The Patent Trial and Appeal Board recently presented an update on the “Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program” the Patent Office initiated in July 2020. As we previously explained (link), the program is designed to reduce the pendency of ex parte appeals. Under the program, the Board has been issuing decisions within six months from the date the appeal enters the program. That’s a significant reduction in pendency. In its update, the Board presented details of the program’s progress.

Pendency of an ex parte appeal does not include any time preceding the Board’s receipt of a fully briefed appeal and the Patent Office’s receipt of all appeal-related fees. Patent applicants (appellants) should therefore appreciate their role in controlling how long briefing may last. To that end, the Board offered data on how diligent applicants and examiners have been—notably, both have been filing their main briefs before the deadlines to do so.

Once briefing has concluded and fees have been paid, the Board has been deciding appeals within one year for applicants not participating in the pilot program, and within six months for those who are participating in the program. For diligent, participating applicants, the Board’s data reveal it is issuing decisions within one year of the examiner’s final rejection!

The Patent Office considers the program to have been a success thus far, and will determine in a few months whether to extend, end, modify, or make permanent the pilot program.

The Board’s complete presentation (link) also offers a template for applicants to use in preparing an appeal brief, with guidance (link) on how to complete the template.

All of this should be welcome news to patent applicants.