The United States Patent and Trademark Office is seeking feedback on a new program that would make it less expensive to conduct patent searches. The goal of the initiative is to make it easier to access the national intellectual property system, while also, potentially, incorporating new forms of artificial intelligence.
The proposed program is called the Track Three Pilot Program and would allow “micro entity” applicants — that status is governed by federal rules — to take a 30-month period before paying search or examination fees, provided they meet certain requirements. Applicants could also receive a “obtain a pre-examination search report” before paying an examination fee.
“The USPTO recognizes that under-resourced applicants may need a low-cost option with minimal requirements to allow them additional time for commercialization efforts and to ascertain the value of their inventions,” explained Katherine Vidal, the undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and the director USPTO in a post shared to the Federal Register on Friday.
The pre-examination search report option that the office is considering could involve artificial intelligence. Recently, USPTO incorporated an AI-enhanced tool —which was trained on past patent data — that allows examiners to analyze how similar an application is to previously-filed domestic and foreign patent documents. Now, the office is considering whether the search results produced by that AI system should be included in a pre-examination report.
The goal, the federal register post said, is “to provide applicants with additional information as they consider potential commercialization and the value of their invention.”
The move comes as the office looks to use AI to accelerate the patent application process. The comment period closes on July 25.