MPEP 800

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Chapter 800 Restriction in Applications Filed Under 35 U.S.C. 111; Double Patenting

Contents

801 Introduction[edit | edit source]

This chapter is limited to a discussion of the subject of restriction and double patenting under Title 35 of the United States Code and Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations as it relates to national applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a). The discussion of unity of invention under the Patent Cooperation Treaty Articles and Rules as it is applied as an International Searching Authority, International Preliminary Examining Authority, and in applications entering the National Stage under 35 U.S.C. 371 as a Designated or Elected Office in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is covered in Chapter 1800.

802 Basis for Practice in Statute and Rules[edit | edit source]

The basis for restriction and double patenting practices is found in the following statute and rules:

35 U.S.C. 121. Divisional applications.

If two or more independent and distinct inventions are claimed in one application, the Director may require the application to be restricted to one of the inventions. If the other invention is made the subject of a divisional application which complies with the requirements of section 120 of this title it shall be entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the original application. A patent issuing on an application with respect to which a requirement for restriction under this section has been made, or on an application filed as a result of such a requirement, shall not be used as a reference either in the Patent and Trademark Office or in the courts against a divisional application or against the original application or any patent issued on either of them, if the divisional application is filed before the issuance of the patent on the other application. If a divisional application is directed solely to subject matter described and claimed in the original application as filed, the Director may dispense with signing and execution by the inventor. The validity of a patent shall not be questioned for failure of the Director to require the application to be restricted to one invention.


37 CFR 1.141. Different inventions in one national application.

(a) Two or more independent and distinct inventions may not be claimed in one national application, except that more than one species of an invention, not to exceed a reasonable number, may be specifically claimed in different claims in one national application, provided the application also includes an allowable claim generic to all the claimed species and all the claims to species in excess of one are written in dependent form (§ 1.75) or otherwise include all the limitations of the generic claim.

(b) Where claims to all three categories, product, process of making, and process of use, are included in a national application, a three way requirement for restriction can only be made where the process of making is distinct from the product. If the process of making and the product are not distinct, the process of using may be joined with the claims directed to the product and the process of making the product even though a showing of distinctness between the product and process of using the product can be made.


37 CFR 1.142. Requirement for restriction.


(a) If two or more independent and distinct inventions are claimed in a single application, the examiner in an Office action will require the applicant in the reply to that action to elect an invention to which the claims will be restricted, this official action being called a requirement for restriction (also known as a requirement for division). Such requirement will normally be made before any action on the merits; however, it may be made at any time before final action.

(b) Claims to the invention or inventions not elected, if not canceled, are nevertheless withdrawn from further consideration by the examiner by the election, subject however to reinstatement in the event the requirement for restriction is withdrawn or overruled.


The pertinent Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Articles and Rules are cited and discussed in MPEP 1800.

802.01 Meaning of "Independent" and "Distinct"[edit | edit source]

  • 35 U.S.C. 121 states that the Director may require restriction if two

or more "independent and distinct" inventions are claimed in one application.

  • In 37 CFR 1.141, the

statement is made that two or more "independent and distinct inventions" may not be claimed in one application.

  • "Independent", of course, means not dependent,

or unrelated. If "distinct" means the same thing, then its use in the statute and in the rule is redundant. If "distinct' means something different, then the question arises as to what the difference in meaning between these two words may be.

  • Dependent inventions could be, for example, a combination and a subcombination thereof; a process and an apparatus used to

practice the process; as composition and the process in which the composition is used; as process and the product made by such process, etc.

  • Dependent (or related) inventions such as

used for illustration above may be properly divided if they are, in fact, "distinct" inventions, even though dependent.

I. INDEPENDENT

The term "independent" (i.e., unrelated) means that there is no disclosed relationship between the two or more inventions claimed, that is, they are unconnected in design, operation, and effect. For example, a process and an apparatus incapable of being used in practicing the process are independent inventions. See also MPEP § 806.06 and § 808.01.

II. RELATED BUT DISTINCT

Two or more inventions are related (i.e., not independent) if they are disclosed as connected in at least one of design, (e.g., structure or method of manufacture), operation, (e.g., function or method of use), or effect.

802.02 Definition of Restriction[edit | edit source]

  • Restriction is the practice of requiring an

applicant to elect a single claimed invention for examination when two or more independent inventions and/or two or more distinct inventions are claimed in an application.

803 Restriction — When Proper[edit | edit source]

Under the statute, the claims of an application may properly be required to be restricted to one of two or more claimed inventions only if they are able to support separate patents and they are either independent or distinct.

If the search and examination of all the claims in an application can be made without serious burden, the examiner must examine them on the merits, even though they include claims to independent or distinct inventions.

I. CRITERIA FOR RESTRICTION BETWEEN PATENTABLY DISTINCT INVENTIONS

There are two criteria for a proper requirement for restriction between patentably distinct inventions:

(A)The inventions must be independent or distinct as claimed; and

(B)There would be a serious burden on the examiner if restriction is not required.

II. GUIDELINES

If there is an express admission that the claimed inventions would have been obvious over each other within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 103, restriction should not be required.

For purposes of the initial requirement, a serious burden on the examiner may be prima facie shown by appropriate explanation of separate classification, or separate status in the art, or a different field of search as defined in MPEP § 808.02. That prima facie showing may be rebutted by appropriate showings or evidence by the applicant. Insofar as the criteria for restriction practice relating to Markush-type claims is concerned, the criteria is set forth in MPEP § 803.02. Insofar as the criteria for restriction or election practice relating to claims to genus-species, see MPEP § 806.04 - § 806.04(i) and § 808.01(a).

803.01 Review by Examiner with at Least Partial Signatory Authority[edit | edit source]

Since requirements for restriction under 35 U.S.C. 121 are discretionary with the Director, it becomes very important that the practice under this section be carefully administered. Notwithstanding the fact that this section of the statute apparently protects the applicant against the dangers that previously might have resulted from compliance with an improper requirement for restriction, IT STILL REMAINS IMPORTANT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST THAT NO REQUIREMENTS BE MADE WHICH MIGHT RESULT IN THE ISSUANCE OF TWO PATENTS FOR THE SAME INVENTION. Therefore, to guard against this possibility, only an examiner with permanent full signatory authority or temporary full signatory authority may sign final Office actions containing a final requirement for restriction. An examiner with permanent partial signatory authority or temporary partial signatory authority may sign non-final Office actions containing a final requirement for restriction.

803.02 Markush Claims[edit | edit source]

A Markush-type claim recites alternatives in a format such as "selected from the group consisting of A, B and C." See Ex parte Markush, 1925 C.D. 126 (Comm’r Pat. 1925). The members of the Markush group (A, B, and C in the example above) ordinarily must belong to a recognized physical or chemical class or to an art-recognized class. However, when the Markush group occurs in a claim reciting a process or a combination (not a single compound), it is sufficient if the members of the group are disclosed in the specification to possess at least one property in common which is mainly responsible for their function in the claimed relationship, and it is clear from their very nature or from the prior art that all of them possess this property. Inventions in metallurgy, refractories, ceramics, pharmacy, pharmacology and biology are most frequently claimed under the Markush formula but purely mechanical features or process steps may also be claimed by using the Markush style of claiming. See MPEP § 2173.05(h).

If the members of the Markush group are sufficiently few in number or so closely related that a search and examination of the entire claim can be made without serious burden, the examiner must examine all the members of the Markush group in the claim on the merits, even though they may be directed to independent and distinct inventions. In such a case, the examiner will not follow the procedure described below and will not require provisional election of a single species. See MPEP § 808.02.

Since the decisions in In re Weber, 580 F.2d 455, 198 USPQ 328 (CCPA 1978) and In re Haas, 580 F.2d 461, 198 USPQ 334 (CCPA 1978), it is improper for the Office to refuse to examine that which applicants regard as their invention, unless the subject matter in a claim lacks unity of invention. In re Harnisch, 631 F.2d 716, 206 USPQ 300 (CCPA 1980); and Ex parte Hozumi, 3 USPQ2d 1059 (Bd. Pat. App. & Int. 1984). Broadly, unity of invention exists where compounds included within a Markush group (1) share a common utility, and (2) share a substantial structural feature essential to that utility.

This subsection deals with Markush-type generic claims which recite a plurality of alternatively usable substances or members. In most cases, a recitation by enumeration is used because there is no appropriate or true generic language. A Markush-type claim may include independent and distinct inventions. This is true where two or more of the members are so unrelated and diverse that a prior art reference anticipating the claim with respect to one of the members would not render the claim obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103with respect to the other member(s). In applications containing a Markush-type claim that encompasses at least two independent or distinct inventions, the examiner may require a provisional election of a single species prior to examination on the merits. An examiner should set forth a requirement for election of a single disclosed species in a Markush-type claim using form paragraph 8.01 when claims limited to species are present or using form paragraph 8.02when no species claims are present. See MPEP § 808.01(a) and § 809.02(a). Following election, the Markush-type claim will be examined fully with respect to the elected species and further to the extent necessary to determine patentability. If the Markush- type claim is not allowable , the provisional election will be given effect and examination will be limited to the Markush-type claim and claims to the elected species, with claims drawn to species patentably distinct from the elected species held withdrawn from further consideration.

As an example, in the case of an application with a Markush-type claim drawn to the compound X-R, wherein R is a radical selected from the group consisting of A, B, C, D, and E, the examiner may require a provisional election of a single species, XA, XB, XC, XD, or XE. The Markush-type claim would then be examined fully with respect to the elected species and any species considered to be clearly unpatentable over the elected species. If on examination the elected species is found to be anticipated or rendered obvious by prior art, the Markush-type claim and claims to the elected species shall be rejected, and claims to the nonelected species would be held withdrawn from further consideration. A second action on the rejected claims can be made final unless 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). See MPEP § 706.07(a).

On the other hand, should the examiner determine that the elected species is allowable, the examination of the Markush-type claim will be extended. If prior art is then found that anticipates or renders obvious the Markush-type claim with respect to a nonelected species, the Markush-type claim shall be rejected and claims to the nonelected species held withdrawn from further consideration. The prior art search, however, will not be extended unnecessarily to cover all nonelected species. Should applicant, in response to this rejection of the Markush-type claim, overcome the rejection, as by amending the Markush-type claim to exclude the species anticipated or rendered obvious by the prior art, the amended Markush-type claim will be reexamined. The examination will be extended to the extent necessary to determine patentability of the Markush-type claim. In the event prior art is found during the reexamination that anticipates or renders obvious the amended Markush-type claim, the claim will be rejected and the action can be made final unless 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). See MPEP § 706.07(a). Amendments submitted after the final rejection further restricting the scope of the claim may be denied entry if they do not comply with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.116. See MPEP § 714.13.

If a Markush claim depends from or otherwise requires all the limitations of another generic or linking claim, see MPEP § 809.

803.03 Transitional Applications[edit | edit source]

PRACTICE RE TRANSITIONAL APPLICATION

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

(b)(1) In an application, other than for reissue or a design patent, that has been pending for at least three years 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 and 365(c), no requirement for restriction or for the filing of divisional applications shall be made or maintained in the application after June 8, 1995, except where:

(i) The requirement was first made in the application or any earlier filed application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121 and 365(c) prior to April 8, 1995;

(ii) The examiner has not made a requirement for restriction in the present or parent application prior to April 8, 1995, due to actions by the applicant; or

(iii) The required fee for examination of each additional invention was not paid.

(2)If the application contains more than one independent and distinct invention and a requirement for restriction or for the filing of divisional applications cannot be made or maintained pursuant to this paragraph, applicant will be so notified and given a time period to:

(i)Elect the invention or inventions to be searched and examined, if no election has been made prior to the notice, and pay the fee set forth in 1.17(s) for each independent and distinct invention claimed in the application in excess of one which applicant elects;

(ii)Confirm an election made prior to the notice and pay the fee set forth in § 1.17(s) for each independent and distinct invention claimed in the application in addition to the one invention which applicant previously elected; or

(iii)File a petition under this section traversing the requirement. If the required petition is filed in a timely manner, the original time period for electing and paying the fee set forth in § 1.17(s) will be deferred and any decision on the petition affirming or modifying the requirement will set a new time period to elect the invention or inventions to be searched and examined and to pay the fee set forth in § 1.17(s) for each independent and distinct invention claimed in the application in excess of one which applicant elects.

(3)The additional inventions for which the required fee has not been paid will be withdrawn from consideration under § 1.142(b). An applicant who desires examination of an invention so withdrawn from consideration can file a divisional application under 35 U.S.C. 121.

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


"Restriction" under 37 CFR 1.129(b) applies to both restriction requirements under 37 CFR 1.142 and election of species requirements under 37 CFR 1.146.

37 CFR 1.129(b)(1) provides for examination of more than one independent and distinct invention in certain applications pending for 3 years or longer as of June 8, 1995, taking into account any reference to any earlier application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c). Applicant will not be permitted to have such additional invention(s) examined in an application if:

(A)the requirement was made in the application or in an earlier application relied on under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c) prior to April 8, 1995;

(B)no restriction requirement was made with respect to the invention(s) in the application or earlier application prior to April 8, 1995, due to actions by the applicant; or

(C)the required fee for examination of each additional invention was not paid.

Only if one of these exceptions applies is a normal restriction requirement appropriate and telephone restriction practice may be used.

Examples of what constitute “actions by the applicant” in 37 CFR 1.129(b)(1) are:

(A)applicant abandoned the application and continued to refile the application such that no Office action could be issued in the application,

(B)applicant requested suspension of prosecution under 37 CFR 1.103(a) such that no Office action could be issued in the application,

(C)applicant disclosed a plurality of independent and distinct inventions in the present or parent application, but delayed presenting claims to more than one of the disclosed independent and distinct inventions in the present or parent application such that no restriction requirement could be made prior to April 8, 1995, and

(D)applicant combined several applications, each of which claimed a different independent and distinct invention, into one large “continuing” application, but delayed filing the continuing application first claiming more than one independent and distinct invention such that no restriction requirement could be made prior to April 8, 1995.

In examples (A) and (B), the fact that the present or parent application claiming independent and distinct inventions was on an examiner’s docket for at least 3 months prior to abandonment or suspension, or in examples (C) and (D), the fact that the amendment claiming independent and distinct inventions was first filed, or the continuing application first claiming the additional independent and distinct inventions was on an examiner’s docket, at least 3 months prior to April 8, 1995, is prima facie evidence that applicant’s actions did not prevent the Office from making a requirement for restriction with respect to those independent and distinct inventions prior to April 8, 1995. Furthermore, an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) does not constitute such “actions by the applicant” under 37 CFR 1.129(b)(1).

NOTE: If an examiner believes an application falls under the exception that no restriction could be made prior to April 8, 1995, due to applicant’s action, the application must be brought to the attention of the Technology Center (TC) Special Program Examiner for review.

Under 37 CFR 1.129(b)(2), if the application contains claims to more than one independent and distinct invention, and no requirement for restriction or for the filing of divisional applications can be made or maintained, applicant will be notified and given a time period to:

(A)elect the invention or inventions to be searched and examined, if no election has been made prior to the notice, and pay the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) for each independent and distinct invention claimed in the application in excess of one which applicant elects,

(B)in situations where an election was made in reply to a requirement for restriction that cannot be maintained, confirm the election made prior to the notice and pay the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) for each independent and distinct invention claimed in the application in addition to the one invention which applicant previously elected, or

(C)file a petition under 37 CFR 1.129(b)(2) traversing the requirement without regard to whether the requirement has been made final. No petition fee is required.

37 CFR 1.129(b)(2) also provides that if the petition is filed in a timely manner, the original time period for electing and paying the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) will be deferred and any decision on the petition affirming or modifying the requirement will set a new time period to elect the invention or inventions to be searched and examined and to pay the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) for each independent and distinct invention claimed in the application in excess of one which applicant elects.

Under 37 CFR 1.129(b)(3), each additional invention for which the required fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) has not been paid will be withdrawn from consideration under 37 CFR 1.142(b). An applicant who desires examination of an invention so withdrawn from consideration can file a divisional application under 35 U.S.C. 121.

37 CFR 1.129(c) clarifies that the provisions of 37 CFR 1.129(a) and (b) are not applicable to any application filed after June 8, 1995. However, any application filed on June 8, 1995, would be subject to a 20-year patent term.

803.03(a) Transitional Application — Linking Claim Allowable[edit | edit source]

Whenever divided inventions in a transitional application are rejoined because a linking claim is allowable (MPEP § 809, § 821.04, and § 821.04(a)) and applicant paid the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) for the additional invention, applicant should be notified that he or she may request a refund of the fee paid for that additional invention.

803.03(b)Transitional Application — Generic Claim Allowable[edit | edit source]

Whenever claims drawn to an additional species in a transitional application for which applicant paid the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(s) are no longer withdrawn from consideration because they are fully embraced by an allowable generic claim, applicant should be notified that he or she may request a refund of the fee paid for that additional species.

The determination of when claims to a nonelected species would no longer be withdrawn from consideration should be made as indicated in MPEP § 806.04(d), § 821.04, and § 821.04(a).

803.04 Nucleotide Sequences[edit | edit source]

By statute, “[i]f two or more independent and distinct inventions are claimed in one application, the Director may require the application to be restricted to one of the inventions.” 35 U.S.C. 121. Pursuant to this statute, the rules provide that “[i]f two or more independent and distinct inventions are claimed in a single application, the examiner in his action shall require the applicant . . . to elect that invention to which his claim shall be restricted.” 37 CFR 1.142(a). See also 37 CFR 1.141(a).

