uspto.gov
Skip over navigation

1875    Unity of Invention Before the International Preliminary Examining Authority [R-08.2012]

PCT Article 34

Procedure before the International Preliminary Examining Authority

*****

  • (3)
    • (a) If the International Preliminary Examining Authority considers that the international application does not comply with the requirement of unity of invention as set forth in the Regulations, it may invite the applicant, at his option, to restrict the claims so as to comply with the requirement or to pay additional fees.

*****

  • (c) If the applicant does not comply with the invitation referred to in subparagraph (a) within the prescribed time limit, the International Preliminary Examining Authority shall establish an international preliminary examination report on those parts of the international application which relate to what appears to be the main invention and shall indicate the relevant facts in the said report. The national law of any elected State may provide that, where its national Office finds the invitation of the International Preliminary Examining Authority justified, those parts of the international application which do not relate to the main invention shall, as far as effects in that State are concerned, be considered withdrawn unless a special fee is paid by the applicant to that Office.

*****

37 C.F.R. 1.488  Determination of unity of invention before the International Preliminary Examining Authority.

  • (a) Before establishing any written opinion or the international preliminary examination report, the International Preliminary Examining Authority will determine whether the international application complies with the requirement of unity of invention as set forth in § 1.475 .
  • (b) If the International Preliminary Examining Authority considers that the international application does not comply with the requirement of unity of invention, it may:
    • (1) Issue a written opinion and/or an international preliminary examination report, in respect of the entire international application and indicate that unity of invention is lacking and specify the reasons therefor without extending an invitation to restrict or pay additional fees. No international preliminary examination will be conducted on inventions not previously searched by an International Searching Authority.
    • (2) Invite the applicant to restrict the claims or pay additional fees, pointing out the categories of invention found, within a set time limit which will not be extended. No international preliminary examination will be conducted on inventions not previously searched by an International Searching Authority, or
    • (3) If applicant fails to restrict the claims or pay additional fees within the time limit set for reply, the International Preliminary Examining Authority will issue a written opinion and/or establish an international preliminary examination report on the main invention and shall indicate the relevant facts in the said report. In case of any doubt as to which invention is the main invention, the invention first mentioned in the claims and previously searched by an International Searching Authority shall be considered the main invention.
  • (c) Lack of unity of invention may be directly evident before considering the claims in relation to any prior art, or after taking the prior art into consideration, as where a document discovered during the search shows the invention claimed in a generic or linking claim lacks novelty or is clearly obvious, leaving two or more claims joined thereby without a common inventive concept. In such a case the International Preliminary Examining Authority may raise the objection of lack of unity of invention.

The examiner will usually begin the preliminary examination by checking the international application for unity of invention. The international preliminary examination will only be directed to inventions which have been searched by the International Searching Authority. All claims directed to inventions which have not been searched by the International Searching Authority will not be considered by the International Preliminary Examining Authority. If the examiner in the International Preliminary Examining Authority finds lack of unity of invention in the claims to be examined, an invitation is normally prepared and sent to the applicant requesting the payment of additional fees or the restriction of the claims on Form PCT/IPEA/405. Such an invitation will include the identification of what the examiner considers to be the “main invention” which will be examined if no additional fees are paid or restriction is made by the applicant.

The procedure before the International Preliminary Examining Authority regarding lack of unity of invention is governed by PCT Article 34(3)(a) through (c), PCT Rule 68 (see also PCT Rule 70.13 ), and 37 CFR 1.475 and 1.488. It should be noted that in most instances lack of unity of invention will have been noted and reported upon by the International Searching Authority which will have drawn up an international search report (and for international applications having a filing date on or after January 1, 2004, a written opinion) based on those parts of the international application relating to the invention, or unified linked group of inventions, first mentioned in the claims (“main invention”) , unless the applicant has paid additional fees . If the applicant has paid additional search fees, additional inventions would also have been searched. No international preliminary examination will be conducted on inventions not previously searched by an International Searching Authority ( 37 CFR 1.488(b) (2)).

