Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program Provides Opportunity to Accelerate Patent Examination | Foley Hoag LLP

Key Takeaways:

  • Applications on manufacturing semiconductor technology may qualify for no-cost accelerated examination under the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program (STTP). 
  • The STPP is available until the earlier of December 2, 2024, or when 1,000 petitions are granted under the program.

The Chips Act seeks to jump-start semiconductor development in the United States. Last week, the Patent Office has promulgated the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program (STPP) to further the goals of the Chips Act.

Patent applications with claims directed to manufacturing semiconductors can now be expedited at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at no cost. The STPP provides a Petition to Make Special for manufacturing semiconductor technology that advances applications for examination out of turn until a first Office action is issued. Advantageously, the waiting time for the USPTO to first examine the application can be reduced from years to months. The average first office action pendency without a petition to make special is currently 20.9 months. After the first Office Action, the normal examination timeline resumes.

Applications that qualify for the program must contain at least one claim that covers a process or apparatus for manufacturing a semiconductor device. The semiconductor device must correspond to technical concepts under Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) Scheme H10 or H01L. Notable examples of these technologies include semiconductor devices themselves and certain types of electric solid state devices including certain types of resistors, capacitors, light emitting diodes, and thin- or thick-film circuits. There is also a limit on how many applications an individual inventor may make. An inventor can only be named on a total of five applications where petitions have been filed.

There are also limits on the number of claims in a qualifying application. The Application must have no more than three independent claims, no more than 20 total claims, with no multiple dependent claims. These claims limitations must be followed throughout the prosecution of the application.

Applicants must file a petition to participate in the STPP within 30 days of filing the utility application in the U.S or entering into the United States national stage through the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The program is available as of December 1, 2023, and extends to either December 2, 2024, or until 1,000 petitions are granted under the STPP, whichever takes place first.

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