The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has launched a pilot program to prioritize and expedite appeals of rejections on patent applications directed to inventions related to COVID-19. Under the program, the USPTO will grant up to 500 petitions with the goal of delivering opinions within six months of grant of a petition. Decisions regarding whether the petition will be granted can be expected in about two days. No petition fee is required.
To qualify for the program, the patent application must be directed to a product and/or process subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating or preventing COVID-19. For example, investigational new drugs, biologics and/or devices subject to emergency use authorizations or premarket approval would qualify. The appeal must
be an ex parte appeal pending before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. This means that, although the petition to expedite the appeal is free, the appeal itself is subject to normal fees.
The appeals program joins several other initiatives for inventions related to COVID-19, including the COVID-19 prioritized examination pilot program, the deferred-fee provisional patent application pilot program and associated collaboration database, and the COVID-19 prioritized trademark examination program.
The USPTO also recently announced a special category of its Patent for Humanity Program for inventions that address the COVID-19 pandemic. This program provides incentives for patent applicants and licensees whose inventions track, prevent, diagnose or treat COVID-19. Award winners receive a certificate to accelerate USPTO processing for one eligible matter, as well as public recognition of their work. Acceleration certificates are transferable to third parties, including for compensation, meaning that winners can leverage their award to obtain funds to further advance their inventions and bring those inventions to market.