Normally patent applications in a given technological art are examined in the order that they are filed in under the "first come, first served" principle. The patent office has realized, however, that some inventions deserve special attention and that patent applications covering these inventions should be examined as quickly as possible. If an invention falls into one of the special categories, the applicant (e.g. inventor) can petition to have it examined early.
A petition to make special can be granted because:
Effective in August 2006, the USPTO introduced an accelerated patent examination procedure in an effort to allow inventors a speedy evaluation of an application with a final disposition within 12 months. The procedure requires additional information to be submitted with the application and also includes an interview with the examiner. The first accelerated patent was granted on March 15, 2007 with a 6 month issuance time.
Petitions to make special are particularly important for timely examination of business method patents. Projected delays in examination of business method patents range from 4 to 14 years. This is primarily due to the step change in business method filings after the 1998 State Street Bank decision combined with the difficulty in hiring and training qualified patent examiners in the financial services arts. (e.g. insurance, banking, etc.)
It is reported that a PTMS for Accelerated Examination can cut the time to get a patent to issue in the business method area from more than 5 years to less than 2. First office actions can issue in as little as 6 months from the filing date of the application and notices of allowable subject matter have issued in just over a year.