Government agencies across the world are taking up a slew of initiatives to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to safeguard the interests of those on the frontlines of this outbreak. Recently, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) vide its notification dated June 01, 2020, introduced the concept of Prioritized Examination Program, in respect of certain trademarks and service marks applications which would secure the arduous efforts of entrepreneurs and inventors in providing medical products and services in this time of crisis. As per the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, Andrei Iancu, “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.”
As per the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure of the United States, applicants can request expedited initial examination of their applications under special circumstances by filing a petition with the Director. As per the USPTO, the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as an extraordinary situation, wherein fast-track of qualifying applications related to COVID-19 medical supplies and services can ensure their distribution in the market for immediate use. To be eligible for prioritized examination under this procedure, an applicant must seek registration for one or more of the qualifying COVID-19 medical goods or services described below. The application may also include additional goods or services related thereto. According to the notification, the following are qualifying COVID-19 medical-related goods and services:
- Pharmaceutical products or medical devices such as diagnostic tests, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, including surgical masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves that prevent, diagnose, treat or cure COVID-19 and are subject to approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration; and
- Medical services or medical research services for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment of, or cure for COVID-19
USPTO Prioritised Examination Program- Procedure and Eligibility
As per the notification, eligibility under the prioritized examination program depends upon the applicant receiving registration for at least one COVID-19 approved pharmaceutical product or medical service as per the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once the petition is granted by the Director, the application shall proceed for examination by an examining attorney for maximum of 2 months, followed by publication for third-party opposition(s) for 30 days. Further, the directive waives off the fee for filing of such petitions. The program shall come into force from June 16, 2020 onwards.
For further clarifications, the USPTO notification can be accessed here.
 USPTO announces COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Program for certain trademark and service mark applications; https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/uspto-announces-covid-19-prioritized-examination-program-certain-trademark; accessed on June 17, 2020