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2137    Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f) [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to examination under the first inventor to file (FITF) provisions of the AIA as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 100 (note). See MPEP § 2159 et seq. to determine whether an application is subject to examination under the FITF provisions, and MPEP § 2150 et seq. for examination of applications subject to those provisions. For information pertaining to derivation proceedings see 37 CFR 42.401.]

Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102   Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent.

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless -

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  • (f) he did not himself invent the subject matter sought to be patented.

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Where it can be shown that an applicant “derived” an invention from another, a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f) is proper. Ex parte Kusko, 215 USPQ 972, 974 (Bd. App. 1981) (“most, if not all, determinations under section 102(f) involve the question of whether one party derived an invention from another”).

While derivation will bar the issuance of a patent to the deriver, a disclosure by the deriver, absent a bar under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b), will not bar the issuance of a patent to the party from which the subject matter was derived. In re Costello, 717 F.2d 1346, 1349, 219 USPQ 389, 390-91 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (“[a] prior art reference that is not a statutory bar may be overcome [in an application subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102] by two generally recognized methods”: an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.131, or an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.132 “showing that the relevant disclosure is a description of the applicant’s own work”); In re Facius, 408 F.2d 1396, 1407, 161 USPQ 294, 302 (CCPA 1969) (subject matter incorporated into a patent that was brought to the attention of the patentee by applicant, and hence derived by the patentee from the applicant, is available for use against applicant unless applicant had actually invented the subject matter placed in the patent).

Where there is a published article identifying the authorship (MPEP § 715.01(c)) or a patent identifying the inventorship (MPEP § 715.01(a)) that discloses subject matter being claimed in an application undergoing examination, the designation of authorship or inventorship does not raise a presumption of inventorship with respect to the subject matter disclosed in the article or with respect to the subject matter disclosed but not claimed in the patent so as to justify a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f). However, it is incumbent upon the inventors named in the application, in reply to an inquiry regarding the appropriate inventorship under pre-AIA subsection (f), or to rebut a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (e), to provide a satisfactory showing by way of affidavit under 37 CFR 1.132 that the inventorship of the application is correct in that the reference discloses subject matter invented by the applicant rather than derived from the author or patentee notwithstanding the authorship of the article or the inventorship of the patent. In re Katz, 687 F.2d 450, 455, 215 USPQ 14, 18 (CCPA 1982) (inquiry is appropriate to clarify any ambiguity created by an article regarding inventorship, and it is then incumbent upon the applicant to provide “a satisfactory showing that would lead to a reasonable conclusion that [applicant] is the…inventor” of the subject matter disclosed in the article and claimed in the application).

I.   DERIVATION REQUIRES COMPLETE CONCEPTION BY ANOTHER AND COMMUNICATION TO THE ALLEGED DERIVER

“The mere fact that a claim recites the use of various components, each of which can be argumentatively assumed to be old, does not provide a proper basis for a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f).” Ex parte Billottet, 192 USPQ 413, 415 (Bd. App. 1976). Derivation requires complete conception by another and communication of that conception by any means to the party charged with derivation prior to any date on which it can be shown that the one charged with derivation possessed knowledge of the invention. Kilbey v. Thiele, 199 USPQ 290, 294 (Bd. Pat. Inter. 1978).

See also Price v. Symsek, 988 F.2d 1187, 1190, 26 USPQ2d 1031, 1033 (Fed. Cir. 1993); Hedgewick v. Akers, 497 F.2d 905, 908, 182 USPQ 167, 169 (CCPA 1974). “Communication of a complete conception must be sufficient to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to construct and successfully operate the invention.” Hedgewick, 497 F.2d at 908, 182 USPQ at 169. See also Gambro Lundia AB v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 110 F.3d 1573, 1577, 42 USPQ2d 1378, 1383 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (Issue in proving derivation is “whether the communication enabled one of ordinary skill in the art to make the patented invention.”).

II.   PARTY ALLEGING DERIVATION DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVE AN ACTUAL REDUCTION TO PRACTICE, DERIVATION OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE, OR DERIVATION IN THIS COUNTRY

The party alleging derivation “need not prove an actual reduction to practice in order to show derivation.” Scott v. Brandenburger, 216 USPQ 326, 327 (Bd. App. 1982). Furthermore, the application of subsection (f) is not limited to public knowledge derived from another, and “the site of derivation need not be in this country to bar a deriver from patenting the subject matter.” Ex parte Andresen, 212 USPQ 100, 102 (Bd. App. 1981).