Polynucleotide molecules defined by their nucleic acid sequence (hereinafter “nucleotide sequences”) that encode different proteins are structurally distinct chemical compounds. These sequences are thus deemed to normally constitute independent and distinct inventions within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 121. Absent evidence to the contrary, each such nucleotide sequence is presumed to represent an independent and distinct invention, subject to a restriction requirement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 121and 37 CFR 1.141 et seq. Nevertheless, to further aid the biotechnology industry in protecting its intellectual property without creating an undue burden on the Office, the Director has decided sua sponte to partially waive the requirements of 37 CFR 1.141 et seq. and permit a reasonable number of such nucleotide sequences to be claimed in a single application. See Examination of Patent Applications Containing Nucleotide Sequences, 1192 O.G. 68 (November 19, 1996).

It has been determined that normally ten sequences constitute a reasonable number for examination purposes. Accordingly, in most cases, up to ten independent and distinct nucleotide sequences will be examined in a single application without restriction. In addition to the specifically selected sequences, those sequences which are patentably indistinct from the selected sequences will also be examined. Furthermore, nucleotide sequences encoding the same protein are not considered to be independent and distinct inventions and will continue to be examined together.

In some exceptional cases, the complex nature of the claimed material, for example a protein amino acid sequence reciting three dimensional folds, may necessitate that the reasonable number of sequences to be selected be less than ten. In other cases, applicants may petition pursuant to 37 CFR 1.181 for examination of additional nucleotide sequences by providing evidence that the different nucleotide sequences do not cover independent and distinct inventions.

See MPEP § 1850 for treatment of claims containing independent and distinct nucleotide sequences in international applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and national stage applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 371.

EXAMPLES OF NUCLEOTIDE SEQUENCE CLAIMS

Examples of typical nucleotide sequence claims impacted by the partial waiver of 37 CFR 1.141 et seq. (and the partial waiver of 37 CFR 1.475 and 1.499 et seq., see MPEP § 1850) include:

(A)an isolated and purified DNA fragment comprising DNA having at least 95% identity to a DNA sequence selected from SEQ ID Nos. 1-1,000;

(B)a combination of DNA fragments comprising SEQ ID Nos. 1-1,000; and

(C)a combination of DNA fragments, said combination containing at least thirty different DNA fragments selected from SEQ ID Nos. 1-1,000.

Applications claiming more than ten individual independent and distinct nucleotide sequences in alternative form, such as set forth in example (A), will be subject to a restriction requirement. Only the ten nucleotide sequences selected in response to the restriction requirement and any other claimed sequences which are patentably indistinct therefrom will be examined.

Applications claiming only a combination of nucleotide sequences, such as set forth in example (B), will generally not be subject to a restriction requirement. The presence of one novel and nonobvious sequence within the combination will render the entire combination allowable. The combination will be searched until one nucleotide sequence is found to be allowable. The order of searching will be chosen by the examiner to maximize the identification of an allowable sequence. If no individual nucleotide sequence is found to be allowable, the examiner will consider whether the combination of sequences taken as a whole renders the claim allowable.

Applications containing only composition claims reciting different combinations of individual nucleotide sequences, such as set forth in example

(C), will be subject to a restriction requirement. Applicants will be required to select one combination for examination. If the selected combination contains ten or fewer sequences, all of the sequences of the combination will be searched. If the selected combination contains more than ten sequences, the combination will be examined following the procedures set forth above for example (B). More specifically, the combination will be searched until one nucleotide sequence is found to be allowable with the examiner choosing the order of search to maximize the identification of an allowable sequence. The identification of any allowable sequence(s) will cause all combinations containing the allowed sequence(s) to be allowed.

In applications containing all three claims set forth in examples (A)-(C), the Office will require restriction of the application to ten sequences for initial examination purposes. Based upon the finding of allowable sequences, claims limited to the allowable sequences as in example (A), all combinations, such as in examples (B) and (C), containing the allowable sequences and any patentably indistinct sequences will be rejoined and allowed.

Nonelected claims requiring any allowable nucleotide sequence(s) should be considered for rejoinder. See MPEP § 821.04.

804 Definition of Double Patenting[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 101. Inventions Patentable.

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.


35 U.S.C. 121. Divisional Applications.

If two or more independent and distinct inventions are claimed in one application, the Director may require the application to be restricted to one of the inventions. If the other invention is made the subject of a divisional application which complies with the requirements of section 120 of this title it shall be entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the original application. A patent issuing on an application with respect to which a requirement for restriction under this section has been made, or on an application filed as a result of such a requirement, shall not be used as a reference either in the Patent and Trademark Office or in the courts against a divisional application or against the original application or any patent issued on either of them, if the divisional application is filed before the issuance of the patent on the other application. If a divisional application is directed solely to subject matter described and claimed in the original application as filed, the Director may dispense with signing and execution by the inventor. The validity of a patent shall not be questioned for failure of the Director to require the application to be restricted to one invention.


The doctrine of double patenting seeks to prevent the unjustified extension of patent exclusivity beyond the term of a patent. The public policy behind this doctrine is that:

The public should . . . be able to act on the assumption that upon the expiration of the patent it will be free to use not only the invention claimed in the patent but also modifications or variants which would have been obvious to those of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made, taking into account the skill in the art and prior art other than the invention claimed in the issued patent.

Before consideration can be given to the issue of double patenting, two or more patents or applications must have at least one common inventor and/or be either commonly assigned/owned or non-commonly assigned/owned but subject to a joint research agreement as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3) pursuant to the CREATE Act (Pub. L. 108-453, 118 Stat. 3596 (2004)). Congress recognized that the amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) would result in situations in which there would be double patenting rejections between applications not owned by the same party (see H.R. Rep. No. 108-425, at 5-6 (2003)). For purposes of a 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. See also MPEP § 804.03. Since the doctrine of double patenting seeks to avoid unjustly extending patent rights at the expense of the public, the focus of any double patenting analysis necessarily is on the claims in the multiple patents or patent applications involved in the analysis.

There are generally two types of double patenting rejections. One is the "same invention" type double patenting rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 101 which states in the singular that an inventor "may obtain a patent." The second is the "nonstatutory-type" double patenting rejection based on a judicially created doctrine grounded in public policy and which is primarily intended to prevent prolongation of the patent term by prohibiting claims in a second patent not patentably distinguishing from claims in a first patent. Nonstatutory double patenting includes rejections based on either a one-way determination of obviousness or a two-way determination of obviousness. Nonstatutory double patenting could include a rejection which is not the usual "obviousness-type" double patenting rejection. This type of double patenting rejection is rare and is limited to the particular facts of the case.

Refer to Charts I-A, I-B, II-A, and II-B for an overview of the treatment of applications having conflicting claims (e.g., where a claim in an application is not patentably distinct from a claim in a patent or another application). See MPEP § 2258 for information pertaining to double patenting rejections in reexamination proceedings.

Chart I-A. Conflicting Claims Between: Two ApplicationsChart I-A. Conflicting Claims Between: Two Applications

Chart I-B. Conflicting Claims Between: Two ApplicationsChart I-B. Conflicting Claims Between: Two Applications

Chart II-A. Conflicting Claims Between: Application and a PatentChart II-A. Conflicting Claims Between: Application and a Patent

Chart II-B. Conflicting Claims Between: Application and a PatentChart II-B. Conflicting Claims Between: Application and a Patent

I. INSTANCES WHERE DOUBLE PATENTING ISSUE CAN BE RAISED[edit | edit source]

A double patenting issue may arise between two or more pending applications, or between one or more pending applications and a patent. A double patenting issue may likewise arise in a reexamination proceeding between the patent claims being reexamined and the claims of one or more applications and/or patents. Double patenting does not relate to international applications which have not yet entered the national stage in the United States.

A. Between Issued Patent and One or More Applications

Double patenting may exist between an issued patent and an application filed by the same inventive entity, or by a different inventive entity having a common inventor, and/or by a common assignee/owner. Double patenting may also exist where the inventions claimed in a patent and an application were made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement as defined in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3). Since the inventor/patent owner has already secured the issuance of a first patent, the examiner must determine whether the grant of a second patent would give rise to an unjustified extension of the rights granted in the first patent.

B. Between Copending Applications—Provisional Rejections

Occasionally, the examiner becomes aware of two copending applications that were filed by the same inventive entity, or by different inventive entities having a common inventor, and/or by a common assignee, or that claim an invention resulting from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement as defined in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3), that would raise an issue of double patenting if one of the applications became a patent. Where this issue can be addressed without violating the confidential status of applications (35 U.S.C. 122), the courts have sanctioned the practice of making applicant aware of the potential double patenting problem if one of the applications became a patent by permitting the examiner to make a “provisional” rejection on the ground of double patenting. In re Mott, 539 F.2d 1291, 190 USPQ 536 (CCPA 1976); In re Wetterau, 356 F.2d 556, 148 USPQ 499 (CCPA 1966). The merits of such a provisional rejection can be addressed by both the applicant and the examiner without waiting for the first patent to issue.

The “provisional” double patenting rejection should continue to be made by the examiner in each application as long as there are conflicting claims in more than one application unless that “provisional” double patenting rejection is the only rejection remaining in at least one of the applications.

1. Nonstatutory Double Patenting Rejections

If a “provisional” nonstatutory obviousness-type double patenting (ODP) rejection is the only rejection remaining in the earlier filed of the two pending applications, while the later-filed application is rejectable on other grounds, the examiner should withdraw that rejection and permit the earlier-filed application to issue as a patent without a terminal disclaimer. If the ODP rejection is the only rejection remaining in the later-filed application, while the earlier-filed application is rejectable on other grounds, a terminal disclaimer must be required in the later-filed application before the rejection can be withdrawn.

If “provisional” ODP rejections in two applications are the only rejections remaining in those applications, the examiner should withdraw the ODP rejection in the earlier filed application thereby permitting that application to issue without need of a terminal disclaimer. A terminal disclaimer must be required in the later-filed application before the ODP rejection can be withdrawn and the application permitted to issue. If both applications are filed on the same day, the examiner should determine which application claims the base invention and which application claims the improvement (added limitations). The ODP rejection in the base application can be withdrawn without a terminal disclaimer, while the ODP rejection in the improvement application cannot be withdrawn without a terminal disclaimer.

Where there are three applications containing claims that conflict such that an ODP rejection is made in each application based upon the other two, it is not sufficient to file a terminal disclaimer in only one of the applications addressing the other two applications. Rather, an appropriate terminal disclaimer must be filed in at least two of the applications to link all three together. This is because a terminal disclaimer filed to obviate a double patenting rejection is effective only with respect to the application in which the terminal disclaimer is filed; it is not effective to link the other two applications to each other.

2. Statutory Double Patenting Rejections (35 U.S.C. 101)

A terminal disclaimer cannot be filed to obviate a statutory double patenting rejection.

If a “provisional” statutory double patenting rejection is the only rejection remaining in one of the applications (but not both), the examiner should withdraw the rejection in that application and permit that application to issue as a patent, thereby converting the “provisional” double patenting rejection in the other application into a double patenting rejection when the application issues as a patent.

If a “provisional” statutory double patenting rejection is the only rejection remaining in both applications, the examiner should withdraw that rejection in the application with the earlier filing date and permit that application to issue as a patent. If both applications were filed on the same day, the applicant should be given an opportunity to elect which of the two should be allowed. In either situation, the examiner should maintain the double patenting rejection in the other application as a “provisional” double patenting rejection, which will be converted into a double patenting rejection when one application issues as a patent.

C. Between One or More Applications and a Published Application - Provisional Rejections

Double patenting may exist where a published patent application and an application are filed by the same inventive entity, or by different inventive entities having a common inventor, and/or by a common assignee. Double patenting may also exist where a published application and an application claim inventions resulting from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement as defined in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3). Since the published application has not yet issued as a patent, the examiner is permitted to make a “provisional” rejection on the ground of double patenting when the published application has not been abandoned and claims pending therein conflict with claims of the application being examined. See the discussion regarding “provisional” double patenting rejections in subsection B. above.

D. Reexamination Proceedings

A double patenting issue may raise a substantial new question of patentability of a claim of a patent, and thus be addressed in a reexamination proceeding. In re Lonardo, 119 F.3d 960, 966, 43 USPQ2d 1262, 1266 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (In giving the Director authority under 35 U.S.C. 303(a) in determining the presence of a substantial new question of patentability, “Congress intended that the phrases ‘patents and publications’ and ‘other patents or publications’ in section 303(a) not be limited to prior art patents or printed publications.” (emphasis added)). Accordingly, if the issue of double patenting was not addressed during original prosecution, it may be considered during reexamination.

Double patenting may exist where a reference patent or application and the patent under reexamination are filed by inventive entities that have at least one inventor in common and/or are filed by a common owner/assignee. Where the patent under reexamination was granted on or after December 10, 2004, double patenting may also exist where the inventions claimed in the reference and reexamination proceeding resulted from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3), and if evidence of the joint research agreement has been made of record in the patent being reexamined or in the reexamination proceeding. A double patenting rejection may NOT be made on this basis if the patent under reexamination issued before December 10, 2004. See MPEP § 804.04. The prior art exclusion under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) cannot be used to overcome an obvious double patenting rejection. See MPEP § 706.02(l) for more information on 35 U.S.C. 103(c). See MPEP § 2258for more information on making double patenting rejections in reexamination proceedings. Subsection II., below, describes situations wherein a double pat enting rejection would be appropriate. In particular, see paragraph II.B.1. for the analysis required to determine the propriety of an obviousness-type double patenting rejection.

II. REQUIREMENTS OF A DOUBLE PATENTING REJECTION (INCLUDING PROVISIONAL REJECTIONS)[edit | edit source]

When a double patenting rejection is appropriate, it must be based either on statutory grounds or nonstatutory grounds. The ground of rejection employed depends upon the relationship of the inventions being claimed. Generally, a double patenting rejection is not permitted where the claimed subject matter is presented in a divisional application as a result of a restriction requirement made in a parent application under 35 U.S.C. 121.

Where the claims of an application are substantively the same as those of a first patent, they are barred under 35 U.S.C. 101 - the statutory basis for a double patenting rejection. A rejection based on double patenting of the “same invention” type finds its support in the language of 35 U.S.C. 101 which states that “whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process ... may obtain a patent therefor ....” Thus, the term “same invention,” in this context, means an invention drawn to identical subject matter. Miller v. Eagle Mfg. Co., 151 U.S. 186 (1894); In re Vogel, 422 F.2d 438, 164 USPQ 619 (CCPA 1970); and In re Ockert, 245 F.2d 467, 114 USPQ 330 (CCPA 1957). Where the claims of an application are not the “same” as those of a first patent, but the grant of a patent with the claims in the application would unjustly extend the rights granted by the first patent, a double patenting rejection under nonstatutory grounds is proper.

In determining whether a proper basis exists to enter a double patenting rejection, the examiner must determine the following:

(A) Whether a double patenting rejection is prohibited by the third sentence of 35 U.S.C. 121 (see MPEP § 804.01; if such a prohibition applies, a double patenting rejection cannot be made);

(B) Whether a statutory basis exists; and

(C) Whether a nonstatutory basis exists.

Each determination must be made on the basis of all the facts in the application before the examiner. Charts I-A, I-B, II-A, and II-B illustrate the methodology of making such a determination.

Domination and double patenting should not be confused. They are two separate issues. One patent or application “dominates” a second patent or application when the first patent or application has a broad or generic claim which fully encompasses or reads on an invention defined in a narrower or more specific claim in another patent or application. Domination by itself, i.e., in the absence of statutory or nonstatutory double patenting grounds, cannot support a double patenting rejection. In re Kaplan, 789 F.2d 1574, 1577-78, 229 USPQ 678, 681 (Fed. Cir. 1986); and In re Sarrett, 327 F.2d 1005, 1014-15, 140 USPQ 474, 482 (CCPA 1964). However, the presence of domination does not preclude double patenting. See, e.g., In re Schneller, 397 F.2d 350, 158 USPQ 210 (CCPA 1968).

A. Statutory Double Patenting — 35 U.S.C. 101

In determining whether a statutory basis for a double patenting rejection exists, the question to be asked is: Is the same invention being claimed twice? 35 U.S.C. 101 prevents two patents from issuing on the same invention. "Same invention" means identical subject matter. Miller v. Eagle Mfg. Co., 151 U.S. 186 (1984); In re Vogel, 422 F.2d 438, 164 USPQ 619 (CCPA 1970); and In re Ockert, 245 F.2d 467, 114 USPQ 330 (CCPA 1957).

A reliable test for double patenting under 35 U.S.C. 101 is whether a claim in the application could be literally infringed without literally infringing a corresponding claim in the patent. In re Vogel, 422 F.2d 438, 164 USPQ 619 (CCPA 1970). Is there an embodiment of the invention that falls within the scope of one claim, but not the other? If there is such an embodiment, then identical subject matter is not defined by both claims and statutory double patenting would not exist. For example, the invention defined by a claim reciting a compound having a “halogen” substituent is not identical to or substantively the same as a claim reciting the same compound except having a “chlorine” substituent in place of the halogen because “halogen” is broader than “chlorine.” On the other hand, claims may be differently worded and still define the same invention. Thus, a claim reciting a widget having a length of “36 inches” defines the same invention as a claim reciting the same widget having a length of “3 feet.”

If it is determined that the same invention is being claimed twice, 35 U.S.C. 101 precludes the grant of the second patent regardless of the presence or absence of a terminal disclaimer. Id.

If the “same invention” is not being claimed twice, an analysis must be made to determine whether a nonstatutory basis for double patenting exists.

