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4/15/2008
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USPTO Launches Pilot To Expedite Patents

The First Action Interview pilot program will allow certain patent applicants a chance to resolve issues one-on-one early in the process.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced a six-month pilot program to improve the quality and speed of patents.

The USPTO said it will allow applicants to interview with examiners before the USPTO takes action on the merits of an application through a program called the First Action Interview. The program launches April 28. The pilot is limited to electrical computers, digital processing systems, and data processing.

The USPTO expects the program to expedite the patent application procedure by improving communication and giving applicants a chance to resolve issues one-on-one early in the process.

"As we have learned from our Accelerated Examination program, an interview between the applicant and examiner early in the review process can help resolve issues more quickly and expedite a final decision," Jon Dudas, undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the USPTO, said in an announcement. "We believe the enhanced information exchange in the First Action Interview Pilot program will offer dual benefits of reduced pendency and improved patent quality."

Applicants are already allowed to request interviews before an examiner takes action, but it's up to examiners to decide whether to fulfill the request. Examiners can require applicants to identify relevant documents and explain how the invention differs from others.

Through the pilot program, examiners will search for prior art and give applicants information about possible objections or rejections. Applicants will then have 30 days to choose whether they want a first action interview or if they prefer to propose an amendment and file remarks.

Applicants scheduled for interviews must prepare to discuss patentability. If the interview allows the applicant and examiner to agree on all patentability claims, the USPTO will issue a notice of allowance. If the applicant and examiner don't agree, the applicants will receive a notice of requirements, objections, and rejections. The applicant will have 30 days or a month, whichever is longer, to reply.

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