The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just announced that the After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 (AFCP 2.0) has been extended to December 14, 2013. The AFCP 2.0 was previously scheduled to expire on September 30, 2013.
This is good news because, in some circumstances, the AFCP 2.0 program may benefit automotive companies and other next generation manufacturing patent applicants by reducing the time and expense of obtaining an issued patent.
For utility applications, when a patent applicant receives a Final Office Action, the applicant will often amend the claims to better differentiate from the prior art. Typically, however, the patent examiner will indicate in an Advisory Action that further searching and consideration will be required to evaluate the amended claims. Simply put, for most companies this equates to a $1,200 Request for Continued Examination (RCE) fee (for the first RCE, plus any relevant extension fees) and the patent application will take longer to issue as a valid patent.
Under the AFCP 2.0, automotive companies and other patent Applicants can avoid these costs if the Patent Examiner determines that the additional searching and consideration may be completed in under three hours.
Participation in the AFCP 2.0 does not require any fees, but the Applicant must satisfy a handful of other simple requirements, which include:
(1) Amending, but not broadening in any manner, at least one independent claim;
(2) Completing the required form PTO/SB/434; and
(3) The applicant, or legal representative, being available for an interview with the Examiner if needed.
Additional information can be found on the USPTO website at: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/afcp.jsp