III.   DERIVATION DISTINGUISHED FROM PRIORITY OF INVENTION

Although derivation and priority of invention both focus on inventorship, derivation addresses originality (i.e., who invented the subject matter), whereas priority focuses on which party first invented the subject matter. Price v. Symsek, 988 F.2d 1187, 1190, 26 USPQ2d 1031, 1033 (Fed. Cir. 1993).

IV.   Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f) MAY APPLY WHERE Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) AND Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) ARE NOT AVAILABLE STATUTORY GROUNDS FOR REJECTION

Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f) does not require an inquiry into the relative dates of a reference and the application, and therefore may be applicable where pre-AIA subsections (a) and (e) are not available for references having an effective date subsequent to the effective date of the application being examined. However for a reference having a date later than the date of the application some evidence may exist that the subject matter of the reference was derived from the applicant in view of the relative dates. Ex parte Kusko, 215 USPQ 972, 974 (Bd. App. 1981) (The relative dates of the events are important in determining derivation; a publication dated more than a year after applicant’s filing date that merely lists as literary coauthors individuals other than applicant is not the strong evidence needed to rebut a declaration by the applicant that he is the sole inventor.).

2137.01   Inventorship [R-11.2013]

The requirements that the applicant for a patent in an application filed before September 16, 2012 be the inventor, and that the inventors be identified in applications filed on or after September 16, 2012, are characteristics of U.S. patent law not generally shared by other countries. Consequently, foreign applicants may misunderstand U.S. law regarding naming of the actual inventors causing an error in the inventorship of a U.S. application that may claim priority to a previous foreign application under 35 U.S.C. 119. A request under 37 CFR 1.48 is required to correct any error in naming the inventors in the U.S. application as filed. See MPEP § 201.03. Foreign applicants may need to be reminded of the requirement for the same inventor or at least one common joint inventor between a U.S. application and a 35 U.S.C. 119 priority application. See MPEP § 213.02, subsection II.

If a determination is made that the inventive entity named in a U.S. application is not correct, such as when a request under 37 CFR 1.48(a) is not granted or is not entered for technical reasons, but the admission therein regarding the error in inventorship is uncontroverted, a rejection should be made on this basis. For applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA (see 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159et seq.), the claims should be rejected under 35 U.S.C. 101 and 35 U.S.C. 115 for failing to set forth the correct inventorship (see MPEP § 2157); for applications not subject to the first inventor to file provisions, the claims should be rejected under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f).

I.   NAMING INVENTORSHIP

The inventor, or each individual who is a joint inventor of a claimed invention, in an application for patent (other than a provisional application) must execute an oath or declaration directed to the application, except as provided for in 37 CFR 1.64. See MPEP § 602.01(a) for the requirements of an inventor’s oath or declaration in an application filed on or after September 16, 2012. See MPEP § 602.01(b) for the requirements of an original oath or declaration in an application filed before September 16, 2012.

For applications filed before September 16, 2012, pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.41(a)(1) defines the inventorship of a nonprovisional application as that inventorship set forth in the oath or declaration filed to comply with the requirements of pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63, except as otherwise provided. Thus the party or parties executing an oath or declaration under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63 are presumed to be the inventors. Driscoll v. Cebalo, 5 USPQ2d 1477, 1481 (Bd. Pat. Inter. 1982); In re DeBaun, 687 F.2d 459, 463, 214 USPQ 933, 936 (CCPA 1982) (The inventor of an element, per se, and the inventor of that element as used in a combination may differ. “The existence of combination claims does not evidence inventorship by the patentee of the individual elements or subcombinations thereof if the latter are not separately claimed apart from the combination.” (quoting In re Facius, 408 F.2d 1396, 1406, 161 USPQ 294, 301 (CCPA 1969) (emphasis in original)); Brader v. Schaeffer, 193 USPQ 627, 631 (Bd. Pat. Inter. 1976) (in regard to an inventorship correction: “[a]s between inventors their word is normally taken as to who are the actual inventors” when there is no disagreement).

II.   AN INVENTOR MUST CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONCEPTION OF THE INVENTION

The definition for inventorship can be simply stated: “The threshold question in determining inventorship is who conceived the invention. Unless a person contributes to the conception of the invention, he is not an inventor. … Insofar as defining an inventor is concerned, reduction to practice, per se, is irrelevant [except for simultaneous conception and reduction to practice, Fiers v. Revel, 984 F.2d 1164, 1168, 25 USPQ2d 1601, 1604-05 (Fed. Cir. 1993)]. One must contribute to the conception to be an inventor.” In re Hardee, 223 USPQ 1122, 1123 (Comm’r Pat. 1984). See also Board of Education ex rel. Board of Trustees of Florida State Univ. v. American Bioscience Inc., 333 F.3d 1330, 1340, 67 USPQ2d 1252, 1259 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“Invention requires conception.” With regard to the inventorship of chemical compounds, an inventor must have a conception of the specific compounds being claimed. “[G]eneral knowledge regarding the anticipated biological properties of groups of complex chemical compounds is insufficient to confer inventorship status with respect to specifically claimed compounds.”); Ex parte Smernoff, 215 USPQ 545, 547 (Bd. App. 1982) (“one who suggests an idea of a result to be accomplished, rather than the means of accomplishing it, is not an coinventor”). See MPEP § 2138.04 - § 2138.05 for a discussion of what evidence is required to establish conception or reduction to practice.

