During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) made multiple efforts to assist patent applicants that were affected by the pandemic (see our previous blog coverage here). Now, as the pandemic continues to wreak global havoc, the USPTO has assumed a more formal role in efforts to battle the deadly virus by implementing a pilot program that provides financial flexibility for applicants whose inventions are geared to help combat COVID-19. This pilot program began on September 17, 2020 and will run for 12 months, though it may be extended depending on a number of factors, including an ongoing evaluation of its effectiveness. The program is specific to provisional patent applications, which we encourage innovators to keep in mind during the continuing pandemic.
Asserting that “its mission to issue high-quality patents to inventors goes hand-in-hand with dissemination of important scientific information to the public to promote further innovation,” the USPTO implemented this pilot program to expedite the dissemination of important information pertaining to inventions that have been and are currently being developed to fight COVID-19. Under the pilot program, the USPTO will not require applicants to pay the filing fee for a provisional patent application until a corresponding non-provisional patent application is filed, which must be done no later than one year from the filing date of the provisional patent application. The provisional application filing fee, which currently ranges between $70-280, is normally required at the time of filing of the provisional application.
In exchange for the deferred filing fee, the applicant agrees to allow the USPTO to make the full content of the provisional patent application publicly available in a searchable USPTO “collaboration database.” To qualify for the program, the invention described in the provisional patent application must be “a product or process related to COVID-19.” The invention must also be subject to approval for COVID-19-related use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To participate in the program, a Certification and Request Form must be filed with the provisional application.
The USPTO will not require an applicant to pay the provisional application filing fee later if they do not file a corresponding non-provisional patent application. Indeed, the USPTO is welcoming patent applicants who may not even be interested in pursuing a patent but desire to make information about their invention publicly available to others who are participating in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
Please contact the patent attorneys at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn if you are interested in taking advantage of this program or have any questions about it.