When a utility patent application is filed in the United States, it is categorized and put into a specific queue for examination. This is logical so that the person reviewing dishwasher patent applications is not reviewing patent applications for spinal surgery techniques. Once a patent application has been categorized and put into the proper queue, the application needs to wait until it gets to the front of the queue. Once at the front of the queue, the claims in the application are substantively examined and get compared with the prior art by the patent examiner with the appropriate expertise. The outcome of this review is either a notice of allowance or a first office action stating reasons why at least one claim was not allowed.
As the queue lengths vary, the patent application for an improvement to a dishwasher may reach the front of the queue in ten months but the spinal surgery technique may have to wait five years. There are a number of ways that a long queue wait can be avoided. One way to obtain accelerated examination is to use a positive search report from the Patent Cooperation Treaty process to enter into the Patent Prosecution Highway program. Another way to get expedited handling is to pay an additional fee for the Track One program. Applications with a Track One request may receive an initial examination within three or four months of filing the application.
The option to accelerate an application needs to be discussed while developing the non-provisional patent application in order to minimize costs and optimize the acceleration.