Decreased filing volumes and proactive administrative steps have made the current COVID-19 emergency an opportune time for the filing of patent and trademark applications, as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) shows its ongoing support for innovation and entrepreneurship.
A new Pilot Program will allow small or micro-entity patent applicants to seek accelerated examination without payment of the fees associated with other prioritized examination. To qualify, the claims of a patent application must be directed to a product or process “for use in the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19,” which would be further subject to FDA approval. As an additional benefit to patent applicants, the USPTO aims to provide a final disposition within six months if applicants timely respond to communications/office actions from the USPTO; an outstanding benefit since patent examinations normally stretch out to two to three years.
Acknowledging that the COVID-19 outbreak is an emergency that has “prejudiced the rights of applicants, registrants, trademark owners, or others appearing before the Office in trademark matters,” the USPTO has issued a second extension for trademark owners impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak who are unable to meet filing deadlines and fees due between March 27, 2020, and May 31, 2020, if filed on or before June 1, 2020, together with “a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to the COVID-19 outbreak,…such that the outbreak materially interfered with timely filing or payment,” as defined in the Notice. Note that only days remain to take advantage of these exceptions.
One of the greatest benefits to applicants may arise from the simple fact that the number of filings is way down. Since the USPTO has decentralized it examination system and has examiners working all around the country, there are many more examiners now relative to the number of applications. New applications for trademarks, in particular, appear to be significantly reduced since the outbreak of COVID-19. It also appears that many applications are reaching examination and proceeding toward registration in less than three months, which is less than half of the time mark owners are usually advised to expect from the USPTO.
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