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When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office proposed in early June to allow a three-track system for processing patent applications, most of the attention was focused on the aspect that would provide a fast track for prosecution aimed at reducing application pendencies from several years to 12 months. Many applicants and potential applicants have complained that the typical experience of waiting three or four years to get even the first substantive response from a patent examiner, and then two more years to actually get the application allowed, eliminated much of the benefit of patenting their inventions. Less notice was taken of a second part of the proposal: to allow applicants to select a processing track that would delay regular processing of the application for an additional 2 1/2 years. Should the proposal be implemented, it may well be that the slow-track aspect has the greatest impact on our patent system.

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