The USPTO unveiled, last Friday, the implementation of track 1, the fast examination track of the proposed three track program; however, until the USPTO can amend the rules to provide a small entity fee for the fast examination, track one is reduced to the old question, do you want it fast or do you want it cheap? In the proposed program, the request for fast examination happens at the time of filing, the application must be filed electronically and must be complete with all fees paid including the fast examination fee, and the application must have no more than four independent claims and 30claims total. The USPTO will start a program with a maximum of 10,000 applications. The catch is that the fast examination fee is $4000 and, since the USPTO does not have fee setting authority (a component of the proposed patent reform), there is no small entity fee.
The good news is there is no requirement for a search as compared to accelerated examination. Consequently, if you need a fast track to a patent, maybe $4000 is not so bad. The patent applicant has to keep up the good work, file the responses on time (an extension of time will kick you out of the program) and be prepared to conduct interviews with the examiner (which, for those of us who believe that an interview is a very useful tool, is no great burden). The reward is a final disposition in twelve months. We will hold until the rulemaking process is finished and then jump in line to be one of the chosen 10,000.