USPTO Launches New Semiconductor Fast-Track Pilot Program

In order to support the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act of 2022 the USPTO announced on December 1, 2023, a new Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program for expediting the examination of patent applications for innovations that “increase semiconductor device production, reduce semiconductor manufacturing costs, and strengthen the semiconductor supply chain.” The CHIPS Act provided $280 billion in federal funding to encourage domestic production of semiconductor patents in the US, as well as to fund research and development projects.

Under the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program qualifying patent applications will be advanced out of turn for examination until a first Office action is issued, which can greatly reduce the time spent waiting until examination of the patent begins. In order to enter the program a petition to make special must be filed, though no petition fee is required for qualifying applications, and the applicant is not required to satisfy the normal requirements of the accelerated examination program or the prioritized examination program. This program is similar to other recently implemented technology pilot programs, for example the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program, which went into effect in mid-2022.

To be eligible an application must be (a) a non-continuing original utility nonprovisional applications or (b) Original utility nonprovisional applications that claim the benefit of the filing date under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, 365(c), or 386(c) of only one prior application that is either a nonprovisional application or an international application designating the United States. The pilot program is accepting petitions until December 2, 2024, or until a total of 1,000 applications have been granted special status under the program, whichever happens first.

This pilot program is exemplary of the USPTO’s push toward using programs to encourage specific kinds of innovation and patent applications. Professional and knowledgeable patent counsel who can help navigate these programs and advise you as to what options there are to take advantage of in your particular situation are more important than ever to help clients navigate the ever changing programs of the USPTO.