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Patent number 7,188,939 looks ordinary enough. However, it may be the first of a new breed. Granted March 13, this patent on inkjet cartridge technology is the first patent the PTO has issued under its new accelerated examination process.

It usually takes a long time to get a patent in the U.S. The average wait is two to three years. And the wait can be far longer, depending on the type of technology involved. So on Aug. 25, 2006, the PTO gave inventors the option to request accelerated examinations.

But that rapid interaction demands a lot from an applicant.

"It is definitely more work than you'd do in a regular prosecution," says James Arpin, a patent attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker Botts who helped Brother obtain its accelerated patent. "It is a full examination, just on a really tight time frame."

"In areas such as electronics, Internet and biotech, companies ?? 1/2 don't want a patent published or issued until the latest possible date," says William Galliani, a patent attorney in the Palo Alto office of Cooley Godward Kronish. "A three or four year pendency is just fine with them, especially if they are developing a product that won't have a market for five years or so."

So far, businesses and their patent counsel have not rushed to embrace the accelerated examination process. During the program's first seven months, the PTO received approximately 220,000 patent applications, and only about 250 of these were for accelerated examinations.


Steven Seidenberg

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