The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced a pilot program for fast-tracking appeals of applications for original utility, design, or plant patents. The so-called “Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program” is intended to provide a vehicle for advancing applications during the ex parte appeals process before the PTAB (Patent Trial and Appeal Board).

According to the USPTO, the intended goal is to reach a decision on the appeal within six months from the date an appeal is entered into the Pilot Program. In order to take advantage of the program, and appellant must file a petition, accompanied by a non-refundable $400 petition fee. The petition may be filed once the PTAB issues a notice that the appeal has been docketed.

The Pilot Program is currently slated to run until July 2, 2021 or until 500 petitions are granted, whichever occurs earlier. The USPTO intends to evaluate the Pilot Program at the end of this evaluation period to determine if it should be made permanent or if changes are necessary to continue the program. Factors the USPTO will consider are impacts the Pilot Program may have on other appeals and utilization of the Pilot Program.

If the Track One prioritized examination program is any indicator, we expect the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program to be a success. The Track One prioritized examination program, which provides for prioritized examination for utility and plant patent applications, has been a highly successful program at the Patent Office. Track One pendency from Petition Grant to Allowance is currently running at about 5.1 months for fiscal year 2020. Pendency to Final Disposition is only slightly longer at 6.4 months, well within the one-year target set by the USPTO.