USPTO Kicks Off Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program to Expedite Semiconductor Manufacturing Applications

Article co-written by Yuri Levin-Schwartz, Ph.D., a law clerk at MBHB.

Today, the USPTO announced a new, no-cost, pilot program that accelerates the examination process for US patent applications related to semiconductor manufacturing.  Starting Friday, December 1, 2023, applicants can file a petition to participate in the pilot program.  Petitions that correspond to qualifying non-provisional utility patent applications, directed to “certain processes and apparatuses for manufacturing semiconductor devices,” will be advanced out of turn for examination (accorded special status) until a first action.

  • Qualifying applications must be “non-continuing original utility non-provisional applications” that may optionally claim priority to a prior provisional application or one or more foreign priority applications.
  • At least one claim of the qualifying application must cover a process or an apparatus for manufacturing a semiconductor device and correspond to one or more of the technical concepts within H10 (Semiconductor Devices; Electric Solid-State Devices Not Otherwise Provided For) or H01L (Semiconductor Devices Not Covered by Class H10) in the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system.
  • Applicants must file the petition to make special (PTMS) with the application or entry into the national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371 or within 30 days of the filing date or entry date of the application.
  • The fee for the PTMS under 37 CFR 1.102(d) has been waived for this program.

In a related news release, the Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo stated that “This new USPTO program will ensure we are prioritizing critical intellectual property protections to incentivize investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing.” The Director of the USPTO, Kathi Vidal said of the new pilot program: “Fast tracking examination of patent applications related to semiconductor device manufacturing speeds bringing key innovations to market and strengthens our nation’s supply chain.”

The pilot program aims to support the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act of 2022, which allocates investments designed to increase semiconductor manufacturing capacity and improve the resilience of the semiconductor supply chain.  The Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program supports the CHIPS Act by “encouraging research, development, and innovation in the semiconductor manufacturing space and providing equitable intellectual property protection to incentivize investments in the semiconductor manufacturing area.”  The USPTO stated that the new pilot program can help achieve the goals of the CHIPS Act by expediting and encouraging innovations relating to semiconductor devices and their manufacture.

The petition (Form PTO/SB/467) will be available starting December 1, 2023.  The pilot program will be available until December 2, 2024 or until the USPTO accepts 1,000 grantable petitions, whichever is reached first.

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