B.Nonstatutory Double Patenting

A rejection based on nonstatutory double patenting is based on a judicially created doctrine grounded in public policy so as to prevent the unjustified or improper timewise extension of the right to exclude granted by a patent.

1. Obviousness-Type

A nonstatutory obviousness-type double patenting rejection is appropriate where the conflicting claims are not identical, but at least one examined application claim is not patentably distinct from the reference claim(s) because the examined application claim is either anticipated by, or would have been obvious over, the reference claim(s). See, e.g., In re Berg, 140 F.3d 1428, 46 USPQ2d 1226 (Fed. Cir. 1998); In re Goodman, 11 F.3d 1046, 29 USPQ2d 2010 (Fed. Cir. 1993); and In re Longi, 759 F.2d 887, 225 USPQ 645 (Fed. Cir. 1985). In determining whether a nonstatutory basis exists for a double patenting rejection, the first question to be asked is — does any claim in the application define an invention that is anticipated by, or is merely an obvious variation of , an invention claimed in the patent? If the answer is yes, then an “obviousness-type” nonstatutory double patenting rejection may be appropriate. Obviousness-type double patenting requires rejection of an application claim when the claimed subject matter is not patentably distinct from the subject matter claimed in a commonly owned patent, or a non-commonly owned patent but subject to a joint research agreement as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3), when the issuance of a second patent would provide unjustified extension of the term of the right to exclude granted by a patent. See Eli Lilly & Co. v. Barr Labs., Inc., 251 F.3d 955, 58 USPQ2d 1869 (Fed. Cir. 2001); Ex parte Davis, 56 USPQ2d 1434, 1435-36 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 2000).

A double patenting rejection of the obviousness- type, if not based on an anticipation rationale, is “analogous to [a failure to meet] the nonobviousness requirement of 35 U.S.C. 103” except that the patent principally underlying the double patenting rejection is not considered prior art. In re Braithwaite, 379 F.2d 594, 154 USPQ 29 (CCPA 1967). Therefore, the analysis employed in an obviousness-type double patenting rejection parallels the guidelines for analysis of a 35 U.S.C. 103 obviousness determination. In re Braat, 937 F.2d 589, 19 USPQ2d 1289 (Fed. Cir. 1991); In re Longi, 759 F.2d 887, 225 USPQ 645 (Fed. Cir. 1985).

Since the analysis employed in an obviousness-type double patenting determination parallels the guidelines for a 35 U.S.C. 103(a) rejection, the factual inquiries set forth in Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 148 USPQ 459 (1966), that are applied for establishing a background for determining obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103 are employed when making an obvious-type double patenting analysis. These factual inquiries are summarized as follows:

(A)Determine the scope and content of a patent claim relative to a claim in the application at issue;

(B)Determine the differences between the scope and content of the patent claim as determined in (A) and the claim in the application at issue;

(C)Determine the level of ordinary skill in the pertinent art; and

(D)Evaluate any objective indicia of nonobviousness.

The conclusion of obviousness-type double patenting is made in light of these factual determinations.

Any obviousness-type double patenting rejection should make clear:

(A)The differences between the inventions defined by the conflicting claims — a claim in the patent compared to a claim in the application; and

(B)The reasons why a person of ordinary skill in the art would conclude that the invention defined in the claim at issue is anticipated by, or would have been an obvious variation of , the invention defined in a claim in the patent.

When considering whether the invention defined in a claim of an application would have been an obvious variation of the invention defined in the claim of a patent, the disclosure of the patent may not be used as prior art. General Foods Corp. v. Studiengesellschaft Kohle mbH, 972 F.2d 1272, 1279, 23 USPQ2d 1839, 1846 (Fed. Cir. 1992). This does not mean that one is precluded from all use of the patent disclosure.

The specification can be used as a dictionary to learn the meaning of a term in the patent claim. Toro Co. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 199 F.3d 1295, 1299, 53 USPQ2d 1065, 1067 (Fed. Cir. 1999)(“[W]ords in patent claims are given their ordinary meaning in the usage of the field of the invention, unless the text of the patent makes clear that a word was used with a special meaning.”); Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' per Azioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250, 48 USPQ2d 1117, 1122 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (“Where there are several common meanings for a claim term, the patent disclosure serves to point away from the improper meanings and toward the proper meanings.”). See also MPEP § 2111.01. Further, those portions of the specification which provide support for the patent claims may also be examined and considered when addressing the issue of whether a claim in the application defines an obvious variation of an invention claimed in the patent. In re Vogel, 422 F.2d 438, 441-42, 164 USPQ 619, 622 (CCPA 1970). The court in Vogel recognized “that it is most difficult, if not meaningless, to try to say what is or is not an obvious variation of a claim,” but that one can judge whether or not the invention claimed in an application is an obvious variation of an embodiment disclosed in the patent which provides support for the patent claim. According to the court, one must first “determine how much of the patent disclosure pertains to the invention claimed in the patent” because only “[t]his portion of the specification supports the patent claims and may be considered.” The court pointed out that “this use of the disclosure is not in contravention of the cases forbidding its use as prior art, nor is it applying the patent as a reference under 35 U.S.C. 103, since only the disclosure of the invention claimed in the patent may be examined.”

(a)One-Way Obviousness

If the application at issue is the later filed application or both are filed on the same day, only a one-way determination of obviousness is needed in resolving the issue of double patenting, i.e., whether the invention defined in a claim in the application would have been anticipated by, or an obvious variation of , the invention defined in a claim in the patent. See, e.g., In re Berg, 140 F.3d 1438, 46 USPQ2d 1226 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (the court applied a one-way test where both applications were filed the same day). If a claimed invention in the application would have been obvious over a claimed invention in the patent, there would be an unjustified timewise extension of the patent and an obvious-type double patenting rejection is proper. Unless a claimed invention in the application would have been anticipated by, or obvious over a claimed invention in the patent, no double patenting rejection of the obvious-type should be made, but this does not necessarily preclude a rejection based on another type of nonstatutory double patenting (see MPEP § 804, paragraph II.B.2. below).

Similarly, even if the application at issue is the earlier filed application, only a one-way determination of obviousness is needed to support a double patenting rejection in the absence of a finding: (A) of administrative delay on the part of the Office causing delay in prosecution of the earlier filed application; and (B) that applicant could not have filed the conflicting claims in a single (i.e., the earlier filed) application. See MPEP § 804, paragraph II.B.1.(b) below.

(b)Two-Way Obviousness

If the patent is the later filed application, the question of whether the timewise extension of the right to exclude granted by a patent is justified or unjustified must be addressed. A two-way test is to be applied only when the applicant could not have filed the claims in a single application and there is administrative delay. In re Berg, 46 USPQ2d 1226 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (“The two-way exception can only apply when the applicant could not avoid separate filings, and even then, only if the PTO controlled the rates of prosecution to cause the later filed species claims to issue before the claims for a genus in an earlier application

In Berg’s case, the two applications could have been filed as one, so it is irrelevant to our disposition who actually controlled the respective rates of prosecution.”). In the absence of administrative delay, a one-way test is appropriate. In re Goodman, 11 F.3d 1046, 29 USPQ2d 2010 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (applicant’s voluntary decision to obtain early issuance of claims directed to a species and to pursue prosecution of previously rejected genus claims in a continuation is a considered election to postpone by the applicant and not administrative delay). Unless the record clearly shows administrative delay by the Office and that applicant could not have avoided filing separate applications, the examiner may use the one-way obviousness determination and shift the burden to applicant to show why a two-way obviousness determination is required.

When making a two-way obviousness determination where appropriate, it is necessary to apply the Graham obviousness analysis twice, once with the application claims as the claims in issue, and once with the patent claims as the claims in issue. Where a two-way obviousness determination is required, an obvious-type double patenting rejection is appropriate only where each analysis compels a conclusion that the invention defined in the claims in issue is an obvious variation of the invention defined in a claim in the other application/patent. If either analysis does not compel a conclusion of obviousness, no double patenting rejection of the obvious-type is made, but this does not necessarily preclude a nonstatutory double patenting rejection based on the fundamental reason to prevent unjustified timewise extension of the right to exclude granted by a patent. In re Schneller, 397 F.2d 350, 158 USPQ 210 (CCPA 1968).

Although a delay in the processing of applications before the Office that would cause patents to issue in an order different from the order in which the applications were filed is a factor to be considered in determining whether a one-way or two-way obviousness determination is necessary to support a double patenting rejection, it may be very difficult to assess whether an applicant or the administrative process is primarily responsible for a delay in the issuance of a patent. On the one hand, it is applicant who presents claims for examination and pays the issue fee. On the other hand, the resolution of legitimate differences of opinion that must be resolved in an appeal process or the time spent in an interference proceeding can significantly delay the issuance of a patent. Nevertheless, the reasons for the delay in issuing a patent have been considered in assessing the propriety of a double patenting rejection. Thus, in Pierce v. Allen B. DuMont Laboratories, Inc., 297 F.2d 323, 131 USPQ 340 (3d. Cir. 1961), the court found that administrative delay may justify the extension of patent rights beyond 17 years but “a considered election to postpone acquisition of the broader [patent after the issuance of the later filed application] should not be tolerated.” In Pierce, the patentee elected to participate in an interference proceeding [after all claims in the application had been determined to be patentable] whereby the issuance of the broader patent was delayed by more than 7 years after the issuance of the narrower patent. The court determined that the second issued patent was invalid on the ground of double patenting. Similarly, in In re Emert, 124 F.3d 1458, 44 USPQ2d 1149 (Fed. Cir. 1997), the court found that the one-way test is appropriate where applicants, rather than the Office, had significant control over the rate of prosecution of the application at issue. In support of its finding that the applicants were responsible for delaying prosecution of the application during the critical period, the court noted that the applicants had requested and received numerous time extensions in various filings. More importantly, the court noted, after initially receiving an obviousness rejection of all claims, applicants had waited the maximum period to reply (6 months), then abandoned the application in favor of a substantially identical continuation application, then received another obviousness rejection of all claims, again waited the maximum period to reply, and then again abandoned the application in favor of a second continuation application substantially identical to the original filing. On the other hand, in General Foods Corp. v. Studiengesellschaft Kohle mbH, 972 F.2d 1272, 23 USPQ2d 1839 (Fed. Cir. 1992), the court elected not to hold the patentee accountable for a delay in issuing the first filed application until after the second filed application issued as a patent, even where the patentee had intentionally refiled the first filed application as a continuation-in-part after receiving a Notice of Allowance indicating that all claims presented were patentable. Similarly, where, through no fault of the applicant, the claims in a later filed application issue first, an obvious-type double patenting rejection is improper, in the absence of a two-way obviousness determination, because the applicant does not have complete control over the rate of progress of a patent application through the Office. In re Braat, 937 F.2d 589, 19 USPQ2d 1289 (Fed. Cir. 1991). While acknowledging that allowance of the claims in the earlier filed application would result in the timewise extension of an invention claimed in the patent, the court was of the view that the extension was justified under the circumstances in this case, indicating that a double patenting rejection would be proper only if the claimed inventions were obvious over each other — a two-way obviousness determination.

2.Another Type of Nonstatutory Double Patenting Rejection

There are some unique circumstances where it has been recognized that another type of nonstatutory double patenting rejection is applicable even where the inventions claimed in two or more applications/ patents are considered nonobvious over each other. These circumstances are illustrated by the facts before the court in In re Schneller, 397 F.2d 350, 158 USPQ 210 (CCPA 1968). In affirming the double patenting rejection, the court summed up the situation:

in appellant’s own terms: The combination ABC was old. He made two improvements on it, (1) adding X and (2) adding Y, the result still being a unitary clip of enhanced utility. While his invention can be practiced in the forms ABCX or ABCY, the greatest advantage and best mode of practicing the invention as disclosed is obtained by using both inventions in the combination ABCXY. His first application disclosed ABCXY and other matters. He obtained a patent claiming [a clip comprising] BCX and ABCX, . . . so claiming these combinations as to cover them no matter what other feature is incorporated in them, thus covering effectively ABCXY. He now, many years later, seeks more claims directed to ABCY and ABCXY. Thus, protection he already had would be extended, albeit in somewhat different form, for several years beyond the expiration of his patent, were we to reverse. 397 F.2d at 355-56, 158 USPQ at 216 (emphasis in original).

The court recognized that “there is no double patenting in the sense of claiming the same invention because ABCX and ABCY are, in the technical patent law sense, different inventions. The rule against ‘double patenting,’ however, is not so circumscribed. The fundamental reason for the rule is to prevent unjustified timewise extension of the right to exclude granted by a patent no matter how the extension is brought about. To . . . prevail here, appellant has the burden of establishing that the invention claimed in his patent is ‘independent and distinct’ from the invention of the appealed claims…appellant has clearly not established the independent and distinct character of the inventions of the appealed claims.” 397 F.2d at 354- 55, 158 USPQ at 214-15 (emphasis in original). The court observed:

The controlling fact is that patent protection for the clips, fully disclosed in and covered by the claims of the patent, would be extended by allowance of the appealed claims. Under the circumstance of the instant case, wherein we find no valid excuse or mitigating circumstances making it either reasonable or equitable to make an exception, and wherein there is no terminal disclaimer, the rule against “double patenting” must be applied.

397 F.2d at 355, 158 USPQ at 215.

The decision in In re Schneller did not establish a rule of general application and thus is limited to the particular set of facts set forth in that decision. The court in Schneller cautioned “against the tendency to freeze into rules of general application what, at best, are statements applicable to particular fact situations.” Schneller, 397 F.2d at 355, 158 USPQ at 215. Nonstatutory double patenting rejections based on Schneller will be rare. The Technology Center (TC) Director must approve any nonstatutory double patenting rejections based on Schneller. If an examiner determines that a double patenting rejection based on Schneller is appropriate in his or her application, the examiner should first consult with his or her supervisory patent examiner (SPE). If the SPE agrees with the examiner then approval of the TC Director must be obtained before such a nonstatutory double patenting rejection can be made.

A fact situation similar to that in Schneller was presented to a Federal Circuit panel in In re Kaplan, 789 F.2d 1574, 229 USPQ 678 (Fed. Cir. 1986). Kaplan had been issued a patent on a process of making chemicals in the presence of an organic solvent. Among the organic solvents disclosed and claimed as being useful were tetraglyme and sulfolane. One unclaimed example in the patent was specifically directed to a mixture of these two solvents. The claims in the application to Kaplan and Walker, the application before the Office, were directed to essentially the same chemical process, but requiring the use of the solvent mixture of tetraglyme and sulfolane. In reversing the double patenting rejection, the court stated that the mere fact that the broad process claim of the patent requiring an organic solvent reads on or “dominates” the narrower claim directed to basically the same process using a specific solvent mixture does not, per se, justify a double patenting rejection. The court also pointed out that the double patenting rejection improperly used the disclosure of the joint invention (solvent mixture) in the Kaplan patent specification as though it were prior art.

A significant factor in the Kaplan case was that the broad invention was invented by Kaplan, and the narrow invention (i.e., using a specific combination of solvents) was invented by Kaplan and Walker. Since these applications (as the applications in Braat) were filed before the Patent Law Amendments Act of 1984 (Pub. Law 98-622, November 8, 1984) amending 35 U.S.C. 116 to expressly authorize filing a patent application in the names of joint inventors who did not necessarily make a contribution to the invention defined in each claim in the patent, it was necessary to file multiple applications to claim both the broad and narrow inventions. Accordingly, there was a valid reason, driven by statute, why the claims to the specific solvent mixture were not presented for examination in the Kaplan patent application.

Each double patenting situation must be decided on its own facts.

3.Design/Plant — Utility Situations

Double patenting issues may be raised where an applicant has filed both a utility patent application (35 U.S.C. 111) and either an application for a plant patent (35 U.S.C. 161) or an application for a design patent (35 U.S.C. 171). In general, the same double patenting principles and criteria that are applied in utility-utility situations are applied to utility-plant or utility-design situations. Double patenting rejections in utility-plant situations may be made in appropriate circumstances.

Although double patenting is rare in the context of utility versus design patents, a double patenting rejection of a pending design or utility application can be made on the basis of a previously issued utility or design patent, respectively. Carman Indus. Inc. v. Wahl, 724 F.2d 932, 220 USPQ 481 (Fed. Cir. 1983). The rejection is based on the public policy preventing the extension of the term of a patent. Double patenting may be found in a design-utility situation irrespective of whether the claims in the patent relied on in the rejection and the claims in issue involve the same invention, or whether they involve inventions which are obvious variations of one another. In re Thorington, 418 F.2d 528, 163 USPQ 644 (CCPA 1969).

In Carman Indus., the court held that no double patenting existed between a design and utility patent since the claims in the utility patent, drawn to the interior construction of a flow promoter, were not directed to the same invention or an obvious variation of the invention claimed in a design patent directed to the visible external surface configuration of a storage bin flow promoter. The majority opinion in this decision appears to indicate that a two-way obviousness determination is necessary in design-utility cases. 724 F.2d at 940-41, 220 USPQ at 487-88. But see Carman Indus. (J. Nies, concurring).

In Thorington, the court affirmed a double patenting rejection of claims for a fluorescent light bulb in a utility patent application in view of a previously issued design patent for the same bulb. In another case, a double patenting rejection of utility claims for a finger ring was affirmed in view of an earlier issued design patent, where the drawing in both the design patent and the utility application illustrated the same article. In re Phelan, 205 F.2d 183, 98 USPQ 156 (CCPA 1953). A double patenting rejection of a design claim for a flashlight cap and hanger ring was affirmed over an earlier issued utility patent. In re Barber, 81 F.2d 231, 28 USPQ 187 (CCPA 1936). A double patenting rejection of claims in a utility patent application directed to a balloon tire construction was affirmed over an earlier issued design patent. In re Hargraves, 53 F.2d 900, 11 USPQ 240 (CCPA 1931).

