On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) announced a new program, effective June 16, 2020, to help expedite the initial examination of U.S. trademark applications for marks relating to qualifying COVID-19 medical goods or services.
The USPTO typically examines trademark applications in the order they are filed, with most applicants receiving their first office action or a notice of publication 3-4 months after filing a trademark application. Under the USPTO’s new special relief program, qualifying applications will be assigned to an examiner “immediately,” expediting the initial examination by approximately two months, per the USPTO’s estimates. Applicants will still need to resolve any issues raised in an office action, and applications will still be subject to the 30-day publication period before a registration can issue.
In order to qualify for expedited examination, applicants need to seek registration for one or more of the qualifying COVID-19 medical goods or services below:
1. pharmaceutical products or medical devices, such as diagnostic tests, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, that prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure COVID-19 and that are subject to FDA approval;
2. medical services or medical research services for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment of, or cure for COVID-19.
After filing a trademark application, qualifying applicants who wish to apply for expedited examination will need to submit a separate Petition to the Director, as well as a supporting affidavit or declaration setting forth the qualifying goods and services and an explanation of why the goods qualify for prioritized examination. The USPTO is waiving the usual fee for Petitions to the Director, though applicants will still need to pay the standard application filing fees.
Petitions to the Director can be submitted online using the USPTO’s “Trademark Electronic Application System” at http://www.uspto.gov, and questions or comments about the COVID-19 expedited examination program can be submitted to TMPolicy@uspto.gov. Additional details about the program can be found in the USPTO’s June 15th announcement, accessible here: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/TM-COVID-19-Prioritized-Examination.pdf.