On September 3, 2021, the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) will announce that it is modifying the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program to accept an unlimited number of applications until December 31, 2021.

As explained on USPTO’s website, the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program provides the opportunity for small and micro entities to request prioritized examination of patent applications containing one or more claims to a product or process related to COVID-19 — without having to pay the fees for prioritized examination.

The COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program was implemented in May 2020 to encourage independent inventors and small businesses to bring important and possibly life-saving COVID related inventions to market more quickly, as explained in the USPTO’s announcement at that time. Please see our blogs here and here for further background information.

With this announcement, the USPTO is indicating that applications that are compliant with the pilot program’s requirements will be accepted until December 31, 2021, even if more than 500 requests have already been approved.

As of August 16, 2021, the USPTO had accepted 476 applications into the program, and there were 52 requests to participate that had not yet been acted upon. Accordingly, to ensure that applicants are not refused access to the pilot program due to delays in the USPTO’s consideration of the requests to participate, the USPTO is extending the program to December 31, 2021.

During the time between now and December 31, 2021, the USPTO will evaluate whether to terminate or further extend the program. Even if the pilot program is terminated, applications accepted into the pilot program on or before December 31, 2021, will keep their status and continue to be examined under prioritized examination status until that status is terminated for one or more reasons as set forth in the COVID-19 Track One Notice.

The extension of the USPTO’s COVID-19 Pilot Program will “ensure that applicants are not refused access to the pilot program” and is part of the USPTO’s efforts to support independent inventors and small businesses.

Please contact us if you have questions about whether your patent application would qualify for this program.