MPEP 706

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706 Rejection of Claims[edit | edit source]

Contents

After the application has been read and the claimed invention understood, a prior art search for the claimed invention is made. With the results of the prior art search, including any references provided by the applicant, the patent application should be reviewed and analyzed in conjunction with the state of the prior art to determine whether the claims define a useful, novel, nonobvious, and enabled invention that has been clearly described in the specification. The goal of examination is to clearly articulate any rejection early in the prosecution process so that the applicant has the opportunity to provide evidence of patentability and otherwise reply completely at the earliest opportunity. The examiner then reviews all the evidence, including arguments and evidence responsive to any rejection, before issuing the next Office action. Where the examiner determines that information reasonably necessary for the examination should be required from the applicant under 37 CFR 1.105, such a requirement should generally be made either prior to or with the first Office action on the merits and should follow the procedures in MPEP § 704.10 et seq.

Although this part of the Manual explains the procedure in rejecting claims, the examiner should never overlook the importance of his or her role in allowing claims which properly define the invention.

37 CFR 1.104 Nature of examination.
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(c)Rejection of claims.

(1)If the invention is not considered patentable, or not considered patentable as claimed, the claims, or those considered unpatentable will be rejected.

(2)In rejecting claims for want of novelty or for obviousness, the examiner must cite the best references at his or her command. When a reference is complex or shows or describes inventions other than that claimed by the applicant, the particular part relied on must be designated as nearly as practicable. The pertinence of each reference, if not apparent, must be clearly explained and each rejected claim specified.

(3)In rejecting claims the examiner may rely upon admissions by the applicant, or the patent owner in a reexamination proceeding, as to any matter affecting patentability and, insofar as rejections in applications are concerned, may also rely upon facts within his or her knowledge pursuant to paragraph (d)(2) of this section.

(4)Subject matter which is developed by another person which qualifies as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) or (g) may be used as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103 against a claimed invention unless the entire rights to the subject matter and the claimed invention were commonly owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person at the time the claimed invention was made.

(i)Subject matter developed by another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been commonly owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person in any application and in any patent granted on or after December 10, 2004, if:

(A)The claimed invention and the subject matter was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;

(B)The claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(C)The application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

(ii)For purposes of paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section, the term “joint research agreement” means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.

(iii)To overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon subject matter which qualifies as prior art under only one or more of 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) or (g) via 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2), the applicant must provide a statement to the effect that the prior art and the claimed invention were made by or on the behalf of parties to a joint research agreement, within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3) and paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section, that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made, and that the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement.

(5)The claims in any original application naming an inventor will be rejected as being precluded by a waiver in a published statutory invention registration naming that inventor if the same subject matter is claimed in the application and the statutory invention registration. The claims in any reissue application naming an inventor will be rejected as being precluded by a waiver in a published statutory invention registration naming that inventor if the reissue application seeks to claim subject matter:

(i)Which was not covered by claims issued in the patent prior to the date of publication of the statutory invention registration; and

(ii)Which was the same subject matter waived in the statutory invention registration.

I. UNIFORM APPLICATION OF THE PATENTABILITY STANDARD

The standards of patentability applied in the examination of claims must be the same throughout the Office. In every art, whether it be considered "complex," "newly developed," "crowded," or "competitive," all of the requirements for patentability (e.g., novelty, usefulness and unobviousness, as provided in 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, and 103) must be met before a claim is allowed. The mere fact that a claim recites in detail all of the features of an invention (i.e., is a "picture" claim) is never, in itself, justification for the allowance of such a claim.

An application should not be allowed, unless and until issues pertinent to patentability have been raised and resolved in the course of examination and prosecution, since otherwise the resultant patent would not justify the statutory presumption of validity (35 U.S.C. 282), nor would it “strictly adhere” to the requirements laid down by Congress in the 1952 Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The standard to be applied in all cases is the “preponderance of the evidence” test. In other words, an examiner should reject a claim if, in view of the prior art and evidence of record, it is more likely than not that the claim is unpatentable.

II. DEFECTS IN FORM OR OMISSION OF A LIMITATION; CLAIMS OTHERWISE ALLOWABLE

When an application discloses patentable subject matter and it is apparent from the claims and the applicant's arguments that the claims are intended to be directed to such patentable subject matter, but the claims in their present form cannot be allowed because of defects in form or omission of a limitation, the examiner should not stop with a bare objection or rejection of the claims. The examiner’s action should be constructive in nature and when possible should offer a definite suggestion for correction.

III.PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER DISCLOSED BUT NOT CLAIMED

If the examiner is satisfied after the search has been completed that patentable subject matter has been disclosed and the record indicates that the applicant intends to claim such subject matter, he or she may note in the Office action that certain aspects or features of the patentable invention have not been claimed and that if properly claimed such claims may be given favorable consideration.

IV.RECONSIDERATION OF CLAIMS AFTER REPLY BY APPLICANT

37 CFR 1.112 Reconsideration before final action.

After reply by applicant or patent owner (§ 1.111 or § 1.945) to a non-final action and any comments by an inter partes reexamination requester (§ 1.947), the application or the patent under reexamination will be reconsidered and again examined. The applicant, or in the case of a reexamination proceeding the patent owner and any third party requester, will be notified if claims are rejected, objections or requirements made, or decisions favorable to patentability are made, in the same manner as after the first examination (§ 1.104). Applicant or patent owner may reply to such Office action in the same manner provided in § 1.111 or § 1.945, with or without amendment, unless such Office action indicates that it is made final (§ 1.113) or an appeal (§ 41.31 of this title) has been taken (§ 1.116), or in an inter partes reexamination, that it is an action closing prosecution (§ 1.949) or a right of appeal notice (§ 1.953).

37 CFR 1.112 provides for the reconsideration and continued examination of an application after reply by the applicant, and for the reconsideration and continued examination of a reexamination proceeding after a response by the patent owner. If claims are rejected, or objections or requirements are made, the applicant or patent owner will be notified in the same manner as notification was provided after the first examination. Applicant or patent owner may reply to such Office action (with or without amendment) in the same manner provided in 37 CFR 1.111, or 37 CFR 1.945 for an inter partes reexamination, unless such Office action indicates that it is made final (37 CFR 1.113), or an appeal under 37 CFR 41.31 has been taken (37 CFR 1.116), or such Office action indicates in an inter partes reexamination that it is an action closing prosecution (37 CFR 1.949) or a right of appeal notice (37 CFR 1.953). Once an appeal has been taken in an application or in an ex parte reexamination proceeding, any amendment (filed prior to an appeal brief) is subject to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.116(b) and (c), even if the appeal is in reply to a non-final Office action. See 37 CFR 41.33(b) for amendments filed with or after the filing of an appeal brief.

V. REJECTIONS IN STATUTORY INVENTION REGISTRATIONS

See MPEP 1100 for rejection of claims in an application for a Statutory Invention Registration.

706.01 Contrasted With Objections[edit | edit source]

The refusal to grant claims because the subject matter as claimed is considered unpatentable is called a “rejection.” The term “rejected” must be applied to such claims in the examiner’s action. If the form of the claim (as distinguished from its substance) is improper, an “objection” is made. An example of a matter of form as to which objection is made is dependency of a claim on a rejected claim, if the dependent claim is otherwise allowable. See MPEP § 608.01(n). The practical difference between a rejection and an objection is that a rejection, involving the merits of the claim, is subject to review by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, while an objection, if persisted, may be reviewed only by way of petition to the Director of the USPTO.

Similarly, the Board will not hear or decide issues pertaining to objections and formal matters which are not properly before the Board. These formal matters should not be combined in appeals to the Board.

706.02 Rejection on Prior Art[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 102. Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent.

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless —

(a)the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or

(b)the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States, or

(c)he has abandoned the invention, or

(d)the invention was first patented or caused to be patented, or was the subject of an inventor’s certificate, by the applicant or his legal representatives or assigns in a foreign country prior to the date of the application for patent in this country on an application for patent or inventor’s certificate filed more than twelve months before the filing of the application in the United States, or

(e)the invention was described in — (1) an application for patent, published under section 122(b), by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent or (2) a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent, except that an international application filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) shall have the effects for the purposes of this subsection of an application filed in the United States only if the international application designated the United States and was published under Article 21(2) of such treaty in the English language; or

(f)he did not himself invent the subject matter sought to be patented, or

(g)(1)during the course of an interference conducted under section 135 or section 291, another inventor involved therein establishes, to the extent permitted in section 104, that before such person’s invention thereof the invention was made by such other inventor and not abandoned, suppressed, or concealed, or (2) before such person’s invention thereof, the invention was made in this country by another inventor who had not abandoned, suppressed, or concealed it. In determining priority of invention under this subsection, there shall be considered not only the respective dates of conception and reduction to practice of the invention, but also the reasonable diligence of one who was first to conceive and last to reduce to practice, from a time prior to conception by the other.


35 U.S.C. 103. Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter.

(a)A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made.

(b)(1)Notwithstanding subsection (a), and upon timely election by the applicant for patent to proceed under this subsection, a biotechnological process using or resulting in a composition of matter that is novel under section 102 and nonobvious under subsection (a) of this section shall be considered nonobvious if-

(A)claims to the process and the composition of matter are contained in either the same application for patent or in separate applications having the same effective filing date; and

(B)the composition of matter, and the process at the time it was invented, were owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

(2)A patent issued on a process under paragraph (1)-

(A)shall also contain the claims to the composition of matter used in or made by that process, or

(B)shall, if such composition of matter is claimed in another patent, be set to expire on the same date as such other patent, notwithstanding section 154.

(3)For purposes of paragraph (1), the term “biotechnological process” means-

(A)a process of genetically altering or otherwise inducing a single- or multi-celled organism to-

(i)express an exogenous nucleotide sequence,

(ii)inhibit, eliminate, augment, or alter expression of an endogenous nucleotide sequence, or

(iii)express a specific physiological characteristic not naturally associated with said organism;

(B)cell fusion procedures yielding a cell line that expresses a specific protein, such as a monoclonal antibody; and

(C)a method of using a product produced by a process defined by subparagraph (A) or (B), or a combination of subparagraphs (A) and (B).

(c)(1) Subject matter developed by another person, which qualifies as prior art only under one or more of subsections (e), (f), and (g) of section 102 of this title, shall not preclude patentability under this section where the subject matter and the claimed invention were, at the time the claimed invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

(2)For purposes of this subsection, subject matter developed by another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person if —

(A)the claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;

(B)the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(C)the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

(3)For purposes of paragraph (2), the term “joint research agreement” means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.

By far the most frequent ground of rejection is on the ground of unpatentability in view of the prior art, that is, that the claimed subject matter is either not novel under 35 U.S.C. 102, or else it is obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103. The language to be used in rejecting claims should be unequivocal. See MPEP § 707.07(d).

I.CHOICE OF PRIOR ART; BEST AVAILABLE

Prior art rejections should ordinarily be confined strictly to the best available art. Exceptions may properly be made, for example, where:

(A)the propriety of a 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103 rejection depends on a particular interpretation of a claim;

(B)a claim is met only in terms by a reference which does not disclose the inventive concept involved; or

(C)the most pertinent reference seems likely to be antedated by a 37 CFR 1.131 affidavit or declaration.

Such rejections should be backed up by the best other art rejections available. Merely cumulative rejections, i.e., those which would clearly fall if the primary rejection were not sustained, should be avoided.

See also MPEP § 707.05.

II.RELIANCE UPON ABSTRACTS AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE DOCUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF A REJECTION

Prior art uncovered in searching the claimed subject matter of a patent application often includes English language abstracts of underlying documents, such as technical literature or foreign patent documents which may not be in the English language. When an abstract is used to support a rejection, the evidence relied upon is the facts contained in the abstract, not additional facts that may be contained in the underlying full text document. Citation of and reliance upon an abstract without citation of and reliance upon the underlying scientific document is generally inappropriate where both the abstract and the underlying document are prior art. See Ex parte Jones, 62 USPQ2d 1206, 1208 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 2001) (unpublished).

To determine whether both the abstract and the underlying document are prior art, a copy of the underlying document must be obtained and analyzed. If the document is in a language other than English and the examiner seeks to rely on that document, a translation must be obtained so that the record is clear as to the precise facts the examiner is relying upon in support of the rejection. The record must also be clear as to whether the examiner is relying upon the abstract or the full text document to support a rejection. The rationale for this is several-fold. It is not uncommon for a full text document to reveal that the document fully anticipates an invention that the abstract renders obvious at best. The converse may also be true, that the full text document will include teachings away from the invention that will preclude an obviousness rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103, when the abstract alone appears to support the rejection. An abstract can have a different effective publication date than the full text document. Because all patentability determinations are fact dependent, obtaining and considering full text documents at the earliest practicable time in the examination process will yield the fullest available set of facts upon which to determine patentability, thereby improving quality and reducing pendency.

When both the abstract and the underlying document qualify as prior art, the underlying document should normally be used to support a rejection. In limited circumstances, it may be appropriate for the examiner to make a rejection in a non-final Office action based in whole or in part on the abstract only without relying on the full text document. In such circumstances, the full text document and a translation (if not in English) may be supplied in the next Office action. Whether the next Office action may be made final is governed by MPEP § 706.07(a).

III. REEXAMINATION

For scope of rejections in ex parte reexamination proceedings, see MPEP § 2258 and in inter partesreexamination, see MPEP § 2658.

IV.DISTINCTION BETWEEN 35 U.S.C. 102 AND 103

The distinction between rejections based on 35 U.S.C. 102 and those based on 35 U.S.C. 103 should be kept in mind. Under the former, the claim is anticipated by the reference. No question of obviousness is present. In other words, for anticipation under 35 U.S.C. 102, the reference must teach every aspect of the claimed invention either explicitly or impliedly. Any feature not directly taught must be inherently present. Whereas, in a rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 103, the reference teachings must somehow be modified in order to meet the claims. The modification must be one which would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made. See MPEP § 2131 - § 2146 for guidance on patentability determinations under 35 U.S.C. 102 and 103.

V.DETERMINING THE EFFECTIVE FILING DATE OF THE APPLICATION

The effective filing date of a U.S. application may be determined as follows:

(A)If the application is a continuation or divisional of one or more earlier U.S. applications or international applications and if the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 120 and 365(c), respectively, have been satisfied, the effective filing date is the same as the earliest filing date in the line of continuation or divisional applications.

(B)If the application is a continuation-in-part of an earlier U.S. application or international application, any claims in the new application not supported by the specification and claims of the parent application have an effective filing date equal to the filing date of the new application. Any claims which are fully supported under 35 U.S.C. 112 by the earlier parent application have the effective filing date of that earlier parent application.

(C)If the application claims foreign priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) or 365(a)or (b), the effective filing date is the filing date of the U.S. application, unless situation (A) or (B) as set forth above applies. The filing date of the foreign priority document is not the effective filing date, although the filing date of the foreign priority document may be used to overcome certain references. See MPEP § 706.02(b) and § 2136.05.

(D)If the application properly claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) to a provisional application, the effective filing date is the filing date of the provisional application for any claims which are fully supported under the first paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112 by the provisional application.

See MPEP § 1893.03(b) for determining the effective filing date of an application under 35 U.S.C. 371. See MPEP § 201.11(a) and § 1895 for additional information on determining the effective filing date of a continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part of a PCT application designating the U.S. See also MPEP § 1895.01 and § 1896 which discuss differences between applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) and international applications that enter national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371.

706.02(a)Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 102(a), (b), or (e); Printed Publication or Patent[edit | edit source]

Once the examiner conducts a search and finds a printed publication or patent which discloses the claimed invention, the examiner should determine whether the rejection should be made under 35 U.S.C. 102(a), (b), or (e).

In order to determine which section of 35 U.S.C. 102 applies, the effective filing date of the application must be determined and compared with the date of the reference. See MPEP § 706.02 regarding determination of effective filing date of the application.

I.DETERMINING THE REFERENCE ISSUE OR PUBLICATION DATE

The examiner must determine the issue or publication date of the reference so that a proper comparison between the application and reference dates can be made. A magazine is effective as a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) as of the date it reached the addressee and not the date it was placed in the mail. Protein Foundation Inc. v. Brenner, 260 F. Supp. 519, 151 USPQ 561 (D.D.C. 1966). See MPEP § 707.05(f). For foreign patents see MPEP § 901.05. See MPEP § 2124, § 2126, and § 2128 - § 2128.02 for case law relevant to reference date determination.

II.DETERMINING WHETHER TO APPLY 35 U.S.C. 102(a), (b), or (e)

A.35 U.S.C. 102(b)

First, the examiner should consider whether the reference qualifies as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) because this section results in a statutory bar to obtaining a patent. If the publication or issue date of the reference is more than 1 year prior to the effective filing date of the application (MPEP § 706.02), the reference qualifies as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(b).

Where the last day of the year dated from the date of publication falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Federal holiday, the publication is not a statutory bar under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) if the application was filed on the next succeeding business day.

B.35 U.S.C. 102(e)

If the publication or issue date of the reference is too recent for 35 U.S.C. 102(b) to apply, then the examiner should consider 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

In order to apply a reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), the inventive entity of the application must be different than that of the reference. Note that, where there are joint inventors, only one inventor needs to be different for the inventive entities to be different and a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) is applicable even if there are some inventors in common between the application and the reference.

Revised 35 U.S.C. 102(e), as amended by the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 (AIPA) (Pub. L. 106-113, 113 Stat. 1501 (1999)), and as further amended by the Intellectual Property and High Technology Technical Amendments Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-273, 116 Stat. 1758 (2002)), applies in the examination of all applications, whenever filed, and the reexamination of, or other proceedings to contest, all patents. The filing date of the application being examined is no longer relevant in determining what version of 35 U.S.C. 102(e) to apply in determining the patentability of that application, or the patent resulting from that application. The revised statutory provisions supersede all previous versions of 35 U.S.C. 102(e) and 374, with only one exception, which is when the potential reference is based on an international application filed prior to November 29, 2000 (discussed further below). Furthermore, the provisions amending 35 U.S.C. 102(e) and 374 in Pub. L. 107-273 are completely retroactive to the effective date of the relevant provisions in the AIPA (November 29, 2000). See MPEP § 706.02(f)(1) for examination guidelines on the application of 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

35 U.S.C. 102. Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent.
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(e)the invention was described in — (1) an application for patent, published under section 122(b), by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent or (2) a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent, except that an international application filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) shall have the effects for the purposes of this subsection of an application filed in the United States only if the international application designated the United States and was published under Article 21(2) of such treaty in the English language; or

.          .          .

As mentioned above, references based on international applications that were filed prior to November 29, 2000 are subject to the former (pre-AIPA) version of 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as set forth below.

Former 35 U.S.C. 102. Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent.

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless-

.          .          .

(e)the invention was described in a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or on an international application by another who has fulfilled the requirements of paragraphs (1), (2), and (4) of section 371(c) of this title before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent.

