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Patent Rule and Procedural Changes

Patent Rule and Procedural Changes The Patent Office Comes to California June 4 and 5, 2007

Andrew Faile,
Director of Technology Center 2600
(571) 272-4650, Andrew.Faile@USPTO.gov

Joni Y. Chang
Senior Legal Advisor
Office of Patent Legal Administration
(571) 272-7720, Joni.Chang@USPTO.gov

Topics

  • Revised Accelerated Examination Program and Petition to Make Special Procedures;
  • Intellectual Property Community Outreach;
  • Status and Overview of Certain Notices of Proposed Rule Making;
  • Changes to Facilitate Electronic Filing of Patent Correspondence (final rule);
  • Changes to Implement Priority Document Exchange between Intellectual Property Offices (final rule); and
  • Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program

Accelerated Examination Program

Accelerated Examination (Patent Applications) Final Disposition within 12 months

Patent Pendency(as of 1/1/2007)

Technology Center Average 1st Action Pendency (months)1 Average Total Pendency (months) 2
1600 – Biotechnology and Organic Chemistry 22.2 34.7
1700 – Chemical and Materials Engineering 23.8 32.2
2100 – Computer Architecture Software and Information Security 29.4 43.4
2600 – Communications 33.4 42.3
2800 – Semiconductor, Electrical, Optical Systems 16.8 25.5
3600 – Transportation, Construction, Electronic Commerce 22.9 29.9
3700 – Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing and Products 21.0 28.5
UPR Total (as of 1/1/2007) UPR Total (as of 1/1/2007) 23.4 31.3

1 “Average 1st action pendency” is the average age from filing to first action for a newly filed application, completed during October-December 2006.

2 “Average total pendency” is the average age from filing to issue or abandonment of a newly filed application, completed during October-December 2006.

Inventory by Art Examples

High Inventory Art Areas Months of Inventory* Low Inventory Art Areas Months of Inventory*
1614, 1615, 1616 and 1617 – Drugs, Bio-affecting and Body Treatment 44 1620 – Organic Chemistry 15
1753 – Radiation Imagery 69 1713 – Polymer Chemistry 19
2140, 2150 – Computer Networks 45 2125 – Manufacturing Control Systems and Chemical/ Mechanical/Electrical Control 12
2616 – Multiplex Communications 52 2613 – Optical Communications 24
2811 – Semiconductor Devices 29 2832 – Electronic Components 17
3620 – Business Methods 28-79 3651 – Conveying 16
3731 and 3737 – Medical Instruments, Diagnostic Equipment 42 3742 – Thermal and Combustion Technology 19

*The number of months it would take to reach a first action on the merits (e.g., an action addressing patentability issues) on an application filed today at today’s production rate. “Today’s production rate” means that there are no changes in production due to hiring, attrition, changes to examination processing or examination efficiencies, and that applications are taken up in the order of filing in the given art unit/area. Of course, USPTO is taking aggressive steps to ensure changes that will significantly lower the inventory rates in high-inventory art areas.

Accelerated ExaminationOverview

  • GOAL: Achieve a final decision by the examiner within 12 months from the filing date
  • Effective August 25, 2006
    • Petitions prior to this date are not included
  • The new requirements apply to all petitions to make special, except for:
  • Age and health
    Patent Prosecution Highway

Accelerated Examination Benefits

  • Final patentability determination in 12 months
    • Good for inventions with a short life-span
    • Patent may be granted at the peak of the technology's life
    • Benefits inventions in very competitive markets
    • Information provided more quickly to those seeking to avoid infringement
  • Claim drafting is more focused and clear
  • Earlier and better interaction between applicant and examiner

Accelerated ExaminationFiling Requirements

  • The application must:
  • Be filed electronically
  • Be complete at filing
  • Contain 3/20 total claims or fewer directed to a single invention
  • Include a petition
  • Include a fee (unless the claims are directed to environmental quality, energy, or countering terrorism)
  • The petition must include statements that applicant:
  • Will make election without traverse
    Will have an interview
    Will not separately argue any dependent claim during appeal
  • The petition must be accompanied by:
  • A pre-examination search
    An accelerated examination support document (ESD)

