News

CHIPS Act Gets a Boost With the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program

December 08, 2023 by Jake Hertz

The new program from the USPTO aims to jump-start research, development, and investment in the domestic semiconductor industry.

The semiconductor industry, pivotal to both national security and technological advancement, has been a focus of government incentives in recent years. Under the CHIPS Act of 2022, the U.S. underscored its commitment to revitalize this sector amid escalating global competition. 

Now, to further bolster the CHIPS Act, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has announced a new initiative: the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program.

 

USPTO

The USPTO is accelerating the patent examination process for semiconductor-focused innovation. Image (modified) used courtesy of Timon via Adobe Stock license
 

In this piece, we’ll take a look at the details of the new program and how it complements the CHIPS Act.

 

The Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program

The Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program is a new initiative designed to speed up the process of examining patent applications for innovations that enhance semiconductor device production, reduce manufacturing costs, and bolster the supply chain.

Under this program, applications that focus on specific processes or apparatuses for manufacturing semiconductor devices receive advanced examination status until they receive a "first office action"—a written notice of findings for the patent application. This expedited process benefits applicants because it significantly reduces the waiting time for initial feedback on their patent applications and protects their intellectual property. The government hopes this will jump-start research, development, and innovation in semiconductor manufacturing and incentivize further investments.

 

The Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program’s logo

The Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program’s logo. Image used courtesy of the USPTO
 

To be eligible for this program, applicants must submit a timely petition using a specific form, with no fee required for the petition. The technology requirement for eligible applications is stringent: they must contain at least one claim covering a process or an apparatus for manufacturing a semiconductor device that aligns with specific technical concepts within the Cooperative Patent Classification system.

The petition must certify the applicant's belief that the invention will positively impact the semiconductor manufacturing industry. 

 

Complementing the Chips Act

In 1990, the U.S. held 40% of the global semiconductor manufacturing market. Today, that number has dwindled to 12%. At the same time, semiconductors have become more powerful and important in every aspect of our daily lives.

In response to these trends, the government passed the CHIPS Act of 2022, which uses a combination of incentives, subsidies, and grants to attempt to revitalize the domestic semiconductor manufacturing industry. With total funding around $52.7B, about $39B is earmarked for constructing semiconductor fabrication plants, including $2B for mature semiconductors crucial to the military, automotive, and manufacturing sectors. The rest is allocated to efforts such as R&D and workforce development.

 

Investments under the Chips Act

Investments under the CHIPS Act. Image used courtesy of McKinsey & Company
 

This move is not just about increasing production capacity, however. Equally important is ensuring the nation's self-reliance in a critical technology area. By limiting reliance on other countries, the U.S. aims to safeguard its technological advancements and prevent potential security risks. 

 

More Domestic Support

The significance of the Semiconductor Technology Pilot Program lies in its potential to rapidly advance technological innovations in semiconductor manufacturing. It complements the CHIPS Act by expediting the patent process and thus encouraging innovation. In an era when semiconductor technology is increasingly vital, this strategic effort may enhance the U.S.' competitiveness in this critical area.