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 requires that you 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) can cut the overall length of time that a design patent waits to get initially examined down from about 13 months to about 4 months. So if you would like to get your design patent examined quickly, consider filing 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 this? Although some countries (including the EU and some other Hague participating countries) merely register designs without checking them for originality, the USPTO is required to check your design against other prior art designs. Although most new design patent applications pass, some are occasionally rejected for lack of originality or obviousness.
This prior art search is not that easy. Usually, prior art searches are done 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 only unique keywords are in the title, and these are often 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, in addition to submitting a competently done design patent application (and fee), you also help them with their prior art search and pay an additional fee, they will go faster. This additional “Rocket Docket” fee is called a 37 CFR 1.17(k) fee, and usually is a few hundred dollars (presently about $450 for small entities).
How do you help them with their prior art search? The USPTO requires a bona fide (i.e. a serious and competent) prior art search, such as one that might be done by an experienced searcher. They want documentation, on an SB27 form, of the various patent fields examined during this search, as well as what specific applications your design might be used for. They also want any relevant citations that turn up during this search to be reported on an IDS (SB08) form. It is not a good idea to cut corners here, because if this part looks too sketchy, the Rocket Docket request may be denied.
So although the extra Rocket Docket fees and search expenses cost more, if you are facing competitors, or if your design is in an area where rapid introduction of cutting-edge designs is particularly important, consider this option.