On September 28, 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) announced that the After-Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 (“AFCP 2.0”) program and the Quick Path IDS (“QPIDS”) pilot program have been extended to September 30, 2018.  As provided in its announcement, the USPTO implemented these programs to shorten the patent prosecution process while increasing collaboration and communication between examiners and patent applicants.

The AFCP 2.0 program, a quicker alternative to a Request for Continued Examination (“RCE”), is a pilot program to allow patent applicants to continue prosecution after patent examiners have issued final office actions. After receiving the final office action, a patent applicant may file a response under 37 C.F.R. § 1.116, which includes a request for consider under the pilot program (Form PTO/SB/434) and an amendment to at least one independent claim that does not broaden the scope of the independent claim in any aspect.  Afterwards, the examiner will determine whether the response can be fully considered under AFCP 2.0. This includes determining whether any additional search is required and can be completed within the allotted time, in order to determine whether the application can be allowed. The option to request an interview with the examiner is available to a patent applicant irrespective of whether the submission was considered under AFCP 2.0.

If the examiner determines that the AFCP 2.0 Request complies with the requirements listed under 37 C.F.R. § 1.116 and the examiner can complete any additional search within the allotted time, the examiner will provide an advisory action saying that the examiner will continue examination on that patent application. Results may vary between an RCE, an abandonment of the application, or an appeal of the Examiner’s Final Office Action. If the AFCP 2.0 Request does not comply with the requirements, the examiner may provide an advisory action stating that the request is not eligible.

The QPIDS pilot program eliminates the requirement for processing of a RCE with an Information Disclosure Statement (‘”IDS”) filed after payment of the issue fee in order for the IDS to be considered by the examiner. Where the examiner determines that no item of information in the IDS necessitates reopening prosecution, the USPTO will issue a corrected notice of allowability.

Extending both USPTO pilot programs through the next USPTO fiscal year signifies that the pilot programs have been successful. This is good news for both the USPTO and patent applicants as these programs function to move the patent prosecution process more quickly and efficiently.