The USPTO recently announced a Missing Parts Pilot Program commencing December 8, 2010 and set to expire in one year. The Missing Parts Pilot Program effectively provides a 12-month extension to the 12-month provisional patent application period.
Currently, patent applicants have 12 months following the filing of a provisional application to convert that application into a corresponding non-provisional application. Conversion into a non-provisional application involves payment of the basic filing fee, search fee and examination fee, as well as submitting application papers in condition for publication and an executed oath or declaration.
An applicant opting to take part in the Missing Parts Pilot Program will need to file the non-provisional application, the basic filing fee, an executed oath or declaration and a request to participate in the Pilot Program. If any of these items are missing at the time of filing, the applicant has a 2-month extendable period of time to perfect the application. Furthermore, the applicant cannot file a non-publication request for that application.
The main benefit of the Missing Parts Pilot Program is that the applicant now has 12 additional months to weigh the merits of the invention with the costs of prosecution. Specifically, the applicant has 12 months from the filing of the non-provisional application to pay the search and examination fees, any excess claim fees and the $130.00 surcharge ($65.00 for small entity applicant) for the late submission of the search and examination fees. Failure to complete the non-provisional application at the end of the 12-month period will result in abandonment. For many applicants, this time is invaluable for activities such as assessing or refining the invention, researching market opportunities or obtaining licensees.
Further details on the Missing Parts Pilot Program can be found here.