Accelerated ExaminationReview within the USPTO

  • Petition will be initially denied if:
  • It fails to meet filing requirements
    Application is not eligible (plant, reissue, re-exam, 371)
  • Petition will be dismissed if it has defects:
  • Defects will be specifically noted
    Applicant has one chance to cure
  • Petition will be ultimately denied if:
  • Applicant was unable to cure defects in prescribed time period

Accelerated ExaminationThe Pre-examination Search

  • The pre-examination search must include a search of:
  • U.S. Patents
    Patent application publications
    Foreign patent documents
    Non-patent literature
  • Search directed to the claimed invention giving claims their broadest reasonable interpretation
  • Include a classified search and text search

Accelerated ExaminationIf the Search is Deficient

Petition Dismissal or Denial:

  • Will include specifics of deficiency with suggestions for overcoming it
  • Unless it is readily apparent that the applicant's search is wholly deficient
  • Here, only general guidance directed at improving the search will be given in the decision

Accelerated ExaminationThe Examination Support Document

  • The accelerated examination support document must include:
  • An information disclosure statement citing each reference deemed most closely related to the claims
  • An identification of where each limitation disclosed in each reference is found
  • Refer to specific paragraphs or drawing elements
  • A detailed explanation of how each claim is patentable over each reference
  • Be specific – general statements are not sufficient
  • A concise statement of utility of the invention
  • A showing of support for each claim limitation in specification
  • Point to page, line numbers or drawing elements
  • An identification of any cited references that may be disqualified as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 103(c)

Accelerated ExaminationExamination Processing

  • The application will be taken up for action shortly after petition decision
  • The examiner will complete a prior art search
  • Prior to any first Office action rejection:
  • Conference held to confirm rejection
    Telephone or personal interview is conducted
  • An additional conference will be held prior to any final rejection

Accelerated ExaminationApplicant's Reply

  • Shorter Statutory Periods (SSP) for applicant reply:
    1-month (or 30 days) SSP for any action except final rejection or allowance
    No time extensions under Section 1.136(a) – only 1.136(b). Timely reply failure results in abandonment
  • If response includes either amended or newly-added claims:
    An updated search will be required if claims are not encompassed by the pre-examination search
    An updated AE support document will be required if claims are not encompassed by original AE support document

Accelerated Examination Applicant's Reply

  • The Office will treat any amendments (including after final amendments and RCE submissions) as not being fully responsive if the amendment:
  • Exceeds the 3/20 claim limit;
  • Presents claims to a non-elected invention;
  • Presents claims not encompassed by the pre-examination search, or an updated search; or
  • Presents claims requiring an updated AE support document, which is not submitted.

Accelerated ExaminationTips for Getting a Petition Granted

  • Search the claimed invention. The search must be commensurate in scope with the claims.
  • Search should include U.S. Patents and pubs, foreign patents & pubs and non-patent literature.
  • Provide the text search logic. A listing of terms will not suffice.
  • Show support in the specification and/or drawings for each limitation of each claim. Be specific.
  • Clearly and specifically identify the limitations in each claim found in each reference. A chart is a clear, convenient format.
  • Clearly point out by specific claim language how each claim is patentable over each reference.

Accelerated Examination Information Links

Notices of Proposed Rule Making

  • Changes to Practice for Continuing Applications, Requests for Continued Examination Practice and Applications Containing Patentably Indistinct Claims (proposed rule) (Continued Examination NPR);
  • Changes to Practice for the Examination of Claims in Patent Applications (proposed rule) (Claims NPR); and
  • Changes to Information Disclosure Statement Requirements and Other Related Matters (proposed rule)(IDS NPR).
  • Changes to Practice for Continuing Applications, Requests for Continued Examination Practice, and Applications Containing Patentably Indistinct Claims,
    • 71 FR 481 (Jan. 3, 2006); 1302 Off. Gaz. Pat. Off. 1318 (Jan. 24, 2006)
  • Changes to Practice for the Examination of Claims in Patent Applications,
    • 71 FR 61 (Jan. 3, 2006); 1302 Off. Gaz. Pat. Off. 1329 (Jan. 24, 2006)
  • The comment period ended on May 3, 2006.
  • All comments posted on USPTO website:
  • The Office received:
    • Over 330 comments on the Continued Examination NPR; and
    • Over 180 comments on the Claims NPR.
  • The final rule is under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
    • OMB received date: April 10, 2007.
    • The review by OMB will likely take 90 days.
    • The final rule under review at OMB is privileged.
    • The USPTO is not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the final rule under review at OMB.
  • The final rule will provide at least 30 days between the publication date of the final rule and the effective date.

