The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has announced that it will defer application fees for certain inventions relating to the fight against COVID-19. In its September 16 announcement, the PTO acknowledged its role in "dissemination of important scientific information to the public to promote further innovation" and recognized that this "information flow is now more important than ever in view of the urgent challenges posted by the COVID-19 outbreak." As such, the PTO's new program will allow these applicants to defer payment of COVID-related provisional application filing fees until the filing of a corresponding, non-provisional application.
The PTO's pilot program may be of interest to makers of biologics seeking patent protection for COVID-19 therapies. Biologics, and particularly monoclonal antibodies—a type of biologic medication comprising manufactured antibodies—have shown promise in recent months as a treatment for the novel coronavirus. Clinical trials for the use of monoclonal antibodies to prevent COVID-19 infection are underway.
In order to qualify for the fee deferment, an invention "must concern a product or process related to COVID-19, and such product or process must require [FDA] approval for COVID-19 use." Further, applicants "must agree that the technical subject matter disclosed in their provision applications will be available to the public on the USPTO's website," thereby allowing applicants to "contribute to the public in the fight against COVID-19 while protecting their patent rights." The program is scheduled to accept applications for 12 months beginning on September 17, 2020.