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Patent Office Says, "Have It Your Way!" For A Price.

The PTO has proposed a “Three-Track Examination” option for applicants which gives them the opportunity to jump to the head of the examination line (goal: 12 mo. pendency  with first office action within two months) or to put the application on hold for up to 30 months (note to file: how can an applicant tell he/she is on this path?). The third choice is to do nothing. The program applies to applications that have not been refiled. Applications claiming foreign priority would have to apply with a search report, first official action, and a response in hand. But there are no such requirements for U.S. applicants, except possibly a limitation on the number and type of claims (to be decided). This is a lot less onerous than the requirements for accelerated examination, which require a search report, a summary of the art, etc., and the fast-tracking of applications on “Green Technology.” Both have been little used to date.

I am typing this during a break from doing interviews at the PTO (four today) and, concerns about discrimination against “foreign” applicants aside, I am for it. One of the applications I am interviewing was filed in the U.S. via a PCT in 2001. (I recently inherited this application.) The average time between (non-final) office actions has been about seven months, with a series of Examiners. Right now, it is entitled to over 1000 days of PTA. Believe me, I have a search report from the priority country. Would the client, a small pharma company, pay to speed this up with a goal of resolution in any preselected time? You betcha!

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