III. CONTRAST BETWEEN DOUBLE PATENTING REJECTION AND REJECTIONS BASED ON PRIOR ART

Rejections over a patent or another copending application based on double patenting or 35 U.S.C. 103(a) are similar in the sense that both require comparison of the claimed subject matter with at least part of the content of another patent or application, and both may require that an obviousness analysis be made. However, there are significant differences between a rejection based on double patenting and one based on 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(a). In re Bartfeld, 925 F.2d 1450, 17 USPQ2d 1885 (Fed. Cir. 1991).

One significant difference is that a double patenting rejection must rely on a comparison with the claims in an issued or to be issued patent, whereas an anticipation or obviousness rejection based on the same patent under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) relies on a comparison with what is disclosed (whether or not claimed) in the same issued or to be issued patent. In a 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) rejection over a prior art patent, the reference patent is available for all that it fairly discloses to one of ordinary skill in the art, regardless of what is claimed. In re Bowers, 359 F.2d 886, 149 USPQ 570 (CCPA 1966).

A second significant difference is that a terminal disclaimer cannot be used to obviate a rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) prior art. In re Fong, 378 F.2d 977, 154 USPQ 25 (CCPA 1967). The purpose of a terminal disclaimer is to obviate a double patenting rejection by removing the potential harm to the public by issuing a second patent, and not to remove a patent as prior art.

For applications filed on or after November 29, 1999 and for applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, a commonly assigned/owned patent or application may be disqualified as 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art in a 35 U.S.C. 103(a) rejection. See 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1). As an alternative to invoking the prior art exclusion under 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1), the assignee can take some preemptive measures to avoid having a commonly assigned/owned copending application become prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e). The applications can be filed on the same day, or copending applications can be merged into a single continuation- in-part application and the parent applications abandoned. If these steps are undesirable or the first patent has issued, the prior art effect of the first patent may be avoided by a showing under 37 CFR 1.132that any unclaimed invention disclosed in the first patent was derived from the inventor of the application before the examiner in which the 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) rejection was made. In re Katz, 687 F.2d 450, 215 USPQ 14 (CCPA 1982). See also MPEP § 716.10. It may also be possible for applicant to respond to a 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) rejection by showing, under 37 CFR 1.131, that the date of invention of the claimed subject matter was prior to the effective filing date of the reference patent which has been relied upon for its unclaimed disclosure. See MPEP § 715. See also 37 CFR 1.130 and MPEP § 718for affidavits or declarations to disqualify a commonly owned patent as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103.

For applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, and for reexamination proceedings in which the patent under reexamination was granted on or after December 10, 2004, a patent or application may be disqualified as 35 U.S.C. 102(e) prior art in a 35 U.S.C. 103(a) rejection if evidence of a joint research agreement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3) is made of record in the application (or patent) being examined (or reexamined), and the conflicting claims resulted from a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the later claimed invention was made.

An examiner should make both a 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/ 103 rejection and a double patenting rejection over the same reference when the facts support both rejections. Note that even if an earlier patent or application to another is disqualified as prior art in a 35 U.S.C. 103(a) rejection based on common ownership or a joint research agreement as discussed above, that patent or application is available as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) and may form the basis of an anticipation rejection. If the examiner makes only one of these rejections when each is separately applicable, and if the next office action includes the previously omitted rejection, then the next Office action cannot be made final. A prior art reference that anticipates or renders claimed subject matter obvious under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) does not create a double patenting situation where that subject matter is not claimed in the reference patent. For applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, rejections under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) should not be made or maintained if the reference is disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as prior art in a 35 U.S.C. 103(a) rejection. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(1) for information regarding when prior art is disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) based on common ownership or claimed inventions made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement.

Until applicant establishes the existence of a joint research agreement, the examiner cannot apply a double patenting rejection based on the possible existence of such an agreement. If in reply to an Office action applying a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103, applicant disqualifies the relied upon reference under the joint research agreement provision of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) and a subsequent double patenting rejection based upon the disqualified reference is applied, the next Office action may be made final even if applicant did not amend the claims (provided 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 the applicant’s amendment of the application.

804.01 Prohibition of Double PatentingRejections Under 35 U.S.C. 121[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 121 authorizes the Director to restrict the claims in a patent application to a single invention when independent and distinct inventions are presented for examination. The third sentence of 35 U.S.C. 121 prohibits the use of a patent issuing on an application with respect to which a requirement for restriction has been made, or on an application filed as a result of such a requirement, as a reference against any divisional application, if the divisional application is filed before the issuance of the patent. The 35 U.S.C. 121 prohibition applies only where the Office has made a requirement for restriction. The prohibition does not apply where the divisional application was voluntarily filed by the applicant and not in response to an Office requirement for restriction. This apparent nullification of double patenting as a ground of rejection or invalidity in such cases imposes a heavy burden on the Office to guard against erroneous requirements for restrictions where the claims define essentially the same invention in different language and which, if acquiesced in, might result in the issuance of several patents for the same invention.


The prohibition against holdings of double patenting applies to requirements for restriction between the related subjects treated in MPEP § 806.04 through § 806.05(j), namely, between combination and subcombination thereof, between subcombinations disclosed as usable together, between process and apparatus for its practice, between process and product made by such process and between apparatus and product made by such apparatus, etc., so long as the claims in each application are filed as a result of such requirement.

The following are situations where the prohibition against double patenting rejections under 35 U.S.C. 121 does not apply:

(A)The applicant voluntarily files two or more applications without a restriction requirement by the examiner. 35 U.S.C. 121 requires claims of a divisional application to have been formally entered, restricted, and removed from an earlier application in order to obtain the benefit of 35 U.S.C. 121. Geneva Pharms. Inc. v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC, 349 F.3d 1373, 1379, 68 USPQ2d 1865, 1870 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (For claims in a divisional application that were not in the original application, 35 U.S.C. 121 “does not suggest that the original application merely needs to provide some support for claims that are first entered formally in the later divisional application.” Id.); In re Schneller, 397 F.2d 350, 158 USPQ 210 (CCPA 1968).

(B)The claims of the different applications or patents are not consonant with the restriction requirement made by the examiner, since the claims have been changed in material respects from the claims at the time the requirement was made. For example, the divisional application filed includes additional claims not consonant in scope to the original claims subject to restriction in the parent. Symbol Technologies, Inc. v. Opticon, Inc., 935 F.2d 1569, 19 USPQ2d 1241 (Fed. Cir. 1991) and Gerber Garment Technology, Inc. v. Lectra Systems, Inc., 916 F.2d 683, 16 USPQ2d 1436 (Fed. Cir. 1990). In order for consonance to exist, the line of demarcation between the independent and distinct inventions identified by the examiner in the requirement for restriction must be maintained. 916 F.2d at 688, 16 USPQ2d at 1440.

(C)The restriction requirement was written in a manner which made it clear to applicant that the requirement was made subject to the nonallowance of generic or other linking claims and such generic or linking claims are subsequently allowed. Therefore, if a generic or linking claim is subsequently allowed, the restriction requirement must be withdrawn.

(D)The requirement for restriction (holding of lack of unity of invention) was only made in an international application by the International Searching Authority or the International Preliminary Examining Authority.

(E)The requirement for restriction was withdrawn by the examiner before the patent issues. In re Ziegler, 443 F.2d 1211, 170 USPQ 129 (CCPA 1971). Note that a restriction requirement in an earlier-filed application does not carry over to claims of a continuation application in which the examiner does not reinstate or refer to the restriction requirement in the parent application. Reliance on a patent issued from such a continuation application to reject claims in a later-filed divisional application is not prohibited under 35 U.S.C. 121. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Pharmachemie BV, 361 F.3d 1343, 1348, 70 USPQ2d 1097, 1100 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

(F)The claims of the second application are drawn to the “same invention” as the first application or patent. Studiengesellschaft Kohle mbH v. Northern Petrochemical Co., 784 F.2d 351, 228 USPQ 837 (Fed. Cir. 1986).

(G)Where a requirement for restriction between a product, a process of making the product, and a process of using the product was made subject to the non- allowance of the product and the product is subsequently allowed. In this situation the restriction requirement must be withdrawn.

While the situation should not arise where appropriate care is exercised in defining the independent and distinct inventions in a restriction requirement, the issue might arise as to whether 35 U.S.C. 121 prevents the use of a double patenting rejection when the identical invention is claimed in both the patent and the pending application. Under these circumstances, the Office will make the double patenting rejection because the patentee is entitled only to a single patent for an invention. As expressed in Studiengesellschaft Kohle, 784 F.2d at 361, 228 USPQ at 844, (J. Newman, concurring), “35 U.S.C. 121 of course does not provide that multiple patents may be granted on the identical invention.”

804.02 Avoiding a Double Patenting Rejection[edit | edit source]

I.STATUTORY

A rejection based on the statutory type of double patenting can be avoided by amending the conflicting claims so that they are not coextensive in scope. Where the conflicting claims are in one or more pending applications and a patent, a rejection based on statutory type double patenting can also be avoided by canceling the conflicting claims in all the pending applications. Where the conflicting claims are in two or more pending applications, a provisional rejection based on statutory type double patenting can also be avoided by canceling the conflicting claims in all but one of the pending applications. A terminal disclaimer is not effective in overcoming a statutory double patenting rejection.

The use of a 37 CFR 1.131 affidavit in overcoming a statutory double patenting rejection is inappropriate. In re Dunn, 349 F.2d 433, 146 USPQ 479 (CCPA 1965). Knell v. Muller, 174 USPQ 460 (Comm’r. Pat. 1971), citing the CCPA decisions in In re Ward, 236 F.2d 428, 111 USPQ 101 (CCPA 1956); In re Teague, 254 F.2d 145, 117 USPQ 284 (CCPA 1958); and In re Hidy, 303 F.2d 954, 133 USPQ 650 (CCPA 1962).

II.NONSTATUTORY

A rejection based on a nonstatutory type of double patenting can be avoided by filing a terminal disclaimer in the application or proceeding in which the rejection is made. In re Vogel, 422 F.2d 438, 164 USPQ 619 (CCPA 1970); In re Knohl, 386 F.2d 476, 155 USPQ 586 (CCPA 1967); and In re Griswold, 365 F.2d 834, 150 USPQ 804 (CCPA 1966). The use of a terminal disclaimer in overcoming a nonstatutory double patenting rejection is in the public interest because it encourages the disclosure of additional developments, the earlier filing of applications, and the earlier expiration of patents whereby the inventions covered become freely available to the public. In re Jentoft, 392 F.2d 633, 157 USPQ 363 (CCPA 1968); In re Eckel, 393 F.2d 848, 157 USPQ 415 (CCPA 1968); and In re Braithwaite, 379 F.2d 594, 154 USPQ 29 (CCPA 1967).

The use of a 37 CFR 1.131 affidavit in overcoming a double patenting rejection is inappropriate because the claim or claims in the application are being rejected over a patent which claims the rejected invention. In re Dunn, 349 F.2d 433, 146 USPQ 479 (CCPA 1965). 37 CFR 1.131 is inapplicable if the claims of the application and the patent are “directed to substantially the same invention.” It is also inappli cable if there is a lack of “patentable distinctness” between the claimed subject matter. Knell v. Muller, 174 USPQ 460 (Comm’r. Pat. 1971), citing the court decisions in In re Ward, 236 F.2d 428, 111 USPQ 101 (CCPA 1956); In re Teague, 254 F.2d 145, 117 USPQ 284 (CCPA 1958); and In re Hidy, 303 F.2d 954, 133 USPQ 65 (CCPA 1962).

A patentee or applicant may disclaim or dedicate to the public the entire term, or any terminal part of the term of a patent. 35 U.S.C. 253. The statute does not provide for a terminal disclaimer of only a specified claim or claims. The terminal disclaimer must operate with respect to all claims in the patent.

The filing of a terminal disclaimer to obviate a rejection based on nonstatutory double patenting is not an admission of the propriety of the rejection. Quad Environmental Technologies Corp. v. Union Sanitary District, 946 F.2d 870, 20 USPQ2d 1392 (Fed. Cir. 1991). The court indicated that the “filing of a terminal disclaimer simply serves the statutory function of removing the rejection of double patenting, and raises neither a presumption nor estoppel on the merits of the rejection.”

A terminal disclaimer filed to obviate a double patenting rejection is effective only with respect to the application identified in the disclaimer, unless by its terms it extends to continuing applications. If an appropriate “provisional” nonstatutory double patenting rejection is made in each of two or more pending applications, the examiner should follow the practice set forth in MPEP § 804, subsection I.B.1. in determining in which of the applications an appropriate terminal disclaimer must be filed.

Claims that differ from each other (aside from minor differences in language, punctuation, etc.), whether or not the difference would have been obvious, are not considered to be drawn to the same invention for double patenting purposes under 35 U.S.C. 101. In cases where the difference in claims would have been obvious, terminal disclaimers are effective to overcome double patenting rejections. Where the subject matter of the reference and the claimed invention were commonly owned at the time the invention was made, such terminal disclaimers must include a provision that the patent shall be unenforceable if it ceases to be commonly owned with the other application or patent. Note 37 CFR 1.321(c). 37 CFR 1.321(d) sets forth the requirements for a terminal disclaimer where the claimed invention resulted from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement as defined in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3). It should be emphasized that a terminal disclaimer cannot be used to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a).

III.TERMINAL DISCLAIMER REQUIRED DESPITE REQUEST TO ISSUE ON COMMON ISSUE DATE

Applicants are cautioned that reliance upon a common 

issue date cannot effectively substitute for the filing of one or more terminal disclaimers in order to overcome a proper double patenting rejection, particularly since a common issue date alone does not avoid the potential problems of dual ownership by a common assignee, or by parties to a joint research agreement, of patents to patentably indistinct inventions. In any event, the Office cannot ensure that two or more applications will have a common issue date.

IV.DISCLAIMING MULTIPLE DOUBLE PATENTING REFERENCES

If multiple conflicting patents and/or pending applications are applied in double patenting rejections made in a single application, then prior to issuance of that application, it is necessary to disclaim the terminal part of any patent granted on the application which would extend beyond the application date of each one of the conflicting patents and/or applications. A terminal disclaimer fee is required for each terminal disclaimer filed. To avoid paying multiple terminal disclaimer fees, a single terminal disclaimer based on common ownership may be filed, for example, in which the term disclaimed is based on all the conflicting, commonly owned double patenting references. Similarly, a single terminal disclaimer based on a joint research agreement may be filed, in which the term disclaimed is based on all the conflicting double patenting references.

Each one of the commonly owned conflicting double patenting references must be included in the terminal disclaimer to avoid the problem of dual ownership of patents to patentably indistinct inventions in the event that the patent issuing from the application being examined ceases to be commonly owned with any one of the double patenting references that have issued or may issue as a patent. Note that 37 CFR 1.321(c)(3) requires that a terminal disclaimer for commonly owned conflicting claims “[i]nclude a provision that any patent granted on that application or any patent subject to the reexamination proceeding shall be enforceable only for and during such period that said patent is commonly owned with the application or patent which formed the basis for the rejection.”

Filing a terminal disclaimer including each one of the conflicting double patenting references is also necessary to avoid the problem of ownership of patents to patentably indistinct inventions by parties to a joint research agreement. 37 CFR 1.321(d) sets forth the requirements for a terminal disclaimer where the claimed invention resulted from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement.

V.REQUIREMENTS OF A TERMINAL DISCLAIMER

A terminal disclaimer is a statement filed by an owner (in whole or in part) of a patent or a patent to be granted that is used to disclaim or dedicate a portion of the entire term of all the claims of a patent. The requirements for a terminal disclaimer are set forth in 37 CFR 1.321. Sample forms of a terminal disclaimer, and guidance as to the filing and treatment of a terminal disclaimer, are provided in MPEP § 1490.

VI.TERMINAL DISCLAIMERS REQUIRED TO OVERCOME NONSTATUTORY DOUBLE PATENTING REJECTIONS IN APPLICATIONS FILED ON OR AFTER JUNE 8, 1995

Public Law 103-465 (1994) amended 35 U.S.C. 154(a)(2) to provide that any patent issuing on a utility or plant application filed on or after June 8, 1995 will expire 20 years from its filing date, or, if the application claims the benefit of an earlier filed application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c), 20 years from the earliest filing date for which a benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c) is claimed. Therefore, any patent issuing on a continuing utility or plant application filed on or after June 8, 1995 will expire 20 years from the earliest filing date for which a benefit is claimed under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c), subject to the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 154(b).

There are at least two reasons for insisting upon a terminal disclaimer to overcome a nonstatutory double patenting rejection in a continuing application subject to a 20-year term under 35 U.S.C. 154(a)(2). First, 35 U.S.C. 154(b) includes provisions for patent term extension based upon prosecution delays during the application process. Thus, 35 U.S.C. 154 does not ensure that any patent issuing on a continuing utility or plant application filed on or after June 8, 1995 will necessarily expire 20 years from the earliest filing date for which a benefit is claimed under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c). Second, 37 CFR 1.321(c)(3) requires that a terminal disclaimer filed to obviate a nonstatutory double patenting rejection based on commonly owned conflicting claims include a provision that any patent granted on that application be enforceable only for and during the period that the patent is commonly owned with the application or patent which formed the basis for the rejection. 37 CFR 1.321(d) sets forth the requirements for a terminal disclaimer where the claimed invention resulted from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement. These requirements serve to avoid the potential for harassment of an accused infringer by multiple parties with patents covering the same patentable invention. See, e.g., In re Van Ornum, 686 F.2d 937, 944-48, 214 USPQ 761, 767-70 (CCPA 1982). Not insisting upon a terminal disclaimer to overcome a nonstatutory double patenting rejection in an application subject to a 20-year term under 35 U.S.C. 154(a)(2) would result in the potential for the problem that 37 CFR 1.321(c)(3) was promulgated to avoid.

