On September 23, 2011, the USPTO published a final rule that will allow applicants to speed up the patent examination process in exchange for a substantial fee. Similar to a program that the USPTO launched in April 2011 but then withdrew due to funding cuts, the new rule implements the prioritized examination requirements of the America Invents Act.
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 $4,800 ($2,400 for small entities), plus the typical filing, search and examination fees that must accompany an application.
Only new, original applications filed after September 23, 2011 will be eligible for the fast-track program. Continuing applications are also eligible so long as the applicant pays the fee for each continuing application. The application may not contain more than 4 independent claims or more than 30 total claims. The request for prioritized examination, all fees, and all inventor declarations must be filed at the time that the application is filed.