Want to get your design patent application examined quickly? The USPTO’s design patent “Rocket Docket” cuts examination time down to only a few months. But you must put more effort (and fees) into your initial filing.
The USPTO’s design patent “Rocket Docket” (their term for a request for expedited examination of a design application) is the best way to get a design patent quickly. It can cut the overall “waiting for examination” time down from about 13 months to about four months. So if you would like to speed up the process, file your design patent using the “Rocket Docket.”
Here, more than just extra fees are needed. The USPTO also wants you to expedite their prior art search process.
Why do they want this? Some countries (including the EU and some other Hague participating countries) merely register designs without checking them for originality. So these countries have a more “rubber stamp” type process. However, the USPTO examination process is not just a rubber stamp. They do their prior art search and review your drawings against different previous designs. Although most new design patent applications pass, the USPTO occasionally rejects some for lack of originality or obviousness.
It is hard to do prior art searches for design patents. Usually, you can do prior art searches by searching for matching keywords. However, unlike other types of intellectual property, designs have hardly any keywords. Design patents are almost 100% images, and often the unique keywords are in the title, and these are usually useless. Perhaps in the future, the USPTO will turn to Machine Vision/AI type searching methods and do direct image-based prior art searching. But they are not there yet.
So given these difficulties, the USPTO will make a deal with you. If, when you submit your design patent application, you also help them with their prior art search, they will go faster. This extra “Rocket Docket” fee is called a 37 CFR 1.17(k) fee. It usually is a few hundred dollars (presently about $450 for small entities).
How do you help the USPTO with their prior art search?
The USPTO requires a bona fide (i.e., a serious and competent) prior art search. They want documentation, on an SB27 form, of the various patent fields examined during this search. The USPTO also wants you to list the specific applications of your design. They also want you to report any relevant citations on an IDS (SB08) form. It is not a good idea to cut corners here, because if this part looks too sketchy, the USPTO may deny your Rocket Docket request.
So consider the Rocket Docket. Although it costs more, it speeds up the process. It is particularly useful if you are facing competitors. It is also helpful if your design is in an area where it is essential to introduce cutting-edge designs rapidly.