Many of our clients – especially early stage startup companies – have a need to protect their new technology very quickly. Fortunately, the U.S. Patent Office and many other patent offices have implemented relatively new, very effective mechanisms for the speedy examination of patent applications. In the U.S., for example, for an additional patent office fee of about $2,000, small entities can arrange to start negotiations with the patent office within about three months from the filing date of a new patent application. This fee is about $4,000 for larger corporate entities, and about $1,000 for patent applicants who qualify as “micro-entities” under U.S. Patent Office rules.

The benefits associated with pursuing expedited review under the U.S. Patent Office’s “Track 1” program extend beyond just receiving expedited handling of patent applications – we have generally seen a noticeably higher early-allowance rate for these patent applications. This may be due to the fact that the applications tend to be routed to more senior patent examiners who are more experienced at working with patent applicants to quickly finalize negotiations. In many cases, we have had these expedited patent applications allowed in less than 6 months, and recently had two applications allowed in about 2 months.

Once the U.S. Patent Office allows particular patent claims, it is possible to pursue expedited patent protection in any of a large number of foreign countries under the Patent Prosecution Highway program. Under this program, participating patent offices, such as the European, Australian, Chinese, Canadian, Japanese, Korean and Russian patent offices have agreed to expedite handling of patent applications that have been allowed by other participating patent offices. Although the speed of this process can vary significantly from country to country, some countries, such as Australia, offer extremely fast processing of patent applications under this program. In some recent cases, we have had Australian patent applications allowed in less than a month after filing a request for expedited handling under the Patent Prosecution Highway.

So if you need to obtain patent protection quickly, we would strongly recommend considering pursuing expedited patent protection under the U.S. Patent Office’s Track I program and the Patent Prosecution Highway program. In many circumstances, this can result in the allowance of U.S. and foreign patents within less than a year.