TAKEAWAY: Small and micro entities’ patent applications claiming a product or process to treat or prevent COVID-19 may seek prioritized examination without additional fees.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the USPTO announced on May 8, 2020, the availability of a new COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program. While applicants can currently request expedited status upon payment of a fee (i.e., Track One prioritized examination), this new pilot program offers eligible applicants the opportunity to request prioritized examination without additional fees.

In order to qualify for the new pilot program, patent applicants must qualify for small or micro entity status, at least one claim of the application must cover a product or process for treatment or prevention of COVID-19, and such product or process must be subject to FDA approval. If the requirements are met, the usual prioritized examination fees (about $1,000 for a micro entity and about $2,000 for a small entity) will be waived.

The USPTO intends to complete examination of an application under this pilot program within 12 months, similar to Track One prioritized examination. The USPTO further emphasized that it will endeavor to reach a final disposition of applications in this program within six months if applicants respond promptly to communications from the USPTO. The COVID-19 pilot program is initially open until the USPTO receives 500 requests but may be extended.

Please see the Federal Register Notice for additional information and criteria regarding the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program.