Accordingly, a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321 is required in an application to overcome a nonstatutory double patenting rejection, even if the application was filed on or after June 8, 1995 and claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c) of the filing date of the patent or application which forms the basis for the rejection. Examiners should respond to arguments that a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321 should not be required in a continuing application filed on or after June 8, 1995 to overcome a nonstatutory double patenting rejection due to the change to 35 U.S.C. 154 by citing to this section of the MPEP or to the Official Gazette notice at 1202 O.G. 112 (Sept. 30, 1997).

804.03 Commonly Owned Inventions of Different Inventive Entities; Non-Commonly Owned Inventions Subject to a Joint Research Agreement[edit | edit source]

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


37 CFR 1.78. Claiming benefit of earlier filing date and cross references to other applications.
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(c)If an application or a patent under reexamination and at least one other application naming different inventors are owned by the same person and contain conflicting claims, and there is no statement of record indicating that the claimed inventions were commonly owned or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person at the time the later invention was made, the Office may require the assignee to state whether the claimed inventions were commonly owned or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person at the time the later invention was made, and if not, indicate which named inventor is the prior inventor. Even if the claimed inventions were commonly owned, or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person, at the time the later invention was made, the conflicting claims may be rejected under the doctrine of double patenting in view of such commonly owned or assigned applications or patents under reexamination.


37 CFR 1.130. Affidavit or declaration to disqualify commonly owned patent or published application as prior art.

(a)When any claim of an application or a patent under reexamination is rejected under 35 U.S.C. 103 on a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication which is not prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(b), and the inventions defined by the claims in the application or patent under reexamination and by the claims in the patent or published application are not identical but are not patentably distinct, and the inventions are owned by the same party, the applicant or owner of the patent under reexamination may disqualify the patent or patent application publication as prior art. The patent or patent application publication can be disqualified as prior art by submission of:

(1)A terminal disclaimer in accordance with § 1.321(c); and

(2)An oath or declaration stating that the application or patent under reexamination and patent or published application are currently owned by the same party, and that the inventor named in the application or patent under reexamination is the prior inventor under 35 U.S.C. 104.

(b)[Reserved]

I.DOUBLE PATENTING

Claims in commonly owned applications of different inventive entities may be rejected on the ground of double patenting. This 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 In re Zickendraht, 319 F.2d 225, 138 USPQ 22 (CCPA 1963) (the doctrine is well established that claims in different applications need be more than merely different in form or content and that patentable distinction must exist to entitle applicants to a second patent) and In re Christensen, 330 F.2d 652, 141 USPQ 295 (CCPA 1964).

Claims may also be rejected on the grounds of nonstatutory double patenting in certain non-commonly owned applications that claim inventions resulting from activities undertaken with the scope of a joint research agreement as defined in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3). This prevents the parties to the joint research agreement from obtaining two or more patents with different expiration dates covering nearly identical subject matter. See the amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) by the CREATE Act (Public Law 108- 453; 118 Stat. 3596 (2004)).

Double patenting rejections can be overcome in certain circumstances by disclaiming, pursuant to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.321(c), 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. Double patenting rejections can also be overcome in cases subject to a joint research agreement, under certain circumstances, by disclaiming the terminal portion of the term of the later patent and including in the disclaimer the provisions of 37 CFR 1.321(d).

See MPEP § 706.02(l) - § 706.02(l)(3) for information pertaining to establishment of common ownership and the existence of a joint research agreement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 103(c), as well as examination practice relating to 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

II.IDENTIFYING COMMONLY OWNED AND NON-COMMONLY OWNED INVENTIONS SUBJECT TO A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT

A.Common Ownership by the Same Person(s) or Organization(s)

Applications or patents are “commonly owned” pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1) if they were wholly or entirely owned by the same person(s), or organization( s)/business entity(ies), at the time the claimed invention was made. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(2) for a detailed definition of common ownership. Two inventions of different inventive entities come within the common ownership provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1) when:

(A)the later invention is not anticipated by the earlier invention under 35 U.S.C. 102;

(B)the earlier invention qualifies as prior art for purposes of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103 against the later invention only under subsections (f) or (g) of 35 U.S.C. 102, or under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) for applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, for reexamination proceedings in which the patent under reexamination was granted on or after December 10, 2004, and for reexamination proceedings in which the patent under reexamination was filed on or after November 29, 1999; and

(C)the inventions were, at the time the later invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

B.Non-Commonly Owned Inventions Subject to a Joint Research Agreement

The Cooperative Research and Technology Enhancement Act of 2004 (CREATE Act) (Public Law 108-453; 118 Stat. 3596 (2004)), which amended 35 U.S.C. 103(c), was enacted on December 10, 2004. The CREATE Act permits an applicant or patentee, who is a party to a joint research agreement, to disqualify prior art that is applied in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) and that is otherwise available as prior art only under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) or (g). Congress recognized that this amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) would result in situations in which there would be double patenting between patents or applications not owned by the same party. See H.R. Rep. No. 108-425, at 5-6 (2003).

Pursuant to the CREATE Act, non-commonly owned applications or patents that are subject to a joint research agreement may be treated as if they are “commonly owned,” i.e., owned or subject to assignment by the same person, for the purposes of determining obviousness if certain conditions are met. See 35 U.S.C 103(c)(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. See 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(3). See also MPEP § 706.02(l)(2).

Two inventions come within the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2), for applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, and for reexamination proceedings in which the patent under reexamination issued after December 10, 2004, when:

(A)the later invention is not anticipated by the earlier invention under 35 U.S.C. 102;

(B)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;

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

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

C.Timing of Double Patenting Rejections

The examiner should make both a double patenting rejection based on common ownership and a rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 prior art when the facts support both rejections. Until applicant has established that a reference is disqualified as prior art under the joint research agreement exclusion of 35 U.S.C. 103(c), the examiner should NOT apply a double patenting rejection based on a joint research agreement. See MPEP § 706.07(a) and § 804 for information regarding when an Office action that includes a new subsequent double patenting rejection based upon a reference disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) may be made final.

III.DETERMINING INVENTION PRIORITY

A determination of priority is not required when two inventions are commonly owned as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1).

Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.78(c), where an application or a patent under reexamination and at least one other application of different inventive entities are owned by the same party and contain conflicting claims, the examiner may require the assignee to state whether the claimed inventions come within the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) (i.e., indicate whether common ownership or an obligation of assignment to the same person existed at the time the later invention was made). If the assignee states that the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) do not apply to the conflicting claimed inventions, the assignee is required to indicate which named inventor is the prior inventor. Form paragraphs 8.27, 8.28 and 8.28.01 may be used to require the applicant to identify the prior inventor under 37 CFR 1.78(c). In order to avoid abandonment, the assignee must comply with the requirement under 37 CFR 1.78(c) by naming the prior inventor unless the conflicting claims are eliminated in all but one application. If, however, the two inventions come within the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c), it is not necessary to determine priority of invention since the earlier invention is disqualified as prior art against the later invention and since double patenting rejections can be used to ensure that the patent terms expire together. Accordingly, a response to a requirement under 37 CFR 1.78(c) which states that the inventions of different inventive entities come within the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) is complete without any further inquiry under 37 CFR 1.78(c) as to the prior inventor.

Before making the requirement to identify the prior inventor under 37 CFR 1.78(c), with its threat to hold the application abandoned if the statement is not made by the assignee, the examiner must make sure that claims are present in each application which are conflicting as defined in MPEP § 804. See In re Rekers, 203 USPQ 1034 (Comm’r Pat. 1979).

In some situations the application file histories may reflect which invention is the prior invention, e.g., by reciting that one invention is an improvement of the other invention. See Margolis v. Banner, 599 F.2d 435, 202 USPQ 365 (CCPA 1979) (Court refused to uphold a holding of abandonment for failure to name the prior inventor since the record showed what was invented by the different inventive entities and who was the prior inventor.).

An application in which a requirement to name the prior inventor has been made will not be held abandoned where a timely response indicates that the other application is abandoned or will be permitted to become abandoned and will not be filed as a continuing application. Such a response will be considered sufficient since it renders the requirement to identify the prior inventor moot because the existence of conflicting claims is eliminated. Also note that the conflict between two or more pending applications can be avoided by abandoning the applications and filing a continuation-in-part application merging the conflicting inventions into a single application.

IV. REJECTIONS UNDER 35 U.S.C. 102 AND 103 AND DOUBLE PATENTING

If the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(1) apply to the commonly owned conflicting inventions of different inventive entities or if the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) apply to non-commonly owned inventions subject to a joint research agreement and thereby obviate the obviousness rejection(s), double patenting rejection(s) should be made (or maintained) as appropriate. If, however, it is determined that the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) do NOT apply because the inventions were not commonly owned or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person at the time the later invention was made, or because the claimed invention did NOT result from activities undertaken within the scope of a joint research agreement as required by 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3), and there is evidence of record to indicate that a patent or application is prior art against the application being examined, the examiner should make (A) any appropriate double patenting rejection( s), and (B) the appropriate prior art rejection(s) under 35 U.S.C. 102 and/or 35 U.S.C. 103 in the application being examined. See Charts I-A, I-B, II-A, and II-B in MPEP § 804. Rejections under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 35 U.S.C. 103 cannot be obviated solely by filing a terminal disclaimer.

Further, if the conflicting applications have different effective U.S. filing dates, the examiner should consider making a provisional rejection in the later filed application, based on the earlier filed application, under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) or 102(e)/103(a), using form paragraph 7.15.01 or 7.21.01. Similarly, if an application has a later effective U.S. filing date than a conflicting issued patent, the examiner should consider making a rejection in the application, based on the patent, under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) or 102(e)/103(a), using form paragraph 7.15.02 or 7.21.02. Rejections under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103 cannot be obviated solely by the filing of a terminal disclaimer. However, for applications pending on or after December 10, 2004, rejections under 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103(a) should not be made or maintained if the patent is disqualified under 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as prior art in a 35 U.S.C. 103(a) rejection.

804.04 Submission to Technology Center Director[edit | edit source]

In order to promote uniform practice, every Office action containing a rejection on the ground of double patenting which relies on the parent application rejecting the claims in a divisional or continuing application where the divisional or continuing application was filed because of a requirement to restrict made by the examiner under 35 U.S.C. 121, including a requirement to elect species, must be submitted to the Technology Center Director for approval prior to mailing. If the rejection on the ground of double patenting is disapproved, it shall not be mailed but other appropriate action shall be taken. Note MPEP § 1003.

805 Effect of Improper Joinder in Patent[edit | edit source]

35 U.S.C. 121, last sentence, provides “the validity of a patent shall not be questioned for failure of the Director to require the application to be restricted to one invention.” In other words, under this statute, no patent can be held void for improper joinder of inventions claimed therein.

806 Determination of Distinctness or Independence of Claimed Inventions[edit | edit source]

The general principles relating to distinctness or independence may be summarized as follows:

(A)Where inventions are independent (i.e., no disclosed relation therebetween), restriction to one thereof is ordinarily proper, MPEP § 806.06.

(B)Where inventions are related as disclosed but are distinct as claimed, restriction may be proper.

(C)Where inventions are related as disclosed but are not distinct as claimed, restriction is never proper.

(D)A reasonable number of species may be claimed when there is an allowable claim generic thereto. 37 CFR 1.141, MPEP § 806.04.

Where restriction is required by the Office double patenting cannot be held, and thus, it is imperative the requirement should never be made where related inventions as claimed are not distinct. For (B) and (C) see MPEP § 806.05 - § 806.05(j) and § 809.03.

See MPEP § 802.01 for criteria for patentably distinct inventions.

806.01 Compare Claimed Subject Matter[edit | edit source]

In passing upon questions of double patenting and restriction, it is the claimed subject matter that is considered and such claimed subject matter must be compared in order to determine the question of distinctness or independence. However, a provisional election of a single species may be required where only generic claims are presented and the generic claims recite such a multiplicity of species that an unduly extensive and burdensome search is necessary. See MPEP § 803.02 and § 808.01(a).

806.03 Single Embodiment, Claims Defining Same Essential Features[edit | edit source]

Where the claims of an application define the same essential characteristics of a single disclosed embodiment of an invention, restriction therebetween should never be required. This is because the claims are not directed to distinct inventions; rather they are different definitions of the same disclosed subject matter, varying in breadth or scope of definition.

Where such claims are voluntarily presented in different applications having at least one common inventor or a common assignee (i.e., no restriction requirement was made by the Office), disclosing the same embodiments, see MPEP § 804 - § 804.02.

806.04 Genus and/or Species Inventions[edit | edit source]

Where an application includes claims directed to different embodiments or species that could fall within the scope of a generic claim, restriction between the species may be proper if the species are independent or distinct. However, 37 CFR 1.141 provides that an allowable generic claim may link a reasonable number of species embraced thereby. The practice is set forth in 37 CFR 1.146.

37 CFR 1.146. Election of species.

In the first action on an application containing a generic claim to a generic invention (genus) and claims to more than one patentably distinct species embraced thereby, the examiner may require the applicant in the reply to that action to elect a species of his or her invention to which his or her claim will be restricted if no claim to the genus is found to be allowable. However, if such application contains claims directed to more than a reasonable number of species, the examiner may require restriction of the claims to not more than a reasonable number of species before taking further action in the application.

See MPEP § 806.04(d) for the definition of a generic claim, and MPEP § 806.04(e) for a discussion of claims that include one or more species.


806.04(b) Species May Be Independent or Related Inventions[edit | edit source]

Species may be either independent or related under the particular disclosure. Where species under a claimed genus are not connected in any of design, operation, or effect under the disclosure, the species are independent inventions. See MPEP § 802.01 and § 806.06. Where inventions as disclosed and claimed are both (A) species under a claimed genus and (B) related, then the question of restriction must be determined by both the practice applicable to election of species and the practice applicable to other types of restrictions such as those covered in MPEP § 806.05 - § 806.05(j). If restriction is improper under either practice, it should not be required.

For example, two different subcombinations usable with each other may each be a species of some common generic invention. If so, restriction practice under election of species and the practice applicable to restriction between combination and subcombinations must be addressed.

As a further example, species of carbon compounds may be related to each other as intermediate and final product. Thus, these species are not independent and in order to sustain a restriction requirement, distinctness must be shown. Distinctness is proven if the intermediate and final products do not overlap in scope and are not obvious variants and it can be shown that the intermediate product is useful other than to make the final product. Otherwise, the disclosed relationship would preclude their being issued in separate patents. See MPEP § 806.05(j) for restriction practice pertaining to related products, including intermediate-final product relationships.

806.04(d) Definition of a Generic Claim[edit | edit source]

In an application presenting three species illustrated, for example, in Figures 1, 2, and 3, respectively, a generic claim should read on each of these views; but the fact that a claim does so read is not conclusive that it is generic. It may define only an element or subcombination common to the several species.

In general, a generic claim should require no material element additional to those required by the species claims, and each of the species claims must require all the limitations of the generic claim.

Once a generic claim is allowable, all of the claims drawn to species in addition to the elected species which require all the limitations of the generic claim will ordinarily be allowable over the prior art in view of the allowability of the generic claim, since the additional species will depend thereon or otherwise require all of the limitations thereof. When all or some of the claims directed to one of the species in addition to the elected species do not require all the limitations of the generic claim, see MPEP § 821.04(a).

806.04(e) Claims Limited to Species[edit | edit source]

Claims are definitions or descriptions of inventions. Claims themselves are never species. The scope of a claim may be limited to a single disclosed embodiment (i.e., a single species, and thus be designated a specific species claim). Alternatively, a claim may encompass two or more of the disclosed embodiments (and thus be designated a generic or genus claim).

Species always refer to the different embodiments of the invention.

Species may be either independent or related as disclosed (see MPEP § 806.04 and §

806.04(b)).

806.04(f) Restriction Between Mutually Exclusive Species[edit | edit source]

Where two or more species are claimed, a requirement for restriction to a single species may be proper if the species are mutually exclusive. Claims to different species are mutually exclusive if one claim recites limitations disclosed for a first species but not a second, while a second claim recites limitations disclosed only for the second species and not the first. This may also be expressed by saying that to require restriction between claims limited to species, the claims must not overlap in scope.

806.04(h) Species Must Be Patentably Distinct From Each Other[edit | edit source]

In making a requirement for restriction in an application claiming plural species, the examiner should group together species considered clearly unpatentable over each other .

Where generic claims are allowable, applicant may claim in the same application additional species as provided by 37 CFR 1.141. See MPEP § 806.04. Where an applicant files a divisional application claiming a species previously claimed but nonelected in the parent case pursuant to and consonant with a requirement to restrict a double patenting rejection of the species claim(s) would be prohibited under 35 U.S.C. 121. See MPEP § 821.04(a) for rejoinder of species claims when a generic claim is allowable.

Where, however, claims to a different species, or

a species disclosed but not claimed in a parent case 

as filed and first acted upon by the examiner, are voluntarily presented in a different application having at least one common inventor or a common assignee (i.e., no requirement for election pertaining to said species was made by the Office) there should be close investigation to determine whether a double patenting rejection would be appropriate. See MPEP § 804.01 and § 804.02.

