On May 17, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) announced the expansion of one initiative to reduce examination backlogs, the Application Exchange Program. The Application Exchange Program now allows all patent applicants to request and receive expedited review of one patent application in exchange for abandoning another unexamined patent application within certain guidelines. This program can be a useful tool to advance prosecution in important cases.
In recent months, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has introduced several initiatives to reduce its backlog of pending patent applications. One of these initiatives, the “Application Exchange Program,” was first introduced in the Fall of 2009. As initially introduced, the program permitted small entity patent applicants (for example, most small businesses, research institutions, individual inventors, etc.) to receive an expedited review of one patent application in exchange for abandoning another patent unexamined application.
The program has now been expanded to all applicants. The program will continue to operate as described above: any applicant can request that one application be moved ahead in the examination queue in exchange for abandoning another unexamined application, within the following guidelines:
- An applicant can only request expedited reviews of up to 15 applications.
- Both the application to receive an expedited review and the application to be abandoned must have been filed before the October 1, 2009 inception date of the program.
- The request must be received by the program ending date of December 31, 2010 (unless the program is extended).
Applicants may find the Application Exchange Program useful in several situations, particularly upon realizing the importance of an invention (or lack of it) after filing a patent application. For example, it could be beneficial to receive an expedited review of an application for a commercially successful product in exchange for abandoning another application for a product that has received less interest. Similarly, it could be beneficial to receive an expedited review of an application related to a new area of research in exchange for abandoning another application related to an area of research that has become less appealing.