Public Comments on IDS NPR

  • The Office received over 60 comments on the IDS NPR.
  • The comments are posted on the USPTO website at: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/dapp/opla/comments/ab95/ids.htm.
  • The Office is considering all the public comments.
    • All comments and suggestions are being analyzed in view of the goals and objectives set forth in the IDS NPR.
  • No decision has been made as to the content of any final rule.

Proposed Changes in IDS NPRTime Periods 1- 4

Application Prosecution Timeline and corresponding IDS requirements

Proposed Changes in IDS NPR

  • Time Period 1: Between the filing date (or national stage entry date) of the application and the later of: 3 months from filing or before the mailing of the first Office action on the merits (FAOM).
  • An explanation in compliance with proposed § 1.98(a)(3)(iv) would be required for each of the following:
    • All documents when the applicant cited more than 20 documents in IDS(s) filed during time period 1;
    • Any English-language document over 25 pages excluding sequence and computer listings;
    • Any translation of a non-English document that exceeds 25 pages.
  • Exceptions: Documents cited in a foreign search or examination report, and documents submitted in a reply to a requirement for information under § 1.105.

Proposed Changes in IDS NPR

An explanation in compliance with proposed § 1.98(a)(3)(iv) must include:

A. An identification of:
  • The specific feature(s), showing(s), or teaching(s) that caused the document to be cited; and
  • A portion of the document where the specific feature(s), showing(s), or teaching(s) may be found.
B. A correlation of:
  • The specific feature(s), showing(s), or teaching(s) to
  • The corresponding specific claim language, or to a specific portion(s) of the supporting specification, where the document is cited for that purpose.

Proposed Changes in IDS NPR

  • Time Period 2: Between the end of time period 1 and before the earlier of: the mailing of a notice of allowability or a notice of allowance (or a notice of intent to issue a reexamination certificate).
  • For each document cited in an IDS that is filed in time period 2, the IDS must include:
    • An explanation in compliance with proposed § 1.98(a)(3)(iv); and
    • A non-cumulative description in compliance with proposed §1.98(a)(3)(v).
      • A description of how each document is not merely cumulative of any other document cited in any prior or current IDS, or any information cited by the examiner.
  • Exceptions: Documents cited with a certification under § 1.97(e)(1) and a foreign search or examination report; and documents submitted in a reply to a requirement for information under § 1.105.

Proposed Changes in IDS NPR

  • Time Period 3: Between the end of time period 2 and the payment of the issue fee.
  • For each document cited in an IDS that is filed in time period 3, the IDS must include:
    • A certification under § 1.97(e)(1) or § 1.97(e)(2); and
    • Patentability justification in compliance with § 1.98(a)(3)(vi), including:
      • An explanation in compliance with proposed § 1.98(a)(3)(iv);
      • A non-cumulative description in compliance with proposed §1.98(a)(3)(v); and
      • Either: (A) patentability reasons for unamended claims; or
        (B) a statement of unpatentable claims, an amendment, and patentability reasons for the amended claims.
  • Time Period 4: Between the end of time period 3 and in sufficient time to be considered by the examiner before issuance of the application.
  • For each document cited in an IDS that is filed in time period 4, the IDS must include:
    • A certification under § 1.97(e)(1) or § 1.97(e)(2);
    • A petition to withdraw the application from issue; and
    • Patentability justification in compliance with § 1.98(a)(3)(vi)(B), which includes:
      • An explanation in compliance with proposed § 1.98(a)(3)(iv);
      • A non-cumulative description in compliance with proposed §1.98(a)(3)(v); and
      • A statement of unpatentable claims, an amendment, and patentability reasons for the amended claims.