806.04(i) Generic Claims Presented After Issue of Species[edit | edit source]

If a generic claim is presented after the issuance of a patent claiming one or more species within the scope of the generic claim, the Office may reject the generic claim on the grounds of obviousness- type double patenting when the patent and application have at least once common inventor and/ or are either (1) commonly assigned/owned or (2) non-commonly assigned/owned but subject to a joint research agreement as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (3). See MPEP § 804. Applicant may overcome such a rejection by filing a terminal disclaimer. See In re Goodman, 11 F.3d 1046, 1053, 29 USPQ2d 2010, 2016 (Fed. Cir. 1993); In re Braithwaite, 379 F.2d 594, 154 USPQ 29 (CCPA 1967).

806.05 Related Inventions[edit | edit source]

Where two or more related inventions are claimed, the principal question to be determined in connection with a requirement to restrict or a rejection on the ground of double patenting is whether or not the inventions as claimed are distinct. If they are distinct, restriction may be proper. If they are not distinct, restriction is never proper. If nondistinct inventions are claimed in separate applications or patents, double patenting must be held, except where the additional applications were filed consonant with a requirement to restrict.

Various pairs of related inventions are noted in the following sections. In applications claiming inventions in different statutory categories, only one-way distinctness is generally needed to support a restriction requirement. See MPEP § 806.05(c) (combination and subcombination) and § 806.05(j) (related products or related processes) for examples of when a two-way test is required for distinctness. Related inventions in the same statutory class are considered mutually exclusive, or not overlapping in scope, if a first invention would not infringe a second invention, and the second invention would not infringe the first invention

806.05(a)Combination and Subcombination[edit | edit source]

A combination is an organization of which a subcombination or element is a part.

806.05(c)Criteria of Distinctness Between Combination and Subcombination [R-5]

To support a requirement for restriction between combination and subcombination inventions, both two-way distinctness and reasons for insisting on restriction are necessary, i.e., there would be a serious search burden if restriction were not required as evidenced by separate classification, status, or field of search. See MPEP § 808.02.

The inventions are distinct if it can be shown that a combination as claimed:

(A)does not require the particulars of the subcombination as claimed for patentability (to show novelty and unobviousness), and

(B)the subcombination can be shown to have utility either by itself or in another materially different combination.

When these factors cannot be shown, such inventions are not distinct.

The following examples are included for general guidance.

I.SUBCOMBINATION ESSENTIAL TO COMBINATION

ABsp/Bsp No Restriction

Where a combination as claimed requires the details of a subcombination as separately claimed, there is usually no evidence that combination ABsp is patentable without the details of Bsp. The inventions are not distinct and a requirement for restriction must not be made or maintained, even if the subcombination has separate utility. This situation can be diagrammed as combination ABsp (“sp” is an abbreviation for “specific”), and subcombination Bsp. Thus the specific characteristics required by the subcombination claim Bsp are also required by the combination claim. See MPEP § 806.05(d) for situations where two or more subcombinations are separately claimed.

II.SUBCOMBINATION NOT ESSENTIAL TO COMBINATION

A. ABbr/Bsp Restriction Proper

Where a combination as claimed does not require the details of the subcombination as separately claimed and the subcombination has separate utility, the inventions are distinct and restriction is proper if reasons exist for insisting upon the restriction, i.e., there would be a serious search burden if restriction were not required as evidenced by separate classification, status, or field of search.

This situation can be diagramed as combination ABbr (“br” is an abbreviation for “broad”), and subcombination Bsp (“sp” is an abbreviation for “specific”). Bbr indicates that in the combination the subcombination is broadly recited and that the specific characteristics required by the subcombination claim Bsp are not required by the combination claim.

Since claims to both the subcombination and combination are presented, the omission of details of the claimed subcombination Bsp in the combination claim ABbr is evidence that the combination does not rely upon the specific limitations of the subcombination for its patentability. If subcombination Bsp has separate utility, the inventions are distinct and restriction is proper if reasons exist for insisting upon the restriction.


In applications claiming plural inventions capable of being viewed as related in two ways, for example, as both combination-subcombination and also as species under a claimed genus, both applicable criteria for distinctness must be demonstrated to support a restriction requirement. See also MPEP § 806.04(b).

Form paragraph 8.15 may be used in combination- subcombination restriction requirements.

The burden is on the examiner to suggest an example of separate utility. If applicant proves or provides an argument, supported by facts, that the utility suggested by the examiner cannot be accomplished, the burden shifts to the examiner to document a viable separate utility or withdraw the requirement.

B. ABsp/ABbr/Bsp Restriction Proper

The presence of a claim to combination ABsp does not alter the propriety of a restriction requirement properly made between combination ABbr and subcombination Bsp. Claim ABbr is an evidence claim which indicates that the combination does not rely upon the specific details of the subcombination for its patentability. If a restriction requirement can be properly made between combination ABbr and subcombination Bsp, any claim to combination ABsp would be grouped with combination ABbr.

If the combination claims are amended after a restriction requirement such that each combination, as claimed, requires all the limitations of the subcombination as claimed, i.e., if the evidence claim ABbr is deleted or amended to require Bsp, the restriction requirement between the combination and subcombination should not be maintained.

If a claim to Bsp is determined to be allowable, any claims requiring Bsp, including any combination claims of the format ABsp, must be considered for rejoinder. See MPEP § 821.04.

III.PLURAL COMBINATIONS REQUIRING A SUBCOMBINATION COMMON TO EACH COMBINATION

When an application includes a claim to a single subcombination, and that subcombination is required by plural claimed combinations that are properly restrictable, the subcombination claim is a linking claim and will be examined with the elected combination (see MPEP § 809.03). The subcombination claim links the otherwise restrictable combination inventions and should be listed in form paragraph 8.12. The claimed plural combinations are evidence that the subcombination has utility in more than one combination. Restriction between plural combinations may be made using form paragraph 8.14.01. See MPEP § 806.05(j).

806.05(d) Subcombinations Usable Together[edit | edit source]

Two or more claimed subcombinations, disclosed as usable together in a single combination, and which can be shown to be separately usable, are usually restrictable when the subcombinations do not overlap in scope and are not obvious variants.

To support a restriction requirement where applicant separately claims plural subcombinations usable together in a single combination and claims a combination that requires the particulars of at least one of said subcombinations, both two-way distinctness and reasons for insisting on restriction are necessary. Each subcombination is distinct from the combination as claimed if:

(A)the combination does not require the particulars of the subcombination as claimed for patentability (e.g., to show novelty and unobviousness), and

(B)the subcombination can be shown to have utility either by itself or in another materially different combination.

See MPEP § 806.05(c). Furthermore, restriction is only proper when there would be a serious burden if restriction were not required, as evidenced by separate classification, status, or field of search.

Where claims to two or more subcombinations are presented along with a claim to a combination that includes the particulars of at least two subcombinations, the presence of the claim to the second subcombination is evidence that the details of the first subcombination are not required for patentability (and vice versa). For example, if an application claims ABC/B/C wherein ABC is a combination claim and B and C are each subcombinations that are properly restrictable from each other, the presence of a claim to C provides evidence that the details of B are not required for the patentability of combination ABC.

Upon determining that all claims directed to an elected combination invention are allowable, the examiner must reconsider the propriety of the restriction requirement. Where the combination is allowable in view of the patentability of at least one of the subcombinations, the restriction requirement between the elected combination and patentable subcombination( s) will be withdrawn; furthermore, any subcombinations that were searched and determined to be allowable must also be rejoined. If a subcombination is elected and determined to be allowable, nonelected claims requiring all the limitations of the allowable claim will be rejoined in accordance with MPEP § 821.04.

The examiner must show, by way of example, that one of the subcombinations has utility other than in the disclosed combination.

Care must be taken to determine if the subcombinations are generically claimed.

Where subcombinations as disclosed and claimed are both (a) species under a claimed genus and (b) related, then the question of restriction must be determined by both the practice applicable to election of species and the practice applicable to related inventions. If restriction is improper under either practice, it should not be required (MPEP § 806.04(b)).

If applicant proves or provides an argument, supported by facts, that the other use, suggested by the examiner, cannot be accomplished or is not reasonable, the burden is on the examiner to document a viable alternative use or withdraw the requirement.

806.05(e) Process and Apparatus for Its Practice[edit | edit source]

Process and apparatus for its practice can be shown to be distinct inventions, if either or both of the following can be shown: (A) that the process as claimedcan be practiced by another materially different apparatus or by hand; or (B) that the apparatus as claimedcan be used to practice another materially different process.

The burden is on the examiner to provide reasonable examples that recite material differences.

If applicant proves or provides convincing argument that there is no material difference or that a process cannot be performed by hand (if examiner so argued), the burden is on the examiner to document another materially different process or apparatus or withdraw the requirement.

806.05(f) Process of Making and ProductMade[edit | edit source]

A process of making and a product made by the process can be shown to be distinct inventions if either or both of the following can be shown: (A) that the process as claimed is not an obvious process of making the product and the process as claimed can be used to make another materially different product; or (B) that the product as claimed can be made by another materially different process.

Allegations of different processes or products need not be documented.

A product defined by the process by which it can be made is still a product claim (In re Bridgeford, 357 F.2d 679, 149 USPQ 55 (CCPA 1966)) and can be restricted from the process if the examiner can demonstrate that the product as claimed can be made by another materially different process; defining the product in terms of a process by which it is made is nothing more than a permissible technique that applicant may use to define the invention.

If applicant convincingly traverses the requirement, the burden shifts to the examiner to document a viable alternative process or product, or withdraw the requirement.

806.05(g) Apparatus and Product Made[edit | edit source]

An apparatus and a product made by the apparatus can be shown to be distinct inventions if either or both of the following can be shown: (A) that the apparatus as claimed is not an obvious apparatus for making the product and the apparatus as claimed can be used to make another materially different product; or (B) that the product as claimed can be made by another materially different apparatus.

The examiner must show by way of example either (A) that the apparatus as claimed is not an obvious apparatus for making the product and the apparatus as claimed can be used to make another materially different product or (B) that the product as claimedcan be made by another materially different apparatus.

The burden is on the examiner to provide an example, but the example need not be documented.

If applicant either proves or provides convincing argument that the alternative example suggested by the examiner is not workable, the burden is on the examiner to suggest another viable example or withdraw the restriction requirement.

806.05(h) Product and Process of Using[edit | edit source]

A product and a process of using the product can be shown to be distinct inventions if either or both of the following can be shown: (A) the process of using as claimed can be practiced with another materially different product; or (B) the product as claimed can be used in a materially different process.

The burden is on the examiner to provide an example, but the example need not be documented.

If the applicant either proves or provides a convincing argument that the alternative use suggested by the examiner cannot be accomplished, the burden is on the examiner to support a viable alternative use or withdraw the requirement.

806.05(i) Product, Process of Making, and Process of Using[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.141. Different inventions in one national application.
.          .          .

(b)Where claims to all three categories, product, process of making, and process of use, are included in a national application, a three way requirement for restriction can only be made where the process of making is distinct from the product. If the process of making and the product are not distinct, the process of using may be joined with the claims directed to the product and the process of making the product even though a showing of distinctness between the product and process of using the product can be made.

Where an application contains claims to a product, claims to a process specially adapted for (i.e., not patentably distinct from, as defined in MPEP § 806.05(f)) making the product, and claims to a process of using the product, applicant may be required to elect either (A) the product and process of making it; or (B) the process of using. If the examiner cannot make a showing of distinctness between the process of using and the product (MPEP § 806.05(h)), restriction cannot be required.

See MPEP § 821.04(b) for rejoinder practice pertaining to product and process inventions.

806.05(j) Related Products; Related Processes[edit | edit source]

To support a requirement for restriction between two or more related product inventions, or between two or more related process inventions, both two-way distinctness and reasons for insisting on restriction are necessary, i.e., separate classification, status in the art, or field of search. See MPEP § 808.02. See MPEP § 806.05(c) for an explanation of the requirements to establish two-way distinctness as it applies to inventions in a combination/subcombination relationship. For other related product inventions, or related process inventions, the inventions are distinct if

(A)the inventions as claimed do not overlap in scope, i.e., are mutually exclusive;

(B)the inventions as claimed are not obvious variants; and

(C)the inventions as claimed are either not capable of use together or can have a materially different design, mode of operation, function, or effect. See MPEP § 802.01.

The burden is on the examiner to provide an example to support the determination that the inventions are distinct, but the example need not be documented. If applicant either proves or provides convincing evidence that the example suggested by the examiner is not workable, the burden is on the examiner to suggest another viable example or withdraw the restriction requirement.

As an example, an intermediate product and a final product can be shown to be distinct inventions if the intermediate and final products are mutually exclusive inventions (not overlapping in scope) that are not obvious variants, and the intermediate product as claimed is useful to make other than the final product as claimed. Typically, the intermediate loses its identity in the final product. See also MPEP § 806.05(d) for restricting between combinations disclosed as usable together. See MPEP § 809 - § 809.03 if a generic claim or claim linking multiple products or multiple processes is present.

806.06 Independent Inventions[edit | edit source]

Inventions as claimed are independent if there is no disclosed relationship between the inventions, that is, they are unconnected in design, operation, and effect. If it can be shown that two or more inventions are independent, and if there would be a serious burden on the examiner if restriction is not required, applicant should be required to restrict the claims presented to one of such independent inventions. For example:

(A)Two different combinations, not disclosed as capable of use together, having different modes of operation, different functions and different effects are independent. An article of apparel and a locomotive bearing would be an example. A process of painting a house and a process of boring a well would be a second example.

(B)Where the two inventions are process and apparatus, and the apparatus cannot be used to practice the process or any part thereof, they are independent. A specific process of molding is independent from a molding apparatus that cannot be used to practice the specific process.

807 Patentability Report Practice Has No Effect on Restriction Practice[edit | edit source]

Patentability report practice (MPEP § 705), has no effect upon, and does not modify in any way, the practice of restriction, being designed merely to facilitate the handling of cases in which restriction cannot properly be required.

808 Reasons for Insisting Upon Restriction[edit | edit source]

Every requirement to restrict has two aspects: (A) the reasons (as distinguished from the mere statement of conclusion) why each invention as claimed is either independent or distinct from the other(s); and (B) the reasons why there would be a serious burden on the examiner if restriction is not required, i.e., the reasons for insisting upon restriction therebetween as set forth in the following sections.

808.01 Reasons for Holding of Independence or Distinctness[edit | edit source]

The particular reasons relied on by the examiner for holding that the inventions as claimed are either independent or distinct should be concisely stated. A mere statement of conclusion is inadequate. The reasons upon which the conclusion is based should be given.

For example, relative to a combination and a subcombination thereof, the examiner should point out the reasons why he or she considers the subcombination to have utility by itself or in other combinations, and why he or she considers that the combination as claimed does not require the particulars of the subcombination as claimed.

Each relationship of claimed inventions should be similarly treated and the reasons for the conclusions of distinctness or independence set forth. Form paragraphs 8.01, 8.02, and 8.14 - 8.20.02 may be used as appropriate to explain why the inventions as claimed are independent or distinct. See MPEP § 806.05 - § 806.06.

808.01(a) Species[edit | edit source]

Where there is no disclosure of a relationship between species (see MPEP § 806.04(b)), they are independent inventions. A requirement for restriction is permissible if there is a patentable difference between the species as claimed and there would be a serious burden on the examiner if restriction is not required. See MPEP § 803 and § 808.02.

Where there is a relationship disclosed between species, such disclosed relation must be discussed and reasons advanced leading to the conclusion that the disclosed relation does not prevent restriction, in order to establish the propriety of restriction.

When a requirement for restriction between either independent or distinct species is made, applicant must elect a single disclosed species even if applicant disagrees with the examiner’s restriction requirement.

Election of species should not be required between claimed species that are considered clearly unpatentable (obvious) over each other. In making a requirement for restriction in an application claiming plural species, the examiner should group together species considered clearly unpatentable over each other.

Election of species may be required prior to a search on the merits (A) in applications containing claims to a plurality of species with no generic claims, and (B) in applications containing both species claims and generic or Markush claims.

In applications where only generic claims are presented, restriction cannot be required unless the generic claims recite or encompass such a multiplicity of species that an unduly extensive and burdensome search would be necessary to search the entire scope of the claim. See MPEP § 803.02 and § 809.02(a). If applicant presents species claims to more than one patentably distinct species of the invention after an Office action on only generic claims, with no restriction requirement, the Office may require the applicant to elect a single species for examination.

In all applications where a generic claim is found allowable, the application should be treated as indicated in MPEP § 809 and § 821.04(a). See MPEP § 803.02 and § 809.02(a) for guidance regarding how to require restriction between species.

808.02 Establishing Burden[edit | edit source]

Where, as disclosed in the application, the several inventions claimed are related, and such related inventions are not patentably distinct as claimed, restriction under 35 U.S.C. 121 is never proper (MPEP § 806.05). If applicant voluntarily files claims to such related inventions in different applications, double patenting may be held.

Where the inventions as claimed are shown to be independent or distinct under the criteria of MPEP § 806.05(c) - § 806.06, the examiner, in order to establish reasons for insisting upon restriction, must explain why there would be a serious burden on the examiner if restriction is not required. Thus the examiner must show by appropriate explanation one of the following:

(A)Separate classification thereof: This shows that each invention has attained recognition in the art as a separate subject for inventive effort, and also a separate field of search. Patents need not be cited to show separate classification.

(B)A separate status in the art when they are classifiable together: Even though they are classified together, each invention can be shown to have formed a separate subject for inventive effort when the examiner can show a recognition of separate inventive effort by inventors. Separate status in the art may be shown by citing patents which are evidence of such separate status, and also of a separate field of search.

