Yesterday, the USPTO announced details of its proposed “Track One” of the “Three-Track” program, which offers applicants three choices as to the speed their application is examined.
On February 4, 2011, the notice of “Track One” will be published in the Federal Register and open to public comment for 30 days. Specific details open for comment include:
the proposed $4000 fee per application;
limits on the number of claims to 4 independent claims and 30 total claims;
application filing through the USPTO electronic filing system (EFS-Web), as well as other requirements.
“The Patent and Trademark Office plays a key role in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship,” says U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. “This new system will bring the most valuable patents, as determined by inventors, to market faster and will help shrink the backlog by catering to the business needs of America’s innovators.”
On average, examination of a patent application takes about 35 months before a decision is rendered. “Track One” examination aims to reduce that pendency time to 12 months. For the first year, the USPTO will limit the “Track One” option to 10,000 applications.
The patent community has greeted “Track One” examination with mixed sentiments. Some view it as “pay to play”, granting an unfair advantage to deep-pocketed applicants who can afford the hefty $4000 fee. And because the USPTO lacks the power to set its own fees (although granting this power is proposed in the patent reform legislation currently before the Senate), the 50% discount for small entity filers is initially not available for “Track One”.
Others have welcomed the opportunity to expedite examination. Industries, such as software and electronics, whose technology have relatively short lifespans undoubtedly welcome the possibility of receiving a patent as quickly as possible.
“Track One” is expected to go into effect in March 2011.