First Patent Granted Under Accelerated Review

March 28, 2007

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Here's an event to toast to tonight: a bureaucracy improved! A patent now issues in six months — 18 months sooner than under the regular process. Whether you invent in your garage, basement or loft or you labor in a corporation, this is good news.

The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced it has issued the first patent under its accelerated examination program, which began in August 2006.

"Accelerated examination allows any innovator in any technology to get a full patent review and decision within 12 months," noted Jon Dudas, undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. In return for cutting the time to obtain a patent decision by 25 percent to 75 percent, 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."

The first patent under the accelerated examination program, for a printer ink gauge, was filed with the USPTO on September 29, 2006, and was awarded 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.

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 that indicates the invention is not new or is obvious (known as "prior art") is identified, as well as for 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.

Now that we know the thoughtful USPTO employees are thinking about our beloved inventors and tinkerers (i.e., potential inventors), we hope they can also give us some new guidance on the difference between "ingenious and obvious," a concern IMT has voiced before.

For the creative people among us, before you fill in the details of how your widget or process will transition from concept to marketable item, you will want to research past patents prior to investing resources — be they money or effort.

Check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office online for FAQs and answers, how-to's, or even to apply for a patent online. Duke University provides information for European and Japanese patents in addition to older American patents. The page for European patents includes a link to all the countries that have patent offices.

Don't be shy about checking to see if your better idea has been thought about and acted on before. We need all the industry, jobs and higher standard of living we can achieve.

Guidelines for applicants under the new accelerated examination procedure can be found HERE.


Obvious or Ingenious?

Avoid Dr. Frankenstein's Fate

That's Patently Untrue! (common patent misconceptions)

How A Patent is Born

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