USPTO Cancels Program That Delayed ‘Sensitive’ Applications

An effort to minimize bureaucracy by the United States Patent and Trademark Office may have made the patent process a bit easier for some sectors of the economy.

On March 2, the agency announced on its website that it was cancelling its Sensitive Application Warning System, stating that it had provided little benefit since its inception in 1994.

The SAWS program was only “marginally utilized,” according to the USPTO’s statement, and the organization will no longer flag certain patent applications.

After a review in January, the USPTO found that the SAWS program would often delay or reject applications, despite being put in place to help the agency avoid embarrassment if certain patents were granted.

The program was often regarded as clandestine, but the review came after USPTO documents were obtained and released through the Freedom of Information Act.

Documents revealed several flagged patent applications, including everything from AIDS vaccines and race-based diagnostics to patents for smartphones, eCommerce systems and anything “pioneering.”

Patent applications typically take anywhere from 22 to 29 months to review and must be approved by one or two examiners in the USPTO.

However, patent applications flagged as questionable (usually around .04% of all of them) were reviewed under the SAWS program and would take about twice as much time to be approved. They were also twice as likely to see a rejection, according to the review this January.

This would often create serious problems for tech startups and other entrepreneurs who want to keep up with the advances in modern technology and make a profit.

According to the lawyers who conducted the review of the program, applicants and their attorneys were unable to find out why their patents were delayed or rejected.

Over the years, several inventors have even taken legal action against the USPTO for withholding this crucial patent information.

The USPTO told Reuters that the SAWS program was never “secret,” despite the lack of information available to inventors. The agency is ending the program less than three months after their SAWS documents were published.

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