1450 Restriction and Election of Species Made in Reissue Application [R-11.2013]
37 CFR 1.176 Examination of reissue.
- (a) A reissue application will be examined in the same manner as a non-reissue, non-provisional application, and will be subject to all the requirements of the rules related to non-reissue applications. Applications for reissue will be acted on by the examiner in advance of other applications.
- (b) Restriction between subject matter of the original patent claims and previously unclaimed subject matter may be required (restriction involving only subject matter of the original patent claims will not be required). If restriction is required, the subject matter of the original patent claims will be held to be constructively elected unless a disclaimer of all the patent claims is filed in the reissue application, which disclaimer cannot be withdrawn by applicant.
37 CFR 1.176(b) permits the examiner to require restriction in a reissue application between claims newly added in a reissue application and the original patent claims, where the added claims are directed to an invention which is separate and distinct from the invention(s) defined by the original patent claims. The criteria for making a restriction requirement in a reissue application between the newly added claims and the original claims are the same as that applied in a non-reissue application. See MPEP §§ 806 through 806.05(i). The authority to make a "restriction" requirement under 37 CFR 1.176(b) extends to and includes the authority to make an election of species. For reissue applications of patents issued from a U.S. national stage application submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371, the "restriction" requirement should not be made under the PCT unity of invention standard as set forth in MPEP Chapter 1800, because a reissue application is filed under 35 U.S.C. 251, and not under 35 U.S.C. 371.
Where a restriction requirement is made by the examiner, the original patent claims will be held to be constructively elected (except for the limited situation where a disclaimer is filed as discussed in the next paragraph). Thus, the examiner will issue an Office action in the reissue application (1) providing notification of the restriction requirement, (2) holding the added claims to be constructively non-elected and withdrawn from consideration, (3) treating the original patent claims on the merits, and (4) informing applicant that if the original claims are found allowable, and a divisional application has been filed for the non-elected claims, further action in the application will be suspended, pending resolution of the divisional application.
If a disclaimer of all the original patent claims is filed in the reissue application containing newly added claims that are separate and distinct from the original patent claims, only the newly added claims will be present for examination. In this situation, the examiner’s Office action will treat the newly added claims in the reissue application on the merits. The disclaimer of all the original patent claims must be filed in the reissue application before the issuance of the examiner’s Office action containing the restriction requirement, in order for the newly added claims to be treated on the merits. Once the examiner has issued the Office action providing notification of the restriction requirement and treating the patent claims on the merits, it is too late to obtain an examination on the added claims in the reissue application by filing a disclaimer of all the original patent claims. If reissue applicant wishes to have the newly added claims be treated on the merits, a divisional reissue application must be filed to obtain examination of the added claims. Reissue applicants should carefully note that once a disclaimer of the patent claims is filed, it cannot be withdrawn. It does not matter whether the reissue application is still pending, or whether the reissue application has been abandoned or issued as a reissue patent. For all these situations, 37 CFR 1.176(b) states that the disclaimer cannot be withdrawn; the disclaimer will be given effect. Note that cancellation of all the original patent claims in the reissue application will not be effective as an alternative to disclaiming all the original patent claims, and 37 CFR 1.176(b) will not be waived to permit the same. This is because the patent owner can subsequently file a reissue continuation presenting the original patent claims.
Claims elected pursuant to a restriction requirement will receive a complete examination on the merits, while the non-elected claims (to any added invention(s)) will be held in abeyance in a withdrawn status, and will only be examined if filed in a divisional reissue application. If the reissue application containing only original unamended claims becomes allowable first (and no “error” under 35 U.S.C. 251 exists), further action in that reissue application will be suspended to await examination in the divisional reissue application(s) containing the added claims. Multiple suspensions (usually six-month periods) may be necessary. The Office will not permit claims to issue in a reissue application which application does not correct any error in the original patent. Once a divisional reissue application containing the added claims is examined and becomes allowable, the examiner will issue a requirement under 37 CFR 1.177(c) for applicant to merge the claims of the suspended first reissue application with the allowable claims of the divisional reissue application into a single application, by placing all of the claims in one of the applications and expressly abandoning the other. The Office action making this requirement will set a two-month period for compliance with the requirement. If applicant fails to timely respond to the Office action, or otherwise refuses to comply with the requirement made, then the divisional reissue application (claiming the invention which was non-elected in the now-suspended first reissue application) will be passed to issue alone, since the claims of the divisional reissue application, by themselves, do correct an error in the original patent. Prosecution will be reopened in the suspended first reissue application, and a rejection based on a lack of error under 35 U.S.C. 251 will then be made. This rejection may be made final, because applicant is on notice of the consequences of not complying with the merger requirement.
If no divisional reissue application was filed for the non-elected claims and the original unamended (elected) claims become allowable (and no “error” under 35 U.S.C. 251 exists), further action in that reissue application will be suspended, and a non-extendable three-month opportunity will be given (by way of a 3-month Notification) to the patent owner/applicant to file divisional reissue application(s) containing the non-elected claims. If a divisional reissue application is timely filed (i.e., within the three months), further suspensions (usually six-month periods) will be granted, as needed, to await examination in the divisional reissue application containing the added claims. If no such divisional reissue application is filed within the three-month period set in the Office communication suspending action in the reissue application, then a rejection based on a lack of error under 35 U.S.C. 251 will then be made in the sole reissue application. Because no error in the original patent is being corrected in the first reissue application, no reissue patent will issue. If a divisional reissue application is subsequently filed, it must be accompanied by a grantable petition (filed in the application having the elected claims) to waive the 37 CFR 1.103 provision that the Office will not suspend action if a reply by applicant to an Office action is outstanding.
If the divisional reissue application becomes abandoned, prosecution will be reopened in the suspended first reissue application, and a rejection based on a lack of error under 35 U.S.C. 251 will then be made in the first reissue application. Because no error in the original patent is being corrected in the first reissue application, no reissue patent will issue.
As stated in 37 CFR 1.176(b), the examiner is not permitted to require restriction among original claims of the patent (i.e., among claims that were in the patent before filing the reissue application). Even where the original patent contains claims to different inventions which the examiner considers independent or distinct, and the reissue application claims the same inventions, a restriction requirement would be improper. If such a restriction requirement is made, it must be withdrawn.
Restriction between multiple inventions recited in the newly added claims will be permitted provided the added claims are drawn to several separate and distinct inventions. In such a situation, the original patent claims would be examined in the first reissue application, and applicant is permitted to file a divisional reissue application for each of the several separate and distinct inventions identified in the examiner’s restriction requirement.
A situation will sometimes arise where the examiner makes an election of species requirement between the species claimed in the original patent claims and a species of claims added in the reissue application. (The filing of a reissue application to only add species claims that require all the limitations of an issued generic claim would not meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 251 – see MPEP § 1402; however, this situation can occur where there is another change to the patent being made, which does correct a 35 U.S.C. 251 "error." ) In such a situation, if (1) the non-elected claims to the added species depend from (or otherwise include all limitations of) a generic claim which embraces all species claims, and (2) the generic claim is found allowable, then the non-elected claims of the added species must be rejoined with the elected claims of the original patent. See MPEP § 821.04(a).