Revised 35 U.S.C. 102(e) has two separate clauses, namely, 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) for publications of patent applications and 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) for U.S. patents. 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1), in combination with amended 35 U.S.C. 374, created a new category of prior art by providing prior art effect for certain publications of patent applications, including certain international applications, as of their effective United States filing dates (which will include certain international filing dates). Under revised 35 U.S.C. 102(e), an international filing date which is on or after November 29, 2000 is a United States filing date if the international application designated the United States and was published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Article 21(2) in the English language. Therefore, the prior art date of a reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) may be the international filing date (if all three conditions noted above are met) or an earlier U.S. filing date for which priority or benefit is properly claimed. Publication under PCT Article 21(2) may result from a request for early publication by an applicant of an international application or after the expiration of 18-months after the earliest claimed filing date in an international application. An applicant of an international application that has designated only the U.S. would continue to be required to request publication from WIPO as the reservation under PCT Article 64(3) continues to be in effect for such applicants. International applications, which: (1) were filed prior to November 29, 2000, or (2) did not designate the U.S., or (3) were not published in English under PCT Article 21(2) by WIPO, may not be used to reach back (bridge) to an earlier filing date through a priority or benefit claim for prior art purposes under 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

Revised 35 U.S.C. 102(e) eliminated the reference to fulfillment of the 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) requirements. As a result, United States patents issued directly from international applications filed on or after November 29, 2000 will no longer be available as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as of the date the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) have been satisfied. Under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2), as amended by the AIPA and Pub. L. 107-273, an international filing date which is on or after November 29, 2000 is a United States filing date for purposes of determining the earliest effective prior art date of a patent if the international application designated the United States and was published in the English language under PCT Article 21(2) by WIPO.

No international filing dates prior to November 29, 2000 may be relied upon as a prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) in accordance with the last sentence of the effective date provisions of Pub. L. 107-273. Patents issued directly, or indirectly, from international applications filed before November 29, 2000 may only be used as prior art based on the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 102(e) in effect before November 29, 2000. Thus, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of such a prior art patent is the earliest of the date of compliance with 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4), or the filing date of the later-filed U.S. continuing application that claimed the benefit of the international application. Publications of international applications filed before November 29, 2000 (which would include WIPO publications and U.S. publications of the national stage (35 U.S.C. 371)) do not have a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date at all (however, such publications are available as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of the publication date). Specifically, under revised 35 U.S.C. 374, the international application must be filed on or after November 29, 2000 for its WIPO publication to be “deemed a publication under section 122(b)” and thus available as a possible prior art reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as amended by the AIPA.

C.35 U.S.C. 102(a)

Even if the reference is prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), the examiner should still consider 35 U.S.C. 102(a) for two reasons. First, if the reference is a U.S. patent or patent application publication of, or claims benefit of, an international application, the publication of the international application under PCT Article 21(2) may be the earliest prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) for the disclosure. Second, references that are only prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g) and applied in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) are subject to being disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) if the reference and the application were commonly owned, or subject to an obligation of common assignment, at the time the invention was made. For 35 U.S.C. 102(a) to apply, the reference must have a publication date earlier in time than the effective filing date of the application, and must not be applicant’s own work.

706.02(b) Overcoming a 35 U.S.C. 102 Rejection Based on a Printed Publication or Patent[edit | edit source]

A rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 102(b) can be overcome by:

(A)Persuasively arguing that the claims are patentably distinguishable from the prior art;

(B)Amending the claims to patentably distinguish over the prior art;

(C)Perfecting benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120, within the time period set in 37 CFR 1.78(a) or filing a grantable petition under 37 CFR 1.78(a), by amending the specification of the application to contain a specific reference to a prior application or by filing an application data sheet under 37 CFR 1.76 which contains a specific reference to a prior application in accordance with 37 CFR 1.78(a), and by establishing that the prior application satisfies the enablement and written description requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. See MPEP § 201.11 and § 706.02; or

(D)Perfecting benefit claim under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) by complying with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.78(a) (see item (C) above). Since a provisional application could not have been filed more than one year prior to the filing of a nonprovisional application that claims benefit to the provisional application, in order to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(b), there must be at least one intermediate application between the provisional application and the nonprovisional application under examination, e.g., chain of prior applications. In order to overcome the rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(b), benefit claim must be perfected for the chain of prior applications (35 U.S.C. 119(e) and 120 must be perfected). See MPEP § 201.11.

A rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 102(e) can be overcome by:

(A)Persuasively arguing that the claims are patentably distinguishable from the prior art;

(B)Amending the claims to patentably distinguish over the prior art;

(C)Filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 showing that the reference invention is not by “another.” See MPEP § 715.01(a), § 715.01(c), and § 716.10;

(D)Filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 showing prior invention, if the reference is not a U.S. patent or a U.S. patent application publication claiming the same patentable invention as defined in 37 CFR 41.203(a). See MPEP § 715 for more information on 37 CFR 1.131 affidavits. When the claims of the reference U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication and the application are directed to the same invention or are obvious variants, an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 is not an acceptable method of overcoming the rejection. Under these circumstances, the examiner must determine whether a double patenting rejection or interference is appropriate. If there is a common assignee or inventor between the application and patent, a double patenting rejection must be made. See MPEP § 804. If there is no common assignee or inventor and the rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) is the only possible rejection, the examiner must determine whether an interference should be declared. See MPEP Chapter 2300 for more information regarding interferences;

(E)Perfecting a claim to priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) within the time period set in 37 CFR 1.55(a)(1) or filing a grantable petition under 37 CFR 1.55(c). See MPEP § 201.13. The foreign priority filing date must antedate the reference and be perfected. The filing date of the priority document is not perfected unless applicant has filed a certified priority document in the application (and an English language translation, if the document is not in English) (see 37 CFR 1.55(a)(3)) and the examiner has established that the priority document satisfies the enablement and description requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph; or

(F)Perfecting benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120, within the time periods set in 37 CFR 1.78(a) or filing a grantable petition under 37 CFR 1.78(a), by amending the specification of the application to contain a specific reference to a prior application or by filing an application data sheet under 37 CFR 1.76 which contains a specific reference to a prior application in accordance with 37 CFR 1.78(a), and by establishing that the prior application satisfies the enablement and written description requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. See MPEP § 201.11 and § 706.02.

A rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 102(a) can be overcome by:

(A)Persuasively arguing that the claims are patentably distinguishable from the prior art;

(B)Amending the claims to patentably distinguish over the prior art;

(C)Filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 showing prior invention, if the reference is not a U.S. patent or a U.S. patent application publication claiming the same patentable invention as defined in 37 CFR 41.203(a). See MPEP § 715 for information on the requirements of 37 CFR 1.131affidavits. When the claims of the reference U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication and the application are directed to the same invention or are obvious variants, an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 is not appropriate to overcome the rejection.

(D)Filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 showing that the reference invention is not by “another.” See MPEP § 715.01(a), § 715.01(c), and § 716.10;

(E)Perfecting a claim to priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) as explained in reference to 35 U.S.C. 102(e) above;

(F)Perfecting benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120 as explained in reference to 35 U.S.C. 102(e) above.

706.02(c) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b); Knowledge by Others or Public Use or Sale[edit | edit source]

An applicant may make an admission, or submit evidence of sale of the invention or knowledge of the invention by others, or the examiner may have personal knowledge that the invention was sold by applicant or known by others in this country. The language "in this country" means in the United States only and does not include other WTO or NAFTA member countries. In these cases the examiner must determine if 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or 102(b) applies. See MPEP § 2133.03 for a discussion of case law treating the "public use" and "on sale" statutory bars.

If the activity is by an entity other than the inventors or assignee, such as sale by another, manufacture by another or disclosure of the invention by applicant to another then both 35 U.S.C. 102(a) and (b) may be applicable. If the evidence only points to knowledge within the year prior to the effective filing date then 35 U.S.C. 102(a) applies. However, no rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) should be made if there is evidence that applicant made the invention and only disclosed it to others within the year prior to the effective filing date.

35 U.S.C. 102(b) is applicable if the activity occurred more than 1 year prior to the effective filing date of the application. See MPEP § 2133.03 for a dis cussion of "on sale" and "public use" bars under 35 U.S.C. 102(b).

Note that as an aid to resolving public use or on sale issues, as well as to other related matters of 35 U.S.C. 102(b) activity, an applicant may be required to answer specific questions posed by the examiner and to explain or supplement any evidence of record. See 35 U.S.C. 132, 37 CFR 1.104(a)(2). Information sought should be restricted to that which is reasonably necessary for the examiner to render a decision on patentability. The examiner may consider making a requirement for information under 37 CFR 1.105 where the evidence of record indicates reasonable necessity. See MPEP § 704.10 et seq.

A 1- or 2-month time period should be set by the examiner for any reply to the requirement, unless the requirement is part of an Office action having a shortened statutory period, in which case the period for reply to the Office action will also apply to the requirement. If applicant fails to reply in a timely fashion to a requirement for information, the application will be regarded as abandoned. 35 U.S.C. 133. See MPEP § 2133.03.

If there is not enough information on which to base a public use or on sale rejection, the examiner should make a requirement for more information.

706.02(d) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 102(c)[edit | edit source]

Under 35 U.S.C. 102(c), abandonment of the “invention” (as distinguished from abandonment of an application) results in loss of right to a patent. See MPEP § 2134 for case law which sets forth the criteria for abandonment under 35 U.S.C. 102(c).

706.02(e) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 102(d)[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 102(d) establishes four conditions which, if all are present, establish a statutory bar against the granting of a patent in this country:

(A)The foreign application must be filed more than 12 months before the effective filing date of the United States application. See MPEP § 706.02 regarding determination of the effective filing date of the application.

(B)The foreign and United States applications must be filed by the same applicant, his or her legal representatives or assigns.

(C)The foreign application must have actually issued as a patent or inventor’s certificate (e.g., granted by sealing of the papers in Great Britain) before the filing in the United States. It need not be published but the patent rights granted must be enforceable.

(D)The same invention must be involved.

If such a foreign patent or inventor’s certificate is discovered by the examiner, the rejection is made under 35 U.S.C. 102(d) on the ground of statutory bar.

706.02(f) Rejection Under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 102(e), in part, allows for certain prior art (i.e., U.S. patents, U.S. patent application publications and WIPO publications of international applications) to be applied against the claims as of its effective U.S. filing date. This provision of 35 U.S.C. 102 is mostly utilized when the publication or issue date is too recent for the reference to be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b). In order to apply a reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), the inventive entity of the application must be different than that of the reference. Note that, where there are joint inventors, only one inventor needs to be different for the inventive entities to be different and a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) is applicable even if there are some inventors in common between the application and the reference.

706.02(f)(1)Examination Guidelines for Applying References Under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)[edit | edit source]
I. DETERMINE THE APPROPRIATE 35 U.S.C. 102(e) DATE FOR EACH POTENTIAL REFERENCE BY FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES, EXAMPLES, AND FLOW CHARTS SET FORTH BELOW:[edit | edit source]

(A)The potential reference must be a U.S. patent, a U.S. application publication (35 U.S.C. 122(b)) or a WIPO publication of an international application under PCT Article 21(2) in order to apply the reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

(B)Determine if the potential reference resulted from, or claimed the benefit of, an international application. If the reference does, go to step (C) below. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of a reference that did not result from, nor claimed the benefit of, an international application is its earliest effective U.S. filing date, taking into consideration any proper benefit claims to prior U.S. applications under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120 if the prior application(s) properly supports the subject matter used to make the rejection in compliance with 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. See MPEP § 2136.02.

(C)If the potential reference resulted from, or claimed the benefit of, an international application, the following must be determined:

(1)If the international application meets the following three conditions:

(a)an international filing date on or after November 29, 2000;

(b)designated the United States; and

(c)published under PCT Article 21(2) in English,

then the international filing date is a U.S. filing date for prior art purposes under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). If such an international application properly claims benefit to an earlier-filed U.S. or international application, or to an earlier-filed U.S. provisional application, apply the reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as of the earlier filing date, assuming all the conditions of 35 U.S.C. 102(e), 119(e), 120, or 365(c) are met. The subject matter used in the rejection must be disclosed in the earlier-filed application in compliance with 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, in order for that subject matter to be entitled to the earlier filing date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). Note, where the earlier application is an international application, the earlier international application must satisfy the same three conditions (i.e., filed on or after November 29, 2000, designated the U.S., and had been published in English under PCT Article 21(2)) for the earlier international filing date to be a U.S. filing date for prior art purposes under 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

(2)If the international application was filed on or after November 29, 2000, but did not designate the United States or was not published in English under PCT Article 21(2), do not treat the international filing date as a U.S. filing date for prior art purposes. In this situation, do not apply the reference as of its international filing date, its date of completion of the35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) requirements, or any earlier filing date to which such an international application claims benefit or priority. The reference may be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date, or 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as of any later U.S. filing date of an application that properly claimed the benefit of the international application (if applicable).

(3)If the international application has an international filing date prior to November 29, 2000, apply the reference under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 102and 374, prior to the AIPA amendments:

(a)For U.S. patents, apply the reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as of the earlier of the date of completion of the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) or the filing date of the later- filed U.S. application that claimed the benefit of the international application;

(b)For U.S. application publications and WIPO publications directly resulting from international applications under PCT Article 21(2), never apply these references under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). These references may be applied as of their publication dates under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b);

(c)For U.S. application publications of applications that claim the benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 or 365(c) of an international application filed prior to November 29, 2000, apply the reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as of the actual filing date of the later-filed U.S. application that claimed the benefit of the international application.

(4)Examiners should be aware that although a publication of, or a U.S. Patent issued from, an international application may not have a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date at all, or may have a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date that is after the effective filing date of the application being examined (so it is not “prior art”), the corresponding WIPO publication of an international application may have an earlier 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) date.

(D)Foreign applications’ filing dates that are claimed (via 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d), (f), or 365(a) or (b)) in applications, which have been published as U.S. or WIPO application publications or patented in the U.S., may not be used as 35 U.S.C. 102(e) dates for prior art purposes. This includes international filing dates claimed as foreign priority dates under 35 U.S.C. 365(a) or (b).

II. EXAMPLES[edit | edit source]

In order to illustrate the prior art dates of U.S. and WIPO publications of patent applications and U.S. patents under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), nine examples are presented below. The examples only cover the most common factual situations that might be encountered when determining the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of a reference. Examples 1 and 2 involve only U.S. application publications and U.S. patents. Example 3 involves a priority claim to a foreign patent application. Examples 4-9 involve international applications. The time lines in the examples below show the history of the prior art references that could be applied against the claims of the application under examination, or the patent under reexamination.

The examples only show the information necessary to determine a prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). Also, the dates in the examples below are arbitrarily used and are presented for illustrative purposes only. Therefore, correlation of patent grant dates with Tuesdays or application publication dates with Thursdays may not be portrayed in the examples.

Example 1: Reference Publication and Patent of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) Application with no Priority/Benefit Claims.

For reference publications and patents of patent applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) with no claim for the benefit of, or priority to, a prior application, the prior art dates under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) accorded to these references are the earliest effective U.S. filing dates. Thus, a publication and patent of a 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application, which does not claim any benefit under either 35 U.S.C. 119(e), 120 or 365(c), would be accorded the application’s actual filing date as its prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

11/29/0008 Dec 200012 Jun 200203 Dec 2002
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 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application filed with no claims for benefit/priorityPublication of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted

The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication is 08 Dec. 2000. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 08 Dec. 2000.

Example 2: Reference Publication and Patent of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) Application with a Benefit Claim to a Prior U.S. Provisional or Nonprovisional Application.

For reference publications and patents of patent applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a), the prior art dates under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) accorded to these references are the earliest effective U.S. filing dates. Thus, a publication and patent of a 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application, which claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) to a prior U.S. provisional application or claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 of a prior nonprovisional application, would be accorded the earlier filing date as its prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), assuming the earlier-filed application has proper support for the subject matter as required by 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120.

01 Jan 200011/29/0001 Jan 200105 Jul 200102 Dec 2002
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1st 35 U.S.C. 111(a)/(b) application filed before effective date 2nd application, file under 35 U.S.C. 111(a), claiming the benefit or priority of the prior application under 35 U.S.C. 120/119(e)Publication of the 2nd application under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on 2nd application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication is: 01 Jan. 2000. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 01 Jan. 2000.


Example 3: Reference Publication and Patent of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) Application with 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) Priority Claim to a Prior Foreign Application.

For reference publications and patents of patent applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a), the prior art dates under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) accorded to these references are the earliest effective U.S. filing dates. No benefit of the filing date of the foreign application is given under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) for prior art purposes (In re Hilmer, 149 USPQ 480 (CCPA 1966)). Thus, a publication and patent of a 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application, which claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) to a prior foreign-filed application (or under 35 U.S.C. 365(a) to an international application), would be accorded its U.S. filing date as its prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). In the example below, it is assumed that the earlier-filed U.S. application has proper support for the subject matter of the later-filed U.S. application as required by 35 U.S.C. 120.

22 Jun 199821 Jun 199911/29/0016 Aug 200114 Mar 200201 Nov 2003
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Foreign application filed in Japan1st 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application filed claiming 35 U.S.C. 199(a)-(d) priority to Japanese application 2nd 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application filed under 37 CFR 1.53(b) or (d) with 35 U.S.C. 120 priority claimPublication of the 2nd 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on the 2nd 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication is: 21 June 1999. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 21 June 1999.


Example 4: References based on the national stage (35 U.S.C. 371) of an International Application filed on or after November 29, 2000 and which was published in English under PCT Article 21(2).

All references, whether the WIPO publication, the U.S. patent application publication or the U.S. patent, of an international application (IA) that was filed on or after November 29, 2000, designated the U.S., and was published in English under PCT Article 21(2) by WIPO have the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date of the international filing date or earlier effective U.S. filing date. No benefit of the international filing date (nor any U.S. filing dates prior to the IA), however, is given for 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art purposes if the IA was published under PCT Article 21(2) in a language other than English.

11/29/200101 Jan 200101 July 200201 Jun 200301 Jul 200301 Nov 2003
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 IA filed in Swedish, US designatedIA publication by WIPO in English35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2), and (4) fullfillment)Publication by USPTO under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on 35 U.S.C. 371 application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA Publication by WIPO is: 01 Jan. 2001. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication by USPTO is: 01 Jan. 2001. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 01 Jan. 2001.

Additional Benefit Claims:

If a later-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application claimed the benefit of the IA in the example above, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent or publication of the later-filed U.S. application would be the international filing date, assuming the earlier-filed IA has proper support for the subject matter relied upon as required by 35 U.S.C. 120.

If the IA properly claimed the benefit of an earlier-filed U.S. provisional (35 U.S.C. 111(b)) application or the benefit of an earlier-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date for all the references would be the filing date of the earlier-filed U.S. application, assuming the earlier-filed application has proper support for the subject matter relied upon as required by 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120.

Example 5: References based on the national stage (35 U.S.C. 371) of an International Application filed on or after November 29, 2000 and which was not published in English under PCT Article 21(2).

All references, whether the WIPO publication, the U.S. patent application publication or the U.S. patent, of an international application (IA) that was filed on or after November 29, 2000 but was not published in English under PCT Article 21(2) have no 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date at all. According to 35 U.S.C. 102(e), no benefit of the international filing date (nor any U.S. filing dates prior to the IA) is given for 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art purposes if the IA was published under PCT Article 21(2) in a language other than English, regardless of whether the international application entered the national stage. Such references may be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of their publication dates, but never under 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

11/29/200101 Jan 200101 July 200201 Jun 200302 Oct 200302 Nov 2004
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 IA filed, US designatedIA publication by WIPO NOT in English35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2), and (4) fullfillment)Publication by USPTO under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on 35 U.S.C. 371 application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA Publication by WIPO is: None. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication by USPTO is: None. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: None.

