As part of its ongoing efforts to make the U.S. patent system more accessible to "under-resourced" applicants, the USPTO has proposed a "Track III" pilot program that would let micro entities delay payment of USPTO search and examination fees for up to 30 months from the priority date. (Only the basic filing fee would have to be paid up front.) The program is intended to be a "low-cost option with minimal requirements to allow ... additional time for commercialization efforts and to ascertain the value of [the] inventions."

The USPTO also is considering a so-called "plus" option that would provide a pre-examination search report based on the results of an artificial intelligence (AI) search tool. To participate in the Track III Plus program, both the basic filing fee and the search fee would have to be paid, but the examination fee could be deferred.

The May 26, 2023 Federal Register Notice provides more information, including on how to submit comments by July 25, 2023.

"We seek feedback on how this program can best support inventors to reduce their upfront costs, and give them the time to explore funding and commercialization before expending fees on patenting. In combination with our new First-Time Filer Expedited Examination Pilot Program, this will give inventors the options to meet their needs."

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