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USPTO Launches First Stage of Three-Track Examination System

The USPTO has been working on a three-track program for utility patent prosecution.  The program allows applicants to pay additional fees to enter an accelerated track (Track 1).  Track 2 is the standard course of examination, and Track 3 allows applicants to slow down examination while also delaying various fees.  In February, the Patent Office announced it was immediately implementing Track 1.  The prioritized application fee of $4,000 places an application in a special examiner docket to provide a final disposition of the application within twelve months of the prioritized status grant.  A final disposition in any given case means either a notice of allowance, final office action, the applicant filing a request for continued examination or notice of appeal, declaration of an interference, or abandonment.  Eligibility for Track 1 requires an application with no more than four independent claims, and thirty claims total.  Importantly, the prioritized status is forfeited without refund if an applicant ever requests an extension of time to respond to an office action.

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