The IA publication by WIPO can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date (01 July 2002).

Additional Benefit Claims:

If the IA properly claimed the benefit of to any earlier-filed U.S. application (whether provisional or nonprovisional), there would still be no 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date for all the references.

If a later-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application claimed the benefit of the IA in the example above, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent or publication of the later-filed U.S. application would be the actual filing date of the later-filed U.S. application.


Example 6: References based on the national stage (35 U.S.C. 371) of an International Application filed prior to November 29, 2000 (language of the publication under PCT Article 21(2) is not relevant).

The reference U.S. patent issued from an international application (IA) that was filed prior to November 29, 2000 has a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date of the date of fulfillment of the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4). This is the pre-AIPA 35 U.S.C. 102(e). The application publications, both the WIPO publication and the U.S. publication, published from an international application that was filed prior to November 29, 2000, do not have any 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date. According to the effective date provisions as amended by Pub. L. 107-273, the amendments to 35 U.S.C. 102(e) and 374 are not applicable to international applications having international filing dates prior to November 29, 2000. The application publications can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of their publication dates.

01 Jan 200011/29/200101 July 200101 July 200203 Oct 200201 Nov 2003
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IA filed in Canada, desig. the US Publication of IA in any language under PCT Art. 21(2) by WIPONational Stage (NS)fulfilling 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2), and (4)Voluntary Publication of NS under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on 35 U.S.C. 371 application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA Publication by WIPO is: None.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication by USPTO is: None. The 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date for the Patent is: 01 July 2002.

The IA publication by WIPO can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date (01 July 2001).

Additional Benefit Claims:

If the IA properly claimed the benefit of any earlier-filed U.S. application (whether provisional or nonprovisional), there would still be no 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the U.S. and WIPO application publications, and the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date for the patent will still be 01 July 2002 (the date of fulfillment of the requirements under 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4)).

If a later-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application claimed the benefit of the IA in the example above, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date of the application publication of the later-filed U.S. application would be the actual filing date of the later-filed U.S. application, and the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent of the later- filed U.S. application would be 01 July 2002 (the date that the earlier-filed IA fulfilled the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4)).

If the patent was based on a later-filed U.S. application that claimed the benefit of the international application and the later filed U.S. application’s filing date is before the date the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) were fulfilled (if fulfilled at all), the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent would be the filing date of the later-filed U.S. application that claimed the benefit of the international application.


Example 7: References based on a 35 U.S.C. 111(a) Application which is a Continuation of an International Application, which was filed on or after November 29, 2000, designated the U.S. and was published in English under PCT Article 21(2).

All references, whether the WIPO publication, the U.S. patent application publication or the U.S. patent of, or claiming the benefit of, an international application (IA) that was filed on or after November 29, 2000, designated the U.S., and was published in English under PCT Article 21(2) have the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date of the international filing date or earlier effective U.S. filing date. No benefit of the international filing date (nor any U.S. filing dates prior to the IA), however, is given for 35 U.S.C. 102(e) purposes if the IA was published under PCT Article 21(2) by WIPO in a language other than English. In the example below, it is assumed that the earlier-filed IA has proper support for the subject matter of the later-filed U.S. application as required by 35 U.S.C. 120 and 365(c).

11/29/0001 Mar 200101 Sep 200201 May 200301 July 200301 Nov 2004
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 IA filed, US was designatedIA Publication by WIPO in English'35 U.S.C. 111(a) application claiming the benefit of the IA under 35 U.S.C. 365(c) is filedPublication of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) appl. by USPTO under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on 35 U.S.C. 111 (a) application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA Publication by WIPO is: 01 Mar. 2001.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication by USPTO is: 01 Mar. 2001.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 01 Mar. 2001.

Additional Benefit Claims:

If the IA properly claimed the benefit of an earlier-filed U.S. provisional (35 U.S.C. 111(b)) application or the benefit of an earlier-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date for all the references would be the filing date of the earlier-filed U.S. application, assuming the earlier-filed application has proper support for the subject matter relied upon as required by 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120.

If a second, later-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application claimed the benefit of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent or publication of the second, later-filed U.S. application would still be the international filing date of the IA, assuming the earlier-filed IA has proper support for the subject matter relied upon as required by 35 U.S.C. 120 and 365(c).

Example 8: References based on a 35 U.S.C. 111(a) Application which is a Continuation of an International Application, which was filed on or after November 29, 2000 and was not published in English under PCT Article 21(2).

Both the U.S. publication and the U.S. patent of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) continuation of an international application (IA) that was filed on or after November 29, 2000 but not published in English under PCT Article 21(2) have the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date of the actual U.S. filing date of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application. No benefit of the international filing date (nor any U.S. filing dates prior to the IA) is given for 35 U.S.C. 102(e) purposes since the IA was published under PCT Article 21(2) in a language other than English. The IA publication under PCT Article 21(2) does not have a prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) because the IA was not published in English under PCT Article 21(2). The IA publication under PCT Article 21(2) can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date.

11/29/0001 Mar 200101 Sep 200201 May 200301 July 200301 Nov 2004
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 IA filed, US was designatedIA Publication by WIPO NOT in English'35 U.S.C. 111(a) application claiming the benefit of the IA under 35 U.S.C. 365(c) is filedPublication of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) appl. by USPTO under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted on 35 U.S.C. 111 (a) application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA Publication by WIPO is: None.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication by USPTO is: 01 May 2003.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 01 May 2003

The IA publication by WIPO can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date (01 Sept 2002).

Additional Benefit Claims:

If the IA properly claimed the benefit of any earlier-filed U.S. application (whether provisional or nonprovisional), there would still be no 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA publication by WIPO, and the U.S. patent application publication and patent would still have a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the actual filing date of the later-filed 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above (01 May 2003).

If a second, later-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application claimed the benefit of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent or publication of the second, later-filed U.S. application would still be the actual filing date of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above (01 May 2003).


Example 9: References based on a 35 U.S.C. 111(a) Application which is a Continuation (filed prior to any entry of the national stage) of an International Application, which was filed prior to November 29, 2000 (language of the publication under PCT Article 21(2) is not relevant).

Both the U.S. publication and the U.S. patent of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) continuation (filed prior to any entry of the national stage) of an international application (IA) that was filed prior to November 29, 2000 have the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art date of their actual U.S. filing date under 35 U.S.C. 111(a). No benefit of the international filing date (nor any U.S. filing dates prior to the IA) is given for 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art purposes since the IA was filed prior to November 29, 2000. The IA publication under PCT Article 21(2) does not have a prior art date under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) because the IA was filed prior to November 29, 2000. The IA publication under PCT Article 21(2) can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date.

01 Mar 200001 Sep 200011/29/0001 Dec 200006 Dec 200106 Aug 2002
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IA filed, with priority claim, US designatedIA Publication by WIPO in any language' 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application filed claiming benefit of the prior IA applicationPublication of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) appl. by USPTO under 35 U.S.C. 122(b)Patent granted to 35 U.S.C. 111 (a) application


The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA Publication by WIPO is: None.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the Publication by USPTO is: 01 Dec. 2000.The 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(2) date for the Patent is: 01 Dec. 2000.

The IA publication by WIPO can be applied under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b) as of its publication date (01 Sept 2000).

Additional Benefit Claims:

If the IA properly claimed the benefit of any earlier-filed U.S. application (whether provisional or nonprovisional), there would still be no 35 U.S.C. 102(e)(1) date for the IA publication by WIPO, and the U.S. application publication and patent would still have a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the actual filing date of later- filed 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above (01 Dec 2000).

If a second, later-filed U.S. nonprovisional (35 U.S.C. 111(a)) application claimed the benefit of 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above, the 35 U.S.C. 102(e) date of the patent or publication of the second, later-filed U.S. application would still be the actual filing date of the 35 U.S.C. 111(a) application in the example above (01 Dec 2000).

III. FLOWCHARTS[edit | edit source]

Flowchart for 35 U.S.C. 102(e)DatesFlowchart for 35 U.S.C. 102(e)Dates FLOWCHARTS FOR 35 U.S.C. § 102(e) DATES: Apply to all applications and patents, whenever filed Chart I: For U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication under 35 U.S.C. § 122(b) (includes publications of § 371 applications) NoNoYesNoYesNoYesYesNoYesNoYesIs the reference a U.S. patent or U.S. application publication of an International Application (IA) after National Stage entry? (look for any of the following indicators: “35 U.S.C. § 371,” “§ 371,” “(22) PCT Filed:,” and/or “(86) PCT No.”) Was the IA filed on or after Nov. 29, 2000? - look at the international filing date Is there an IA in the continuity chain for which a benefit is properly sought via §§ 120 or 365(c)? Was the WIPO publication of the IA in English and did the IA designate the U.S.? For a patent:§ 102(e) date is the § 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) dateForm Paragraph 7.12.01 For a U.S. appl. publication: no § 102(e) date Reference is prior art as of its publication date under § 102(a) or (b) Form Paragraph 7.08 or 7.09 For a patent and a U.S. application publication: § 102(e) date is the international filing date or an earlier filing date for which a benefit is properly sought Form Paragraph 7.12 For a patent and a U.S. application publication: no § 102(e) date Reference is prior art as of its publication or grant date under § 102(a) or (b) Form Paragraph 7.08 or 7.09 Was the IA filed on or after Nov. 29, 2000? -look at the international filingdateWas the WIPO publication of the IA in English and did the IA designate the U.S.? For a patent: § 102(e) date is the § 371(c)(1), (2) and (4) date; or § 111(a) filing date if the IA never entered national stage. Form Paragraph 7.12.01 For a U.S. application publication: § 102(e) date is the filing date of the U.S. application that claimed benefit to the IAForm Paragraph 7.12 For a patent and a U.S. application publication: § 102(e) date is the international filing date or an earlier date for which a benefit is properly sought Form Paragraph 7.12 For a patent and a U.S. application publication: § 102(e) date is the filing date of the U.S. application that claimed benefit to the IA Form Paragraph 7.12 The reference was filed under § 111(a) and only claims benefit to other U.S. applications filed under § 111(a) or (b) or does not make any benefit claims. The § 102(e) date of the reference is the earliest U.S. filing date for which a benefit is properly sought via §§ 119(e) and/or 120 (do not consider foreign priority claims under §§ 119(a)-(d)).Form Paragraph 7.12 Consider benefit claims properly made under § 119(e) to U.S. provisional applications, § 120 to U.S. nonprovisional applications, and § 365(c) involving IAs. Do NOT consider foreign priority claims. § 371 (National Stage) Benefit claimto an IA (§§ 120 or 365(c)) No IA involved No




Flowchart for 35 U.S.C. 102(e)DatesFlowchart for 35 U.S.C. 102(e)Dates FLOWCHARTS FOR 35 U.S.C. § 102(e) DATES: Apply to all applications and patents, whenever filed Chart II: For WIPO publicationof International Applications (IAs) NoYesNoYesWas the IA filed on or after Nov. 29, 2000? - look at the international filing date Was the WIPO publication of the IA in English and did the IA designate the U.S.? no § 102(e) date Reference is prior art as of its publication date under § 102(a) or (b) no matter what the language of publication was. Form Paragraph 7.08 or 7.09 § 102(e) date is the international filing dateor an earlier filing date for which a benefit is properly sought FormParagraph7.12no § 102(e) date Reference is prior art as of its publication date under § 102(a) or (b) no matter what the language of publication was. Form Paragraph 7.08 or 7.09 Consider benefit claims properly made under § 119(e) to U.S. provisional applications, § 120 to U.S. nonprovisional applications, and § 365(c) involving IAs. Do NOT consider foreign priority claims. Glossary of Terms: U.S. patent application publication = pre-grant publication by the USPTO under 35 U.S.C. § 122(b) International application (IA) = an application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) § 371 application = an IA that has entered the national stage in the U.S. (35 U.S.C. § 371(c)(1), (2) and (4)) November 29, 2000 = the effective date for the amendments to §§ 102(e) and 374 WIPO = World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO Publication = a publication of an IA under PCT Article 21(2) (e.g., Publication No. WO 99/12345) § 111(a) = provision of the patent code that states the filing requirements for nonprovisionalapplications § 111(b) = provision of the patent code that states the filing requirements for provisionalapplications § 119(e) = provision of the patent code that allows for benefit claims to provisionalapplications § 119(a)-(d) = provision of the patent code that allows for priority claims to foreignapplications § 120 = provision of the patent code that allows for benefit claims to nonprovisionalapplications § 365(c) = provision of the patent code that allows for benefit claims to international applications





706.02(f)(2) Provisional Rejections Under35 U.S.C. 102(e); Reference Is a Copending U.S. Patent Application[edit | edit source]

If an earlier filed, copending, and unpublished U.S. patent application discloses subject matter which would anticipate the claims in a later filed pending U.S. application which has a different inventive entity, the examiner should determine whether a provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e) rejection of the later filed application can be made. In addition, a provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e) rejection may be made, in the circumstances described below, if the earlier filed, pending application has been published as redacted (37 CFR 1.217) and the subject matter relied upon in the rejection is not supported in the redacted publication of the patent application.

I. COPENDING U.S. APPLICATIONS HAVING AT LEAST ONE COMMON INVENTOR OR ARE COMMONLY ASSIGNED[edit | edit source]

If (1) at least one common inventor exists between the applications or the applications are commonly assigned and (2) the effective filing dates are different, then a provisional rejection of the later filed application should be made. The provisional rejection is appropriate in circumstances where if the earlier filed application is published or becomes a patent it would constitute actual prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102. Since the earlier-filed application is not published at the time of the rejection, the rejection must be provisionally made under 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

A provisional rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) can be overcome in the same manner that a 35 U.S.C. 102(e) rejection can be overcome. See MPEP § 706.02(b). The provisional rejection can also be overcome by abandoning the applications and filing a new application containing the subject matter of both.

II. COPENDING APPLICATIONS HAVING NO COMMON INVENTOR OR ASSIGNEE[edit | edit source]

If there is no common assignee or common inventor and the application was not published pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 122(b), the confidential status of applications under 35 U.S.C. 122(a) must be maintained and no rejection can be made relying on the earlier filed, unpublished application, or subject matter not supported in a redacted application publication, as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). If the filing dates of the applications are within 6 months of each other (3 months for simple subject matter) then interference may be proper. See MPEP Chapter 2300. If the application with the earliest effective U.S. filing date will not be published pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 122(b), it must be allowed to issue once all the statutory requirements are met. After the patent is published, it may be used as a reference in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) in the still pending application as appropriate. See MPEP § 706.02(a) and § 2136 et seq.

706.02(g) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 102(f)[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 102(f) bars the issuance of a patent where an applicant did not invent the subject matter being claimed and sought to be patented. See also 35 U.S.C. 101, which requires that whoever invents or discovers is the party who may obtain a patent for the particular invention or discovery. The examiner must presume the applicants are the proper inventors unless there is proof that another made the invention and that applicant derived the invention from the true inventor.

See MPEP § 2137 - § 2137.02 for more information on the substantive requirements of rejections under 35 U.S.C. 102(f).

706.02(h) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 102(g)[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 102(g) bars the issuance of a patent where another made the invention in the United States before applicant and had not abandoned, suppressed, or concealed it. This section of 35 U.S.C. 102 forms a basis for interference practice. See MPEP Chapter 2300 for more information on interference procedure. See MPEP § 2138 - § 2138.06 for more information on the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 102(g).

706.02(j) Contents of a 35 U.S.C. 103 Rejection[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 103 authorizes a rejection where, to meet the claim, it is necessary to modify a single reference or to combine it with one or more other references. After indicating that the rejection is under 35 U.S.C. 103, the examiner should set forth in the Office action:

(A)the relevant teachings of the prior art relied upon, preferably with reference to the relevant column or page number(s) and line number(s) where appropriate,

(B)the difference or differences in the claim over the applied reference(s),

(C)the proposed modification of the applied reference( s) necessary to arrive at the claimed subject matter, and

(D)an explanation why one of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made would have been motivated to make the proposed modification.

To establish a prima facie case of obviousness, three basic criteria must be met. First, there must be some suggestion or motivation, either in the references themselves or in the knowledge generally available to one of ordinary skill in the art, to modify the reference or to combine reference teachings. Second, there must be a reasonable expectation of success. Finally, the prior art reference (or references when combined) must teach or suggest all the claim limitations. The teaching or suggestion to make the claimed combination and the reasonable expectation of success must both be found in the prior art and not based on applicant’s disclosure. In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 20 USPQ2d 1438 (Fed. Cir. 1991). See MPEP § 2143- § 2143.03 for decisions pertinent to each of these criteria.

The initial burden is on the examiner to provide some suggestion of the desirability of doing what the inventor has done. “To support the conclusion that the claimed invention is directed to obvious subject matter, either the references must expressly or impliedly suggest the claimed invention or the examiner must present a convincing line of reasoning as to why the artisan would have found the claimed invention to have been obvious in light of the teachings of the references.” Ex parte Clapp, 227 USPQ 972, 973 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1985). See MPEP § 2144 - § 2144.09 for examples of reasoning supporting obviousness rejections.

Where a reference is relied on to support a rejection, whether or not in a minor capacity, that reference should be positively included in the statement of the rejection. See In re Hoch, 428 F.2d 1341, 1342 n.3 166 USPQ 406, 407 n. 3 (CCPA 1970).

It is important for an examiner to properly communicate the basis for a rejection so that the issues can be identified early and the applicant can be given fair opportunity to reply. Furthermore, if an initially rejected application issues as a patent, the rationale behind an earlier rejection may be important in interpreting the scope of the patent claims. Since issued patents are presumed valid (35 U.S.C. 282) and constitute a property right (35 U.S.C. 261), the written record must be clear as to the basis for the grant. Since patent examiners cannot normally be compelled to testify in legal proceedings regarding their mental processes (see MPEP § 1701.01), it is important that the written record clearly explain the rationale for decisions made during prosecution of the application.

See MPEP § 2141 - § 2144.09 generally for guidance on patentability determinations under 35 U.S.C. 103, including a discussion of the requirements of Graham v. John Deere, 383 U.S. 1, 148 USPQ 459 (1966). See MPEP § 2145 for consideration of applicant’s rebuttal arguments. See MPEP § 706.02(l) - § 706.02(l)(3) for a discussion of prior art disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

706.02(k) Provisional Rejection (Obviousness) Under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103[edit | edit source]

For patent applications pending on or after Dec. 10, 2004, examination proceedings, subject matter which was prior art under former 35 U.S.C. 103 via 35 U.S.C. 102(e) was disqualified as prior art against the claimed invention if that subject matter and the claimed invention "were, at the time the invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person."

Subject matter developed by another person shall be treated as owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person for purposes of determining obviousness if three conditions are met:

(A) the claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;

(B) the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(C) the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

For reexamination proceedings, the above rules are in effect only for patents granted on or after December 10, 2004.

Where two applications of different inventive entities are copending, not published under 35 U.S.C. 122(b), and the filing dates differ, a provisional rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 should be made in the later filed application unless the application has been excluded under 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

Provisional rejections are used to maintain confidentiality of unpublished applications.

