TAKEAWAY: The Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program allows applicants to expedite examination of patent applications for innovations that increase semiconductor device production, reduce semiconductor manufacturing costs, and strengthen the semiconductor supply chain.

The USPTO on December 1, 2023, announced a new Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program (hereinafter “Pilot Program”) to support the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act of 2022. Under the Pilot Program, qualifying patent applications directed to processes or apparatuses for manufacturing semiconductors will be advanced out of turn for examination (granted special status) until a first Office action is issued, without any additional cost to the applicant, in an effort to encourage innovation and incentivize investments in semiconductor manufacturing.

To be considered for this Pilot Program, an applicant must file a petition to make special using the petition form. The petition to make special must be filed either with the application, during entry into the national stage under 35 U.S.C. §371, or within 30 days of the filing date or entry date of the application. The fee for the petition to make special under 37 CFR §1.102(d) will be waived for an applicant through this program. Accordingly, an applicant is neither required to submit a petition fee nor satisfy other requirements of the accelerated examination program or the prioritized examination program.

To satisfy the technology requirements, eligible applications must include at least one claim that covers a process or an apparatus for manufacturing a semiconductor device, and that corresponds to one or more of the technical concepts within H10 or H01L in the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system. To be eligible under the Pilot Program, a patent application must be either a non-continuing original utility nonprovisional application or an original utility nonprovisional application that claims the benefit of only one prior filed U.S. nonprovisional application or an international application designating the U.S. In addition, priority claims to any number of provisional patent applications or foreign patent applications will not affect eligibility for this pilot program.

The USPTO has been accepting petitions to participate in the Pilot Program since December 1, 2023, and the program is expected to continue until either December 2, 2024, or until the USPTO accepts 1,000 grantable petitions, whichever is reached first. Applicants should consider whether their inventions are eligible under the Pilot Program and proactively file applications with a request to participate in the Pilot Program.