Today, Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced new details on its “Three-Track” program  designed to enable applicants to choose the speed with which their patent application is processed. A notice to be posted in the Federal Register on Friday lays out plans for implementation of “Track One,” which will give applicants the opportunity for prioritized examination of a patent within 12 months of its filing date for a proposed fee of $4,000. Public comments on a number of different proposed requirements for participation in Track One will be accepted for 30 days after the notice is published.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke highlighted the “Three-Track” patent examination program, first published for public comment in June 2010, at the White House’s launch of the “Startup America” initiative  earlier this week.
“The Patent and Trademark Office plays a key role in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship,” Locke said. “This new system will bring the most valuable patents, as determined by inventors, to market faster and will help shrink the backlog by catering to the business needs of America’s innovators.”
For smaller entities, the USPTO is working to offer a 50 percent discount on any filing fee associated with Track One, as it does with many other standard processing fees. The patent reform legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate would enable the USPTO to set its own fees and thereby extend this discount to small entity applicants.
The USPTO also announced today a new effort to eliminate the “tail” of backlog applications that were more than 16 months old at the beginning of the fiscal year and had not yet received a first office action, known as “Clearing the Oldest Patent Applications” (or COPA). This initiative is a critical first step in reaching the agency’s strategic goal of providing first office actions on all new applications in an average of 10 months from their date of filing by 2014.
Over time, COPA and the Three-Track program will help to lower overall patent pendency and speed up the time it takes for applicants to get a decision on their patent applications. Complete Press Release :