A provisional rejection alerts the applicant that he or she can expect an actual rejection on the same ground if one of the applications issues and also lets applicant know that action must be taken to avoid the rejection.

This gives applicant the opportunity to analyze the propriety of the rejection and possibly avoid the loss of rights to desired subject matter. Provisional rejections of the obviousness type under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/ 103 are rejections applied to copending applications having different effective filing dates wherein each application has a common assignee or a common inventor. The earlier filed application, if patented or published, would constitute prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). The rejection can be overcome by:

(A) Arguing patentability over the earlier filed application;

(B) Combining the subject matter of the copending applications into a single application claiming benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 of the prior applications and abandoning the copending applications (Note that a claim in a subsequently filed application that relies on a combination of prior applications may not be entitled to the benefit of an earlier filing date under 35 U.S.C. 120 since 35 U.S.C. 120 requires that the earlier filed application contain a disclosure which complies with 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph for each claim in the subsequently filed application.);

(C) Filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 showing that any unclaimed invention disclosed in the copending application was derived from the inventor of the other application and is thus not invention "by another" (see MPEP § 715.01(a), § 715.01(c), and § 716.10);

(D) Filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 showing a date of invention prior to the effective U.S. filing date of the copending application. See MPEP § 715; or

(E) For an application that is pending on or after December 10, 2004, a showing that (1) the prior art and the claimed invention were, at the time the invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person, or (2) the subject matter is disqualified under the amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) made by the CREATE Act (i.e., joint research agreement disqualification).

Where the applications are claiming the same patentable invention, a terminal disclaimer and an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.130 may be used to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103 in a common ownership situation if the earlier filed application has been published or matured into a patent. See MPEP 718.

If a provisional rejection is made and the copending applications are combined into a single application and the resulting single application is subject to a restriction requirement, the divisional application would not be subject to a provisional or actual rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 since the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 121 preclude the use of a patent issuing therefrom as a reference against the other application. Additionally, the resulting continuation-in-part is entitled to 35 U.S.C. 120 benefit of each of the prior applications. This is illustrated in Example 2, below.

The following examples are instructive as to the application of 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 in applications filed prior to November 29, 1999 for which a patent was granted prior to December 10, 2004:


Example 1. Assumption: Employees A and B work for C, each with knowledge of the other's work, and with obligation to assign inventions to C while employed.

SITUATIONS RESULTS
1. A invents X and later files application. This is permissible.
2. B modifies X to XY. B files application before A’s filing. No 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or 102(g)/103 rejection; provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 rejection applies. Provisional double patenting rejection made.
3. B’s patent issues. A’s claims rejected under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 and double patenting.
4. A files 37 CFR 1.130 affidavit to disqualify B’s patent as prior art where the same patentable invention is being claimed. Terminal disclaimer filed under 37 CFR 1.321(c). Rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 may be overcome and double patenting rejection may be overcome if inventions X and XY are commonly owned and all requirements of 37 CFR 1.130 and 1.321 are met.

In situation (2.) above, the result is a provisionalrejection by the examiner under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/ 103. The rejection is provisional since the subject matter and the prior art are pending applications.


Example 2. Assumption: Employees A and B work for C, each with knowledge of the other’s work, and with obligation to assign inventions to C while employed.

SITUATIONS RESULTS
1. A invents X and files application. This is permissible.
2. B modifies X to XY after A’s application is filed. B files application establishing that A and B were both under obligation to assign inventions to C at the time the inventions were made. Provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 rejection made; provisional double patenting rejection made; no 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or 102(g)/103 rejection made.
3. A and B file continuing application claiming priority to both their earlier applications and abandon the earlier applications. Assume it is proper that restriction be required between X and XY.
4. X is elected and patent issues on X with divisional application being timely filed on XY. No rejection of divisional application under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 in view of 35 U.S.C. 121.

The following examples are instructive as to rejections under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 in applications that are pending on or after December 10, 2004:


Example 3. Assumption: Employees A and B work for C, each with knowledge of the other’s work, and with obligation to assign inventions to C while employed. Employee A’s application, which is pending on or after December 10, 2004, is being examined.

SITUATIONS RESULTS
1. A invents X and later files application. This is permissible.
2. B modifies X to XY. B files application before A’s filing. A files an application on invention X. Provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 rejection and a provisional double patenting rejection are made.
3. B’s patent issues. A’s claims are rejected under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 and double patenting.
4. A files evidence of common ownership of inventions X and XY at the time invention XY was made to disqualify B’s patent as prior art. In addition, A files a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321(c). Rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 will be withdrawn and double patenting rejection will be obviated if inventions X and XY are commonly owned at the time invention XY was made and all requirements of 37 CFR 1.321 are met.

In situation (2.) above, the result is a provisionalrejection by the examiner under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/ 103. The rejection is provisional since the subject matter and the prior art are pending applications.


Example 4. Assumption: Employees A and B work for C, each with knowledge of the other’s work, and with obligation to assign inventions to C while employed. Employee B’s application, which is pending on or after December 10, 2004, is being examined.

SITUATIONS RESULTS
1. A invents X and files application. This is permissible.
2. B modifies X to XY after A’s application is filed. B files evidence establishing that A and B were both under obligation to assign inventions to C at the time the invention XY was made. Provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 rejection cannot be made; provisional double patenting rejection is made; no 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or 102(g)/103 rejection made.
3. B files a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321(c). The provisional double patenting rejection made in B’s application would be obviated if all requirements of 37 CFR 1.321 are met.


Example 5. Assumption: Employee A works for assignee I and Employee B works for assignee J. There is a joint research agreement, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 103(c), between assignees I and J. Employees A and B each filed an application as set forth below. Employee B’s invention claimed in his application was made after the joint research agreement was entered into, and it was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint agreement. Employee B’s application discloses assignees I and J as the parties to the joint research agreement. Employee B’s application, which is pending on or after December 10, 2004, is being examined.

SITUATIONS RESULTS
1. A invents X and files application. This is permissible.
2. B modifies X to XY after A’s application is filed. B files evidence establishing a joint research agreement in compliance with 35 U.S.C. 103(c). Provisional 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 rejection cannot be made; provisional double patenting rejection is made; no 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or 102(g)/103 rejection made.
3. B files a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321. The provisional double patenting rejection made in B’s application would be obviated if all requirements of 37 CFR 1.321 are met.


EXAMINATION OF CONTINUING APPLICATION COMMONLY OWNED WITH ABANDONED PARENT APPLICATION TO WHICH BENEFIT IS CLAIMED UNDER 35 U.S.C. 120

An application claiming the benefit of a prior filed copending national or international application under 35 U.S.C. 120 must name as an inventor at least one inventor named in the prior filed application. The prior filed application must also disclose the named inventor’s invention claimed in at least one claim of the later filed application in the manner provided by the first paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112.

So long as the applications have at least one inventor in common and the other requirements are met, the Office will permit a claim for 35 U.S.C. 120 benefit without any additional submissions or notifications from applicants regarding inventorship differences.

706.02(l) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) Using Prior Art Under Only 35 U.S.C. 102 (e), (f), or (g)[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 103. Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter.
.          .          .

(c)

(1) Subject matter developed by another person, which qualifies as prior art only under one or more of subsections (e), (f), and (g) of section 102 of this title, shall not preclude patentability under this section where the subject matter and the claimed invention were, at the time the claimed invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

(2) For purposes of this subsection, subject matter developed by another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person if —

(A) the claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;

(B) the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(C) the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

(3) For purposes of paragraph (2), the term "joint research agreement" means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.


  • It is important to recognize that 35 U.S.C. 103(c) applies only to consideration of prior art for purposes of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103.
  • It does not apply to or affect subject matter which is applied in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102 or a double patenting rejection.
  • In addition, subject matter that qualifies as prior art under any other subsection of 35 U.S.C. 102 (e.g., 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (b)) it will not be disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c).
  • A patent applicant or patentee urging that subject

matter is disqualified has the burden of establishing that the prior art is disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

  • The term "another" as used in 35 U.S.C. 103 means any inventive entity other than the inventor and would include the inventor and any other persons.
  • The term "commonly owned" means wholly owned by the same person(s) or organization(s) at the time the invention was made.

FOR APPLICATIONS FILED PRIOR TO NOVEMBER 29, 1999 AND GRANTED AS PATENTS PRIOR TO DECEMBER 10, 2004

Prior to November 29, 1999, 35 U.S.C. 103(c) provided that subject matter developed by another which qualifies as “prior art” only under subsections 35 U.S.C. 102(f) or 35 U.S.C. 102(g) is not to be considered when determining whether an invention sought to be patented is obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103, provided the subject matter and the claimed invention were commonly owned at the time the invention was made. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(1) for information regarding when prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103is disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

For applications filed prior to November 29, 1999 and granted as patents prior to December 10, 2004, the subject matter that is disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) is strictly limited to subject matter that A) qualifies as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(f) or 35 U.S.C. 102(g), and B) was commonly owned with the claimed invention at the time the invention was made. If the subject matter that qualifies as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(f) or 35 U.S.C. 102(g) was not commonly owned at the time of the invention, the subject matter is not disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c). See OddzOn Products, Inc. v. Just Toys, Inc., 122 F.3d 1396, 1403-04, 43 USPQ2d 1641, 1646 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (“We therefore hold that subject matter derived from another not only is itself unpatentable to the party who derived it under § 102(f), but, when combined with other prior art, may make a resulting obvious invention unpatentable to that party under a combination of §§ 102(f) and 103.”) Therefore, in these applications, information learned from or transmitted to persons outside the organization is not disqualified as prior art.

Inventors of subject matter not commonly owned at the time of the invention, but currently commonly owned, may file as joint inventors in a single application. However, the claims in such an application are not protected from a 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or 35 U.S.C. 102(g)/103 rejection. Applicants in such cases have an obligation pursuant to 37 CFR 1.56 to point out the inventor and invention dates of each claim and the lack of common ownership at the time the later invention was made to enable the examiner to consider the applicability of a 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103or 35 U.S.C. 102(g)/103 rejection. The examiner will assume, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that applicants are complying with their duty of disclosure.

Foreign applicants will sometimes combine the subject matter of two or more related applications with different inventors into a single U.S. application naming joint inventors. The examiner will make the assumption, absent contrary evidence, that the applicants are complying with their duty of disclosure if no information is provided relative to invention dates and common ownership at the time the later invention was made. Such a claim for 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) priority based upon the foreign filed applications is appropriate and 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) priority can be accorded based upon each of the foreign filed applications.

706.02(l)(1) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) Using Prior Art Under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g); Prior Art Disqualification Under 35 U.S.C. 103(c)[edit | edit source]
35 U.S.C. 103. Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter.
.          .          .

(c)

(1) Subject matter developed by another person, which qualifies as prior art only under one or more of subsections (e), (f), and (g) of section 102 of this title, shall not preclude patentability under this section where the subject matter and the claimed invention were, at the time the claimed invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

(2) For purposes of this subsection, subject matter developed by another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person if —

(A) the claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;

(B) the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(C) the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

(3) For purposes of paragraph (2), the term "joint research agreement" means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.

I.COMMON OWNERSHIP OR ASSIGNEE PRIOR ART EXCLUSION UNDER 35 U.S.C. 103(c)[edit | edit source]

Enacted on November 29, 1999, the American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA) added subject matter which was prior art under former 35 U.S.C. 103 via 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as disqualified prior art against the claimed invention if that subject matter and the claimed invention “were, at the time the invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.” The 1999 change to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) only applied to all utility, design and plant patent applications filed on or after November 29, 1999. The Cooperative Research and Technology Enhancement Act of 2004 (CREATE Act), in part, redesignated the former 35 U.S.C. 103(c) to 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1) and made this provision effective to all applications in which the patent is granted on or after December 10, 2004. Therefore, the provision of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1) is effective for all applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, including applications filed prior to November 29, 1999. In addition, this provision applies to all patent applications, including utility, design, plant and reissue applications. The amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1) does not affect any application filed before November 29, 1999 and issued as a patent prior to December 10, 2004.

In a reexamination proceeding, however, one must look at whether or not the patent being reexamined was granted on or after December 10, 2004 to determine whether 35 U.S.C. 103(c), as amended by the CREATE Act, applies. For a reexamination proceeding of a patent granted prior to December 10, 2004 on an application filed on or after November 29, 1999, it is the 1999 changes to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) that are applicable to the disqualifying commonly assigned/owned prior art provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c). For a reexamination proceeding of a patent granted prior to December 10, 2004 on an application filed prior to November 29, 1999, neither the 1999 nor the 2004 changes to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) are applicable. Therefore, only prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(f) or (g) used in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) may be disqualified under the commonly assigned/owned prior art provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

For reissue applications, the doctrine of recapture may prevent the presentation of claims in the reissue applications that were amended or cancelled from the application which matured into the patent for which reissue is being sought, if the claims were amended or cancelled to distinguish the claimed invention from 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 prior art which was not able to be excluded under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) in the application that issued as a patent. If an examiner determines that this situation applies in the reissue application under examination, a consultation with the Office of Patent Legal Administration should be initiated via the Technology Center Special Program Examiner.

35 U.S.C. 103(c) applies only to prior art usable in an obviousness rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103. Subject matter that qualifies as anticipatory prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102 is not affected, and may still be used to reject claims as being anticipated. In addition, double patenting rejections, based on subject matter now disqualified as prior art in amended 35 U.S.C. 103(c), should still be made as appropriate. See 37 CFR 1.78(c) and MPEP § 804.

The burden of establishing that subject matter is disqualified as prior art is placed on applicant once the examiner has established a prima facie case of obviousness based on the subject matter. For example, the fact that the reference and the application have the same assignee is not, by itself, sufficient evidence to disqualify the prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c). There must be a statement that the common ownership was “at the time the invention was made.”

See MPEP § 706.02(l)(2) for information regarding establishing common ownership. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(3) for examination procedure with respect to 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

II. JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT DISQUALIFICATION UNDER 35 U.S.C. 103(c) BY THE CREATE ACT[edit | edit source]

The CREATE Act (Pub. L. 108-453, 118 Stat. 3596 (2004)) was enacted on December 10, 2004, and is effective for applications for which the patent is granted on or after December 10, 2004. Specifically, the CREATE Act amended 35 U.S.C. 103(c) to provide that:

  • subject matter developed by another person, which qualifies as prior art only under one or more of subsections (e), (f), and (g) of 35 U.S.C. 102 shall not preclude patentability under 35 U.S.C. 103 where the subject matter and the claimed invention were, at the time the claimed invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person;
  • for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 103, subject matter developed by another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person if
    • the claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made,
    • the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement, and
    • the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement;
  • for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 103(c), the term “joint research agreement” means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, development, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.

The effective date provision of the CREATE Act provided that its amendments shall apply to any patent (including any reissue patent) granted on or after December 10, 2004. The CREATE Act also provided that its amendment shall not affect any final decision of a court or the Office rendered before December 10, 2004, and shall not affect the right of any party in any action pending before the Office or a court on December 10, 2004, to have that party’s rights determined on the basis of the provisions of title 35, United States Code, in effect on December 9, 2004. Since the CREATE Act also includes the amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) made by section 4807 of the AIPA (see Pub. L. 106-113, 113 Stat. 1501, 1501A-591 (1999)), the change of “subsection (f) or (g)” to “one or more of subsections (e), (f), or (g)” in 35 U.S.C. 103(c) is now also applicable to applications filed prior to November 29, 1999, that were pending on December 10, 2004.

35 U.S.C. 103(c), as amended by the CREATE Act, continues to apply only to subject matter which qualifies as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g), and which is being relied upon in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103. If the rejection is anticipation under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g), 35 U.S.C. 103(c) cannot be relied upon to disqualify the subject matter in order to overcome or prevent the anticipation rejection. Likewise, 35 U.S.C. 103(c) cannot be relied upon to overcome or prevent a double patenting rejection. See 37 CFR 1.78(c) and MPEP § 804.

Because the CREATE Act applies only to patents granted on or after December 10, 2004, the recapture doctrine may prevent the presentation of claims in the reissue applications that had been amended or cancelled (e.g., to avoid a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based on subject matter that may now be disqualified under the CREATE Act) during the prosecution of the application which resulted in the patent being reissued.

706.02(l)(2)Establishing Common Ownership or Joint Research Agreement[edit | edit source]

In order to be disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c), the subject matter which would oth erwise be prior art to the claimed invention and the claimed invention must be commonly owned, or subject to an obligation of assignment to a same person, at the time the claimed invention was made or be subject to a joint research agreement at the time the invention was made. See MPEP § 706.02(l) for 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or 35 U.S.C. 102(g)/103 prior art disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) in applications granted as patents prior to December 10, 2004. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(1) for 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g)/ 103 prior art disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

I. DEFINITION OF COMMON OWNERSHIP[edit | edit source]

The term "commonly owned" is intended to mean that the subject matter which would otherwise be prior art to the claimed invention and the claimed invention are entirely or wholly owned by the same person(s) or organization(s)/business entity(ies) at the time the claimed invention was made. If the person(s) or organization(s) owned less than 100 percent of the subject matter which would otherwise be prior art to the claimed invention, or less than 100 percent of the claimed invention, then common ownership would not exist. Common ownership requires that the person( s) or organization(s)/business entity(ies) own 100 percent of the subject matter and 100 percent of the claimed invention.

Specifically, if an invention claimed in an application is owned by more than one entity and those entities seek to exclude the use of a reference under 35 U.S.C. 103, then the reference must be owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the same entities that owned the application, at the time the later invention was made. For example, assume Company A owns twenty percent of patent Application X and Company B owns eighty percent of patent Application X at the time the invention of Application X was made. In addition, assume that Companies A and B seek to exclude the use of Reference Z under 35 U.S.C. 103. Reference Z must have been co- owned, or have been under an obligation of assignment to both companies, on the date the invention was made in order for the exclusion to be properly requested. A statement such as “Application X and Patent Z were, at the time the invention of Application X was made, jointly owned by Companies A and B” would be sufficient evidence of common ownership.

For applications owned by a joint venture of two or more entities, both the application and the reference must have been owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the joint venture at the time the invention was made. For example, if Company A and Company B formed a joint venture, Company C, both Application X and Reference Z must have been owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, Company C at the time the invention was made in order for Reference Z to be properly excluded as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c). If Company A by itself owned Reference Z at the time the invention of Application X was made and Application X was owned by Company C on the date the invention was made, then a request for the exclusion of Reference Z as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) would not be proper.

As long as principal ownership rights to either the subject matter or the claimed invention reside in different persons or organizations common ownership does not exist. A license of the claimed invention to another by the owner where basic ownership rights are retained would not defeat ownership.

The requirement for common ownership at the time the claimed invention was made is intended to preclude obtaining ownership of subject matter after the claimed invention was made in order to disqualify that subject matter as prior art against the claimed invention.

The question of whether common ownership exists at the time the claimed invention was made is to be determined on the facts of the particular case in question. Actual ownership of the subject matter and the claimed invention by the same individual(s) or organization( s) or a legal obligation to assign both the subject matter and the claimed invention to the same individual(s) or organization(s)/business entity(ies) must be in existence at the time the claimed invention was made in order for the subject matter to be disqualified as prior art. A moral or unenforceable obligation would not evidence common ownership.