Changes to Facilitate Electronic Filing of Patent Correspondence (final rule)

Electronic Filing Final Rule

  • The rules of practice have been changed to support implementation of the Office's Web-based electronic filing system (EFS-Web).
    • Changes to Facilitate Electronic Filing of Patent Correspondence, 72 FR 2770 (Jan. 23, 2007), 57 Off. Gaz. Pat. Off. 1315 (Feb. 13, 2007) (final rule).
  • EFS-Web permits most patent correspondence to be electronically submitted in a portable document file (“PDF”) format.
    • See the Legal Framework for EFS-Web for a current list of types of correspondence that are not permitted to be filed using EFS-Web.
  • Applicant may electronically submit via EFS-Web the following:
    • Non-reissue applications;
    • Amendments and other replies;
    • Information disclosure statements (IDSs);
    • Requests for continued examination (RCEs);
    • Sequence listings (§ 1.821(c) or (e));
    • Computer program listings (§ 1.96);
    • Tables (§ 1.58); and
    • Amended or redacted versions of applications for the purposes of publication under § 1. 215(c) or § 1.217(b).
  • Certain documents are not permitted to be filed via EFS-Web, such as:
    • A request for reexamination;
    • Any other documents related to reexaminations;
    • Submissions regarding reissue applications;
    • Correspondence in an application that is subject to a secrecy order;
    • Third party submissions under § 1.99;
    • Protests under § 1.291
    • Public use hearing papers under § 1.292;
    • Submissions in contested cases before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), unless the BPAI expressly authorizes; and
    • Correspondence related to a disciplinary proceeding
  • EFS-Web provides the following fillable forms:
    • Information Disclosure Statement;
    • Application Data Sheet (must be signed if the ADS includes a nonpublication request);
    • Request for Continued Examination (RCE);
    • Petition to Accept Unintentionally Delayed Payment of Maintenance Fee in an Expired Patent; and
    • Petition to Make Special Under Accelerated Examination Program.
  • The Office will continue to convert additional forms to the PDF form-fillable format.
  • For purposes of determining the application size fee under §1.16(s)
    • The paper size equivalent of the specification and drawings of an application (including preliminary amendments) submitted via EFS-Web is 75% of the number of sheets of paper present in the specification and drawings of the application when entered into the Office's IFW system; and
    • Any sequence listing in compliance with § 1.821(c) or (e), and any computer program listing in compliance with § 1.96, submitted via the Office's EFS-Web will be excluded if the listing is submitted in ASCII text as part of an associated file (rather than in PDF format).
    • See § 1.52(f)(2).
  • Certificate of EFS-Web transmission:
  • The Office will treat certain correspondence as received (for timeliness purposes) as of the date submitted by applicant rather than the date received by the Office if:
    • The correspondence was filed by EFS-Web and
    • A certification of EFS-Web transmission under § 1.8 was filed with the correspondence.
  • Applicant should keep a copy of the correspondence submitted and the certification of EFS-Web transmission under § 1.8 as evidence to support an argument that the correspondence was submitted at a particular local time .
  • An acknowledgement receipt will contain:
    • The date of receipt by the Office of the electronic documents submitted; and
    • A full listing of the correspondence submitted to the Office as described by applicant during the submission process, including the count of pages and/or byte sizes for each document.
  • Receipt date – the date the correspondence is received by the Office (e.g., in Alexandra, VA (Eastern Time Zone)).
    • It is not limited to an official business day, but can be a Saturday, Sunday or Federal holiday.
  • The acknowledgement receipt is a legal equivalent of a post card receipt described in MPEP § 503.
  • Each submission session must be limited to correspondence for a single application, with each distinct reply being contained in a separate paper.
  • The application number or the patent number for which the correspondence pertains must be included in any submission to assure proper matching with the application file.
  • Applicant should review the application filed via EFS-Web in PAIR to determine whether submission is complete.
  • Applicant should not:
    • Submit documents to multiple applications in one single EFS-Web submission;
    • Submit a required reply piecemeal over multiple sessions.
  • If a transmission is attempted during a time when the EFS-Web is down, the Office will not be able to accept any correspondence electronically.
  • Applicant is advised to use alternative filing methods:
    • For filing an application – Express Mail under § 1.10 or hand-delivery to the Office;
    • Other patent correspondence (e.g., an amendment) – First-Class mail with a certificate of mailing under § 1.8 (if applicable), facsimile transmission with a certificate of transmission under § 1.8 (if applicable), Express Mail under § 1.10, or hand-delivery to the Office.
  • Applicants are strongly advised to submit their correspondence via EFS-Web sufficiently early in the day to allow time for alternative filing or payment methods when submissions via EFS-Web or RAM cannot be initiated or correctly completed.
  • The Office is capable of accepting electronic patent application filings every day of the week, including weekends and holidays, via EFS-Web. Check the USPTO's website for any scheduled outages.
  • For assistance regarding EFS-Web, contact Electronic Business Center at 1-866-271-9197 or ebc@uspto.gov .

