In November, the PTO announced a pilot program where small entity patent applicants could receive special, accelerated patent examination for a pending patent application in exchange for abandoning another unexamined pending application. The program would encourage applicants to review their pending applications to determine if there were any that could be abandoned, thereby reducing the PTO backlog of unexamined applications. In return, the PTO would take up another of that entity’s applications out-of-turn and examine it in an accelerated fashion.
Earlier this week, the PTO announced that it was significantly expanding the program. The program is now open to all applicants, not just small entities. The PTO is limiting the program to 15 applications per applicant. To participate, applicants must submit the necessary materials prior to December 31, 2010.
This may be the first of several PTO initiatives that could implement a quasi-deferred/accelerated examination regime. The PTO used to have the “petition to make special” procedure such that when an applicant or invention met certain requirements, the applicant could petition to have the application “made special” and examined out of order. The PTO has several other initiatives where technologies that are classified as “green” or the like may also be examined out-of-turn.
A true deferred examination procedure would be more efficient than these new procedures. Deferred examination probably requires action from Congress, which seems more and more unlikely.