On June 29th, 2016, the USPTO announced the Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program to allow expedited examination of patent applications that pertain to cancer immunotherapy. Under the Program and after proper petition, the USPTO has examined qualifying applications out of turn thereby expediting examination. The Program was implemented to support the National Cancer Moonshot and was scheduled to expire on June 28th, 2017. While only in effect for just less than one year, over 80 petitions for Program participation have been filed and 9 patents have been granted to date. On June 23rd, 2017, the USPTO announced that the Program is now extended until December 31, 2018.
To qualify for the fee-free program, the patent application must contain one or more claims to a method of treating cancer using immunotherapy. The Program is open to:
- Any application that has not yet received a first Office Action;
- Any application where the petition is filed with a Request for Continued Examination; or
- Any application that is not under final rejection if the claimed therapy is the subject of an active Investigational New Drug (IND) application that has entered Phase II or Phase III (FDA) clinical trials.
Additional information and the appropriate forms can be found at this USPTO web address.
The USPTO also announced on June 23rd that it may further extend the Program (with or without modifications) or terminate it depending on feedback received, continued interest, and program effectiveness.