Beginning on November 27, 2009, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") implemented a procedure (the "Project Exchange" program) under which an application can be advanced out of turn (i.e., accorded special status) for examination if the applicant files a petition to make special with the appropriate showing. In addition, the USPTO required that the applicant expressly abandon another co-pending unexamined application. Originally, the USPTO limited the procedure to small entity applicants.
This procedure allowed small entity applicants with multiple applications currently pending before the USPTO to have greater control over the priority with which their applications are examined while also stimulating a reduction of the backlog of unexamined patent applications pending before the USPTO.
Expansion of USPTO Project Exchange Program
The USPTO has decided to expand its "Project Exchange" program to all applicants, not just small entities. Under the expanded Project Exchange program, any applicant with more than one application currently pending at the USPTO can receive expedited review of one application in exchange for withdrawing an unexamined application, provided that the currently pending application was filed prior to the inception of the program. Whereas new patent applications are normally taken up for examination in the order they are filed, applications made special under this program will be advanced in the examination queue.
The expanded Project Exchange will give all applicants with multiple filings greater control over the priority in which their applications are examined and enable priority applications to be examined on an expedited basis. The USPTO expects the Project Exchange program to reduce the backlog of unexamined patent applications pending before the USPTO.
The Patent Exchange program will take effect for all applicants upon publication of the notice in the Federal Register, which is expected in the next few weeks. The program is scheduled to end on December 31, 2010. Therefore, applicants who desire to take advantage of this program must submit the necessary materials before this deadline. Also, the Project Exchange program will be limited to 15 applications per entity through December 31, 2010.