Patent prosecution—everything that takes places after a patent application is filed until it issues—can be a complex and lengthy process. A majority of time and attention is usually spent on getting a patent application drafted and filed, and rightfully so, but clients often ask: “How long until we hear from the patent office?,” “How soon could this application be granted?,” and “What do we need to do next?” This article is Part 1 of an educational series intended to help answer those questions and provide a birds-eye view of the process for obtaining patent protection in the United States and worldwide.
Part 1 in our series details the process of turning a patent application into a granted patent in the United States, and Part 2 will outline the process of obtaining patent protection in other countries.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced that the Expanded Collaborative Search Pilot (CSP) program, which was enacted in November 2017, has been extended to October 31, 2022. The Expanded CSP affords applicants the ability to get patent applications issued more quickly while enhancing the quality of the patent due to the more comprehensive nature of the patent search that results from the Expanded CSP. Under the Expanded CSP, patent applicants may request that multiple partner intellectual property (IP) offices (e.g., the Japanese or Korean IP offices) coordinate an exchange of prior art search results with each other prior to issuing an office action. The Expanded CSP built on the success of the Initial CSP, which facilitated sharing of search results of related counterpart applications between the USPTO and a single designated partner IP office (e.g., the Japanese or Korean IP office). The current partner IP offices are the JPO and KIPO, but the USPTO plans to announce future partner IP offices once they become designated.
1. Why do entrepreneurs need to protect their technical and scientific innovations?
If you start a grocery store, you probably are not selling a technical or scientific innovation, so your goal is to execute better than the grocery store down the street. You likely will compete on price, quality, and service. Businesses that develop technical and scientific innovations, such as Tesla, Apple, and Novartis, as well as startups, spend enormous sums of time and capital developing the next big thing. These companies directly capitalize on that innovation. Ideally, nobody other than the entrepreneur who developed that innovation can commercialize it, giving the entrepreneur the exclusive right to own and potentially build the protected market/product. Think of it another way—why spend all this time and effort to move the market forward just to let a competitor use it…and reap the benefits of your hard work!
Indeed, parties looking to acquire an innovative company (or analysts for an IPO) take a hard look at whether the technical and scientific innovation of that company is adequately protected. Unfortunately, poorly protected innovation can kill enterprise value and even kill a deal. Venture capitalists, private equity, angel investors, and others will make similar analyses because they strive for a positive return on their investments through an acquisition or IPO.
Updated August 3, 2020
The coronavirus seems to be exerting itself upon all phases of life, and your intellectual property is not immune. While you, your families, your friends, and your colleagues are getting comfortable with the new normal of social-distancing, intellectual property (IP) offices worldwide have also been grappling with how to handle the impact of coronavirus (also referred to as COVID-19). Responses from IP offices around the world are varied and evolving, as the landscape changes in each individual country and on a global scale. For example, some offices, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), India, and the United Kingdom, have automatically extended deadlines, while others have refrained from any extensions but permit, under certain circumstances, remedial action for rights lost due to effects of the coronavirus. While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has not provided for automatic extensions, certain deadlines associated with patent and trademark filings and fees may be extended for small and micro entities provided the delay in filing or payment was due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, the USPTO will waive the petition fee to revive certain lost rights resulting from a failure to take action due to effects of the coronavirus.
In recognition of the high interest level in the program, the PTO recently announced it is increasing the annual limit on Track One Prioritized Examinations from 10,000 to 12,000, effective September 3, 2019, to prevent exceeding the limit this fiscal year, which concludes on September 30. 12,000 will be the new limit going forward as well.
Maximizing the protection and value of intellectual property assets is often the cornerstone of a business's success and even survival. In this blog, Nutter's Intellectual Property attorneys provide news updates and practical tips in patent portfolio development, IP litigation, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and licensing.