There are a variety of options for applicants to accelerate their patent application at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is the first in a series of four posts examining how to speed up the examination of a patent application; each post is directed towards a different option at the USPTO. This post is focused on the Track One Examination.
Track One Examination
Track One examination permits an applicant to pay for faster examination and get a final disposition usually in less than one year from the time Track One status is granted, as compared to regular examination which usually takes two to four years. On average, an applicant receives an initial office action within 4 months and final within 8 months. This final disposition can be a Notice of Allowance, a Final Rejection, or a Notice of Abandonment.
The biggest benefit of Track One is the rapid prosecution process. The quick time frame in getting a patent allowed allows for greater certainty in raising funds, marketing a product, or commercializing and taking a product to market. Using such a process, a startup could rapidly develop a patent portfolio while seeking investors.
There are multiple requirements for Track One, including an extra filing fee. The filing fee is currently $4,000 (or $2,000 for a small entity), and is charged in addition to the normal filing, search, publication, and examination fees. Track One also limits the number of claims in an application to 4 independent claims and 30 claims in total.
It is important to note that a limited number of 10,000 applications are allowed into the program each fiscal year, so in the future it is possible that Track One will not be available for a given application. However, between April 2016 and March 2017 9,382 Track One applications were registered.
The prosecution process itself is largely unchanged from a standard application prosecution. No extra examination materials are required, and the standard Examiner interview practice is in practice.