Under 35 U.S.C. 103(c), an applicant’s admission that subject matter was developed prior to applicant’s invention would not make the subject matter prior art to applicant if the subject matter qualifies as prior art only under sections 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g), and if the subject matter and the claimed invention were commonly owned at the time the invention was made. See In re Fout, 675 F.2d 297, 213 USPQ 532 (CCPA 1982), for a decision involving an applicant’s admission which was used as prior art against their application. If the subject matter and invention were not commonly owned, an admission that the subject matter is prior art would be usable under 35 U.S.C. 103.

The burden of establishing that subject matter is disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) is intended to be placed and reside upon the person or persons urging that the subject matter is disqualified. For example, a patent applicant urging that subject matter is disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c), would have the burden of establishing that it was commonly owned at the time the claimed invention was made. The patentee in litigation would likewise properly bear the same burden placed upon the applicant before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. To place the burden upon the patent examiner or the defendant in litigation would not be appropriate since evidence as to common ownership at the time the claimed invention was made might not be available to the patent examiner or the defendant in litigation, but such evidence, if it exists, should be readily available to the patent applicant or the patentee.

In view of 35 U.S.C. 103(c), the Director has reinstituted in appropriate circumstances the practice of rejecting claims in commonly owned applications of different inventive entities on the grounds of double patenting. Such rejections can be overcome in appropriate circumstances by the filing of terminal disclaimers. This practice has been judicially authorized. See In re Bowers, 359 F.2d 886, 149 USPQ 57 (CCPA 1966). The use of double patenting rejections which then could be overcome by terminal disclaimers preclude patent protection from being improperly extended while still permitting inventors and their assignees to obtain the legitimate benefits from their contributions. See also MPEP § 804.

The following examples are provided for illustration only:

Example 1

Parent Company owns 100% of Subsidiaries A and B

- inventions of A and B are commonly owned by the Parent Company.

Example 2

Parent Company owns 100% of Subsidiary A and 90% of Subsidiary B

- inventions of A and B are not commonly owned by the Parent Company.

Example 3

If same person owns subject matter and invention at time invention was made, license to another may be made without the subject matter becoming prior art.

Example 4

Different Government inventors retaining certain rights (e.g. foreign filing rights) in separate inventions owned by Government precludes common ownership of inventions.

Example 5

Company A and Company B form joint venture Company C. Employees of A, while working for C with an obligation to assign inventions to C, invent invention #1; employees of B while working for C with an obligation to assign inventions to C, invent invention #2, with knowledge of #1.

Question: Are #1 and #2 commonly owned at the time the later invention was made so as to preclude a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) or (g) in view of 35 U.S.C. 103?

Answer: Yes- If the required evidence of common ownership is made of record in the patent application file. If invention #1 was invented by employees of Company A not working for Company C and Company A maintained sole ownership of invention #1 at the time invention #2 was made, inventions #1 and #2 would not be commonly owned as required by 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

Example 6

Company A owns 40% of invention #1 and 60% of invention #2, and Company B owns 60% of invention

  1. 1 and 40% of invention #2 at the time invention
  2. 2 was made.

-inventions #1 and #2 are commonly owned.

Example 7

Company B has a joint research project with University A. Under the terms of the joint research project, University A has agreed that all of its patents will be jointly owned by Company B and University A. Professor X, who works for University A, has an employee agreement with University A assigning all his patents only to University A. After the joint research project agreement is exe cuted, University A files patent application #1 for the invention of Professor X, before Company B files patent application #2 on a similar invention.

- inventions #1 and #2 are commonly owned because Professor X’s obligation to assign patents to University A who has an obligation to assign patents to the A-B joint venture legally establishes Professor X’s obligation to assign patents to the A- B joint venture.

Example 8

Inventor X working at Company A invents and files patent application #1 on technology T, owned by Company A. After application #1 is filed, Company A spins off a 100% owned Subsidiary B for technology T including the transfer of the ownership of patent application #1 to Subsidiary B. After Subsidiary B is formed, inventor Y (formerly a Company A employee, but now an employee of Subsidiary B obligated to assign to Subsidiary B) jointly files application #2 with inventor X (now also an employee of Subsidiary B with an obligation to assign to Subsidiary B), which is directed to a possibly unobvious improvement to technology T.

- the inventions of applications #1 and #2 are commonly owned since Subsidiary B is a wholly owned subsidiary of Company A.

The examiner must examine the application as to all grounds except 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) and (g) as they apply through 35 U.S.C. 103 only if the application file(s) establishes common ownership at the time the later invention was made. Thus, it is necessary to look to the time at which common ownership exists. If common ownership does not exist at the time the later invention was made, the earlier invention is not disqualified as potential prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) and (g) as they apply through 35 U.S.C. 103. An invention is “made” when conception is complete as defined in Mergenthaler v. Scudder, 11 App. D.C. 264, 81 O.G. 1417, 1897 C.D. 724 (D.C. Cir. 1897); In re Tansel, 253 F.2d 241, 117 USPQ 188 (CCPA 1958). See Pfaff v. Wells Elecs., 525 U.S. 55, 119 S. Ct. 304, 312, 48 USPQ2d 1641, 1647 (1998) (“the invention must be ready for patenting . . . . by proof that prior to the critical date the inventor had prepared drawing or other descriptions of the invention that were sufficiently specific to enable a person skilled in the art to practice the invention.”) Common ownership at the time the invention was made for purposes of obviating a 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/35 U.S.C. 103, 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/35 U.S.C. 103 or 35 U.S.C. 102(g)/35 U.S.C. 103 rejection may be established irrespective of whether the invention was made in the United States or abroad. The provisions of 35 U.S.C. 104, however, will continue to apply to other proceedings in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, e.g. in an interference proceeding, with regard to establishing a date of invention by knowledge or use thereof, or other activity with respect thereto, in a foreign country. The foreign filing date will continue to be used for interference purposes under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) and 35 U.S.C. 365.

II. EVIDENCE REQUIRED TO ESTABLISH COMMON OWNERSHIP[edit | edit source]

It is important to recognize just what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish common ownership at the time the invention was made. The common ownership must be shown to exist at the time the later invention was made. A statement of present common ownership is not sufficient. In re Onda, 229 USPQ 235 (Comm’r Pat. 1985).

The following statement is sufficient evidence to establish common ownership of, or an obligation for assignment to, the same person(s) or organizations(s):

Applications and references (whether patents, patent applications, patent application publications, etc.) will be considered by the examiner to be owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person, at the time the invention was made, if the applicant(s) or an attorney or agent of record makes a statement to the effect that the application and the reference were, at the time the invention was made, owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the same person.

See “Guidelines Setting Forth a Modified Policy Concerning the Evidence of Common Ownership, or an Obligation of Assignment to the Same Person, as Required by 35 U.S.C. 103(c),” 1241 O.G. 96 (December 26, 2000). The applicant(s) or the representative( s) of record have the best knowledge of the ownership of their application(s) and reference(s), and their statement of such is sufficient evidence because of their paramount obligation of candor and good faith to the USPTO.

The statement concerning common ownership should be clear and conspicuous (e.g., on a separate piece of paper or in a separately labeled section) in order to ensure that the examiner quickly notices the statement. Applicants may, but are not required to, submit further evidence, such as assignment records, affidavits or declarations by the common owner, or court decisions, in addition to the above-mentioned statement concerning common ownership.

For example, an attorney or agent of record receives an Office action for Application X in which all the claims are rejected under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) using Patent A in view of Patent B wherein Patent A is only available as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), and/or (g). In her response to the Office action, the attorney or agent of record for Application X states, in a clear and conspicuous manner, that:

"Application X and Patent A were, at the time the invention of Application X was made, owned by Company Z."

This statement alone is sufficient evidence to disqualify Patent A from being used in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) against the claims of Application X.

In rare instances, the examiner may have independent evidence that raises a material doubt as to the accuracy of applicant’s representation of either (1) the common ownership of, or (2) the existence of an obligation to commonly assign, the application being examined and the applied U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication reference. In such cases, the examiner may explain why the accuracy of the representation is doubted, and require objective evidence of common ownership of, or the existence of an obligation to assign, the application being examined and the applied reference as of the date of invention of the application being examined. As mentioned above, applicant(s) may submit, in addition to the above- mentioned statement regarding common ownership, the following objective evidence:

(A) Reference to assignments recorded in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in accordance with 37 CFR Part 3 which convey the entire rights in the applications to the same person(s) or organization(s);

(B) Copies of unrecorded assignments which convey the entire rights in the applications to the same person(s) or organization(s) are filed in each of the applications;

(C) An affidavit or declaration by the common owner is filed which states that there is common ownership and states facts which explain why the affiant or declarant believes there is common ownership, which affidavit or declaration may be signed by an official of the corporation or organization empowered to act on behalf of the corporation or organization when the common owner is a corporation or other organization; and

(D) Other evidence is submitted which establishes common ownership of the applications.

III.EVIDENCE REQUIRED TO ESTABLISH A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT[edit | edit source]

Once an examiner has established a prima faciecase of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103(a), the burden of overcoming the rejection by invoking the joint research agreement provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as amended by the CREATE Act is on the applicant or the patentee. 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3) defines a “joint research agreement” as a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention, that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention (under examination or reexamination) was made.

Like the common ownership or assignment provision, the joint research agreement must be shown to be in effect on or before the time the later invention was made. The joint research agreement may be in effect prior to the effective date (December 10, 2004) of the CREATE Act. In addition, the joint research agreement is NOT required to be in effect on or before the prior art date of the reference that is sought to be disqualified.

To overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon subject matter (whether a patent document, publication, or other evidence) which qualifies as prior art under only one or more of 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g) via the CREATE Act, the applicant must comply with the statute and the rules of practice in effect.

37 CFR 1.71. Detailed description and specification of the invention.
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(g)

(1) The specification may disclose or be amended to disclose the names of the parties to a joint research agreement (35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2)(C)).

(2) An amendment under paragraph (g)(1) of this section must be accompanied by the processing fee set forth § 1.17(i) if not filed within one of the following time periods:

(i) Within three months of the filing date of a national application;

(ii) Within three months of the date of entry of the national stage as set forth in § 1.491 in an international application;

(iii) Before the mailing of a first Office action on the merits; or

(iv) Before the mailing of a first Office action after the filing of a request for continued examination under § 1.114.

(3) If an amendment under paragraph (g)(1) of this section is filed after the date the issue fee is paid, the patent as issued may not necessarily include the names of the parties to the joint research agreement. If the patent as issued does not include the names of the parties to the joint research agreement, the patent must be corrected to include the names of the parties to the joint research agreement by a certificate of correction under 35 U.S.C. 255 and § 1.323 for the amendment to be effective.


37 CFR 1.104. Nature of examination.
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(c) Rejection of claims.

(4) Subject matter which is developed by another person which qualifies as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) or (g) may be used as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103 against a claimed invention unless the entire rights to the subject matter and the claimed invention were commonly owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person at the time the claimed invention was made.

(i) Subject matter developed by another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been commonly owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person in any application and in any patent granted on or after December 10, 2004, if:

(A) The claimed invention and the subject matter was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;

(B) The claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(C) The application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

(ii) For purposes of paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section, the term “joint research agreement” means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.

(iii) To overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon subject matter which qualifies as prior art under only one or more of 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) or (g) via 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2), the applicant must provide a statement to the effect that the prior art and the claimed invention were made by or on the behalf of parties to a joint research agreement, within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3) and paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section, that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made, and that the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement.

37 CFR 1.71(g) provides for the situation in which an application discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to a joint research agreement to invoke the “safe harbor” provision of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as amended by the CREATE Act. 37 CFR 1.71(g)(1) specifically provides that the specification may disclose or be amended to disclose the name of each party to the joint research agreement because this information is required by 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2)(C).

37 CFR 1.71(g)(2) provides that an amendment under 37 CFR 1.71(g)(1) must be accompanied by the processing fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(i) if it is not filed within one of the following time periods: (1) within three months of the filing date of a national application; (2) within three months of the date of entry of the national stage as set forth in 37 CFR 1.491 in an international application; (3) before the mailing of a first Office action on the merits; or (4) before the mailing of a first Office action after the filing of a request for continued examination under 37 CFR 1.114.

37 CFR 1.71(g)(3) provides that if an amendment under 37 CFR 1.71(g)(1) is filed after the date the issue fee is paid, the patent as issued may not necessarily include the names of the parties to the joint research agreement. 37 CFR 1.71(g)(3) also provides that if the patent as issued does not include the names of the parties to the joint research agreement, the patent must be corrected to include the names of the parties to the joint research agreement by a certificate of correction under 35 U.S.C. 255 and 37 CFR 1.323 for the amendment to be effective. The requirements of 37 CFR 1.71(g)(3) (correction of the patent by a certificate of correction under 35 U.S.C. 255 and 37 CFR 1.323) also apply in the situation in which such an amendment is not filed until after the date the patent was granted (in a patent granted on or after December 10, 2004). It is unnecessary to file a reissue application or request for reexamination of the patent to submit the amendment and other information necessary to take advantage of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as amended by the CREATE Act. See H.R. Rep. No. 108-425, at 9 (“[t]he omission of the names of parties to the agreement is not an error that would justify commencement of a reissue or reexamination proceeding”).

The submission of such an amendment remains subject to the rules of practice: e.g., 37 CFR 1.116, 1.121, and 1.312. For example, if an amendment under 37 CFR 1.71(g) is submitted in an application under final rejection to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon a U.S. patent which qualifies as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), the examiner may refuse to enter the amendment under 37 CFR 1.71(g) if it is not accompanied by an appropriate terminal disclaimer (37 CFR 1.321(d)). This is because such an amendment may necessitate the reopening of prosecution (e.g., for entry of a double patenting rejection).

If an amendment under 37 CFR 1.71(g) is submitted to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication which qualifies as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), and the examiner withdraws the rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a), the examiner may need to issue an Office action containing a new double patenting rejection based upon the disqualified patent or patent application publication. In these situations, such Office action can be made final, provided that the examiner introduces no other new ground of rejection that was not necessitated by either amendment or an information disclosure statement filed during the time period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p). The Office action is properly made final because the new double patenting rejection was necessitated by amendment of the application by applicant. This is the case regardless of whether the claims themselves have been amended.

In addition to amending the specification to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement, applicant must submit the required statement to invoke the prior art disqualification under the CREATE Act. 37 CFR 1.104(c)(4) sets forth the requirement for the statement, which includes a statement to the effect that the prior art and the claimed invention were made by or on the behalf of parties to a joint research agreement, within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3), which was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made, and that the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement. The statement should either be on or begin on a separate sheet and must not be directed to other matters (37 CFR 1.4(c)). The statement must be signed in accordance with 37 CFR 1.33(b).

If the applicant disqualifies the subject matter relied upon by the examiner in accordance with 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as amended by the CREATE Act and the procedures set forth in the rules, the examiner will treat the application under examination and the 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g) prior art as if they are commonly owned for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 103(a).

The following examples are provided for illustration only:

Example 1

Company A and University B have a joint research agreement (JRA) in place prior to the date invention X’ was made. Professor BB from University B communicates invention X to Company A. On November 12, 2004, University B filed a patent application on invention X. On December 13, 2004, Company A filed a patent application disclosing and claiming invention X’, which is an obvious variant of invention X. Invention X’ was made as a result of the activities undertaken within the scope of the JRA. University B retains ownership of invention X and Company A retains ownership of invention X’, without any obligation to assign the inventions to a common owner. Company A could invoke the joint research agreement provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) to disqualify University B’s application as prior art in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a).


Example 2

Professor BB from University B communicates invention X to Company A. On November 12, 2004, University B filed a patent application on invention X. On December 13, 2004, Company A filed a patent application disclosing and claiming invention X’, which is an obvious variant of invention X. Company A and University B have a joint research agreement (JRA), which goes into effect on December 20, 2004. University B retains ownership of invention X and Company A retains ownership of invention X’, without any obligation to assign the inventions to a common owner. Company A could not invoke the joint research agreement provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) to disqualify University B’s application as prior art in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) because the JRA was not in effect until after the later invention was made.

Example 3

Company A and University B have a joint research agreement (JRA) in place prior to the date invention X’ was made but the JRA is limited to activities for invention Y, which is distinct from invention X. Professor BB from University B communicates invention X to Company A. On November 12, 2004, University B filed a patent application on invention X. On December 13, 2004, Company A filed a patent application disclosing and claiming invention X’, which is an obvious variant of invention X. University B retains ownership of invention X and Company A retains ownership of invention X’, without any obligation to assign the inventions to a common owner. Company A could not invoke the joint research agreement provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) to disqualify University B’s application as prior art in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) because the claimed invention was not made as a result of the activities undertaken within the scope of the JRA.

706.02(l)(3)Examination Procedure With Respect to 35 U.S.C. 103(c)[edit | edit source]

Applications and patents will be considered to be owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the same person, at the time the invention was made, if the applicant(s) or an attorney or agent of record makes a statement to the effect that the application and the reference were, at the time the invention was made, owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the same person(s) or organization(s). In order to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon a reference which qualifies as prior art under only one or more of 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g), via the CREATE Act, the applicant must comply with the statute and the rules of practice in effect.

See MPEP § 706.02(l)(2) for additional information pertaining to establishing common ownership.

I. DOUBLE PATENTING REJECTIONS[edit | edit source]
  • Commonly owned applications of different inventive entities may be rejected on the ground of double patenting, even if the later filed application claims 35 U.S.C. 120 benefit to the earlier pplication.
  • For purposes of double patenting analysis, the application or patent and the subject matter disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as amended by the CREATE Act will be treated as if commonly owned.

A rejection based on a pending application would be a provisional rejection. The practice of rejecting claims on the ground of double patenting in commonly owned applications of different inventive entities is in accordance with existing case law and prevents an organization from obtaining two or more patents with different expiration dates covering nearly identical subject matter. See MPEP 804 for guidance on double patenting issues. In accordance with established patent law doctrines, double patenting rejections can be overcome in certain circumstances by disclaiming, pursuant to the existing provisions of 37 CFR 1.321, the terminal portion of the term of the later patent and including in the disclaimer a provision that the patent shall be enforceable only for and during the period the patent is commonly owned with the application or patent which formed the basis for the rejection, thereby eliminating the problem of extending patent life. For a double patenting rejection based on a non-commonly owned patent (treated as if commonly owned pursuant to the CREATE Act), the double patenting rejection may be obviated by filing a terminal disclaimer in accordance with 37 CFR 1.321(d). See MPEP § 804 and § 804.02.

706.02(n)Biotechnology Process Applications; 35 U.S.C. 103(b)[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 103. Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter.
.          .          .

(b)(1) Notwithstanding subsection (a), and upon timely election by the applicant for patent to proceed under this subsection, a biotechnological process using or resulting in a composition of matter that is novel under section 102 and nonobvious under subsection (a) of this section shall be considered nonobvious if-

(A)claims to the process and the composition of matter are contained in either the same application for patent or in separate applications having the same effective filing date; and

(B)the composition of matter, and the process at the time it was invented, were owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

(2)A patent issued on a process under paragraph (1)-

(A)shall also contain the claims to the composition of matter used in or made by that process, or

(B)shall, if such composition of matter is claimed in another patent, be set to expire on the same date as such other patent, notwithstanding section 154.