(C)A different field of search: Where it is necessary to search for one of the inventions in a manner that is not likely to result in finding art pertinent to the other invention(s) (e.g., searching different classes/ subclasses or electronic resources, or employing different search queries, a different field of search is shown, even though the two are classified together. The indicated different field of search must in fact be pertinent to the type of subject matter covered by the claims. Patents need not be cited to show different fields of search.

Where, however, the classification is the same and the field of search is the same and there is no clear indication of separate future classification and field of search, no reasons exist for dividing among independent or related inventions.

809 Linking Claims[edit | edit source]

There are a number of situations which arise in which an application has claims to two or more properly divisible inventions, so that a requirement to restrict the claims of the application to one would be proper, but presented in the same case are one or more claims (generally called “linking” claims) which, if allowable, would require rejoinder of the otherwise divisible inventions. See MPEP § 821.04 for information pertaining to rejoinder practice.

Linking claims and the inventions they link together are usually either all directed to products or all directed to processes (i.e., a product claim linking properly divisible product inventions, or a process claim linking properly divisible process inventions). The most common types of linking claims which, if allowable, act to prevent restriction between inventions that can otherwise be shown to be divisible, are

(A)genus claims linking species claims; and

(B)subcombination claims linking plural combinations.

Where an application includes claims to distinct inventions as well as linking claims, restriction can nevertheless be required.

The linking claims must be examined with, and thus are considered part of, the invention elected. When all claims directed to the elected invention are allowable, should any linking claim be allowable, the restriction requirement between the linked inventions must be withdrawn. Any claim(s) directed to the nonelected invention(s), previously withdrawn from consideration, which depends from or requires all the limitations of the allowable linking claim must be rejoined and will be fully examined for patentability. Where the requirement for restriction in an application is predicated upon the nonallowability of generic or other type of linking claims, applicant is entitled to retain in the application claims to the nonelected invention or inventions. Where such withdrawn claims have been canceled by applicant pursuant to the restriction requirement, upon the allowance of the linking claim(s), the examiner must notify applicant that any canceled, nonelected claim(s) which depends from or requires all the limitations of the allowable linking claim may be reinstated by submitting the claim(s) in an amendment. Upon entry of the amendment, the amended claim(s) will be fully examined for patentability. See MPEP § 821.04 for additional information regarding rejoinder.

809.02(a) Election of Species Required[edit | edit source]

Where restriction between species is appropriate (see MPEP § 808.01(a)) the examiner should send a letter including only a restriction requirement or place a telephone requirement to restrict (the latter being encouraged). See MPEP § 812.01 for telephone practice in restriction requirements.

Action as follows should be taken:

(A)Identify generic claims or indicate that no generic claims are present. See MPEP § 806.04(d) for definition of a generic claim.

(B)Clearly identify each (or in aggravated cases at least exemplary ones) of the disclosed species, to which claims are to be restricted. The species are preferably identified as the species of figures 1, 2, and 3 or the species of examples I, II, and III, respectively. In the absence of distinct figures or examples to identify the several species, the mechanical means, the particular material, or other distinguishing characteristic of the species should be stated for each species identified. If the species cannot be conveniently identified, the claims may be grouped in accordance with the species to which they are restricted. Provide reasons why the species are independent or distinct.

(C)Applicant should then be required to elect a single disclosed species under 35 U.S.C. 121, and advised as to the requisites of a complete reply and his or her rights under 37 CFR 1.141.

To be complete, a reply to a requirement made according to this section should include a proper election along with a listing of all claims readable thereon, including any claims subsequently added.

In those applications wherein a requirement for restriction is accompanied by an action on the elected claims, such action will be considered to be an action on the merits and the next action may be made final where appropriate in accordance with MPEP § 706.07(a).

For treatment of claims held to be drawn to nonelected inventions, see MPEP § 821 et seq.

809.03 Restriction Between Linked Inventions[edit | edit source]

Where an application includes two or more otherwise properly divisible inventions that are linked by a claim which, if allowable, would require rejoinder (See MPEP § 809 and § 821.04), the examiner should require restriction, either by a written Office action that includes only a restriction requirement or by a telephoned requirement to restrict (the latter being encouraged).

Where the requirement for restriction in an application is predicated upon the nonallowability of generic or other type of linking claims, applicant is entitled to retain in the application claims to the nonelected invention or inventions.

For traverse of a restriction requirement with linking claims, see MPEP § 818.03(d).

For treatment of claims held to be drawn to nonelected inventions, see MPEP § 821 et seq.

810 Action on the Merits[edit | edit source]

In general, in an application when only a nonfinal written requirement to restrict is made, no action on the merits is given. A 1-month (not less than 30 days) shortened statutory period will be set for reply when a written restriction requirement is made without an action on the merits. This period may be extended under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(a). The Office action making the restriction requirement final ordinarily includes an action on the merits of the claims of the elected invention. See 37 CFR 1.143. In those applications wherein a requirement for restriction or election is made via telephone and applicant makes an oral election of a single invention, the written record of the restriction requirement will be accompanied by a complete action on the merits of the elected claims. See MPEP § 812.01. When preparing a final action in an application where applicant has traversed the restriction requirement, see MPEP § 821.01.

811 Time for Making Requirement[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.142(a), second sentence, indicates that a restriction requirement “will normally be made before any action upon the merits; however, it may be made at any time before final action .” This means the examiner should make a proper requirement as early as possible in the prosecution, in the first action if possible, otherwise, as soon as the need for a proper requirement develops.

Before making a restriction requirement after the first action on the merits, the examiner will consider whether there will be a serious burden if restriction is not required.

811.02 New Requirement After Compliance With Preceding Requirement[edit | edit source]

Since 37 CFR 1.142(a) provides that restriction is proper at any stage of prosecution up to final action, a second requirement may be made when it becomes proper, even though there was a prior requirement with which applicant complied. Ex parte Benke, 1904 C.D. 63, 108 O.G. 1588 (Comm’r Pat. 1904).

811.03 Repeating After Withdrawal Proper[edit | edit source]

Where a requirement to restrict is made and thereafter withdrawn as improper, if restriction becomes proper at a later stage in the prosecution, restriction may again be required.

811.04 Proper Even Though Grouped Together in Parent Application[edit | edit source]

Even though inventions are grouped together in a requirement in a parent application, restriction or election among the inventions may be required in the divisional applications, if proper.

812 Who Should Make the Requirement[edit | edit source]

The requirement should be made by an examiner who would examine at least one of the inventions.

An examiner should not require restriction in an application if none of the claimed inventions is classifiable in his or her Technology Center. Such an application should be transferred to a Technology Center wherein at least one of the claimed inventions would be examined.

812.01 Telephone Restriction Practice[edit | edit source]

If an examiner determines that a requirement for restriction should be made in an application, the examiner should formulate a draft of such restriction requirement including an indication of those claims considered to be linking or generic. Thereupon, the examiner should telephone the attorney or agent of record and request an oral election, with or without traverse , after the attorney or agent has had time to consider the restriction requirement. However, no telephone communication need be made where the requirement for restriction is complex, the application is being prosecuted by the applicant pro se, or the examiner knows from past experience that an election will not be made by telephone. The examiner should arrange for a second telephone call within a reasonable time, generally within 3 working days. If the attorney or agent objects to making an oral election, or fails to respond, a restriction letter will be mailed, and this letter should contain reference to the unsuccessful telephone call. When an oral election is made, the examiner will then proceed to incorporate into the Office action a formal restriction requirement including the date of the election, the attorney’s or agent’s name, and a complete record of the telephone interview, followed by a complete action on the elected invention as claimed, including linking or generic claims if present.

If, on examination, the examiner finds the claims to an invention elected without traverse to be allowable and no nonelected invention is eligible for rejoinder (see MPEP § 821.04), the letter should be attached to the Notice of Allowability form PTOL- 37 and should include cancellation of the nonelected claims, a statement that the prosecution is closed, and that a notice of allowance will be sent in due course. Correction of formal matters in the above-noted situation which cannot be handled by a telephone call and thus requires action by the applicant should be handled under the Ex parte Quayle practice, using Office Action Summary form PTOL-326.

Should the elected invention as claimed be found allowable in the first action, and an oral traverse was noted, the examiner should include in his or her action a statement under MPEP § 821.01, making the restriction requirement final and giving applicant 1 month to either cancel the claims drawn to the nonelected invention or take other appropriate action. (37 CFR 1.144). Failure to take action will be treated as an authorization to cancel the nonelected claims by an examiner’s amendment and pass the application to issue. Prosecution of the application is otherwise closed.

In either situation (traverse or no traverse), caution should be exercised to determine if any of the allowable claims are linking or generic claims , or if any nonelected inventions are eligible for rejoinder (see MPEP § 821.04), before canceling claims drawn to the nonelected invention.

Where the respective inventions would be examined in different Technology Centers (TCs), the requirement for restriction should be made only after consultation with and approval by all TCs involved. If an oral election would cause the application to be examined in another TC, the initiating TC should transfer the application with a signed memorandum of the restriction requirement and a record of the interview. The receiving TC will incorporate the substance of this memorandum in its official letter as indicated above. Differences as to restriction should be settled by the existing chain of command, e.g., supervisory patent examiner or TC director.

This practice is limited to use by examiners who have at least negotiation authority. Other examiners must have the prior approval of their supervisory patent examiner.

814 Indicate Exactly How Application Is To Be Restricted[edit | edit source]

The examiner must provide a clear and detailed record of the restriction requirement to provide a clear demarcation between restricted inventions so that it can be determined whether inventions claimed in a continuing application are consonant with the restriction requirement and therefore subject to the prohibition against double patenting rejections under 35 U.S.C. 121. Geneva Pharms. Inc. v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC, 349 F.3d 1373, 1381, 68 USPQ2d 1865, 1871 (Fed. Cir. 2003). See also MPEP § 804.01.

I. SPECIES

The mode of indicating how to require restriction between species is set forth in MPEP § 809.02(a).

The particular limitations in the claims and the reasons why such limitations are considered to support restriction of the claims to a particular disclosed species should be mentioned to make the requirement clear.

II. INVENTIONS OTHER THAN SPECIES

It is necessary to read all of the claims to determine what the claims cover. When doing this, the claims directed to each separate invention should be noted along with a statement of the invention to which they are drawn.

In setting forth the restriction requirement, separate inventions should be identified by a grouping of the claims with a short description of the total extent of the invention claimed in each group, specifying the type or relationship of each group as by stating the group is drawn to a process, or to a subcombination, or to a product, etc., and should indicate the classification or separate status of each group, as for example, by class and subclass. See MPEP § 817 for additional guidance.

While every claim should be accounted for, the omission to group a claim, or placing a claim in the wrong group will not affect the propriety of a final requirement where the requirement is otherwise proper and the correct disposition of the omitted or erroneously grouped claim is clear.

III. LINKING CLAIMS

The generic or other linking claims should not be associated with any one of the linked inventions since such claims must be examined with the elected invention. See MPEP § 809.

815 Make Requirement Complete[edit | edit source]

When making a restriction requirement every effort should be made to have the requirement complete. If some of the claimed inventions are classifiable in another art unit and the examiner has any doubt as to the proper line among the same, the application should be referred to the examiner of the other art unit for information on that point and such examiner should render the necessary assistance.

817 Outline of Letter for Restriction Requirement[edit | edit source]

The following outline should be used to set forth a requirement to restrict.

OUTLINE OF RESTRICTION REQUIRE- MENT

(A)Statement of the requirement to restrict and that it is being made under 35 U.S.C. 121

(1)Identify each group by Roman numeral.

(2)List claims in each group. Check accuracy of numbering of the claims; look for same claims in two groups; and look for omitted claims.

(3)Give short description of total extent of the subject matter claimed in each group, pointing out critical claims of different scope and identifying whether the claims are directed to a combination, subcombination, process, apparatus, or product.

(4)Classify each group.

(B)Take into account claims not grouped, indicating their disposition.

(1)Linking claims

(i)Identify

(ii)Statement of groups to which linking claims may be assigned for examination

(2)Other ungrouped claims

(3)Indicate disposition, e.g., improperly dependent, canceled, etc.

(C)Allegation of independence or distinctness

(1)Point out facts which show independence or distinctness

(2)Treat the inventions as claimed, don’t merely state the conclusion that inventions in fact are independent or distinct, e.g.,

(i)Subcombination - Subcombination disclosed as usable together

Each usable alone or in other identified combination Demonstrate by examiner’s suggestion

(ii)Combination - Subcombination

Combination as claimed does not require subcombination

AND

Subcombination usable alone or in other combination

Demonstrate by examiner’s suggestion

(iii)Process - Apparatus

Process can be carried out by hand or by other apparatus

Demonstrate by examiner’s suggestion

OR

Demonstrate apparatus can be used in other process (rare).

(iv)Process of making and/or Apparatus for making — Product made

Claimed product can be made by other process (or apparatus)

Demonstrate by examiner’s suggestion

OR

Demonstrate process of making (or apparatus for making) can produce other product (rare)

(D)Provide reasons for insisting upon restriction

(1)Separate status in the art

(2)Different classification

(3)Same classification but recognition of divergent subject matter

(4)Divergent fields of search, or

(5)Search required for one group not required for the other

(E)Summary statement

(1)Summarize (i) independence or distinctness and (ii) reasons for insisting upon restriction

(2)Include paragraph advising as to reply required

(3)Indicate effect of allowance of linking claims, if any present

(4)Indicate effect of cancellation of evidence claims (see MPEP § 806.05(c))

(5)Indicate effect of allowance of product claims if restriction was required between a product and a process of making and/or using the product.

818 Election and Reply[edit | edit source]

Election is the designation of the particular one of two or more disclosed inventions that will be prosecuted in the application.

A reply should be made to each point raised by the examiner’s action, and may include a traverse or compliance.

A traverse of a requirement to restrict is a statement of the reasons upon which the applicant relies for his or her conclusion that the requirement is in error.

Where a rejection or objection is included with a restriction requirement, applicant, besides making a proper election must also distinctly and specifically point out the supposed errors in the examiner’s rejection or objection. See 37 CFR 1.111.

818.01 Election Fixed by Action on Claims[edit | edit source]

Election becomes fixed when the claims in an application have received an action on their merits by the Office.

818.02 Election Other Than Express[edit | edit source]

Election may be made in other ways than expressly in reply to a requirement as set forth in MPEP § 818.02(a) and § 818.02(c).

818.02(a) By Originally Presented Claims[edit | edit source]

Where claims to another invention are properly added and entered in the application before an action is given, they are treated as original claims for purposes of restriction only.

The claims originally presented and acted upon by the Office on their merits determine the invention elected by an applicant in the application, and in any request for continued examination (RCE) which has been filed for the application. Subsequently presented claims to an invention other than that acted upon should be treated as provided in MPEP § 821.03.

818.02(b) Generic Claims Only — No Election of Species[edit | edit source]

Where only generic claims are first presented and prosecuted in an application in which no election of a single invention has been made, and applicant later presents species claims to more than one patentably distinct species of the invention, the examiner may require applicant to elect a single species. The practice of requiring election of species in cases with only generic claims of the unduly extensive and burdensome search type is set forth in MPEP § 808.01(a).

818.02(c) By Optional Cancellation of Claims[edit | edit source]

Where applicant is claiming two or more inventions (which may be species or various types of related inventions) and as a result of action on the claims, he or she cancels the claims to one or more of such inventions, leaving claims to one invention, and such claims are acted upon by the examiner, the claimed invention thus acted upon is elected.

818.03 Express Election and Traverse[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.143. Reconsideration of requirement.

If the applicant disagrees with the requirement for restriction, he may request reconsideration and withdrawal or modification of the requirement, giving the reasons therefor. (See § 1.111). In requesting reconsideration the applicant must indicate a provisional election of one invention for prosecution, which invention shall be the one elected in the event the requirement becomes final. The requirement for restriction will be reconsidered on such a request. If the requirement is repeated and made final, the examiner will at the same time act on the claims to the invention elected.

Election in reply to a requirement may be made either with or without an accompanying traverse of the requirement.

Applicant must make his or her own election; the examiner will not make the election for the applicant. 37 CFR 1.142, 37 CFR 1.143.

818.03(a) Reply Must Be Complete[edit | edit source]

As shown by the first sentence of 37 CFR 1.143, the traverse to a requirement must be complete as required by 37 CFR 1.111(b) which reads in part: “In order to be entitled to reconsideration or further examination, the applicant or patent owner must reply to the Office action. The reply by the applicant or patent owner must be reduced to a writing which distinctly and specifically points out the supposed errors in the examiner’s action and must reply to every ground of objection and rejection in the prior Office action. . . . The applicant’s or patent owner’s reply must appear throughout to be a bona fide attempt to advance the application or the reexamination proceeding to final action. . . .”

Under this rule, the applicant is required to specifically point out the reasons on which he or she bases his or her conclusions that a requirement to restrict is in error. A mere broad allegation that the requirement is in error does not comply with the requirement of 37 CFR § 1.111. Thus the required provisional election (see MPEP § 818.03(b)) becomes an election without traverse.

818.03(b) Must Elect, Even When Requirement Is Traversed[edit | edit source]

As noted in the second sentence of 37 CFR 1.143, a provisional election must be made even though the requirement is traversed.

818.03(c) Must Traverse To Preserve Right of Petition[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.144. Petition from requirement for restriction.

After a final requirement for restriction, the applicant, in addition to making any reply due on the remainder of the action, may petition the Director to review the requirement. Petition may be deferred until after final action on or allowance of claims to the invention elected, but must be filed not later than appeal. A petition will not be considered if reconsideration of the requirement was not requested (see § 1.181).