Changes to Implement Priority Document Exchange Between Intellectual Property Offices,
72 FR 1664 (January 16, 2007), 1315 Off. Gaz. Pat Office 63 (Feb. 13, 2007) (final rule)

More information regarding the priority document exchange program is available at http://www.uspto.gov/main/faq/faq_pdx.html .

Priority Document Exchange

  • The Office has been negotiating agreements with other patent offices to permit the Office to obtain and provide electronic copies of priority documents.
    • Agreements to obtain and provide such copies have been established with the European Patent Office (EPO) and its member states.
    • Agreements are being considered with the Japan Patent Office (JPO).
    • Both offices will have the technical ability to provide and retrieve certified electronic copies of priority documents via automated mechanisms.
  • If an applicant makes a proper request and an electronic copy of the counterpart foreign application is imported from another participating intellectual property (IP) office by the Office,
    • The obligation to provide a certified copy of the foreign application would be satisfied.
    • The applicant, however, may be required to provide an English translation of a non-English foreign application.
    For example:
  • If applicant claims foreign priority under § 1.55 to an application filed in the EPO, applicant may request that the Office retrieve an electronic copy of the EPO application rather than filing a certified copy of the foreign application on paper.
  • The agreements will also enable a participating IP office to obtain an electronic copy of a priority document of an application that was filed in a non-participating IP office from another participating IP office in which a certified copy of the priority document has been filed and stored.
  • For example:
    • If applicant claims priority under § 1.55 to a foreign application and a certified copy of the foreign application has been filed in an EPO application, applicant may request that the Office retrieve an electronic copy of a foreign application that was filed in the EPO application.
  • The requirement for the certified copy under § 1.55(a)(2) will be considered satisfied if:
    • The applicant files a request (PTO/SB/38)
      • The request should be filed within the later of 4 months from the filing date of the application or 16 months from the foreign priority date;
    • The foreign application is identified in the oath or declaration (§ 1.63) or an application data sheet (§ 1.76); and
    • The copy of the foreign application is received by the Office within the period set forth in § 1.55(a) (e.g., before the payment of the issue fee).

Request to Retrieve Electronic Priority Application(s) (PTO/SB/38)

Request to Retrieve Electronic Priority Application(s) (PTO/SB/38)

Priority Document Exchange

  • Upon receipt of a timely filed request, the Office will make at least two attempts to retrieve a copy of the foreign application from the participating office.
  • Applicants should consult the private Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system to determine if the copy of the foreign application was retrieved by the Office.
  • Applicants should contact the Electronic Business Center, rather than the examiner, if the copy of the foreign application has not been entered in the application IFW file.
  • The agreements also permit another participating IP office to obtain electronic copies of priority documents from the Office (at no charge to the applicant).
    • For example:
      • If an EPO application claims foreign priority to an US application, the EPO will automatically attempt to retrieve an electronic copy of the US application-as-filed.
  • The Office will provide an electronic copy of the US application-as-filed via the PDX system to the EPO if :
    • The US application has cleared national security review; and
    • A written authorization (PTO/SB/39) under § 1.14(h) granting access to the US application-as-filed under the PDX program was filed in the US application.
      • The written authorization should be submitted prior to the filing of the EPO application to ensure that it is likely that the EPO will be successful in its attempt to retrieve a copy of the priority application from the Office.
    • A written authority is not required if the US application has been published or patented.