If the examiner determines that unity of invention is lacking, there are two options:

  • (A) The examiner may conduct an international preliminary examination covering all the claimed and previously searched inventions and indicate that unity of invention is lacking and specify the reasons therefor without extending an invitation to restrict or pay additional fees ( PCT Rule 68.1 ), or
  • (B) The examiner may invite the applicant to restrict the claims, so as to comply with the requirement, or pay additional fees, pointing out the categories of invention found using Form PCT/IPEA/405 or USPTO/499 (telephone practice). See MPEP § 1875.01 . The invitation to restrict or pay additional fees shall state the reasons for which the international application is considered as not complying with the requirement of unity of invention. ( PCT Rule 68.2 ). Inventions not previously searched will not be considered or included in the invitation.

The written opinion, if any, and the international preliminary examination report must be established on all inventions for which examination fees have been paid.

If the applicant fails to reply to the invitation to restrict the claims or pay additional examination fees due to lack of unity of invention (by not paying the additional fees or by not restricting the claims either sufficiently or at all) , the written opinion , if any, and international preliminary examination report must be established on the claims directed to what appears to be the main invention ( PCT Article 34(3)(c) ). The main invention, in case of doubt, is the first claimed invention for which an international search report has been issued by the International Searching Authority. The main invention, as viewed by the examiner, must be set forth on Form PCT/IPEA/405.

If the applicant timely complies with the invitation to pay additional fees even under protest, or to restrict the claims, the examiner carries out international preliminary examination on those claimed inventions for which additional fees have been paid or to which the claims have been restricted. It should be noted that the national law of any elected State may provide that, where its national Office finds the invitation of the International Preliminary Examining Authority justified, those parts of the international application which do not relate to the main invention shall, as far as effects in that State are concerned, be considered withdrawn unless a special fee is paid by the applicant to that Office (PCT Article 34(3)(c) ). Whether or not the question of unity of invention has been raised by the International Searching Authority, it may be considered by the examiner when serving as an authorized officer of the International Preliminary Examining Authority. In the examiner’s consideration, all documents cited by the International Searching Authority should be taken into account and any additional relevant documents considered. However, there are cases of lack of unity of invention, where, compared with the procedure of inviting the applicant to restrict the international application or pay additional fees ( PCT Rule 68.2 ), little or no additional effort is involved in establishing the written opinion , if any, and the international preliminary examination report for the entire international application. Then reasons of economy may make it advisable for the examiner to use the option referred to in PCT Rule 68.1 by choosing not to invite the applicant to restrict the claims or to pay additional fees.

Unity of invention is defined by 37 CFR 1.475 which describes the circumstances in which the requirement of unity of invention is considered fulfilled.

1875.01   Preparation of Invitation Concerning Unity [R-08.2012]

The “Invitation to restrict or pay additional fees” Form PCT/IPEA/405 is used to invite the applicant, at his/her option, to restrict the claims to comply with the requirements of unity of invention or to pay additional examination fees. In addition, the examiner must explain the reasons why the international application is not considered to comply with the requirement of unity of invention. The examiner must also specify, on Form PCT/IPEA/405, at least one group or groups of claims which, if elected, would comply with the requirement for unity of invention.

I.    INVITATION TO RESTRICT OR PAY ADDITIONAL FEES

In the space provided on form PCT/IPEA/405, the examiner should identify the disclosed inventions by claim numerals and indicate which disclosed inventions are so linked as to form a single general inventive concept, thereby complying with the requirement of unity of invention. For example, claims to different categories of invention such as a product, claims to a process specifically adapted for the manufacture of the product and a claim for a use of the product would be considered related inventions which comply with the unity of invention requirement, whereas a claim to an apparatus for making the product in the same application would be considered a second invention for which additional fees would be required. The reasons for holding that unity of invention is lacking must be specified. See 37 CFR 1.475 and Chapter 10 of the International Search and Preliminary Examination Guidelines which can be obtained from WIPO’s web site (www.wipo.int/pct/en/texts/gdlines.htm).

Also, the examiner should specify the main invention and claims directed thereto which will be examined if the applicant fails to restrict or pay additional fees. The main invention, in case of doubt, is the first claimed invention or related invention before the International Preliminary Examining Authority for which a search fee has been paid and an international search report has been prepared.

The examiner should indicate the total amount of additional fees required for examination of all claimed inventions.

In the box provided at the top of the form, the time limit of one month for response is set according to PCT Rule 68.2 . Extensions of time are not permitted.

Since the space provided on Form PCT/IPEA/405 is limited, supplemental attachment sheets, supplied by the examiner, with reference back to the specific section, should be incorporated whenever necessary.

II.    AUTHORIZED OFFICER

Form PCT/IPEA/405 must be signed by an examiner with at least partial signatory authority.

