Friday, April 15, 2011

Accelerated Examination about to start

A new accelerated patent application examination program is beginning May 4, 2011. Applicants can obtain accelerated examination for eligible patent applications upon payment of an appropriate fee.

The basics:

- The application must be filed on or after May 4, 2011. If a patent applicant has a patent pending prior to this time, the applicant can still take advantage of the accelerated examination program by filing a continuation on or after May 4, 2011.

- U.S. national stage entry patent applications from PCT patent applications are not eligible for prioritized examination. However, a continuation patent application filed from such a U.S. national stage entry patent application may be eligible.

- The fee will be $4,130. No small entity fee reduction.

- A publication fee of $300 is also required, normally required when the patent is issued.

- The claims are limited to no more than 30 total claims, of which no more than four can be independent.

- The application must contain a signed Declaration and include all USPTO fees that are due when filing.

- The number of accelerated applications is limited to 10,000 patent applications for the current year. - Requests for non-publication are not allowed

- Extensions of time are not allowed.

The USPTO states it will provide a final disposition of a patent application through this program within 12 months of the accelerated examination request. “Final disposition” is defined as:
1) Mailing a Notice of Allowance
2) Mailing a final Office Action
3) Applicant filing a Notice of Appeal
4) Declaring an interference
5) Applicant filing a Request for Continued Examination (RCE)
6) Applicant abandoning the patent application.

Typical examination takes 3 years or longer depending on the technology area. The program provides significant acceleration of the examination process. Accelerated examination can be particularly valuable in technology areas that rapidly moving. Accelerated examination can also be valuable to start-ups that need to rapidly protect their technology. Extensions of time for responding to Office Actions during the examination process are still allowed but that will remove the application from the accelerated examination program.

Friday, April 8, 2011

U.S. Government Shutdown Looms: Effect on Patent Filing and Prosecution

We have received the following press release from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

USPTO Prepares for Possible Government Shutdown

In the event of a government shutdown on April 9, 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will remain open and continue to operate as usual for a period of six business days – through Monday, April 18, 2011 -- because the USPTO has enough available reserves, not linked to the current fiscal year, to remain in operation until then. Should a shutdown occur and continue longer than the six-day period, we anticipate that limited staff will be able to continue to work to accept new electronic applications and maintain IT infrastructure, among other functions. More information will be posted on [the USPTO] website as it becomes available. Thank you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mr. Shaw and the Flashing Cat's Eyes

You know those little reflectors in the middle of the road that show you where the lanes are?  Someone had to invent them.  And someone did.  On April 3, 1934, Mr. Percy Shaw applied for a British patent entitled "Improvements relating to Blocks for Road Surface."   

A key aspect of the invention was not only that they reflected the light from oncoming cars but that their raised surfaces “yield when travelled over by a vehicle wheel and sink to the level of the road surface," so that they would not be damaged when run over by vehicle tires or, worse, a snow plow.  They were mounted on a resilient white rubber cushion in a metal holder below the road surface so that they could be pushed down and pop right back up again.

As the story goes, Mr. Shaw was driving down the curvy road from the Old Dolphin public house in the town of Clayton Heights to his home in Halifax.  As Mr. Shaw was rounding a curve, a cat on a fence along the edge of the road looked at the car – and its eyes reflected his headlights back to Shaw, allowing him turn and stay on the road.  That's how he got the idea.

According to British patent No. 436,290, Mr. Shaw’s first claim reads, “A block of the type specified for road surface marking wherein the base of the rubber filling is partially supported within the metal holder so that the filling will yield by displacement and deformation or by either, when travelled over by a vehicle wheel or stepped upon by a pedestrian and sink to the level of the road surface or thereabouts.”  

Based on his invention, Mr. Shaw started Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd. to manufacture and sell his reflectors.

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