(3)For purposes of paragraph (1), the term “biotechnological process” means-

(A)a process of genetically altering or otherwise inducing a single- or multi-celled organism to-

(i)express an exogenous nucleotide sequence,

(ii)inhibit, eliminate, augment, or alter expression of an endogenous nucleotide sequence, or

(iii)express a specific physiological characteristic not naturally associated with said organism;

(B)cell fusion procedures yielding a cell line that expresses a specific protein, such as a monoclonal antibody; and

(C)a method of using a product produced by a process defined by subparagraph (A) or (B), or a combination of subparagraphs (A) and (B).

.          .          .

35 U.S.C. 103(b) is applicable to biotechnological processes only. 35 U.S.C. 103(b) precludes a rejection of process claims which involve the use or making of certain nonobvious biotechnological compositions of matter under 35 U.S.C. 103(a).

35 U.S.C. 103(b) requires that:

(A)the biotechnological process and composition of matter be contained in either the same application or in separate applications having the same effective filing date;

(B)both the biotechnological process and composition of matter be owned or subject to an assignment to the same person at the time the process was invented;

(C)a patent issued on the process also contain the claims to the composition of matter used in or made by the process, or, if the process and composition of matter are in different patents, the patents expire on the same date;

(D)the biotechnological process falls within the definition set forth in 35 U.S.C. 103(b); and

(E)a timely election be made to proceed under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(b).

An election to proceed under 35 U.S.C. 103(b) shall be made by way of petition under 37 CFR 1.182. The petition must establish that all the requirements set forth in 35 U.S.C. 103(b) have been satisfied.

An election will normally be considered timely if it is made no later than the earlier of either the payment of the issue fee or the filing of an appeal brief in an application which contains a composition of matter claim which has not been rejected under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103.

In an application where at least one composition of matter claim has not been rejected under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103, a 35 U.S.C. 103(b) election may be made by submitting the petition and an amendment requesting entry of process claims which correspond to the composition of matter claim.

For applications pending on or after November 1, 1995, in which the issue fee has been paid prior to March 26, 1996, the timeliness requirement for an election under 35 U.S.C. 103(b) will be considered satisfied if the conditions of 37 CFR 1.312(b) are met. However, if a patent is granted on an application entitled to the benefit of 35 U.S.C. 103(b) without an election having been made as a result of error without deceptive intent, patentees may file a reissue application to permit consideration of process claims which qualify for 35 U.S.C. 103(b) treatment.

706.03 Rejections Not Based on Prior Art[edit | edit source]

The primary object of the examination of an application is to determine whether or not the claims are patentable over the prior art. This consideration should not be relegated to a secondary position while undue emphasis is given to nonprior art or “technical” rejections. Effort in examining should be concentrated on truly essential matters, minimizing or eliminating effort on technical rejections which are not really critical. Where a major technical rejection is proper (e.g., lack of proper disclosure, undue breadth, utility, etc.) such rejection should be stated with a full development of the reasons rather than by a mere conclusion coupled with some stereotyped expression.

Rejections based on nonstatutory subject matter are explained in MPEP § 706.03(a), § 2105, § 2106 - § 2106.02, and § 2107 - § 2107.02. Rejections based on subject matter barred by the Atomic Energy Act are explained in MPEP § 706.03(b). Rejections based on duplicate claims are addressed in MPEP § 706.03(k), and double patenting rejections are addressed in MPEP § 804. See MPEP § 706.03(o) for rejections based on new matter. Foreign filing without a license is discussed in MPEP § 706.03(s). Disclaimer, after interference or public use proceeding, res judicata, and reissue are explained in MPEP § 706.03(u) to § 706.03(x). Rejections based on 35 U.S.C. 112 are discussed in MPEP § 2161 - § 2174. IF THE LANGUAGE IN THE FORM PARAGRAPHS IS INCORPORATED IN THE OFFICE ACTION TO STATE THE REJECTION, THERE WILL BE LESS CHANCE OF A MISUNDERSTANDING AS TO THE GROUNDS OF REJECTION.

706.03(a)Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 101[edit | edit source]

I.SUBJECT MATTER ELIGIBILITY

Patents are not granted for all new and useful inventions and discoveries. The subject matter of the invention or discovery must come within the boundaries set forth by 35 U.S.C. 101, which permits patents to be granted only for “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”

The term “process” as defined in 35 U.S.C. 100, means process, art or method, and includes a new use of a known process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or material.

See MPEP § 2105 for patent eligibility of living subject matter and MPEP § 2106 for guidelines pertaining to subject matter eligibility in general.

Decisions have determined the limits of the statutory classes. Examples of subject matter not patentable under the statute follow:

A.Printed Matter

For example, a mere arrangement of printed matter, though seemingly a “manufacture,” is rejected as not being within the statutory classes. See In re Miller, 418 F.2d 1392, 164 USPQ 46 (CCPA 1969); Ex parte Gwinn, 112 USPQ 439 (Bd. App. 1955); and In re Jones, 373 F.2d 1007, 153 USPQ 77 (CCPA 1967).

B.Naturally Occurring Article

Similarly, a thing occurring in nature, which is substantially unaltered, is not a “manufacture.” A shrimp with the head and digestive tract removed is an example. Ex parte Grayson, 51 USPQ 413 (Bd. App. 1941).

C.Scientific Principle

A scientific principle, divorced from any tangible structure, can be rejected as not within the statutory classes. O'Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. (15 How.) 62 (1854).

This subject matter is further limited by the Atomic Energy Act explained in MPEP § 706.03(b).

II.UTILITY

A rejection on the ground of lack of utility includes the more specific grounds of inoperativeness, involving perpetual motion. A rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 for lack of utility should not be based on grounds that the invention is frivolous, fraudulent or against public policy. See Juicy Whip Inc. v. Orange Bang Inc., 185 F.3d 1364, 1367-68, 51 USPQ2d 1700, 1702-03 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (“[Y]ears ago courts invalidated patents on gambling devices on the ground that they were immoral…, but that is no longer the law…Congress never intended that the patent laws should displace the police powers of the States, meaning by that term those powers by which the health, good order, peace and general welfare of the community are promoted…we find no basis in section 101 to hold that inventions can be ruled unpatentable for lack of utility simply because they have the capacity to fool some members of the public.”). The statutory basis for this rejection is 35 U.S.C. 101. See MPEP § 2107 for guidelines governing rejections for lack of utility. See MPEP § 2107.01 - § 2107.03 for legal precedent governing the utility requirement.

706.03(b) Barred by Atomic Energy Act[edit | edit source]

A limitation on what can be patented is imposed by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Section 151(a) (42 U.S.C. 2181(a)) thereof reads in part as follows:

No patent shall hereafter be granted for any invention or discovery which is useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon.

The terms “atomic energy” and “special nuclear material” are defined in Section 11 of the Act (42 U.S.C. 2014).

Sections 151(c) and 151(d) (42 U.S.C. 2181(c) and (d)) set up categories of pending applications relating to atomic energy that must be brought to the attention of the Department of Energy. Under 37 CFR 1.14(d), applications for patents which disclose or which appear to disclose, or which purport to disclose, inventions or discoveries relating to atomic energy are reported to the Department of Energy and the Department will be given access to such applications, but such reporting does not constitute a determination that the subject matter of each application so reported is in fact useful or an invention or discovery or that such application in fact discloses subject matter in categories specified by the Atomic Energy Act.

All applications received in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are screened by Technology Center (TC) work group 3640 personnel, under 37 CFR 1.14(d), in order for the Director to fulfill his or her responsibilities under section 151(d) (42 U.S.C. 2181(d)) of the Atomic Energy Act. Papers subsequently added must be inspected promptly by the examiner when received to determine whether the application has been amended to relate to atomic energy and those so related must be promptly forwarded to Licensing and Review in TC work group 3640.

All rejections based upon sections 151(a)(42 U.S.C. 2181(a)), 152 (42 U.S.C. 2182), and 155 (42 U.S.C. 2185) of the Atomic Energy Act must be made only by TC work group 3640 personnel.

706.03(c) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 112, First Paragraph[edit | edit source]

Rejections based on the first paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112 are discussed in MPEP § 2161 - § 2165.04. For a discussion of the utility requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, and 35 U.S.C. 101, see MPEP § 2107 - § 2107.03.

706.03(d) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 112, Second Paragraph[edit | edit source]

Rejections under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, are discussed in MPEP § 2171 - § 2174.

706.03(k) Duplicate Claims[edit | edit source]

Inasmuch as a patent is supposed to be limited to only one invention or, at most, several closely related indivisible inventions, limiting an application to a single claim, or a single claim to each of the related inventions might appear to be logical as well as convenient. However, court decisions have confirmed applicant’s right to restate (i.e., by plural claiming) the invention in a reasonable number of ways. Indeed, a mere difference in scope between claims has been held to be enough.

Nevertheless, when two claims in an application are duplicates, or else are so close in content that they both cover the same thing, despite a slight difference in wording, it is proper after allowing one claim to object to the other claim under 37 CFR 1.75 as being a substantial duplicate of the allowed claim.

See MPEP § 804 for double patenting rejections of inventions not patentable over each other.

706.03(m) Nonelected Inventions[edit | edit source]

See MPEP § 821 to § 821.03 for treatment of claims held to be drawn to nonelected inventions.

706.03(o) New Matter[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 132. Notice of rejection; reexamination.

(a)Whenever, on examination, any claim for a patent is rejected, or any objection or requirement made, the Director shall notify the applicant thereof, stating the reasons for such rejection, or objection or requirement, together with such information and references as may be useful in judging of the propriety of continuing the prosecution of his application; and if after receiving such notice, the applicant persists in his claim for a patent, with or without amendment, the application shall be reexamined. No amendment shall introduce new matter into the disclosure of the invention.

In amended cases, subject matter not disclosed in the original application is sometimes added and a claim directed thereto. Such a claim is rejected on the ground that it recites elements without support in the original disclosure under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, Waldemar Link, GmbH & Co. v. Osteonics Corp. 32 F.3d 556, 559, 31 USPQ2d 1855, 1857 (Fed. Cir. 1994); In re Rasmussen, 650 F.2d 1212, 211 USPQ 323 (CCPA 1981). See MPEP § 2163.06 - § 2163.07(b) for a discussion of the relationship of new matter to 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. New matter includes not only the addition of wholly unsupported subject matter, but may also include adding specific percentages or compounds after a broader original disclosure, or even the omission of a step from a method. See MPEP § 608.04 to § 608.04(c). See In re Wertheim, 541 F.2d 257, 191 USPQ 90 (CCPA 1976) and MPEP § 2163.05 for guidance in determining whether the addition of specific percentages or compounds after a broader original disclosure constitutes new matter.

In the examination of an application following amendment thereof, the examiner must be on the alert to detect new matter. 35 U.S.C. 132 (a) should be employed as a basis for objection to amendments to the abstract, specification, or drawings attempting to add new disclosure to that originally disclosed on filing.

If subject matter capable of illustration is originally claimed and it is not shown in the drawing, the claim is not rejected but applicant is required to add it to the drawing. See MPEP § 608.01(l).

706.03(s) Foreign Filing Without License[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 182. Abandonment of invention for unauthorized disclosure.

The invention disclosed in an application for patent subject to an order made pursuant to section 181 of this title may be held abandoned upon its being established by the Commissioner of Patents that in violation of said order the invention has been published or disclosed or that an application for a patent therefor has been filed in a foreign country by the inventor, his successors, assigns, or legal representatives, or anyone in privity with him or them, without the consent of the Commissioner of Patents. The abandonment shall be held to have occurred as of the time of violation. The consent of the Commissioner of Patents shall not be given without the concurrence of the heads of the departments and the chief officers of the agencies who caused the order to be issued. A holding of abandonment shall constitute forfeiture by the applicant, his successors, assigns, or legal representatives, or anyone in privity with him or them, of all claims against the United States based upon such invention.


35 U.S.C. 184. Filing of application in foreign country.

Except when authorized by a license obtained from the Commissioner of Patents a person shall not file or cause or authorize to be filed in any foreign country prior to six months after filing in the United States an application for patent or for the registration of a utility model, industrial design, or model in respect of an invention made in this country. A license shall not be granted with respect to an invention subject to an order issued by the Commissioner of Patents pursuant to section 181 of this title without the concurrence of the head of the departments and the chief officers of the agencies who caused the order to be issued. The license may be granted retroactively where an application has been filed abroad through error and without deceptive intent and the application does not disclose an invention within the scope of section 181 of this title.

The term "application" when used in this chapter includes applications and any modifications, amendments, or supplements thereto, or divisions thereof.

The scope of a license shall permit subsequent modifications, amendments, and supplements containing additional subject matter if the application upon which the request for the license is based is not, or was not, required to be made available for inspection under section 181 of this title and if such modifications, amendments, and supplements do not change the general nature of the invention in a manner which would require such application to be made available for inspection under such section 181. In any case in which a license is not, or was not, required in order to file an application in any foreign country, such subsequent modifications, amendments, and supplements may be made, without a license, to the application filed in the foreign country if the United States application was not required to be made available for inspection under section 181 and if such modifications, amendments, and supplements do not, or did not, change the general nature of the invention in a manner which would require the United States application to have been made available for inspection under such section 181.

35 U.S.C. 185. Patent barred for filing without license.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of law any person, and his successors, assigns, or legal representatives, shall not receive a United States patent for an invention if that person, or his successors, assigns, or legal representatives shall, without procuring the license prescribed in section 184 of this title, have made, or consented to or assisted another’s making, application in a foreign country for a patent or for the registration of a utility model, industrial design, or model in respect of the invention. A United States patent issued to such person, his successors, assigns, or legal representatives shall be invalid, unless the failure to procure such license was through error and without deceptive intent, and the patent does not disclose subject matter within the scope of section 181 of this title.

If, upon examining an application, the examiner learns of the existence of a corresponding foreign application which appears to have been filed before the United States application had been on file for 6 months, and if the invention apparently was made in this country, he or she shall refer the application to Licensing and Review Section of Technology Center (TC) working group 3640, calling attention to the foreign application. Pending investigation of the possible violation, the application may be returned to the TC for prosecution on the merits. When it is otherwise in condition for allowance, the application will be again submitted to Licensing and Review Section of TC work group 3640 unless the latter has already reported that the foreign filing involves no bar to the United States application.

If it should be necessary to take action under 35 U.S.C. 185, Licensing and Review Section of TC work group 3640 will request transfer of the application to it.

706.03(u) Disclaimer[edit | edit source]

Claims may be rejected on the ground that applicant has disclaimed the subject matter involved. Such disclaimer may arise, for example, from the applicant’s failure to:

(A)make claims suggested for interference with another application under 37 CFR 41.202(c) (See MPEP Chapter 2300),

(B)copy a claim from a patent when suggested by the examiner (MPEP Chapter 2300), or

(C)respond or appeal, within the time limit fixed, to the examiner’s rejection of claims copied from a patent (see MPEP Chapter 2300).

The rejection on disclaimer applies to all claims not patentably distinct from the disclaimed subject matter as well as to the claims directly involved.

706.03(v) After Interference or PublicUse Proceeding[edit | edit source]

For rejections following an interference, see MPEP Chapter 2300.

The outcome of public use proceedings may also be the basis of a rejection. See 37 CFR 1.292 and In re Kaslow, 707 F.2d 1366, 217 USPQ 1089 (Fed. Cir. 1983).

Upon termination of a public use proceeding including a case also involved in an interference, in order for a prompt resumption of the interference proceedings, a notice should be sent to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences notifying them of the disposition of the public use proceeding.

706.03(w) Res Judicata[edit | edit source]

Res judicata may constitute a proper ground for rejection. However, as noted below, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals has materially restricted the use of res judicata rejections. It should be applied only when the earlier decision was a decision of the Board of Appeals or any one of the reviewing courts and when there is no opportunity for further court review of the earlier decision.

The timely filing of a second application copending with an earlier application does not preclude the use of res judicata as a ground of rejection for the second application claims.

When making a rejection on res judicata, action should ordinarily be made also on the basis of prior art, especially in continuing applications. In most situations the same prior art which was relied upon in the earlier decision would again be applicable.

706.03(x) Reissue[edit | edit source]

The examination of reissue applications is covered in MPEP Chapter 1400.

35 U.S.C. 251 forbids the granting of a reissue “enlarging the scope of the claims of the original patent” unless the reissue is applied for within 2 years from the grant of the original patent. This is an absolute bar and cannot be excused. This prohibition has been interpreted to apply to any claim which is broader in any respect than the claims of the original patent. Such claims may be rejected as being barred by 35 U.S.C. 251. However, when the reissue is applied for within 2 years or properly claims the benefit of a broadening reissue application filed within 2 years of the patent grant, the examiner does not go into the question of undue delay.

The same section permits the filing of a reissue application by the assignee of the entire interest only in cases where it does not “enlarge the scope of the claims of the original patent.” Such claims which do enlarge the scope may also be rejected as barred by the statute. In In re Bennett, 766 F.2d 524, 226 USPQ 413 (Fed. Cir. 1985), however, the court permitted the erroneous filing by the assignee in such a case to be corrected.

A defective reissue oath affords a ground for rejecting all the claims in the reissue application. See MPEP § 1444.

Note that a reissue application is “special” and remains so even if applicant does not make a prompt reply.

706.04 Rejection of Previously Allowed Claims[edit | edit source]

A claim noted as allowable shall thereafter be rejected only after the proposed rejection has been submitted to the primary examiner for consideration of all the facts and approval of the proposed action.

Great care should be exercised in authorizing such a rejection. See Ex parte Grier, 1923 C.D. 27, 309 O.G. 223 (Comm’r Pat. 1923); Ex parte Hay, 1909 C.D. 18, 139 O.G. 197 (Comm’r Pat. 1909).

PREVIOUS ACTION BY DIFFERENT EXAMINER

Full faith and credit should be given to the search and action of a previous examiner unless there is a clear error in the previous action or knowledge of other prior art. In general, an examiner should not take an entirely new approach or attempt to reorient the point of view of a previous examiner, or make a new search in the mere hope of finding something. Amgen, Inc. v. Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc., 126 F. Supp. 2d 69, 139, 57 USPQ2d 1449, 1499-50 (D. Mass. 2001).

706.05 Rejection After Allowance of Application[edit | edit source]

See MPEP § 1308.01 for a rejection based on a reference after allowance.

706.06 Rejection of Claims Copied From Patent[edit | edit source]

See MPEP Chapter 2300.

706.07 Final Rejection[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.113. Final rejection or action.


(a) On the second or any subsequent examination or consideration by the examiner the rejection or other action may be made final, whereupon applicant’s, or for ex parte reexaminations filed under § 1.510, patent owner’s reply is limited to appeal in the case of rejection of any claim (§ 41.31 of this title), or to amendment as specified in § 1.114 or § 1.116. Petition may be taken to the Director in the case of objections or requirements not involved in the rejection of any claim (§ 1.181). Reply to a final rejection or action must comply with § 1.114 or paragraph (c) of this section. For final actions in an inter partes reexamination filed under § 1.913, see § 1.953.

(b)In making such final rejection, the examiner shall repeat or state all grounds of rejection then considered applicable to the claims in the application, clearly stating the reasons in support thereof.

(c)Reply to a final rejection or action must include cancellation of, or appeal from the rejection of, each rejected claim. If any claim stands allowed, the reply to a final rejection or action must comply with any requirements or objections as to form.

