Perhaps wishing to follow broadband providers, the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has issued a consultation paper on the possibility of establishing a “superfast” patent application process that could see patents granted in as little as 90 days.

The time that it takes for a patent to be granted can vary widely from country to country and from case to case but generally it is not a quick process. A timescale of two to five years is common and it is not unknown for some applications, especially those filed with the European Patent Office (EPO), to take much longer.

For some applicants the long processing time of patent applications is not a problem and may even be a good thing. This is particularly so in technologies such as pharmaceuticals where there is a long lead time between an invention being made and a product coming to market. For companies in these fields the lengthy patent application process provides plenty of time to fine tune the patent as the product is developed.

For other companies this delay can be a problem, particularly if the product has only a short life-cycle or if counterfeits are likely to appear almost immediately. For that reason a number of patent offices (including the UKIPO, EPO and the USPTO) have developed processes for accelerating applications upon request. In some cases the application process may be accelerated as of right, in others a fee may be payable, or there may have to be special circumstances.

Currently the UKIPO offers a number of ways of speeding up the patent application process and it is possible to get a UK patent granted in less than a year. If implemented, the new superfast patent process could see patents granted in around 90 days. But this would come at a price – literally – as the UKIPO is proposing additional fees of up to £4000 which is a hefty amount to get a patent granted in 3 months rather than the currently possible year or so. Certainly this will not be a process suitable for everyone, and even with the current systems accelerated prosecution is not always the best option for every applicant.

Details of the proposed system are available on the UKIPO website at www.ipo.gov.uk/consult-2013-superfast. The public consultation period lasts until 12th June 2013.