If applicant does not distinctly and specifically point out supposed errors in the restriction requirement, the election should be treated as an election without traverse.

818.03(d) Traverse of Restriction Requirement With Linking Claims[edit | edit source]

Election of a single invention in reply to a restriction requirement, combined with a traverse of only the nonallowance of the linking claims, is an agreement with the position taken by the Office that restriction is proper if the linking claim is not allowable and improper if it is allowable. If the Office allows such a claim, it is bound to withdraw the requirement and to act on all linked inventions which depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of the allowable linking claim. But once all linking claims are canceled 37 CFR 1.144 would not apply, since the record would be one of agreement as to the propriety of restriction.

Where, however, there is a traverse on the ground that there is some relationship (other than and in addition to the linking claim) that also prevents restriction, the merits of the requirement are contested and not admitted. If restriction is made final in spite of such traverse, the right to petition is preserved even though all linking claims are canceled. When a final restriction requirement is contingent on the nonallowability of the linking claims, applicant may petition from the requirement under 37 CFR 1.144without waiting for a final action on the merits of the linking claims or applicant may defer his or her petition until the linking claims have been finally rejected, but not later than appeal. See 37 CFR 1.144and MPEP § 818.03(c).

819 Office Generally Does Not Permit Shift[edit | edit source]

The general policy of the Office is not to permit the applicant to shift to claiming another invention after an election is once made and action given on the elected subject matter. Note that the applicant cannot, as a matter of right, file a request for continued examination (RCE) to obtain continued examination on the basis of claims that are independent and distinct from the claims previously claimed and examined (i.e., applicant cannot switch inventions by way of an RCE as a matter of right). When claims are presented which the examiner holds are drawn to an invention other than the one elected, he or she should treat the claims as outlined in MPEP § 821.03.

Where a continued prosecution application (CPA) filed under 37 CFR 1.53(d) is a continuation of its parent application and not a divisional, an express election made in the prior (parent) application in reply to a restriction requirement carries over to the CPA unless otherwise indicated by applicant. In no other type of continuing application does an election carry over from the prior application. See Bristol- Myers Squibb Co. v. Pharmachemie BV, 361 F.3d 1343, 1348, 70 USPQ2d 1097, 1100 (Fed. Cir. 2004)(An original restriction requirement in an earlier filed application does not carry over to claims of a continuation application in which the examiner does not reinstate or refer to the restriction requirement in the parent application.).

Where a genus claim is allowable, applicant may prosecute a reasonable number of additional species claims thereunder, in accordance with 37 CFR 1.141.

Where an interference is instituted prior to an applicant’s election, the subject matter of the interference issues is not elected. An applicant may, after the termination of the interference, elect any one of the inventions claimed.

821 Treatment of Claims Held To Be Drawn to Nonelected Inventions[edit | edit source]

Claims held to be drawn to nonelected inventions, including claims drawn to nonelected species or inventions that may be eligible for rejoinder, are treated as indicated in MPEP § 821.01 through § 821.04.

The propriety of a requirement to restrict, if traversed, is reviewable by petition under 37 CFR 1.144. In re Hengehold, 440 F.2d 1395, 169 USPQ 473 (CCPA 1971).

All claims that the examiner holds as not being directed to the elected subject matter are withdrawn from further consideration by the examiner in accordance with 37 CFR 1.142(b). See MPEP § 821.01 through § 821.04. The examiner should clearly set forth in the Office action the reasons why the claims withdrawn from consideration are not readable on the elected invention. Applicant may traverse the requirement pursuant to 37 CFR 1.143. If a final requirement for restriction is made by the examiner, applicant may file a petition under 37 CFR 1.144 for review of the restriction requirement.

821.01 After Election With Traverse[edit | edit source]

Where the initial requirement is traversed, it should be reconsidered. If, upon reconsideration, the examiner is still of the opinion that restriction is proper, it should be repeated and made final in the next Office action. (See MPEP § 803.01.) In doing so, the examiner should reply to the reasons or arguments advanced by applicant in the traverse.

If the examiner, upon reconsideration, is of the opinion that the requirement for restriction is improper in whole or in part, he or she should clearly state in the next Office action that the requirement for restriction is withdrawn in whole or in part, specify which groups have been rejoined, and give an action on the merits of all the claims directed to the elected invention and any invention rejoined with the elected invention.

This will show that applicant has retained the right to petition from the requirement under 37 CFR 1.144. (See MPEP § 818.03(c).)

See also MPEP § 821.04 - § 821.04(b) for rejoinder of certain nonelected inventions when the claims to the elected invention are allowable.

When preparing a final action in an application where there has been a traversal of a requirement for restriction, the examiner should indicate in the Office action that a complete reply must include cancellation of the claims drawn to the nonelected invention, or other appropriate action (37 CFR 1.144).

Where a reply to a final action has otherwise placed the application in condition for allowance, the failure to cancel claims drawn to the nonelected invention( s) not eligible for rejoinder or to take appropriate action will be construed as authorization to cancel these claims by examiner’s amendment and pass the application to issue after the expiration of the period for reply.

Note that the petition under 37 CFR 1.144 must be filed not later than appeal. This is construed to mean appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. If the application is ready for allowance after appeal and no petition has been filed, the examiner should simply cancel nonelected claims that are not eligible for rejoinder by examiner’s amendment, calling attention to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.144.

821.02 After Election Without Traverse[edit | edit source]

Where the initial requirement is not traversed, if adhered to, appropriate action should be given on the elected claims.

This will show that applicant has not retained the right to petition from the requirement under 37 CFR 1.144.

Under these circumstances, when the application is otherwise ready for allowance, the claims to the nonelected invention, except for claims directed to nonelected species and nonelected inventions eligible for rejoinder, may be canceled by an examiner’s amendment, and the application passed to issue.

See MPEP § 821.01 and § 821.04 et seq.

821.03 Claims for Different Invention Added After an Office Action[edit | edit source]

Claims added by amendment following action by the examiner, MPEP § 818.01, § 818.02(a), to an invention other than previously claimed, should be treated as indicated by 37 CFR 1.145.

37 CFR 1.145. Subsequent presentation of claims for different invention.

If, after an office action on an application, the applicant presents claims directed to an invention distinct from and independent of the invention previously claimed, the applicant will be required to restrict the claims to the invention previously claimed if the amendment is entered, subject to reconsideration and review as provided in §§ 1.143 and 1.144

A complete action on all claims to the elected invention should be given.

An amendment canceling all claims drawn to the elected invention and presenting only claims drawn to the nonelected invention should not be entered. Such an amendment is nonresponsive.

The practice set forth in this section is not applicable where a provisional election of a single species was made in accordance with MPEP § 803.02 and applicant amends the claims such that the elected species is cancelled, or where applicant presents claims that could not have been restricted from the claims drawn to other elected invention had they been presented earlier.

821.04 Rejoinder[edit | edit source]

The propriety of a restriction requirement should be reconsidered when all the claims directed to the elected invention are in condition for allowance, and the nonelected invention(s) should be considered for rejoinder. Rejoinder involves withdrawal of a restriction requirement between an allowable elected invention and a nonelected invention and examination of the formerly nonelected invention on the merits.

In order to be eligible for rejoinder, a claim to a nonelected invention must depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable claim. A withdrawn claim that does not require all the limitations of an allowable claim will not be rejoined. Furthermore, where restriction was required between a product and a process of making and/or using the product, and the product invention was elected and subsequently found allowable, all claims to a nonelected process invention must depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable claim for the claims directed to that process invention to be eligible for rejoinder. See MPEP § 821.04(b). In order to retain the right to rejoinder, applicant is advised that the claims to the nonelected invention(s) should be amended during prosecution to require the limitations of the elected invention. Failure to do so may result in a loss of the right to rejoinder.

Rejoined claims must be fully examined for patentability in accordance with 37 CFR 1.104. Thus, to be allowable, the rejoined claims must meet all criteria for patentability including the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103 and 112.

The requirement for restriction between the rejoined inventions must be withdrawn. Any claim(s) presented in a continuation or divisional application that are anticipated by, or rendered obvious over, the claims of the parent application may be subject to a double patenting rejection when the restriction requirement is withdrawn in the parent application. In re Ziegler, 443 F.2d 1211, 1215, 170 USPQ 129, 131- 32 (CCPA 1971). See also MPEP § 804.01.

The provisions of MPEP § 706.07 govern the propriety of making an Office action final in rejoinder situations. If rejoinder occurs after the first Office action on the merits, and if any of the rejoined claims are unpatentable, e.g., if a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph is made, then the next Office action may be made final where the new ground of rejection was necessitated by applicant’s amendment (or based on information submitted in an IDS filed during the time 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).

If restriction is required between product and process claims, for example, and all the product claims would be allowable in the first Office action on the merits, upon rejoinder of the process claims, it would not be proper to make the first Office action on the merits final if the rejoined process claim did not comply with the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. This is because the rejoinder did not occur after the first Office action on the merits. Note that the provisions of MPEP § 706.07(b) govern the propriety of making a first Office action on the merits final.

Amendments submitted after final rejection are governed by 37 CFR 1.116

Where applicant voluntarily presents claims to the product and process, for example, in separate applications (i.e., no restriction requirement was made by the Office), and one of the applications issues as a patent, the remaining application may be rejected under the doctrine of obviousness-type double patenting, where appropriate (see MPEP § 804 - § 804.03), and applicant may overcome the rejection by the filing of a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321(c) where appropriate. Similarly, if copending applications separately present product and process claims, provisionalobviousness-type double patenting rejections should be made where appropriate. However, once a determination as to the patentability of the product has been reached any process claim directed to making or using an allowable product should not be rejected over prior art without consultation with a Technology Center Director.

See MPEP § 706.02(n) for the applicability of 35 U.S.C. 103(b) to biotechnological processes and compositions of matter.

See MPEP § 2116.01 for guidance on the treatment of process claims which make or use a novel, nonobvious product.

821.04(a) Rejoinder Between Product Inventions; Rejoinder Between Process Inventions[edit | edit source]

Where restriction was required between independent or distinct products, or between independent or distinct processes, and all claims directed to an elected invention are allowable, any restriction requirement between the elected invention and any nonelected invention that depends from or otherwise requires all the limitations of an allowable claim should be withdrawn. For example, a requirement for restriction should be withdrawn when a generic claim, linking claim, or subcombination claim is allowable and any previously withdrawn claim depends from or otherwise requires all the limitations thereof. Claims that require all the limitations of an allowable claim will be rejoined and fully examined for patentability in accordance with 37 CFR 1.104. Claims that do not require all the limitations of an allowable claim remain withdrawn from consideration. However, in view of the withdrawal of the restriction requirement, if any claim presented in a continuing application includes all the limitations of a claim that is allowable in the parent application, such claim may be subject to a double patenting rejection over the claims of the parent application. Once a restriction requirement is withdrawn, the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 121 are no longer applicable. See In re Ziegler, 443 F.2d 1211, 1215, 170 USPQ 129, 131-32 (CCPA 1971). See also MPEP § 804.01.

An amendment presenting additional claims that depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable claim will be entered as a matter of right if the amendment is presented prior to final rejection or allowance, whichever is earlier. Amendments submitted after final rejection are governed by 37 CFR 1.116; amendments submitted after allowance are governed by 37 CFR 1.312.

When all claims to the nonelected invention(s) depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable claim, applicant must be advised that claims drawn to the nonelected invention have been rejoined and the restriction requirement has been withdrawn.

Note that each additional invention is considered separately. When claims to one nonelected invention depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable claim, and claims to another nonelected invention do not, applicant must be advised as to which claims have been rejoined and which claims remain withdrawn from further consideration.

Where the application claims an allowable invention and discloses but does not claim an additional invention that depends on or otherwise requires all the limitations of the allowable claim, applicant may add claims directed to such additional invention by way of amendment pursuant to 37 CFR 1.121. Amendments submitted after allowance are governed by 37 CFR 1.312; amendments submitted after final rejection are governed by 37 CFR 1.116.

821.04(b) Rejoinder of Process Requiring an Allowable Product[edit | edit source]

Where claims directed to a product and to a process of making and/or using the product are presented in the same application, applicant may be called upon under 35 U.S.C. 121 to elect claims to either the product or a process. See MPEP § 806.05(f) and § 806.05(h). The claims to the nonelected invention will be withdrawn from further consideration under 37 CFR 1.142. See MPEP § 821 through § 821.03. However, if applicant elects a claim(s) directed to a product which is subsequently found allowable, withdrawn process claims which depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable product claim will be considered for rejoinder. All claims directed to a nonelected process invention must depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable product claim for that process invention to be rejoined. Upon rejoinder of claims directed to a previously nonelected process invention, the restriction requirement between the elected product and rejoined process(es) will be withdrawn.

If applicant cancels all the claims directed to a nonelected process invention before rejoinder occurs, the examiner should not withdraw the restriction requirement. This will preserve applicant’s rights under 35 U.S.C. 121.

Where the application as originally filed discloses the product and the process for making and/or using the product, and only claims directed to the product are presented for examination, applicant may present claims directed to the process of making and/or using the allowable product by way of amendment pursuant to 37 CFR 1.121. In view of the rejoinder procedure, and in order to expedite prosecution, applicants are encouraged to present such process claims, preferably as dependent claims, in the application at an early stage of prosecution. Process claims which depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of the patentable product will be entered as a matter of right if the amendment is presented prior to final rejection or allowance, whichever is earlier. However, if applicant files an amendment adding claims to a process invention, and the amendment includes process claims which do not depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowable product, all claims directed to that newly added invention may be withdrawn from consideration, via an election by original presentation (see MPEP § 821.03).

Amendments submitted after allowance are governed by 37 CFR 1.312. Amendments to add only process claims which depend from or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowed product claim and which meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103, and 112 may be entered.

Amendments submitted after final rejection are governed by 37 CFR 1.116. When all claims to the elected product are in condition for allowance, all process claims eligible for rejoinder (see MPEP § 821.04) must be considered for patentability.

If an amendment after final rejection that otherwise complies with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.116 would place all the elected product claim(s) in condition for allowance and thereby require rejoinder of process claims that raise new issues requiring further consideration (e.g., issues under 35 U.S.C. 101 or 112, first paragraph), the amendment could be denied entry. For example, if pending nonelected process claims depend from a finally rejected product claim, and the amendment (or affidavit or other evidence that could have been submitted earlier) submitted after final rejection, if entered, would put the product claim(s) in condition for allowance, entry of the amendment (or evidence submission) would not be required if it would raise new issues that would require further consideration, such as issues under 35 U.S.C. 101 or 112, first paragraph necessitated by rejoinder of previously nonelected process claims.

Before mailing an advisory action in the above situation, it is recommended that applicant be called and given the opportunity to cancel the process claims to place the application in condition for allowance with the allowable product claims, or to file an RCE to continue prosecution of the process claims in the same application as the product claims.

In after final situations when no amendment or evidence is submitted, but applicant submits arguments that persuade the examiner that all the product claims are allowable, in effect the final rejection of the product claims is not sustainable, and any rejection of the rejoined process claims must be done in a new Office action. If the process claims would be rejected, applicant may be called before mailing a new Office action and given the opportunity to cancel the process claims and to place the application in condition for allowance with the allowable product claims. If a new Office action is prepared indicating the allowability of the product claim and including a new rejection of the process claims, the provisions of MPEP § 706.07 govern the propriety of making the Office action final.

822 Claims to Inventions That Are Not Distinct in Plural Applications of Same Inventive Entity[edit | edit source]

The treatment of plural applications of the same inventive entity, none of which has become a patent, is treated in 37 CFR 1.78(b) as follows:

(b) Where two or more applications filed by the same applicant contain conflicting claims, elimination of such claims from all but one application may be required in the absence of good and sufficient reason for their retention during pendency in more than one application.

See MPEP § 804.03 for conflicting subject matter, different inventors, common ownership.

See MPEP § 706.03(k) for rejection of one claim on another in the same application.

See MPEP § 706.03(w) and § 706.07(b) for res judicata.

See MPEP § 709.01 for one application in interference.

See MPEP § 806.04(h) to § 806.04(i) for species and genus in separate applications.

Wherever appropriate, such conflicting applications should be joined. This is particularly true where the two or more applications are due to, and consonant with, a requirement to restrict which the examiner now considers to be improper.

822.01 Copending Before the Examiner[edit | edit source]

37 CFR 1.78. Claiming benefit of earlier filing date and cross-references to other applications.
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(b)Where two or more applications filed by the same applicant contain conflicting claims, elimination of such claims from all but one application may be required in the absence of good and sufficient reason for their retention during pendency in more than one application.

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Where claims in one application are unpatentable over claims of another application of the same inventive entity (or different inventive entity with common ownership) because they contain conflicting claims, a complete examination should be made of the claims of each application and all appropriate rejections should be entered in each application, including rejections based upon prior art. The claims of each application may also be rejected on the grounds of “provisional” double patenting on the claims of the other application whether or not any claims avoid the prior art. Where appropriate, the same prior art may be relied upon in each of the applications. See also MPEP § 804.01 and § 822.

The “provisional” double patenting rejection should continue to be made by the examiner in each application as long as there are conflicting claims in more than one application unless that “provisional” double patenting rejection is the only rejection remaining in one of the applications. See MPEP § 804, subsection I.B. when the “provisional” double patenting rejection is the only rejection remaining in at least one application.

823 Unity of Invention Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty[edit | edit source]

See Chapter 1800, in particular MPEP § 1850, § 1875, and § 1893.03(d), for a detailed discussion of unity of invention under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

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