The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) kicked off two new programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency developed these programs, the COVID-19 Prioritized Patent Examination Pilot Program and the COVID-19 Prioritized Trademark Examination Program, to help speed the approval of medical products and services that would provide aid during the pandemic.
Can the feds change how they review patent and trademark applications?
Under 37 CFR 2.148 the Director may suspend certain rules. This provision allows the USPTO to alter how it reviews applications in certain situations. The agency has stated it considers the COVID-19 outbreak to meet the definition of an “extraordinary situation” as used within this provision. As such, it allows for these types of programs.
How do applicants apply for this program?
Applicants file an application and then filed a Petition to the Director with the newly assigned serial number that goes along with the application, both done electronically. The program began in June of 2020 and is still available.
What have these programs achieved?
The programs essentially expedited review of applications for products or services that addressed needs resulting from COVID-19. These applications were moved to the front of the line, so to speak, instead of going through the usual process whereby the USPTO reviews applications in order of receipt.
Examples of applications that received expedited review through use of this program include those for medical treatments, vaccines, ventilators, and other technology directly addressing COVID-19. Since their release, the agency reports that the programs have led to 33 patents and granted 129 trademarks.