By Dennis Crouch
The USPTO's new Commissioner for Patents is Peggy Focarino. In a recent post to Dir. Kappos Blog, Commissioner Focariono provided a report on the PTO's "Track I Prioritized Patent Examination Program." Under Track I, a patent applicant can complete a simple one page form and pay a $4,800 fee to have their patents processed quickly. The goal is that patents will be "processed to completion" within 12-months of an application entering the Track I program. Track I was authorized by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act that was enacted on September 16, 2011. The program became effective on September 26, 2011.
As of January 3, 1,694 Track I petitions applications had been filed and the Office has granted 99% of the petitions it has decided. First office actions are being sent – on average – about one month after approval of the petition. So far, the longest delay has been 70 days from grant of the petition to mailing of the first office action.
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This morning I identified the first Track I patent issued thus far – U.S. Patent No. 8,094,942 owned by Google and directed to a method and system of character recognition for overlapping textual user input. The application was filed on September 30, 2011 along with a Track I request. The request was granted on November 1, 2011. The applicant then filed an IDS and a proactive terminal disclaimer associated with a parent case. The case was handled by a primary examiner who had handled the parent case and who allowed the claims with examiner-proposed amendments following an interview.
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Commissioner Focariono added the following note to her post: "For those applicants or practitioners concerned about whether Track I applications will be treated differently from others in terms of grant/denial rate, our examiners are being given exactly the same training, credits and incentives to accurately examine Track I cases as for all other cases, and no training, credits or incentives are being given to bias examiner decisions in any way. And as for the data, given the statistics provided above, so far there is no basis to believe there is any difference in result for Track I versus non-Track I processing, other than the significantly faster responsiveness."