STATEMENT OF GROUNDS

In making the final rejection, all outstanding grounds of rejection of record should be carefully reviewed, and any such grounds relied on in the final rejection should be reiterated. They must also be clearly developed to such an extent that applicant may readily judge the advisability of an appeal unless a single previous Office action contains a complete statement supporting the rejection.

706.07(a) Final Rejection, When Proper on Second Action[edit | edit source]

A second or any subsequent action on the merits shall be final, except where the examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is neither necessitated by applicant’s amendment of the claims nor based on information submitted in an information disclosure statement filed during the period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p).

Where information is submitted in an information disclosure statement during the period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with a fee, the examiner may use the information submitted, e.g., a printed publication or evidence of public use, and make the next Office action final whether or not the claims have been amended, provided that no other new ground of rejection which was not necessitated by amendment to the claims is introduced by the examiner. See MPEP § 609.04(b). Furthermore, a second or any subsequent action on the merits in any application or patent undergoing reexamination proceedings will not be made final if it includes a rejection, on newly cited art, other than information submitted in an information disclosure statement filed under 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p), of any claim not amended by applicant or patent owner in spite of the fact that other claims may have been amended to require newly cited art. Where information is submitted in a reply to a requirement under 37 CFR 1.105, the examiner may NOT make the next Office action relying on that art final unless all instances of the application of such art are necessitated by amendment.

A second or any subsequent action on the merits in any application or patent involved in reexamination proceedings should not be made final if it includes a rejection, on prior art not of record, of any claim amended to include limitations which should reasonably have been expected to be claimed. See MPEP § 904 et seq. For example, one would reasonably expect that a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112 for the reason of incompleteness would be replied to by an amendment supplying the omitted element.

A second or any subsequent action on the merits in any application or patent involved in reexamination proceedings may not be made final if it contains a new ground of rejection necessitated by the amendments to 35 U.S.C. 102(e) by the Intellectual Property and High Technology Technical Amendments Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-273, 116 Stat. 1758 (2002)), unless the new ground of rejection was necessitated by an amendment to the claims or as a result of information submitted in an information disclosure statement under 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p).

When applying any 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 references against the claims of an application the examiner should anticipate that a statement averring common ownership at the time the invention was made may disqualify any patent or application applied in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103 based on 35 U.S.C. 102(e). If such a statement is filed in reply to the 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 rejection and the claims are not amended, the examiner may not make the next Office action final if a new rejection is made. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(3). If a reference is disqualified under the joint research agreement provision of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) and a new subsequent double patenting rejection based upon the disqualified reference is applied, the next Office action, which contains the new double patenting rejection, may be made final even if applicant did not amend the claims (provided that the examiner introduces no other new ground of rejection that was not necessitated by either amendment or an information disclosure statement filed during the time period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p)). The Office action is properly made final because the new double patenting rejection was necessitated by amendment of the application by applicant.

See MPEP § 809.02(a) for actions which indicate generic claims as not allowable.

In the consideration of claims in an amended case where no attempt is made to point out the patentable novelty, the examiner should be on guard not to allow such claims. See MPEP § 714.04. The claims may be finally rejected if, in the opinion of the examiner, they are clearly open to rejection on grounds of record.

706.07(b) Final Rejection, When Properon First Action[edit | edit source]

The claims of a new application may be finally rejected in the first Office action in those situations where (A) the new application is a continuing application of, or a substitute for, an earlier application, and (B) all claims of the new application (1) are drawn to the same invention claimed in the earlier application, and (2) would have been properly finally rejected on the grounds and art of record in the next Office action if they had been entered in the earlier application.

A first Office action in a continuing or substitute application may not be made final if it contains a new ground of rejection necessitated by the amendments to 35 U.S.C. 102(e) by the Intellectual Property and High Technology Technical Amendments of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-273, 116 Stat. 1758 (2002)).

However, it would not be proper to make final a first Office action in a continuing or substitute application where that application contains material which was presented in the earlier application after final rejection or closing of prosecution but was denied entry because (A) new issues were raised that required further consideration and/or search, or (B) the issue of new matter was raised.

Further, it would not be proper to make final a first Office action in a continuation-in-part application where any claim includes subject matter not present in the earlier application.

A request for an interview prior to first action on a continuing or substitute application should ordinarily be granted.

706.07(c) Final Rejection, Premature[edit | edit source]

Any question as to prematureness of a final rejection should be raised, if at all, while the application is still pending before the primary examiner. This is purely a question of practice, wholly distinct from the tenability of the rejection. It may therefore not be advanced as a ground for appeal, or made the basis of complaint before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. It is reviewable by petition under 37 CFR 1.181. See MPEP § 1002.02(c).

706.07(d) Final Rejection, Withdrawal of, Premature[edit | edit source]

If, on request by applicant for reconsideration, the primary examiner finds the final rejection to have been premature, he or she should withdraw the finality of the rejection. The finality of the Office action must be withdrawn while the application is still pending. The examiner cannot withdraw the final rejection once the application is abandoned.

706.07(e) Withdrawal of Final Rejection, General[edit | edit source]

See MPEP § 714.12 and § 714.13 for amendments after final rejection.

Once a final rejection that is not premature has been entered in an application/reexamination proceeding, it should not be withdrawn at the applicant’s or patent owner’s request except on a showing under 37 CFR 1.116(b). Further amendment or argument will be considered in certain instances. An amendment that will place the application either in condition for allowance or in better form for appeal may be admitted. Also, amendments complying with objections or requirements as to form are to be permitted after final action in accordance with 37 CFR 1.116(a).

The examiner may withdraw the rejection of finally rejected claims. If new facts or reasons are presented such as to convince the examiner that the previously rejected claims are in fact allowable or patentable in the case of reexamination, then the final rejection should be withdrawn. Occasionally, the finality of a rejection may be withdrawn in order to apply a new ground of rejection.

Although it is permissible to withdraw a final rejection for the purpose of entering a new ground of rejection, this practice is to be limited to situations where a new reference either fully meets at least one claim or meets it except for differences which are shown to be completely obvious. Normally, the previous rejection should be withdrawn with respect to the claim or claims involved.

The practice should not be used for application of subsidiary references, or of cumulative references, or of references which are merely considered to be better than those of record.

When a final rejection is withdrawn, all amendments filed after the final rejection are ordinarily entered.

New grounds of rejection made in an Office action reopening prosecution after the filing of an appeal brief require the approval of the supervisory patent examiner. See MPEP § 1002.02(d).

706.07(f) Time for Reply to Final Rejection[edit | edit source]

The time for reply to a final rejection is as follows:

(A)All final rejections setting a 3-month shortened statutory period (SSP) for reply should contain one of form paragraphs 7.39, 7.40, 7.40.01, 7.40.02, 7.41, 7.41.03, 7.42.03, 7.42.031, or 7.42.09 advising applicant that if the reply is filed within 2 months of the date of the final Office action, the shortened statutory period will expire at 3 months from the date of the final rejection or on the date the advisory action is mailed, whichever is later. Thus, a variable reply period will be established. If the last day of “2 months of the date of the final Office action” falls on Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday within the District of Columbia, and a reply is filed on the next succeeding day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday, pursuant to 37 CFR 1.7(a), the reply is deemed to have been filed within the 2 months period and the shortened statutory period will expire at 3 months from the date of the final rejection or on the mailing date of the advisory action, whichever is later (see MPEP §710.05). In no event can the statutory period for reply expire later than 6 months from the mailing date of the final rejection.

(B)This procedure of setting a variable reply period in the final rejection dependent on when applicant files a first reply to a final Office action does not apply to situations where a SSP less than 3 months is set, e.g., reissue litigation applications (1-month SSP) or any reexamination proceeding.

I.ADVISORY ACTIONS

(C)Where the final Office action sets a variable reply period as set forth in paragraph (A) above AND applicant files a complete first reply to the final Office action within 2 months of the date of the final Office action, the examiner must determine if the reply:

(1)places the application in condition for allowance — then the application should be processed as an allowance and no extension fees are due;

(2)places the application in condition for allowance except for matters of form which the examiner can change without authorization from applicant, MPEP § 1302.04 — then the application should be amended as required and processed as an allowance and no extension fees are due; or

(3)does not place the application in condition for allowance — then the advisory action should inform applicant that the SSP for reply expires 3 months from the date of the final rejection or as of the mailing date of the advisory action, whichever is later, by checking box 1.b) at the top portion of the Advisory Action form, PTOL-303.

(D) Where the final Office action sets a variable reply period as set forth in paragraph (A) above, and applicant does NOT file a complete first reply to the final Office action within 2 months, examiners should check box 1.a) at the top portion of the Advisory Action form, PTOL-303.

(E)When box 1.b) at the top portion of the Advisory Action form, PTOL-303 is checked, the time for applicant to take further action (including the calculation of extension fees under 37 CFR 1.136(a)) begins to run 3 months from the date of the final rejection, or from the date of the advisory action, whichever is later. Extension fees cannot be prorated for portions of a month. In no event can the statutory period for reply expire later than 6 months from the date of the final rejection. For example, if applicant initially replies within 2 months from the date of mailing of a final rejection and the examiner mails an advisory action before the end of 3 months from the date of mailing of the final rejection, the shortened statutory period will expire at the end of 3 months from the date of mailing of the final rejection. In such case, if a petition for extension of time is granted, the due date for a reply is computed from the date stamped or printed on the Office action with the final rejection. See MPEP § 710.01(a). If the examiner, however, does not mail an advisory action until after the end of the 3-month period, the shortened statutory period will expire on the date the examiner mails the advisory action and any extension of time fee would be calculated from the mailing date of the advisory action.

II.EXAMINER’S AMENDMENTS

(F)Where a complete first reply to a final Office action has been filed within 2 months of the final Office action, an examiner’s amendment to place the application in condition for allowance may be made without the payment of extension fees even if the examiner’s amendment is made more than 3 months from the date of the final Office action. Note that an examiner’s amendment may not be made more than 6 months from the date of the final Office action, as the application would be abandoned at that point by operation of law.

(G)Where a complete first reply to a final Office action has not been filed within 2 months of the final Office action, applicant’s authorization to make an amendment to place the application in condition for allowance must be made either within the 3 month shortened statutory period or within an extended period for reply that has been petitioned and paid for by applicant pursuant to 37 CFR 1.136(a). However, an examiner’s amendment correcting only formal matters which are identified for the first time after a reply is made to a final Office action would not require any extension fee, since the reply to the final Office action put the application in condition for allowance except for the correction of formal matters, the correction of which had not yet been required by the examiner.

(H)An extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) requires a petition for an extension and the appropriate fee provided for in 37 CFR 1.17. Where an extension of time is necessary to place an application in condition for allowance (e.g., when an examiner’s amendment is necessary after the shortened statutory period for reply has expired), applicant may file the required petition and fee or give authorization to the examiner to make the petition of record and charge a specified fee to a deposit account. Office employees may not accept oral (telephonic) instructions to complete the Credit Card Payment Form or otherwise charge a patent process fee (as opposed to information product or service fees) to a credit card. When authorization to make a petition for an extension of time of record is given to the examiner, the authorization must be given before the extended period expires. The authorization must be made of record in an examiner’s amendment by indicating the name of the person making the authorization, when the authorization was given, the deposit account number to be charged, the length of the extension requested and the amount of the fee to be charged to the deposit account.

III.PRACTICE AFTER FINAL

(I)Replies after final should be processed and considered promptly by all Office personnel.

(J)Replies after final should not be considered by the examiner unless they are filed within the SSP or are accompanied by a petition for an extension of time and the appropriate fee (37 CFR 1.17 and 37 CFR 1.136(a)). See also MPEP § 710.02(e). This requirement also applies to supplemental replies filed after the first reply.

(K)Interviews may be conducted after the expiration of the shortened statutory period for reply to a final Office action but within the 6-month statutory period for reply without the payment of an extension fee.

(L)Formal matters which are identified for the first time after a reply is made to a final Office action and which require action by applicant to correct may be required in an Ex parte Quayle action if the application is otherwise in condition for allowance. No extension fees would be required since the reply puts the application in condition for allowance except for the correction of formal matters — the correction of which had not yet been required by the examiner.

(M) If prosecution is to be reopened after a final Office action has been replied to, the finality of the previous Office action should be withdrawn to avoid the issue of abandonment and the payment of extension fees. For example, if a new reference comes to the attention of the examiner which renders unpatentable a claim indicated to be allowable, the Office action should begin with a statement to the effect: “The finality of the Office action mailed is hereby withdrawn in view of the new ground of rejection set forth below.” Form paragraph 7.42 could be used in addition to this statement. See MPEP § 706.07(d).

706.07(g) Transitional After-Final Practice[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.129. Transitional procedures for limited examination after final rejection and restriction practice.


(a)An applicant in an application, other than for reissue or a design patent, that has been pending for at least two years as of June 8, 1995, taking into account any reference made in such application to any earlier filed application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121 and 365(c), is entitled to have a first submission entered and considered on the merits after final rejection under the following circumstances: The Office will consider such a submission, if the first submission and the fee set forth in § 1.17(r) are filed prior to the filing of an appeal brief and prior to abandonment of the application. The finality of the final rejection is automatically withdrawn upon the timely filing of the submission and payment of the fee set forth in § 1.17(r). If a subsequent final rejection is made in the application, applicant is entitled to have a second submission entered and considered on the merits after the subsequent final rejection under the following circumstances: The Office will consider such a submission, if the second submission and a second fee set forth in § 1.17(r) are filed prior to the filing of an appeal brief and prior to abandonment of the application. The finality of the subsequent final rejection is automatically withdrawn upon the timely filing of the submission and payment of the second fee set forth in § 1.17(r). Any submission filed after a final rejection made in an application subsequent to the fee set forth in § 1.17(r) having been twice paid will be treated as set forth in § 1.116. A submission as used in this paragraph includes, but is not limited to, an information disclosure statement, an amendment to the written description, claims or drawings and a new substantive argument or new evidence in support of patentability.

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(c)The provisions of this section shall not be applicable to any application filed after June 8, 1995.

In order to facilitate the completion of prosecution of applications pending in the USPTO as of June 8, 1995 and to ease the transition between a 17-year patent term and a 20-year patent term, Public Law 103-465 provided for the further limited reexamination of an application pending for 2 years or longer as of June 8, 1995, taking into account any reference made in the application to any earlier filed application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c). The further limited reexamination permits applicants to present for consideration, as a matter of right upon payment of a fee, a submission after a final rejection has been issued on an application. An applicant will be able to take advantage of this provision on two separate occasions provided the submission and fee are presented prior to the filing of the Appeal Brief and prior to abandonment of the application. This will have the effect of enabling an applicant to essentially remove the finality of the prior Office action in the pending application on two separate occasions by paying a fee for each occasion, and avoid the impact of refiling the application to obtain consideration of additional claims and/or information relative to the claimed subject matter. The transitional after-final practice is only available to applications filed on or before June 8, 1995 and it is not available for reissue or design applications or reexamination proceedings.

Effective June 8, 1995, in any pending application having an actual or effective filing date of June 8, 1993 or earlier, applicant is entitled, under 37 CFR 1.129(a), to have a first submission after final rejection entered and considered on the merits, if the submission and the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) are filed prior to the filing of an Appeal Brief under 37 CFR 41.37 and prior to abandonment. For an application entering national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371 or an application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) claiming benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 of a PCT application designating the U.S., the PCT international filing date will be used to determine whether the application has been pending for at least 2 years as of June 8, 1995.

The submission under 37 CFR 1.129(a) may comprise, but is not limited to, an information disclosure statement (IDS), an amendment to the written description, claims or drawings, a new substantive argument and/or new evidence. No amendment considered as a result of payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) may introduce new matter into the disclosure of the application 35 U.S.C. 132. In view of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r), any (IDS) previously refused consideration in the application because of applicant’s failure to comply with 37 CFR 1.97(c) or (d) will be treated as though it has been filed within one of the time periods set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(b) and will be considered without the petition and petition fee required in 37 CFR 1.97(d), if it complies with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.98. Any IDS submitted under 37 CFR 1.129(a) on or after June 8, 2005 without a statement specified in 37 CFR 1.97(e) will be treated as though it had been filed within the time period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p). The examiner may introduce a new ground of rejection based on the information submitted in the IDS and make the next Office action final provided that the examiner introduces no other new ground of rejection, which has not been necessitated by amendment to the claims. See MPEP § 706.07(a).

If the application qualifies under 37 CFR 1.129(a), that is, it was filed on or before June 8, 1995 and the application has an effective U.S. filing date of June 8, 1993 or earlier, the examiner must check to see if the submission and 37 CFR 1.17(r) fee were filed prior to the filing of the Appeal Brief and prior to abandonment of the application. If an amendment was timely filed in reply to the final rejection but the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) did not accompany the amendment, examiners will continue to consider these amendments in an expedited manner as set forth in MPEP § 714.13 and issue an advisory action notifying applicant whether the amendment has been entered. If the examiner indicated in an advisory action that the amendment has not been entered, applicant may then pay the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) and any necessary fee to avoid abandonment of the application and obtain entry and consideration of the amendment as a submission under 37 CFR 1.129(a). If the submission and the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) were timely filed in reply to the final rejection and no advisory action has been issued prior to the payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r), no advisory action will be necessary. The examiner will notify applicant that the finality of the previous office action has been withdrawn pursuant to 37 CFR 1.129(a). It is noted that if the submission is accompanied by a “conditional” payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r), i.e., an authorization to charge the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) to a deposit account or to a credit card in the event that the submission would not otherwise be entered, the Office will treat the conditional payment as an unconditional payment of the 37 CFR 1.17(r) fee.

The finality of the final rejection is automatically withdrawn upon the timely filing of the submission and payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r). Upon the timely payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r), all previously unentered submissions, and submissions filed with the 37 CFR 1.17(r) fee will be entered in the order in which they were filed absent specific instructions for entry. Any conflicting amendments should be clarified for entry by the applicant upon payment of the 37 CFR 1.17(r) fee.

If a Notice of Appeal and the appeal fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(b) were filed prior to or with the payment of the fee set forth 37 CFR 1.17(r), the payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) by applicant is construed as a request to dismiss the appeal and to continue prosecution under 37 CFR 1.129(a).

Upon the timely payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r), if the examiner determines that the submission is not fully responsive to the previous Office action, e.g., if the submission only includes an information disclosure statement, applicant will be given a new shortened statutory period of 1 month or 30 days, whichever is longer, to submit a complete reply.

I.SUBMISSIONS UNDER 37 CFR 1.129(a) FILED PRIOR TO JUNE 8, 2005

After submission and payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r), the next Office action on the merits may be made final only under the conditions for making a first action in a continuing application final set forth in MPEP § 706.07(b).

If a subsequent final rejection is made in the application, applicant would be entitled to have a second submission entered and considered on the merits under the same conditions set forth for consideration of the first submission.

Any submission filed after a final rejection made in the application subsequent to the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) having been twice paid will be treated in accordance with the current after-final practice set forth in 37 CFR 1.116.

II.SUBMISSIONS UNDER 37 CFR 1.129(a) FILED ON OR AFTER JUNE 8, 2005

For timely submission and payment of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(r) on or after June 8, 2005, the next Office action on the merits will be equivalent to the next Office action following a reply to a non-final Office action. Under existing second Office action final practice, such an Office action on the merits will be made final, except where the examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is neither necessitated by applicant’s amendment of the claims nor based on information submitted in an IDS filed during the period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p). See MPEP § 706.07(a).

