In an effort to reduce the backlog of patent applications, the USPTO has created a temporary additional basis under which a small entity applicant may have an application accorded special status for examination. Applications accorded special status will be placed in front of the Examiner for initial examination more quickly than other applications, but the examination process itself will not include expedited response periods. To take advantage of this program, an applicant who qualifies as a small entity can expressly abandon one application and file a petition seeking special status for a second application. Both applications must be unexamined, must have been filed earlier than October 1, 2009, and must either be owned by the same party or have at least one common inventor. Further, the abandoned application cannot be revived and fees associated with the abandoned application cannot be recovered. The program is now in effect and is being adopted on a temporary basis until February 28, 2010, although the USPTO may choose to extend it.
Additional details and requirements are available from the USPTO website via the following link.