This is the second article of a four part series on fast tracking prosecution through the US Patent Office, focusing on the Accelerated Examination program, you can find part one on Track One prosecution here. Accelerated Examination requires filing a petition (similar to Track One), and applicants can also typically receive a final disposition within one year. The statistics on the speed of prosecution are impressive, the average time from a Petition allowance to a final disposition was approximately 9 months in 2015 . The program guarantees a first Office Action in less than 5 months, and final disposition within 12 months. The cost is quite a bit less than the Track One program, requiring just a $140 petition fee (and even less for small and micro entities).
In contrast to the Track One program, required documents include preexamination search documents and an examination support document prepared by the applicant. That is, the applicant is required to conduct a prior art search against its own application and prepare an examination support document explaining how each of the applicant’s claims is patentable over the identified references. In addition to the preexamination search documents and examination support document, an examiner interview is required before the examiner issues a first Office Action.
The required preexamination search documents and an examination support document mean that applicant’s utilizing the program are required to characterize their own claims on the record. This creates an additional burden for the applicant on the front end. However, this procedure may actually be advantageous to the applicant in the long term because applicant has greater clarity going into the prosecution which may lead to an increased likelihood of success. Because the applicant must conduct the prior art search and prepare the examination support document prior to prosecution, the applicant may ultimately decide not to proceed with a costly prosecution which was ultimately doomed to failure.
There are also some additional requirements for the Accelerated Examination program. The application is limited to 3 independent claims and no more than 20 total claims with no multiple dependent claims. Another difference from Track One is that applications filed with RCEs are not eligible for the program. However, Continuation applications are eligible. There is also no limit on the number of applications admitted to accelerated examination each fiscal year, whereas Track One is limited to 10,000.