“USPTO’s Accelerated Examination Program: A Procedure Only for a Few!”

Applicants for U.S. patents are not always aware that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) generally takes two to four years – often even longer – before granting a patent. Although the USPTO has long had a rarely-used program enabling an applicant to request examination of a case out of turn, that program changed markedly in August 2006, when the USPTO implemented a procedure called “Accelerated Examination.”

On March 13, 2007, the USPTO granted the first patent processed under the Accelerated Examination program – U.S. Patent No. 7,188,939, entitled “Ink Cartridge,” to Brother Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha. This was less than six months after Brother’s September 29, 2006 application filing – considerably faster than the 25 months from filing to issuance typically required in the field of ink cartridge technology.

Although Brother’s experience might tempt many patent applicants to request Accelerated Examination, applicants should be aware that doing so comes at a price. The USPTO has imposed numerous substantive and procedural requirements for Accelerated Examination, some of which can be burdensome, expensive, and may have strategic consequences.

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