Patent Office Launches Semiconductor Fast Track
December 13th, 2023
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has started to accept petitions for the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program.
As the USPTO explains, the Pilot Program is designed to support the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act of 2022 by “expediting the examination of patent applications for innovations that increase semiconductor device production, reduce semiconductor manufacturing costs, and strengthen the semiconductor supply chain.”
The program aligns with and supports Executive Order 14080, dated August 25, 2022, and is intended to “encourage research, development, and innovation in the semiconductor manufacturing space, as well as provide equitable intellectual property protection to incentivize investments in the semiconductor manufacturing area.”
As the Executive Order explains,
The Act … will make transformative investments to restore and advance our Nation's leadership in the research, development, and manufacturing of semiconductors. These investments will strengthen our Nation's manufacturing and industrial base; create well-paying, high-skilled jobs in construction, manufacturing, and maintenance; catalyze regional economic development throughout the country; bolster United States technology leadership; and reduce our dependence on critical technologies from China and other vulnerable or overly concentrated foreign supply chains.
As CNBC reported,
The Covid-19 pandemic caused huge disruption in the supply chains and production of chips, as consumers stuck at home went mad for products like PCs and smartphones.
The supply and demand have since become more balanced. There is now even a glut of some types of chips.
As the Harvard Business Review explains,
The vast majority of semiconductor fabs are located in Taiwan, mainland China, and South Korea. The production lead time for a batch of chips — the time between when the fab begins production and completion — varies from 20 to 60 days, depending on the plant and the complexity of the integrated circuit. These chips are subsequently shipped to assembly and testing facilities, almost all of which are in Asia, to produce various components; these processes can take 30 to 40 days.
The CHIPS Act is intended to rebuild American leadership in the semiconductor industry by
establishing and expanding domestic production of leading-edge chips, building a sufficient and stable supply of older-technology semiconductors, and investing in R&D to ensure next generation semiconductor technology is developed and produced in the United States.
Under the Pilot Program, qualifying applications will be given special expedited examination status.
A US patent application normally takes 1.5 to two years from the date of filing until the first office action. The Pilot Program is expected to significantly reduce that time.
To qualify for the program, patent applications must include at least one claim that covers a process or apparatus for manufacturing a semiconductor device and meet other criteria.
Applications are limited to three independent claims and twenty claims in total and cannot include any multiple dependent claims.
A petition to make special must be filed using Form PTO/SB/467 within 30 days of filing a non-provisional patent application or within 30 days of entry into the national stage from a corresponding Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Application.
The USPTO will only accept petitions until a total of 1,000 have been granted or until December 2, 2024, whichever comes first.
Applicants can submit no more than five petitions to make special under the program.
No extra fee is required to apply.
Contact our office to find out whether your semiconductor-related invention qualifies for the program.