16 June 2020TrademarksRory O'Neill

USPTO unveils COVID-19 TM fast-track system

The  US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has waived fees for trademarks covering COVID-19 medical products and services.

The move comes as part of a new prioritised examination programme, which will also see such marks processed more quickly.

“Inventors and entrepreneurs are working around the clock to develop products that will help prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure COVID-19,” said Andrei Iancu, director of the USPTO.

“Accelerating initial examination of COVID-19-related trademark applications for these products, as well as service mark applications for medical and medical research services, will help to bring important and possibly life-saving treatments to market more quickly,” Iancu added.

To qualify, the application must cover a product or service that is subject to the US Food and Drug Administration approval for use in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

This includes the likes of ventilators, medical-grade face masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment.

Applicants can avail themselves of the scheme by filing as normal, and then submitting a petition to the director for prioritised examination.

“The USPTO will monitor the workload and resources needed to administer the procedure, feedback from the public, and the effectiveness of the procedure,” a notice from the office stated.

The office has looked to offer more general support to applicants in the form of  deadline extensions and fee waivers since the pandemic began.

But the waiving of fees has also prompted concern for the financial health of the USPTO, which relies on these charges to pay its operating costs. Iancu wrote to legislators last week and said the USPTO could need extra funding to meet the shortfall.

Iancu said the USPTO was currently using its reserves in the absence of normal fee collections: “The reserve level stood at $95 million based on preliminary data through May 2020, which could fund trademark operations for 13 weeks in the absence of additional fee collections.”

To try and cut costs, the office has been forced to postpone planned upgrades to its IT systems until next year “at the earliest”.

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