Oliver & Grimsley, LLC receives questions from time to time regarding the patent process and the time it takes for an application to proceed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The timeframe for a regular application to proceed through the USPTO is on average 2 to 3 years, and in some cases even longer, depending on the subject matter of the application. It is hopeful that with the recent opening of additional satellite offices, the USPTO can reduce the number of applications per examiner and enhance the overall speed with which examiners handle and review pending patent applications.

With the signing of the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, the USPTO moved forward with the plan to open four satellite offices over the next several years. In July 2012, the USPTO opened its first ever satellite office in Detroit, Michigan and more recently, on June 30th, the USPTO opened the Denver, Colorado satellite office. The USPTO will create a regional presence across every continental U.S. time zone with the upcoming addition of two more satellite offices. In 2015, the USPTO plans to open the permanent Dallas, Texas and San Jose, California satellite offices. Through these satellite offices, the USPTO plans to aid inventors in their respective time zones and help to alleviate the backlog at the USPTO Head Quarters, although patent examiners have not yet been hired.

In addition, in order to increase the speed of the patent examination process, the USPTO also initiated two fast-track application options in 2012.  The Fast Track Option for an “accelerated examination” of applications will take, on average, about six months to proceed through the patent office. This option requires the applicant to submit detailed explanations and arguments up front with the filing of the application. Therefore, work that is generally conducted throughout the examination process is submitted upfront with the filing in order to aid the speed at which the application is examined. The Fast Track Option for a “prioritized examination” of applications will take, on average, about one year to proceed through the patent office. These Fast Track Options come with additional costs to the applicant, but do provide the additional speed at which an applicant may seek to have their application proceed through the examination process (depending on the applicant’s circumstances).

At the opening commencement ceremony of the Denver, Colorado satellite office, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee commented that “[w]e are excited to bring our department closer to our customers by opening the doors of this new USPTO satellite office – a one-stop-shop for intellectual property services that will help the Rocky Mountain region’s inventors and entrepreneurs speed their innovative products and technologies into the marketplace.”

In addition, “[b]y retaining and hiring more talented examiners locally, we can further improve the overall quality and transparency of our operations while continuing to reduce patent pendency on a national scale,” said Lee.

While some are doubtful, we will keep our fingers crossed that the USPTO follows through on its intention to hire examiners in order to increase the speed of applications being reviewed in the patent office. In addition, we look forward to the positive effects that satellite offices will have on the patent system as a whole and the benefits that will be conveyed to inventors as they continue to file and proceed through the patent application process.