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11-04-2016 » Accelerated Examination Finally Available in France!

The French Patent Office (INPI), following in the steps of the EPO PACE program, has now implemented procedures for accelerated examination of a French patent application or utility certificate.  Patent applications and utility certificates qualifying for accelerated examination, and in which such a request is made, may now be issued within 20 months from filing, instead of the more common timeframe of 30 to 40 months from filing.

Importantly, in order to qualify for accelerated examination, a French patent application or utility certificate and the request for acceleration must meet the following two conditions:

  • The application must be or have been filed electronically via E-PROCEDURES; and
  • The request for acceleration must be made within 10 months of the filing, and include a request for early publication of the patent application or utility certificate (recall that an application is normally published at the earlier of 18 months from priority or filing). 

Acceleration is available for any French application whether filed under priority or as a first filing with the INPI, as long as no secrecy order has been placed on the application.

In order to be accepted for accelerated examination, the application, and more particularly, the claims, must be in condition for rapid examination.  For example, the claims must be sufficiently clear such that a complete preliminary search report may be prepared.   In addition, and like the EPO, the applicant must “play along.”  Any request for an extension of time to respond to a communication risks cancellation of the accelerated proceedings.  Further, in cases where third-party observations are filed, the examination may be slowed.

The accelerated examination procedure at the INPI is free, and no justifying facts or circumstances need be provided with a request.  Recall that at the EPO, accelerated examination enables an applicant to obtain a search report quickly as well as to accelerate the examination of the EP application.  The service is also free at the EPO, and only a simple request need be made.  However, before the EPO it is unlikely, even in cases of accelerated examination, to obtain a patent in less than 20 months.  In contrast to both the INPI and the EPO, the USPTO, while providing highly accelerated examination, requires a payment of 4000 USD, in addition to meeting several other conditions, in order for an application to be considered for accelerated examination.

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