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1213    Decision by Board [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 41.50  Decisions and other actions by the Board.

  • (a)
    • (1) Affirmance and reversal. The Board, in its decision, may affirm or reverse the decision of the examiner in whole or in part on the grounds and on the claims specified by the examiner. The affirmance of the rejection of a claim on any of the grounds specified constitutes a general affirmance of the decision of the examiner on that claim, except as to any ground specifically reversed. The Board may also remand an application to the examiner.
    • (2) If a substitute examiner's answer is written in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection pursuant to paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the appellant must within two months from the date of the substitute examiner's answer exercise one of the following two options to avoid sua sponte dismissal of the appeal as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the proceeding:
      • (i) Reopen prosecution. Request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner by filing a reply under § 1.111 of this title with or without amendment or submission of affidavits (§§ 1.130, 1.131 or 1.132 of this title) or other Evidence. Any amendment or submission of affidavits or other Evidence must be relevant to the issues set forth in the remand or raised in the substitute examiner's answer. A request that complies with this paragraph (a) will be entered and the application or the patent under ex parte reexamination will be reconsidered by the examiner under the provisions of § 1.112 of this title. Any request that prosecution be reopened under this paragraph will be treated as a request to withdraw the appeal.
      • (ii) Maintain appeal. Request that the appeal be maintained by filing a reply brief as provided in § 41.41. If such a reply brief is accompanied by any amendment, affidavit or other Evidence, it shall be treated as a request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner under paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section.
  • (b) New ground of rejection. Should the Board have knowledge of any grounds not involved in the appeal for rejecting any pending claim, it may include in its opinion a statement to that effect with its reasons for so holding, and designate such a statement as a new ground of rejection of the claim. A new ground of rejection pursuant to this paragraph shall not be considered final for judicial review. When the Board enters such a non-final decision, the appellant, within two months from the date of the decision, must exercise one of the following two options with respect to the new ground of rejection to avoid termination of the appeal as to the rejected claims:
    • (1) Reopen prosecution. Submit an appropriate amendment of the claims so rejected or new Evidence relating to the claims so rejected, or both, and have the matter reconsidered by the examiner, in which event the prosecution will be remanded to the examiner. The new ground of rejection is binding upon the examiner unless an amendment or new Evidence not previously of Record is made which, in the opinion of the examiner, overcomes the new ground of rejection designated in the decision. Should the examiner reject the claims, appellant may again appeal to the Board pursuant to this subpart.
    • (2) Request rehearing. Request that the proceeding be reheard under § 41.52 by the Board upon the same Record. The request for rehearing must address any new ground of rejection and state with particularity the points believed to have been misapprehended or overlooked in entering the new ground of rejection and also state all other grounds upon which rehearing is sought.
  • (c) Review of undesignated new ground of rejection. Any request to seek review of a panel's failure to designate a new ground of rejection in its decision must be raised by filing a request for rehearing as set forth in § 41.52. Failure of appellant to timely file such a request for rehearing will constitute a waiver of any arguments that a decision contains an undesignated new ground of rejection.
  • (d) Request for briefing and information. The Board may order appellant to additionally brief any matter that the Board considers to be of assistance in reaching a reasoned decision on the pending appeal. Appellant will be given a time period within which to respond to such an order. Failure to timely comply with the order may result in the sua sponte dismissal of the appeal.
  • (e) Remand not final action. Whenever a decision of the Board includes a remand, that decision shall not be considered final for judicial review. When appropriate, upon conclusion of proceedings on remand before the examiner, the Board may enter an order otherwise making its decision final for judicial review.
  • (f) Extensions of time. Extensions of time under § 1.136(a) of this title for patent applications are not applicable to the time periods set forth in this section. See § 1.136(b) of this title for extensions of time to reply for patent applications and § 1.550(c) of this title for extensions of time to reply for ex parte reexamination proceedings.

After consideration of the Record including appellant’s briefs and the examiner’s answers, the Board writes its decision, affirming the examiner in whole or in part, or reversing the examiner’s decision, sometimes also setting forth a new ground of rejection.

37 CFR 41.50(e) provides that a decision of the Board which includes a remand will not be considered final for judicial review. The Board, following conclusion of the proceedings before the examiner, will either adopt its earlier decision as final for judicial review or will render a new decision based on all appealed claims, as it considers appropriate. In either case, final action by the Board will give rise to the alternatives available to an appellant following a decision by the Board.

On occasion, the Board has refused to consider an appeal until after the conclusion of a pending civil action or appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit involving issues identical with and/or similar to those presented in the later appeal. Such suspension of action, postponing consideration of the appeal until the Board has the benefit of a court decision which may be determinative of the issues involved, has been recognized as sound practice. An appellant is not entitled, after obtaining a final decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on an issue in a case, to utilize the prolonged pendency of a court proceeding as a means for avoiding res judicata while relitigating the same or substantially the same issue in another application.

An appellant may petition that the decision be withheld to permit the refiling of the application at any time prior to the mailing of the decision. Up to 30 days may be granted, although the time is usually limited as much as possible. The Board will be more prone to entertain the appellant’s petition where the petition is filed early, obviating the necessity for an oral hearing or even for the setting of the oral hearing date. If the case has already been set for oral hearing, the petition should include a request to vacate the hearing date, not to postpone it.

In a situation where a withdrawal of the appeal is filed on the same day that the decision is mailed, a petition to vacate the decision will be denied.

