To obtain a patent, a patent applicant must convince the patent examiner that the claimed invention is enabled, useful, novel, non-obvious, and pertains to patentable subject matter. When a patent applicant and a patent examiner reach an impasse, the only recourse for the applicant is to appeal the examiner’s findings to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). However, the appeal process has always been notoriously slow. Indeed, in 2015, the average pendency of an appeal was two-and-a-half years. To remedy this problem, on July 1, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a new “Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program.”
The USPTO set a goal to decide the fast-track appeals under 6 months. This timeline represents a significant improvement over the traditional appeals track. Historically, most patent attorneys tried to avoid PTAB appeals because of the very long pendency. Thus, the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program is a much needed and welcomed change.
The Fast-Track Appeal Pilot Program launched immediately after its announcement. As of July 2, 2020, this pilot program is live. Initially, the USPTO will limit the number of fast-track appeals to 500 per fiscal year. Hopefully, this program becomes a success, and the USPTO will expand this number.