Authorization to Permit Access to Application by Participaing Office (PTO/SB/39)

Authorization to Permit Access to Application by Participaing Office (PTO/SB/39)
  • PDX Limitations:
  • The PDX system can only process priority documents that contain about 1,000 pages or fewer.
    • For very large documents, applicants should file the paper certified copy of the foreign applications.
  • PCT International Applications are excluded from the PDX program, which includes:
    • Retrieving or transmitting any international applications as a priority document; and
    • Requesting retrieval of any priority document for placement within an international application.

Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program

Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program

  • The USPTO and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) worked together to establish the PPH Pilot Program.
    • See Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program between the United States patent and trademark Office and the Japan Patent Office, 1307 Off. Gaz. Pat. Office 61 (June 13, 2006); and
    • Revised Requirements for Requesting Participation in the Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program in the USPTO, 1314 Off. Gaz. Pat. Office 1398 (Jan. 30, 2007).
  • The pilot program commenced on July 3, 2006, for a period of one year. It may be extended for up to an additional year if necessary to adequately assess the feasibility of the program.
  • Applicants whose claim(s) is determined to be patentable in the office of first filing may request that the corresponding application filed in the office of second filing be advanced out of turn for examination provided certain conditions are satisfied.
  • The office of second filing would be able to exploit the search and examination results of the office of first filing.
  • Applicant may be able to obtain a patent on the corresponding application filed in the office of second filing faster.
  • If the USPTO is the office of first filing and the U.S. application contains claims that are determined to be allowable, applicants may request to have the corresponding application filed in the JPO advanced out of turn for examination in the JPO.
  • The procedures and requirements for filing a request to the JPO for participation in the PPH pilot program are available from the JPO web site at: http://www.jpo.go.jp/ .

Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program – Requirements

  • If the JPO is the office of first filing and the JPO application contains claims that are determined to be allowable, applicant may petition to make the U.S. application special under the PPH pilot program.
  • Requirements:
  • The U.S. utility application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) must claim foreign priority to the JPO application under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)– (d) and §1.55.
  • The JPO application must contain at least one claim that was determined by the JPO to be allowable.
  • Applicant must file:
  • A request for participation in the PPH pilot program, and a petition to make special accompanied by the petition fee under § 1.17(h) (see PTO/SB/20) prior to the first Office action on the merits;
  • A copy of all JPO office actions (excluding “Decision to Grant a Patent”), an English translation thereof, and a statement that the English translation is accurate;
  • An information disclosure statement (IDS) under §§ 1.97 and 1.98 listing the documents cited by the JPO examiner; and
  • A copy of the allowable claims in the JPO application, an English translation thereof and a statement that the English translation is accurate.
  • All the claims in the U.S. application (including any subsequently amended or added claims) must sufficiently correspond to the allowable claims in the JPO application.
    • The claims must have the same or similar scope.
    • They could have differences due to translations and claim format requirements.
  • Applicant must submit a claims correspondence table in English to indicate how all of the claims in the U.S. application correspond to the allowable claims in the JPO application (see PTO/SB/20).
    • Updated claims correspondence table may be required for an amendment to the claims.
  • Examination of U.S. application has not begun.
  • The request and supporting documents must be filed via facsimile to 571-273-0125, directed to Magdalen Greenlief.
  • More information regarding the PPH pilot program is available at http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/pph/pph_index.html .

Patent Prosecution Highway Pilot Program

Request for Participation in the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) Pilot Program Between the JPO and the USPTO(PTO/SB/20)

Request for Participation in the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) Pilot Program Between the JPO and the USPTO(PTO/SB/20)

Thank You!

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Last Modified: 7/4/2009 6:25:09 PM