A recent change to the U.S. patent system will enable innovators to expedite the patent application process by paying an additional fee.
The purpose of the initiative was to encourage innovation by enabling companies to ensure the protection of their intellectual assets more quickly. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, however, this encouragement may come at a price.
According to the report, patents were previously processed on a first-come, first-served basis, for a fee of $1,090. The process could often take as long as 35 months.
Under the new system, companies and individuals will have the option of paying a higher fee - approximately $4,000 - in order to shorten the process to 12 months.
According to the report, advocates of the change believe the expedited process will enable U.S. companies to produce a greater number of new, innovative products in less time.
Critics, meanwhile, have suggested the initiative may give an unfair advantage to larger companies. Under the new system, companies with financial resources may be able to expedite their patent applications, while smaller startups could be left waiting far longer.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office told the Wall Street Journal the fast-track option is intended to encourage patent applicants to prioritize those innovations that are worth the extra fee.