See MPEP § 1214.01 concerning the procedure following a new ground of rejection by the Board under 37 CFR 41.50(b).

A remark by the Board that a certain feature does not appear in a claim is not to be taken as a statement that the claim may be allowed if the feature is supplied by amendment. Ex parte Norlund, 1913 C.D. 161, 192 O.G. 989 (Comm’r Pat. 1913). A remark by the Board shall not be construed by appellant to give appellant authority to amend the claim.

1213.01   [Reserved] [R-]

1213.02   New Grounds of Rejection by Board [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 41.50   Decisions and other actions by the Board.

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  • (b) New ground of rejection. Should the Board have knowledge of any grounds not involved in the appeal for rejecting any pending claim, it may include in its opinion a statement to that effect with its reasons for so holding, and designate such a statement as a new ground of rejection of the claim. A new ground of rejection pursuant to this paragraph shall not be considered final for judicial review. When the Board enters such a non-final decision, the appellant, within two months from the date of the decision, must exercise one of the following two options with respect to the new ground of rejection to avoid termination of the appeal as to the rejected claims:
    • (1) Reopen prosecution. Submit an appropriate amendment of the claims so rejected or new Evidence relating to the claims so rejected, or both, and have the matter reconsidered by the examiner, in which event the prosecution will be remanded to the examiner. The new ground of rejection is binding upon the examiner unless an amendment or new Evidence not previously of Record is made which, in the opinion of the examiner, overcomes the new ground of rejection designated in the decision. Should the examiner reject the claims, appellant may again appeal to the Board pursuant to this subpart.
    • (2) Request rehearing. Request that the proceeding be reheard under § 41.52 by the Board upon the same Record. The request for rehearing must address any new ground of rejection and state with particularity the points believed to have been misapprehended or overlooked in entering the new ground of rejection and also state all other grounds upon which rehearing is sought.

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  • (f) Extensions of time. Extensions of time under § 1.136(a) of this title for patent applications are not applicable to the time periods set forth in this section. See § 1.136(b) of this title for extensions of time to reply for patent applications and § 1.550(c) of this title for extensions of time to reply for ex parte reexamination proceedings.

Under 37 CFR 41.50(b), the Board may, in its decision, make a new rejection of one or more of any of the claims pending in the case, including claims which have been allowed by the examiner. When the Board exercises its authority to make a new ground of rejection it must also designate that rejection as a new ground of rejection.

The Board’s reversal of a rejection should not be interpreted as an instruction to the Examiner to allow the claims so rejected. See MPEP § 1214.04 for further discussion of the procedure following a reversal of the examiner’s decision. The Board’s primary role is to review the adverse decision as presented by the Examiner, and not to conduct its own separate examination of the claims. Further, since the exercise of authority under 37 CFR 41.50(b) is discretionary, no inference should be drawn from a failure to exercise that discretion.

While the Board is authorized to reject allowed claims, this authorization is not intended as an instruction to the Board to examine every allowed claim in every appealed application. It is, rather, intended to give the Board express authority to act when it becomes apparent, during the consideration of rejected claims, that one or more allowed claims may be subject to rejection on either the same or on different grounds from those applied against the rejected claims.

See MPEP § 1214.01 for the procedure following a new ground of rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(b).

1213.03   Publication of and Public Access to Board Decision [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 41.6   Public availability of Board records.

  • (a) Publication.
    • (1) Generally. Any Board action is available for public inspection without a party’s permission if rendered in a file open to the public pursuant to § 1.11 of this title or in an application that has been published in accordance with §§ 1.211 to 1.221 of this title. The Office may independently publish any Board action that is available for public inspection.
    • (2) Determination of special circumstances. Any Board action not publishable under paragraph (a)(1) of this section may be published or made available for public inspection if the Director believes that special circumstances warrant publication and a party does not, within two months after being notified of the intention to make the action public, object in writing on the ground that the action discloses the objecting party’s trade secret or other confidential information and states with specificity that such information is not otherwise publicly available. If the action discloses such information, the party shall identify the deletions in the text of the action considered necessary to protect the information. If the affected party considers that the entire action must be withheld from the public to protect such information, the party must explain why. The party will be given time, not less than twenty days, to request reconsideration and seek court review before any contested portion of the action is made public over its objection.
  • (b) Record of proceeding.
    • (1) The record of a Board proceeding is available to the public unless a patent application not otherwise available to the public is involved.
    • (2) Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(1) of this section, after a final Board action in or judgment in a Board proceeding, the record of the Board proceeding will be made available to the public if any involved file is or becomes open to the public under § 1.11 of this title or an involved application is or becomes published under §§ 1.211 to 1.221 of this title.
    • (2)

Any Board decision is available for public inspection without a party’s permission if rendered in a file open to the public pursuant to 37 CFR 1.11 or in an application that has been published in accordance with 37 CFR 1.211 through 1.221. The Office may independently publish any Board action that is available for public inspection.

Decisions of the Board which are open to the public are available in electronic form on the USPTO Web site (http://www.uspto.gov) in the FOIA reading room.

Any Board decision rendered in a file not open to the public pursuant to 37 CFR 1.11 or in an application that has not been published in accordance with 37 CFR 1.211 through 1.221 may be published or made available for public inspection under 37 CFR 41.6(a)(2) if the Director believes that special circumstances warrant publication.

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Last Modified: 03/27/2014 10:10:32