An applicant whose application is eligible for the transitional further limited examination procedure set forth in 37 CFR 1.129(a) is entitled to consideration of two after final submissions. Thus, if such an applicant has filed one submission under 37 CFR 1.129(a) and the application is again under a final rejection, the applicant is entitled to only one additional submission under 37 CFR 1.129(a). If such an applicant has filed two submissions under 37 CFR 1.129(a) and the application is again under a final rejection, applicant is not entitled to have any additional submissions considered under 37 CFR 1.129(a). Applicant may be entitled to consideration of an additional submission if the submission meets the conditions set forth in 37 CFR 1.116.

706.07(h) Request for Continued Examination (RCE) Practice[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 132. Notice of rejection; reexamination.
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(b)The Director shall prescribe regulations to provide for the continued examination of applications for patent at the request of the applicant. The Director may establish appropriate fees for such continued examination and shall provide a 50 percent reduction in such fees for small entities that qualify for reduced fees under section 41(h)(1) of this title.


37 CFR 1.114. Request for continued examination.

(a)If prosecution in an application is closed, an applicant may request continued examination of the application by filing a submission and the fee set forth in § 1.17(e) prior to the earliest of:

(1)Payment of the issue fee, unless a petition under § 1.313 is granted;

(2)Abandonment of the application; or

(3)The filing of a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit under 35 U.S.C. 141, or the commencement of a civil action under 35 U.S.C. 145 or 146, unless the appeal or civil action is terminated.

(b)Prosecution in an application is closed as used in this section means that the application is under appeal, or that the last Office action is a final action (§ 1.113), a notice of allowance (§ 1.311), or an action that otherwise closes prosecution in the application.

(c)A submission as used in this section includes, but is not limited to, an information disclosure statement, an amendment to the written description, claims, or drawings, new arguments, or new evidence in support of patentability. If reply to an Office action under 35 U.S.C. 132 is outstanding, the submission must meet the reply requirements of § 1.111.

(d) If an applicant timely files a submission and fee set forth in § 1.17(e), the Office will withdraw the finality of any Office action and the submission will be entered and considered. If an applicant files a request for continued examination under this section after appeal, but prior to a decision on the appeal, it will be treated as a request to withdraw the appeal and to reopen prosecution of the application before the examiner. An appeal brief (§ 41.37 of this title) or a reply brief (§ 41.41 of this title), or related papers, will not be considered a submission under this section.

(e)The provisions of this section do not apply to:

(1)A provisional application;

(2)An application for a utility or plant patent filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) before June 8, 1995;

(3)An international application filed under 35 U.S.C. 363before June 8, 1995;

(4)An application for a design patent; or

(5)A patent under reexamination.

35 U.S.C. 132(b) provides for continued examination of an application at the request of the applicant (request for continued examination or RCE) upon payment of a fee, without requiring the applicant to file a continuing application under 37 CFR 1.53(b). To implement the RCE practice, 37 CFR 1.114 provides a procedure under which an applicant may obtain continued examination of an application in which prosecution is closed (e.g., the application is under final rejection or a notice of allowance) by filing a submission and paying a specified fee. Applicants cannot file an RCE to obtain continued examination on the basis of claims that are independent and distinct from the claims previously claimed and examined as a matter of right (i.e., applicant cannot switch inventions). See 37 CFR 1.145. Any newly submitted claims that are directed to an invention that is independent and distinct from the invention previously claimed will be withdrawn from consideration and not entered. See subsection VI. below. An RCE is not the filing of a new application. Thus, the Office will not convert an RCE to a new application such as an application filed under 37 CFR 1.53(b) or a continued prosecution application (CPA) under 37 CFR 1.53(d).

I.CONDITIONS FOR FILING AN RCE

The provisions of 37 CFR 1.114 apply to utility or plant applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) on or after June 8, 1995, or international applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 363 on or after June 8, 1995. The RCE provisions of 37 CFR 1.114 do not apply to:

(A)a provisional application;

(B)an application for a utility or plant patent filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) before June 8, 1995;

(C)an international application filed under 35 U.S.C. 363 before June 8, 1995;

(D)an application for a design patent; or

(E)a patent under reexamination.

See 37 CFR 1.114(e).

An applicant may obtain continued examination of an application by filing a request for continued examination (see form PTO/SB/30), a submission and the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(e) prior to the earliest of:

(A)payment of the issue fee (unless a petition under 37 CFR 1.313 is granted);

(B)abandonment of the application; or

(C)the filing of a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or the commencement of a civil action (unless the appeal or civil action is terminated).

See 37 CFR 1.114(a). An applicant cannot request continued examination of an application until after prosecution in the application is closed. See 37 CFR 1.114(a). Prosecution in an application is closed if the application is under appeal, or the last Office action is a final action (37 CFR 1.113), a notice of allowance (37 CFR 1.311), or an action that otherwise closes prosecution in the application (e.g., an Office action under Ex parte Quayle, 25 USPQ 74, 453 O.G. 213 (Comm’r Pat. 1935)).

II.SUBMISSION REQUIREMENT

A "submission" as used in 37 CFR 1.114 includes, but is not limited to, an information disclosure statement, an amendment to the written description, claims, or drawings, new arguments, or new evidence in support of patentability. See 37 CFR 1.114(c). If a reply to an Office action under 35 U.S.C. 132 is outstanding, the submission must meet the reply requirements of 37 CFR 1.111. See 37 CFR 1.114(c). Thus, an applicant may file a submission under 37 CFR 1.114 containing only an information disclosure statement (37 CFR 1.97 and 1.98) in an application subject to a notice of allowance under 35 U.S.C. 151, but not in an application where the last Office action is a final rejection or an Office action under Ex parte Quayle, 25 USPQ 74, 453 O.G. 213 (Comm’r Pat. 1935), or in an application that is under appeal. A request for a suspension of action, an appeal brief or a reply brief (or related papers) will not be considered a submission under 37 CFR 1.114. See 37 CFR 1.103 and 1.114(d). The submission, however, may consist of the arguments in a previously filed appeal brief or reply brief, or may simply consist of a statement that incorporates by reference the arguments in a previously filed appeal brief or reply brief. In addition, a previously filed amendment after final (whether or not entered) may satisfy this submission requirement.

Arguments submitted after final rejection, which were entered by the examiner but not found persuasive, may satisfy the submission requirement if such arguments are responsive within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.111 to the Office action. Consideration of whether any submission is responsive within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.111 to the last outstanding Office action is done without factoring in the "final" status of such outstanding Office action. Thus, a reply which might not be acceptable as a reply under 37 CFR 1.113 when the application is under a final rejection may be acceptable as a reply under 37 CFR 1.111.

III.IMPROPER CPA TREATED AS RCE

37 CFR 1.53(d)(1) has been amended to provide that CPA practice under 37 CFR 1.53(d) does notapply to utility and plant applications. Effective July 14, 2003, a CPA may only be filed if the prior nonprovisional application is a design application that is complete as defined by 37 CFR 1.51(b).

In the event that an applicant files a request for a CPA (on or after July 14, 2003) of a utility or plant application that was filed on or after June 8, 1995, the Office will automatically treat the improper CPA as an RCE of the prior application (identified in the request for CPA) under 37 CFR 1.114. If the CPA does not satisfy the requirements of 37 CFR 1.114 to be a proper RCE (e.g., lacks a submission under 37 CFR 1.114(b), or is not accompanied by the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(e)), the improper CPA will be treated as an improper RCE, and the time period set in the last Office action (or notice of allowance) will continue to run. If the time period (considering any available extension under 37 CFR 1.136(a)) has expired, the applicant will need to file a petition under 37 CFR 1.137 (with the lacking submission under 37 CFR 1.114(b) or fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(e)) to revive the abandoned application.

Effective July 14, 2003, the Office will not convert an improper CPA into an application under 37 CFR 1.53(b) simply because it is requested by the applicant. The Office will convert an improper CPA into an application under 37 CFR 1.53(b) only if the applicant shows that there are extenuating circumstances that warrant the burdensome process of converting a CPA into an application under 37 CFR 1.53(b) (e.g., restoring the application to pending status and correcting the improper RCE is not possible because the application has issued as a patent).

IV.AFTER FINAL REJECTION

If an applicant timely files an RCE with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(e) and a submission that meets the reply requirements of 37 CFR 1.111, the Office will withdraw the finality of any Office action to which a reply is outstanding and the submission will be entered and considered. See 37 CFR 1.114(d). The submission meeting the reply requirements of 37 CFR 1.111 must be timely received to continue prosecution of an application. In other words, the mere request for, and payment of the fee for, continued examination will not operate to toll the running of any time period set in the previous Office action for reply to avoid abandonment of the application.

Any submission that is an amendment must comply with the manner of making amendments as set forth in 37 CFR 1.121. See MPEP § 714.03. The amendment must include markings showing the changes relative to the last entered amendment. Even though previously filed unentered amendments after final may satisfy the submission requirement under 37 CFR 1.114(c), applicants are encouraged to file an amendment at the time of filing the RCE that incorporates all of the desired changes, including changes presented in any previously filed unentered after final amendments, accompanied by instructions not to enter the unentered after final amendments. See subsection VI for treatment of not fully responsive submissions including noncompliant amendments.

V.NOT FULLY RESPONSIVE SUBMISSION

If reply to a final Office action is outstanding and the submission is not fully responsive to the final Office action, then it must be a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply to the final Office action in order for the RCE to toll the period for reply.

If the submission is not a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply, the RCE should be treated as an improper RCE. Thus, a “Notice of Improper Request for Continued Examination (RCE),” Form PTO-2051, should be prepared by the technical support personnel and mailed to the applicant indicating that the request was not accompanied by a submission complying with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.111 (see 37 CFR 1.114(c)). The RCE will not toll the period for reply and the application will be abandoned after the expiration of the statutory period for reply if no submission complying with 37 CFR 1.111 is filed. For example, if a reply to a final Office action is outstanding and the submission only includes an information disclosure statement (IDS), the submission will not be considered a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply to the final Office action and the period for reply will not be tolled. Similarly, an amendment that would cancel all of the claims in an application and does not present any new or substitute claims is not a bona fideattempt to advance the application to final action. The Office will not enter such an amendment. See Exxon Corp. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 265 F.3d 1249, 60 USPQ2d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2001).

If the submission is a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply, applicant should be informed that the submission is not fully responsive to the final Office action, along with the reasons why, and given a new shortened statutory period of one month or thirty days (whichever is longer) to complete the reply. See 37 CFR 1.135(c).

Situations where a submission is not a fully responsive submission, but is a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply are:

(A)Non-compliant amendment - An RCE filed with a submission which is an amendment that is not in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121, but which is a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply to the last Office action, should be treated as a proper RCE and a Notice of Noncompliant Amendment should be mailed to the applicant. Applicant is given a time period of one month or thirty days from the mailing date of the notice, whichever is longer, to provide an amendment complying with 37 CFR 1.121. See MPEP § 714.03 for information on the amendment practice under 37 CFR 1.121.

(B)Presentation of claims for different invention - Applicants cannot file an RCE to obtain continued examination on the basis of claims that are independent and distinct from the claims previously claimed and examined as a matter of right (i.e., applicant cannot switch inventions). See 37 CFR 1.145. If an RCE is filed with an amendment canceling all claims drawn to the elected invention and presenting only claims drawn to a nonelected invention, the RCE should be treated as a proper RCE but the amendment should not be entered. The amendment is not fully responsive and applicant should be given a time period of one month or thirty days (whichever is longer) to submit a complete reply. See MPEP § 821.03. Form paragraphs 8.04 or 8.26 should be used as appropriate.

VI.NEW MATTER

35 U.S.C. 132(a) provides that “[n]o amendment shall introduce new matter into the disclosure of the invention.” Any amendment entered pursuant to 37 CFR 1.114 that is determined to contain new matter should be treated in the same manner that a reply under 37 CFR 1.111 determined to contain new matter is currently treated. See MPEP § 706.03(o). In those instances in which an applicant seeks to add new matter to the disclosure of an application, the procedure in 37 CFR 1.114 is not available, and the applicant must file a continuation-in-part application under 37 CFR 1.53(b) containing such new matter.

VII.FIRST ACTION FINAL AFTER FILING AN RCE

The action immediately subsequent to the filing of an RCE with a submission and fee under 37 CFR 1.114 may be made final only if the conditions set forth in MPEP § 706.07(b) for making a first action final in a continuing application are met.

VIII.AFTER ALLOWANCE OR QUAYLE ACTION

The phrase "withdraw the finality of any Office action" in 37 CFR 1.114(d) includes the withdrawal of the finality of a final rejection, as well as the closing of prosecution by an Office action under Ex parte Quayle, 25 USPQ 74, 453 O.G. 213 (Comm’r Pat. 1935), or notice of allowance under 35

U.S.C. 151(or notice of allowability). Therefore, if an applicant files an RCE with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(e) and a submission in an application which has been allowed, prosecution will be reopened. If the issue fee has been paid, however, payment of the fee for an RCE and a submission without a petition under 37 CFR 1.313 to withdraw the application from issue will not avoid issuance of the application as a patent. If an RCE (with the fee and a submission) is filed in an allowed application prior to payment of the issue fee, a petition under 37 CFR 1.313 to withdraw the application from issue is not required.

If an RCE complying with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.114 is filed in an allowed application after the issue fee has been paid and a petition under 37 CFR 1.313 is also filed and granted, prosecution will be reopened. Applicant may not obtain a refund of the issue fee. If, however, the application is subsequently allowed, the Notice of Allowance will reflect an issue fee amount that is due that is the difference between the current issue fee amount and the issue fee that was previously paid.

If an applicant files an RCE under 37 CFR 1.114after the filing of a Notice of Appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (Board), but prior to a decision on the appeal, it will be treated as a request to withdraw the appeal and to reopen prosecution of the application before the examiner, regardless of whether the RCE is proper or improper. See 37 CFR 1.114(d). The Office will withdraw the appeal upon the filing of an RCE. Applicants should advise the Board when an RCE under 37 CFR 1.114 is filed in an application containing an appeal awaiting decision. Otherwise, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences may refuse to vacate a decision rendered after the filing (but before the recognition by the Office) of an RCE under 37 CFR 1.114.

A.Proper RCE

If the RCE is accompanied by a fee (37 CFR 1.17(e)) and a submission that includes a reply which is responsive within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.111 to the last outstanding Office action, the Office will withdraw the finality of the last Office action and the submission will be entered and considered. If the submission is not fully responsive to the last outstanding Office action but is considered to be a bona fideattempt to provide a complete reply, applicant will be notified that the submission is not fully responsive, along with the reasons why, and will be given a new time period to complete the reply (using form paragraph 7.42.08). See 37 CFR 1.135(c) and subsection V.

If the RCE is proper, form paragraph 7.42.06 should be used to notify applicant that the appeal has been withdrawn and prosecution has been reopened.

B.Improper RCE

The appeal will be withdrawn even if the RCE is improper. If an RCE is filed in an application after appeal to the Board but the request does not include the fee required by 37 CFR 1.17(e) or the submission required by 37 CFR 1.114, or both, the examiner should treat the request as an improper RCE and withdraw the appeal pursuant to 37 CFR 1.114(d). If the submission is not considered to be a bona fide attempt to provide a complete reply to the last outstanding Office action (e.g., an IDS only), the submission will be treated as an improper submission or no submission at all under 37 CFR 1.114(c) (thus the request is an improper RCE). See subsection VI.

Upon withdrawal of the appeal, the application will be treated in accordance with MPEP § 1215.01based on whether there are any allowed claims or not. The proceedings as to the rejected claims are considered terminated. Therefore, if no claim is allowed, the application is abandoned. Claims which are allowable except for their dependency from rejected claims will be treated as if they were rejected. See MPEP § 1215.01. If there is at least one allowed claim, the application should be passed to issue on the allowed claim(s). If there is at least one allowed claim but formal matters are outstanding, applicant should be given a shortened statutory period of one month or thirty days (whichever is longer) in which to correct the formal matters.

X.AFTER DECISION BY THE BOARD

A.Proper RCE After Board Decision

The filing of an RCE (accompanied by the fee and a submission) after a decision by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, but before the filing of a Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit) or the commencement of a civil action in federal district court, will also result in the finality of the rejection or action being withdrawn and the submission being considered. Generally, the time period for filing a notice of appeal to the Federal Circuit or for commencing a civil action is within two months of the Board’s decision. See 37 CFR 1.304 and MPEP § 1216. Thus, an RCE filed within this two month time period and before the filing of a notice of appeal to the Federal Circuit or the commencement of a civil action would be timely filed. In addition to the res judicataeffect of a Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences decision in an application (see MPEP § 706.03(w)), a Board decision in an application is the “law of the case,” and is thus controlling in that application and any subsequent, related application. See MPEP § 1214.01 (where a new ground of rejection is entered by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences pursuant to 37 CFR 1.196(b), argument without either amendment of the claims so rejected or the submission of a showing of facts can only result in a final rejection of the claims, since the examiner is without authority to allow the claims unless amended or unless the rejection is overcome by a showing of facts not before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences). As such, a submission containing arguments without either amendment of the rejected claims or the submission of a showing of facts will not be effective to remove such rejection.

B.Improper RCE After Board Decision

If an RCE is filed after a decision by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, but before the filing of a Notice of Appeal to the Federal Circuit or the commencement of a civil action in federal district court, and the RCE was not accompanied by the fee and/or the submission, the examiner should notify the applicant that the RCE is improper by using form paragraph 7.42.16 set forth below. If the time for seeking court review has passed without such review being sought, the examiner should include the form paragraph with the mailing of a Notice of Allowability or a Notice of Abandonment depending on the status of the claims. See MPEP § 1214.06. If the time for seeking court review remains, the examiner should include the form paragraph on a PTOL-90. No time period should be set. If a submission is filed with the RCE, but the fee is missing, the examiner should also include a statement as to whether or not the submission has been entered. In general, such a submission should not be entered. If, however, the submission is an amendment that obviously places the application in condition for allowance, it should be entered with the approval of the supervisory patent examiner. See MPEP § 1214.07. Form paragraph 7.42.16 should not be used if the application is not a utility or plant application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) on or after June 8, 1995, or an international application filed under 35 U.S.C. 363 on or after June 8, 1995. In that situation, a “Notice of Improper Request for Continued Examination (RCE),” Form PTO-2051, should be prepared and mailed by the technical support personnel to notify applicant that continued examination does not apply to the application. When the time for seeking court review has passed without such review being sought, the examiner must take up the application for consideration. See MPEP § 1214.06for guidance on the action to be taken.

XI.AFTER APPEAL TO THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT OR CIVIL ACTION

The procedure set forth in 37 CFR 1.114 is not available in an application after the filing of a Notice of Appeal to the Federal Circuit or the commencement of a civil action in federal district court, unless the appeal or civil action is terminated and the application is still pending. If an RCE is filed in an application that has undergone court review, the examiner should bring the application to the attention of the supervisory patent examiner or special program examiner in the TC to determine whether the RCE is proper. Unless an application contains allowed claims (or the court’s mandate clearly indicates that further action is to be taken by the Office), the termination of an unsuccessful appeal or civil action results in abandonment of the application. See MPEP § 1216.01.