By: Katherine Rubino

COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Program

In May 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a COVID-19 prioritized patent examination pilot program.[1] The program allows for prioritized examination of qualifying patent applications with small or micro entity status without the applicant having to pay the typical fees associated with prioritized examination.[2] Typically the goal of prioritized examination is to provide a final disposition regarding patentability within 12 months.  However, under this pilot program the USPTO announced that it believed it could provide final disposition within 6 months.[3] A similar program to expedite review of trademark applications was also initiated in June 2020.[4]

Since the inception of both programs, 251 patent requests for prioritized patent application examination have been granted, resulting in 33 patents being allowed or issued, and 129 trademark petitions being granted.[5] Over half of the patent applications filed under this program relate to medical treatments, vaccines, and diagnostic technology.[6] The other half of applications relate to ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other various technologies related to COVID-19.[7] Trademark applications filed under the prioritized program are directed to items intended to detect and treat COVID-19, as well as medical goods and services related to the treatment of COVID-19.[8]

Patents Issued Under the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Program

U.S. Patent Number 10,874,687

This patent is issued to Atea Pharmaceuticals on December 29,2020 and is entitled “Highly active compounds against COVID-19.[9] It is directed to antiviral drug therapies that inhibit replication of RNA viruses such as coronaviruses.[10] The antiviral drug therapies contain purine nucleotide antivirals that inhibit the activity of the enzyme RNA polymerase, which produces copies of the virus RNA genome. By inhibiting replication, the virus life cycle becomes interrupted and the virus becomes unable to replicate.[11]

U.S. Patent Number 10,803,714

This patent was issued to inventor Rajeev Khera of Orlando, Florida on October 13th, 2020 and is entitled “System and method for visualizing, tracking and maintaining social distancing.”[12] The patented invention includes a boundary generating device that produces a colored light encircling a user.[13] The colored light can be set to a predetermined radius to conform with social distancing requirements.[14]

U.S Patent Number 10,834,978

This patent was issued to inventor Suat Yelken of Baltimore, Maryland, on November 17, 2020 and is entitled “Soft silicone edged cushion for face masks.”[15] This patent is directed to a medical silicone edged cushion that reduces air leakage and provides comfort to a wearer of a face mask, such as when a face mask is worn by a healthcare worker during twelve hour shifts.[16] The cushion may be self-installed to the lateral edges of a face mask to protect from the escape of air and allow for a comfortable fit.[17]

U.S. Patent Number 10,842,697

This patent was issued to inventor Mark Comunale of Temecula, California on November 24, 2020 and is entitled “Disposable bio-secure environmental unit.”[18] This patent is directed to an invention that includes a disposable bio-secure environment that can temporarily hold and transport patients who are suspected of having an infectious or contagious disease.[19] The environmental unit is large enough for a patient to sit up and allow movement of arms and legs and the ability to eat and drink while isolated on a bed.[20]

Looking Ahead

When the COVID-19 prioritized program for patents was first introduced in 2020, the USPTO specified that they would be accepting requests of up to 500 qualifying patent applications. As of the end of January 2021, 281 patents have been granted prioritized review, with 219 slots still remaining.[21] When describing the impact of the program, USPTO Director Andrei Iancu commented that “Over the past two centuries, solutions to some of the nation’s greatest problems have passed through the halls of the USPTO, and it’s very likely that some of the solutions to America’s current pandemic have already been examined by this agency.”[22]


[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.


[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.


[10] Id.

[11] Id.


[13] Id.

[14] Id.


[16] Id.

[17] Id.


[19] Id.

[20] Id.