The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just announced it has extended the After Final Consideration Pilot program (AFCP 2.0) and the Quick Path Information Disclosure Statement program (QPIDS), which are now set to run until September 30, 2015.

For automotive, manufacturing, and other companies, the AFCP 2.0 and QPIDS programs can help reduce patent-related expenses and shorten the patent process by addressing different late-stage patent prosecution issues.

The AFCP 2.0 program has been offered in various iterations since 2012 as a way for patent applicants to present claim amendments that address rejections in Final Office Actions. Under prior practice, after-final claim amendments typically would not be considered by an examiner without filing a Request for Continued Examination (RCE), which could be expensive (up to $1,700 under the current USPTO fee schedule) and could delay examination. Under AFCP 2.0, examiners are afforded additional, previously unavailable time to search and consider after-final claim amendments. Though situation and examiner dependent, the program has proven to be a useful tool for advancing applications and reaching allowance without the added cost or delay otherwise associated with filing an RCE.

As part of its announcement, the USPTO also indicated that AFCP 2.0 will include a new “feature” in the shape of a USPTO form to help examiners more clearly indicate how each AFCP 2.0 request has been treated. The USPTO expects examiners to begin using form PTO-2323 in November 2014.

As before, participation in AFCP 2.0 requires (1) a non-broadening amendment to at least one independent claim, (2) completing form PTO/SB/434, and (3) the applicant or legal representative being available for an interview with the examiner. No fees are required. For more information regarding AFCP 2.0, please see our post from October of last year and the USPTO’s AFCP page.

The QPIDS program has been offered since 2012 as a way for applicants to submit Information Disclosure Statements (IDS) after allowance, but prior to issuance, of a patent application. The program may be especially helpful for automotive companies with global patent portfolios when prior art references are cited in a foreign application. Under prior practice to have a post-allowance IDS considered, an applicant needed to file an RCE, which as described above, could be expensive and could delay review or allowance of an application. Under QPIDS, a post-allowance IDS may be submitted with a “conditional” RCE and related fee – provided the IDS does not require reopening prosecution, the RCE fee will be refunded. It should be noted, however, that all other IDS requirements, including reference timing, must still be satisfied. For more information, please see the USPTO’s QPIDS page.