Patent Term Extension and Adjustment

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
The terms of certain patents may be subject to extension or adjustment under 35 U.S.C. 154(b). Such extension or adjustment results from certain specified types of delays which may occur while an application is pending before the Office. Utility and plant patents which issue from original applications filed between June 8, 1995 and May 28, 2000 may be eligible for patent term extension (PTE) as set forth in 37 CFR 1.701. Such PTE may result from delays due to interference proceedings under 35 U.S.C. 135(a), secrecy orders under 35 U.S.C. 181, or successful appellate review. Utility and plant patents which issue from original applications filed on or after May 29, 2000 may be eligible for patent term adjustment (PTA) as set forth in 37 CFR 1.702 _ 1.705. There are three main bases for PTA under 35 U.S.C. 154(b). The first basis for PTA is the failure of the Office to take certain actions within specific time frames set forth in 35 U.S.C. 154(b)(1)(A) (See 37 CFR 1.702(a) and 1.703(a)). The second basis for PTA is the failure of the Office to issue a patent within three years of the actual filing date of the application as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 154(b)(1)(B) (See 37 CFR 1.702(b) and 1.703(b)). The third basis for PTA is set forth in 35 U.S.C. 154(b)(1)(C), and includes delays due to interference proceedings under 35 U.S.C. 135(a), secrecy orders under 35 U.S.C. 181, or successful appellate review (See 37 CFR 1.702(c)-(e) and 1.703(c)-(e)). Any PTA which has accrued in an application will be reduced by the time period during which an applicant failed to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution of the application pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 154(b)(2)(C). A non-exclusive list of activities which constitute failure to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution is set forth in 37 CFR 1.704. An initial PTA value is printed on the notice of allowance and issue fee due, and a final PTA value is printed on the front of the patent. Any request for reconsideration of the PTA value printed on the notice of allowance and issue fee due should be made in the form of an application for patent term adjustment, which must be filed prior to or at the same time as the payment of the issue fee. (See 37 CFR 1.705.)

Allowance and Issue of Patent

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
If, on examination of the application, or at a later stage during the reconsideration of the application, the patent application is found to be allowable, a notice of allowance will be sent to the applicant, or to applicant’s attorney or agent of record, if any, and a fee for issuing the patent is due within three months from the date of the notice. If timely payment of the issue fee is not made, the application will be regarded as abandoned. See current fee schedule. A provision is made in the statute whereby the Director may accept the fee late, when the delay is shown to be unavoidable or unintentional. When the issue fee is paid, the patent issues as soon as possible after the date of payment, dependent upon the volume of printing on hand. The patent grant then is delivered or mailed on the day of its grant, or as soon thereafter as possible, to the inventor’s attorney or agent if there is one of record, otherwise directly to the inventor. On the date of the grant, the patent file becomes open to the public for applications not opened earlier by publication of the application. See 37 CFR 1.211-1.221 regarding the publication of applications. Printed copies of the specification and drawing are available on the same date. In cases where the publication of an invention by the granting of a patent would be detrimental to the national defense, the patent law gives the Director the power to withhold the grant of the patent and to order the invention kept secret for such period of time as the national interest requires.

Interferences

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
Occasionally two or more applications are filed by different inventors claiming substantially the same patentable invention. The patent can only be granted to one of them, and a proceeding known as an “interference” is instituted by the Office to determine who is the first inventor and entitled to the patent. About one percent of the applications filed become involved in an interference proceeding. Interference proceedings may also be instituted between an application and a patent already issued, provided that the patent has not been issued, nor the application been published, for more than one year prior to the filing of the conflicting application, and provided also that the conflicting application is not barred from being patentable for some other reason. Each party to such a proceeding must submit evidence of facts proving when the invention was made. In view of the necessity of proving the various facts and circumstances concerning the making of the invention during an interference, inventors must be able to produce evidence to do this. If no evidence is submitted a party is restricted to the date of filing the application as his/her earliest date. The priority question is determined by a board of three administrative patent judges on the evidence submitted. From the decision of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, the losing party may appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or file a civil action against the winning party in the appropriate United States district court. The terms “conception of the invention” and “reduction to practice” are encountered in connection with priority questions. Conception of the invention refers to the completion of the devising of the means for accomplishing the result. Reduction to practice refers to the actual construction of the invention in physical form: in the case of a machine it includes the actual building of the machine, in the case of an article or composition it includes the actual making of the article or composition, in the case of a process it includes the actual carrying out of the steps of the process. Actual operation, demonstration, or testing for the intended use is also usually necessary. The filing of a regular application for patent completely disclosing the invention is treated as equivalent to reduction to practice. The inventor who proves to be the first to conceive the invention and the first to reduce it to practice will be held to be the prior inventor, but more complicated situations cannot be stated this simply.

Time for Reply and Abandonment

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
The reply of an applicant to an action by the Office must be made within a prescribed time limit. The maximum period for reply is set at six months by the statute which also provides that the Director may shorten the time for reply to not less than 30 days. The usual period for reply to an Office action is three months. A shortened time for reply may be extended up to the maximum six-month period. An extension of time fee is normally required to be paid if the reply period is extended. The amount of the fee is dependent upon the length of the extension. Extensions of time are generally not available after an application has been allowed. If no reply is received within the time period, the application is considered as abandoned and no longer pending. However, if it can be shown that the failure to prosecute was unavoidable or unintentional, the application may be revived by the Director. The revival requires a petition to the Director, and a fee for the petition, which must be filed without delay. The proper reply must also accompany the petition if it has not yet been filed.

