The COVID-19 outbreak is a global crisis in need of creative solutions. The American patent system has long facilitated such creativity. It serves as the engine of economic growth in the United States by securing exclusive rights for inventors and disseminating technical knowledge to the public. The patent system has endured war, crises, and economic turmoil by providing society with a steady pipeline of solutions.
To further this long tradition, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently launched the COVID-19 Response Resource Center to provide stakeholders and other interested parties with improved access to USPTO initiatives, programs, and other helpful intellectual property (IP)-related information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO noted that “the USPTO stands shoulder-to-shoulder with inventors and entrepreneurs and is working on a variety of measures to incentivize, protect, and disseminate COVID-19 related innovation. The COVID-19 Response Resource Center will provide inventors, entrepreneurs, and IP practitioners with a centralized destination to access information and assistance needed to meet the challenges of these times.”
The United States patent system incentivizes and protects innovation. To further boost American innovation, the USPTO recently launched the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program for accelerating the evaluation of up to 500 qualifying patent applications directed to COVID-19 related technologies without requiring payment of certain fees associated with prioritized examination. Under this pilot, the USPTO will advance out of turn certain patent applications related to COVID-19 for examination, resulting in their prioritized examination. The USPTO aims to provide final disposition of patent applications in the pilot in one year or less after it grants prioritized status. To qualify, applications must contain one or more claims to a product or process related to COVID-19, and such claimed product or process must be subject to an applicable Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for COVID-19 use. FDA 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). The request must also include a certification that the applicant qualifies for either small or micro entity status.
The USPTO is also encouraging patent applicants to consider voluntary early publication of patent applications involving technologies related to the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Early publication of patent applications may yield a significant benefit to researchers and inventors, especially those working hard to find creative solutions to the COVID-19 outbreak and can facilitate collaborations, partnerships, or joint ventures. These, in turn, can spur and expedite the development of critically needed technologies.
Generally, the USPTO publishes pending patent applications 18 months after the earliest effective filing date. No fee is required for publishing an application. Existing USPTO regulations also provide for earlier publication at the request of an applicant. Interested applicants may submit a request for early publication of their application in compliance with 37 CFR 1.219. The USPTO will publish the application as soon as possible if it is otherwise ready for publication.
The COVID-19 Response Resource Center also allows users to view information on a number of critical initiatives to aid the public throughout the ongoing crisis, including the USPTO’s “Patents 4 Partnerships” IP marketplace platform. This platform helps connect inventors, entrepreneurs, or businesses interested in contributing to critical medical technologies.
The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a surge in fraudulent activity, including the advertising and sale of counterfeit treatments and products. This is an immediate and growing concern, as criminals seek to take advantage of the high demand for healthcare and other consumer products. The USPTO has resources to help navigate trademark counterfeiting and consumer fraud in the IP landscape during the ongoing pandemic to allay concerns about potential abuse in the marketplace related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker provides information on measures adopted by IP offices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the extension of deadlines. In addition, the policy tracker provides information on legislative and regulatory measures for access and voluntary actions.
The resource center will be updated on a continuing basis to incorporate new information, programs, and initiatives.