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USPTO Announces Program to Eliminate Filing Fees in Exchange for Early Publication of COVID-19 Applications

Since all the other commentators are posting about this Notification, I thought I should say a few words as well. The USPTO will eliminate the filing fees for applicants who agree to publish their COVID-19-related provisional applications in a PTO-managed database. The applications must be directed to FDA-approvable therapies, devices and the like. While the stated goal of rapid dissemination of information about improved compositions/devices related to COVID-19 is a worthy one, the incentives are really not there. The filing fee for a provisional application are not that high (soon to be $300 for a large entity) and the risk of early publication being treated as prior art against applications, e.g., claiming advances,  in the original inventions both in the US and in foreign patent offices is substantial. Also, early dissemination of advances in the detection or treatment of COVID-19 seems to be the norm these days, since it can drive stock prices. I think that the PTO should put more on the table. How about offering free accelerated examination to qualifying regular applications? This rather complex program is still in effect and could be streamlined further, as by eliminating the requirements to supply the strategies and results of a prior art search or, at least, to supply an analysis of the closest prior art located by the search.  See MPEP 708.02(a).

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