Plagued by a backlog of applications, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office now guarantees speedier reviews for companies willing to do some extra work up front. But the express service, which on Thursday yielded Brother International Corp. a patent on a printer cartridge in less than six months, is being criticized by some patent attorneys who say it could do more harm than good.

Critics say the extra upfront research and legal work raises the costs of doing business and potentially exposes patent applicants to greater legal liabilities. If applicants receiving speedy reviews leapfrog inventors using the traditional process, there could be lengthy squabbles that the Patent Office has to sort out.