In a seminar held by the Taiwan IP Office (TIPO) in July 2020, examiners of TIPO disclosed that a fast track examination for startup patent applicants is expected to be piloted since January 2021. This program, known as "Positive Interview," will be open to an invention patent application from an applicant less than 5 years old when the Taiwanese patent application is filed or, if there is a priority claim, when the base foreign application is filed. Where there are multiple applicants in the patent application, at least one applicant must be a qualified startup.

Per TIPO's explanation, a foreign startup (i.e. a startup incorporated under non-Taiwanese law) applying the "Positive Interview Program" needs to submit:

1) A written request, filed after receiving notification from the TIPO that substantive examination is to begin soon and before the TIPO issues a first examination opinion;

2) Official document(s) proving the date of incorporation along with a Chinese language translation thereof; and

3) A Statement of Authenticity of document item 2).

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In the trial period of six months, only a limited number of cases can take benefit of this program.

Once the Program applies, the examination proceeding runs as follows:

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As the above diagram shows:

If no patentability issue is found, a Notice of Allowance is issued within one month after TIPO receives and grants a startup applicant's request for applying the positive interview program.

In the same time period, in the case of rejection of claims for want of novelty or inventive step, the examiner issues an official letter disclosing his/her opinions along with a search report listing the prior art located, and scheduling a special interview sua sponte. The date of interview is within two weeks to one month after the issuance of the official letter.

The interview is "positive" not only because it is held of the examiner's own accord but also because the examiner is required to be instructive and interactive during the interview session. The examiner needs to deliver a suggestion, if he/she finds one, on how the application should be amended to overcome the issue spotted, e.g. amending the claims to overcome lack of novelty or inventive step by introducing matters disclosed in the specification.

If, within one month after the Interview, the application is amended as the examiner instructed or in line with the consensus obtained in the interview session, then a Notice of Allowance will be issued within another month. Otherwise, the examination returns to the normal track and the examiner will issue a first formal examination opinion.

The goal of this Program is to reduce the time for completing the entire substantive examination proceeding from the current 13.6 months on average in a normal track to only 4 months.

Note: TIPO's plan of this program for startups has yet to be finalized and could be subject to changes after several public hearings to be held in the remaining months of 2020. We will keep providing updates on this topic should any development occur.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.