III.    TELEPHONIC RESTRICTION PRACTICE

Telephone practice may be used to allow applicants to elect an invention to be examined or to pay additional fees if:

  • (A) Applicant or applicant’s legal representative has a USPTO deposit account,
  • (B) Applicant or the legal representative or agent orally agrees to charge the additional fees to the account, and
  • (C) A complete record of the telephone conversation is included with the written opinion, if any, or the international preliminary examination report, including:
    • (1) Examiner’s name;
    • (2) Authorizing attorney’s name;
    • (3) Date of conversation;
    • (4) Invention elected and/or inventions for which additional fees paid; and
    • (5) Deposit account number and amount to be charged.

When the telephone practice is used in making lack of unity requirements, it is critical that the examiner orally inform applicant that there is no right to protest the holding of lack of unity of invention for any group of invention(s) for which no additional examination fee has been paid.

The examiner must further orally advise applicant that any protest to the holding of lack of unity or the amount of additional fee required must be filed in writing no later than one month from the mailing date of the written opinion or the international preliminary examination report if the lack of unity holding is first mailed with the IPER because there was no written opinion. The examiner should fill in the information on Form USPTO/499 “Chapter II PCT Telephone Memorandum for Lack of Unity” as a record of the telephonic holding of lack of unity.

If applicant refuses to either restrict the claims to one invention or authorize payment of additional fees, or if applicant does not have a deposit account, Form PCT/IPEA/405 should be prepared and mailed to applicant.

If a written invitation is required, the examiner should, if possible, submit that written invitation to the TC for review and mailing within 7 days from the date the international application is charged to the examiner.

See MPEP § 1850 for form paragraphs for lack of unity in international applications.

1875.02   Reply to Invitation Concerning Lack of Unity of Invention [R-08.2012]

PCT Administrative Instruction Section 603

Transmittal of Protest Against Payment of Additional Fees and Decision Thereon Where International Application Is Considered to Lack Unity of Invention

The International Preliminary Examining Authority shall transmit to the applicant, preferably at the latest together with the international preliminary examination report, any decision which it has taken under Rule 68.3 (c) on the protest of the applicant against payment of additional fees where the international application is considered to lack unity of invention. At the same time, it shall transmit to the International Bureau a copy of both the protest and the decision thereon, as well as any request by the applicant to forward the texts of both the protest and the decision thereon to the elected Offices.

37 C.F.R. 1.489  Protest to lack of unity of invention before the International Preliminary Examining Authority.

  • (a) If the applicant disagrees with the holding of lack of unity of invention by the International Preliminary Examining Authority, additional fees may be paid under protest, accompanied by a request for refund and a statement setting forth reasons for disagreement or why the required additional fees are considered excessive, or both.
  • (b) Protest under paragraph (a) of this section will be examined by the Director or the Director’s designee. In the event that the applicant’s protest is determined to be justified, the additional fees or a portion thereof will be refunded.
  • (c) An applicant who desires that a copy of the protest and the decision thereon accompany the international preliminary examination report when forwarded to the Elected Offices, may notify the International Preliminary Examining Authority to that effect any time prior to the issuance of the international preliminary examination report. Thereafter, such notification should be directed to the International Bureau.

Applicant may reply by paying some or all additional fees or by restricting the claims to one invention. If applicant makes no reply within the set time limit, the international preliminary examination will proceed on the basis of the main invention only.

If applicant has paid an additional fee or fees, a protest to the holding of lack of unity of invention may be filed with the International Preliminary Examining Authority.

I.    NOTIFICATION OF DECISION ON PROTEST

Form PCT/IPEA/420 is used by the Technology Center (TC) to inform the applicant of the decision regarding applicant’s protest on the payment of additional fees concerning unity of invention.

II.    NOTIFICATION

The TC checks the appropriate box, i.e., 1 or 2. If box 2 is checked, a clear and concise explanation as to why the protest concerning the unity of invention was found to be unjustified must be given.

Since the space is limited, supplemental attachment sheet(s) should be incorporated whenever necessary.

III.    AUTHORIZED OFFICER

Form PCT/IPEA/420 must be signed by a TC Director. See MPEP § 1002.02(c), item (2) .

[top]

 

United States Patent and Trademark Office
This page is owned by Patents.
Last Modified: 03/27/2014 10:10:33