Amendments to Application

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
Following are some details concerning amendments to the application: The applicant may amend before or after the first examination and action as specified in the rules, or when and as specifically required by the examiner. After final rejection or action, amendments may be made canceling claims or complying with any requirement of form which has been made in an Office action. The admission of any such amendment or its refusal, and any proceedings relative thereto, shall not operate to relieve the application from its condition as subject to appeal or to save it from abandonment. If amendments touching the merits of the application are presented after final rejection, or after appeal has been taken, or when such amendment might not otherwise be proper, they may be admitted upon a showing of good and sufficient reasons why they are necessary and were not earlier presented. No amendment can be made as a matter of right in appealed cases. After decision on appeal, amendments can only be made as provided in the rules. The specifications, claims, and drawing must be amended and revised when required, to correct inaccuracies of description and definition or unnecessary words, and to provide substantial correspondence between the claims, the description, and the drawing. All amendments of the drawings or specifications, and all additions thereto must not include new matter beyond the original disclosure. Matter not found in either, involving a departure from or an addition to the original disclosure, cannot be added to the application even though supported by a supplemental oath or declaration, and can be shown or claimed only in a separate application.

Appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and to the Courts

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
If the examiner persists in the rejection of any of the claims in an application, or if the rejection has been made final, the applicant may appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences consists of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO, the Commissioner for Patents, and the administrative patent judges, but normally each appeal is heard by only three members. An appeal fee is required and the applicant must file a brief to support his/her position. An oral hearing will be held if requested upon payment of the specified fee. As an alternative to appeal, in situations where an applicant desires consideration of different claims or further evidence, a request for continued examination (RCE) or continuation application is often filed. The RCE requires a fee and a submission (reply) that continues prosecution, on filing of the RCE. The continuation application is a new application which requires a filing fee and the applicant should include the claims and evidence for which further consideration is desired. If it is filed before expiration of the period for appeal and specific reference is made therein to the earlier application, applicant will be entitled to the earlier filing date for subject matter common to both applications. A continuation application may also be filed as a Continued Prosecution Application (CPA) by submitting a request and the appropriate fee, but only if the earlier application has a filing date before May 29, 2000. If the decision of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences is still adverse to the applicant, an appeal may be taken to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or a civil action may be filed against the Director in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will review the record made in the Office and may affirm or reverse the Office’s action. In a civil action, the applicant may present testimony in the court, and the court will make a decision.

Final Rejection

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
On the second or later consideration, the rejection or other action may be made final. The applicant’s reply is then limited to appeal in the case of rejection of any claim and further amendment is restricted. Petition may be taken to the Director in the case of objections or requirements not involved in the rejection of any claim. Reply to a final rejection or action must include cancellation of, or appeal from the rejection of, each claim so rejected and, if any claim stands allowed, compliance with any requirement or objection as to form. In making such final rejection, the examiner repeats or states all grounds of rejection then considered applicable to the claims in the application.

Applicant’s Reply

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
The applicant must request reconsideration in writing, and must distinctly and specifically point out the supposed errors in the examiner’s Office action. The applicant must reply to every ground of objection and rejection in the prior Office action. The applicant’s reply must appear throughout to be a bona fide attempt to advance the case to final action or allowance. The mere allegation that the examiner has erred will not be received as a proper reason for such reconsideration. In amending an application in reply to a rejection, the applicant must clearly point out why he/she thinks the amended claims are patentable in view of the state of the art disclosed by the prior references cited or the objections made. He/she must also show how the claims as amended avoid such references or objections. After reply by the applicant, the application will be reconsidered, and the applicant will be notified as to the status of the claims, that is, whether the claims are rejected, or objected to, or whether the claims are allowed, in the same manner as after the first examination. The second Office action usually will be made final. Interviews with examiners may be arranged, but an interview does not remove the necessity of replying to Office actions within the required time.

Office Action

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
The applicant is notified in writing of the examiner_s decision by an Office “action” which is normally mailed to the attorney or agent of record. The reasons for any adverse action or any objection or requirement are stated in the Office action and such information or references are given as may be useful in aiding the applicant to judge the propriety of continuing the prosecution of his/her application. If the claimed invention is not directed to patentable subject matter, the claims will be rejected. If the examiner finds that the claimed invention lacks novelty or differs only in an obvious manner from what is found in the prior art, the claims may also be rejected. It is not uncommon for some or all of the claims to be rejected on the first Office action by the examiner, relatively few applications are allowed as filed.

Examination of Applications and Proceedings in the United States Patent and Trademark Office

March 19, 2010 | FAQs
Applications, other than provisional applications, filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or Office) and accepted as complete applications are assigned for examination to the respective examining technology centers (TC) having charge of the areas of technology related to the invention. In the examining TC, applications are taken up for examination by the examiner to whom they have been assigned in the order in which they have been filed or in accordance with examining procedures established by the Director. Applications will not be advanced out of turn for examination or for further action except as provided by the rules, or upon order of the Director to expedite the business of the Office, or upon a showing which, in the opinion of the Director, will justify advancing them. The examination of the application consists of a study of the application for compliance with the legal requirements and a search through U.S. patents, publications of patent applications, foreign patent documents, and available literature, to see if the claimed invention is new, useful and nonobvious and if the application meets the requirements of the patent statute and rules of practice. A decision is reached by the examiner in the light of the study and the result of the search. As a result of the examination by the Office, patents are granted in the case of about two out of every three applications for patents which are filed.