Guest post from the USPTO:
What is the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program?
Under the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program, appellants can have their ex parte appeals advanced out of turn. Appellants simply file a petition to request fast-track review of their ex parte appeal and pay a $420 petition fee. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) has set a target of issuing a decision within six months from the date the petition is granted and the ex parte appeal is entered into the pilot program.
The Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program is effective on July 2, 2020. This means an appellant may file a petition for inclusion of an ex parte appeal in the pilot program starting on July 2, 2020.
Read the Federal Register Notice here.
To qualify for fast-track status, the following four conditions must be met:
- Application type: The application must be an original utility, design, or plant nonprovisional application.
- Status of appeal: The appeal for fast-track status must be an ex parte appeal for which a notice of appeal has been filed and a PTAB docketing notice has been issued by the USPTO (i.e., the appeal is pending before the PTAB).
- Petition: The appellant must file a petition under 37 CFR 41.3 via the USPTO’s electronic filing system identifying the application and appeal by application number and appeal number, respectively, for which fast-track review is sought.
o Form: Petition—Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program (Form PTO/SB/451)
- Fee: The appellant must pay a $420 fee under 37 CFR 41.20(a) with the petition.
The Board has set a target of issuing a decision within six months from the date that a petition for fast-track review is granted. Since the program’s inception in July 2020 through December 30, 2020, PTAB has decided 69 fast-track appeals with an average decision time of about 2 months from the date the petition for fast-track review was granted, and about 6 months from the date PTAB received the appeal. Thus, the overall decision time is at least 50% faster than the average appeal time for cases not under fast-track review, which currently stands at about 13 months at the end of calendar year 2020.
The USPTO has limited the number of granted petitions to 125 per quarter for the duration of the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program, which is expected to run for one year.
The table shows the status of the number of granted petitions per quarter and total for the pilot duration, as well as open slots available during each time period. A “quarter” under this pilot program is defined as a three-month period measured from the start date of the pilot program. For example, if the pilot program has a start date of June 1, then a “quarter” spans the three months from June 1 to August 31.
|As of date||Petitions received in quarter||Petitions granted in quarter||Available petition slots in quarter||Petitions held in abeyance||Total granted petitions|
|Q4 (starting 4/1/2021)||4/30/2021||16||15||110||0||160|
The PTAB may exercise discretion to grant a small number of petitions above the 125-petition limit. Should a significant number of petitions exceeding the limit be filed in a quarter, such petitions will be held in abeyance and decided, in order of receipt, in a subsequent quarter.
Hearings for fast-track appeals
Hearings in ex parte appeals accorded fast-track status will be conducted according to ordinary PTAB hearing procedures.
An appellant who does not wish to attend the hearing at the designated place, date, and time may waive the hearing. An appellant may not reschedule a hearing and remain in the pilot program.
Currently, hearings of appeals are being conducted by telephone only, until further notice.