USPTO Expands Availability of Prioritized Examination for Patents December 22nd, 2011Patents/IP by: John R. Harris The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently expanded the availability of “prioritized examination” for pending patent applications. Prioritized examination is a procedure that allows a patent to be examined and, if patentable, issued more rapidly. Some patent applicants may benefit by obtaining patents more quickly. On December 19, 2011, the USPTO amended its regulations (37 CFR § 1.102(e)) to allow a request for prioritized examination to be made with or after a request for continued examination (RCE). Before this rule change, prioritized examination was not available unless filed early in the patent process. This new rule opens up the possibilities for accelerated examination for patent applications that are already in process. Prioritized examination, available for a government fee of $4,800 ($2,400 for small entities)(attorneys’ fees separate) is intended to achieve a goal of twelve (12) months to final disposition for utility or plant applications containing no more than four independent claims, no more than 30 total claims, and containing no multiple dependent claims. Following passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act in September, 16, 2011, the USPTO began accepting requests for prioritized examination of patent applications through its “Track I” prioritized patent examination program. Track I, which is part of the USPTO’s Three-Track Program, is supposed to provide applicants with greater control over when their applications are examined and promote greater efficiency in the patent examination process. Under the procedure set forth in this new RCE rule, once an application is accorded special status after the filing of a request for continued examination (RCE), it will be placed on the examiner’s special docket throughout its entire course of continued prosecution before the examiner until a final disposition is reached in the application. More information is available at the USPTO web site. For more information, contact any attorney in the MMM IP Group.