until further notice because of USPTO funding cuts in 2011.