The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a new pilot program to expedite the examination and prosecution of patent applications related to COVID-19. With a nod to the important role independent inventors and small businesses play in innovation and economic growth, the USPTO indicated its new COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program will initially be available only to applicants that qualify as a small entity or a micro entity. The pilot program will waive the fees typically associated with a request for expedited examination, allowing the USPTO to focus resources on those applicants that may be resource constrained.

To qualify for the new COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program, applications must claim products or processes related to COVID-19 and such products or processes must be subject to FDA approval for use relating to COVID-19. As set forth in the May 7, 2020 Federal Register Notice, “[s]uch approvals may include, but are not limited to, an Investigational New Drug (IND) application, an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE), a New Drug Application (NDA), a Biologics License Application (BLA), a Premarket Approval (PMA), or an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).” More details regarding eligibility and the pilot program can be found in the Federal Register Notice.

“Accelerating examination of COVID-19-related patent applications, without additional fees, will permit such innovators to bring important and possibly life-saving treatments to market,” said Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.