The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has instituted an “Accelerated Patent” process, which is supposed to take less than six months. You can access their Guidelines page here.
A patent application can be advanced ahead of others filed at the same time or later if the inventor files a special form, pays all the fees and includes all necessary paperwork AND conducts a “pre-examination search” of the patent literature. See the excerpt below from the Federal Register announcement of this new procedure and its requirements:
“At the time of filing, applicant must provide a statement that a preexamination search was conducted, including an identification of the field of search by United States class and subclass and the date of the search, where applicable, and for database searches, the search logic or chemical structure or sequence used as a query, the name of the file or files searched and the database service, and the date of the search.
(A) This preexamination search must involve U.S. patents and patent application publications, foreign patent documents, and non-patent literature, unless the applicant can justify with reasonable certainty that no references more pertinent than those already identified are likely to be found in the eliminated source and includes such a justification with this statement.”