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USPTO Grants First Patent Under New Accelerated Review Option

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Patent Issues in 6 Months, 18 Months Sooner Than Under Regular Process

The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today issued the first patent under its accelerated examination program that began in August 2006. The patent, for a printer ink gauge, was filed with the USPTO on September 29, 2006, and was awarded to Brother, Inc on March 13, 2007. Average review time for applications in the ink cartridge technology area is 25.4 months. This patent issued in 6 months, a time savings of 18 months for the patent holder.

"Accelerated examination allows any innovator in any technology to get a full patent review and decision within twelve months. In return for cutting the time to obtain a patent decision by 25-75%, the agency asks the applicant for a better application and process. Inventors who want speedy results can get them, so long as they help improve the process."

To be eligible for accelerated examination, applicants are required to provide specific information, known as an examiner support document, so that review of the application can be completed rapidly and accurately. In return, the USPTO issues a final decision by the examiner within 12 months on whether their application for a patent will be granted or denied.

Any invention that is new, useful, non-obvious, and which is accompanied by a written description disclosing how to make and use it can be patented. Applicants’ submissions enjoy a presumption of patentability. Thus, to reject an application the USPTO is responsible for ensuring that any evidence indicating that the invention is not new or is obvious (known as "prior art") is identified and explaining why the invention is not patentable in view of the evidence.

Applicants have a duty to disclose to the USPTO relevant prior art of which they are aware. However, applicants are not required to search for prior art. Under the USPTO’s accelerated examination procedure, applicants are required to conduct a search of the prior art, to submit all prior art that is closest to their invention, and explain what the prior art teaches and how their invention is different.In addition to providing and explaining any prior art references, applicants must explicitly state how their invention is useful and must show how the written description supports the claimed invention.

Under the accelerated examination program, the number of claims allowed in each application is limited and time periods for responding to most USPTO communications are shortened.

The accelerated examination procedure is designed to give applicants quality patents in less time. In exchange for quick examination, patent examiners will receive more focused and detailed information about the invention and the closest prior art from the applicants. This increased disclosure upfront by applicants will help examiners more quickly make the correct decision about whether a claimed invention deserves a patent.

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