III.   AS LONG AS THE INVENTOR MAINTAINS INTELLECTUAL DOMINATION OVER MAKING THE INVENTION, IDEAS, SUGGESTIONS, AND MATERIALS MAY BE ADOPTED FROM OTHERS

“In arriving at … conception [the inventor] may consider and adopt ideas and materials derived from many sources … [such as] a suggestion from an employee, or hired consultant … so long as he maintains intellectual domination of the work of making the invention down to the successful testing, selecting or rejecting as he goes…even if such suggestion [or material] proves to be the key that unlocks his problem.” Morsev.Porter, 155 USPQ 280, 283 (Bd. Pat. Inter. 1965). See also New England Braiding Co.v.A.W. Chesterton Co., 970 F.2d 878, 883, 23 USPQ2d 1622, 1626 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (Adoption of the ideas and materials from another can become a derivation.).

IV.   THE INVENTOR IS NOT REQUIRED TO REDUCE THE INVENTION TO PRACTICE

Difficulties arise in separating members of a team effort, where each member of the team has contributed something, into those members that actually contributed to the conception of the invention, such as the physical structure or operative steps, from those members that merely acted under the direction and supervision of the conceivers. Fritsch v. Lin, 21 USPQ2d 1737, 1739 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1991) (The inventor “took no part in developing the procedures…for expressing the EPO gene in mammalian host cells and isolating the resulting EPO product.” However, “it is not essential for the inventor to be personally involved in carrying out process steps…where implementation of those steps does not require the exercise of inventive skill.”); In re DeBaun, 687 F.2d 459, 463, 214 USPQ 933, 936 (CCPA 1982) (“there is no requirement that the inventor be the one to reduce the invention to practice so long as the reduction to practice was done on his behalf”).

See also Mattorv.Coolegem, 530 F.2d 1391, 1395, 189 USPQ 201, 204 (CCPA 1976) (one following oral instructions is viewed as merely a technician); Tucker v. Naito, 188 USPQ 260, 263 (Bd. Pat. Inter. 1975) (inventors need not “personally construct and test their invention”); Davisv.Carrier, 81 F.2d 250, 252, 28 USPQ 227, 229 (CCPA 1936) (noninventor’s work was merely that of a skilled mechanic carrying out the details of a plan devised by another).

V.   REQUIREMENTS FOR JOINT INVENTORSHIP

The inventive entity for a particular application is based on some contribution to at least one of the claims made by each of the named inventors. “Inventors may apply for a patent jointly even though (1) they did not physically work together or at the same time, (2) each did not make the same type or amount of contribution, or (3) each did not make a contribution to the subject matter of every claim of the patent.” 35 U.S.C. 116. “[T]he statute neither states nor implies that two inventors can be ‘joint inventors’ if they have had no contact whatsoever and are completely unaware of each other's work.” What is required is some “quantum of collaboration or connection.” In other words, “[f]or persons to be joint inventors under Section 116, there must be some element of joint behavior, such as collaboration or working under common direction, one inventor seeing a relevant report and building upon it or hearing another’s suggestion at a meeting.” Kimberly-Clark Corp.v.Procter & Gamble Distrib. Co., 973 F.2d 911, 916-17, 23 USPQ2d 1921, 1925-26 (Fed. Cir. 1992); Moler v. Purdy, 131 USPQ 276, 279 (Bd. Pat. Inter. 1960) (“it is not necessary that the inventive concept come to both [joint inventors] at the same time”).

Each joint inventor must generally contribute to the conception of the invention. A coinventor need not make a contribution to every claim of a patent. A contribution to one claim is enough. “The contributor of any disclosed means of a means-plus-function claim element is a joint inventor as to that claim, unless one asserting sole inventorship can show that the contribution of that means was simply a reduction to practice of the sole inventor’s broader concept.” Ethicon Inc. v. United States Surgical Corp., 135 F.3d 1456, 1460-63, 45 USPQ2d 1545, 1548-1551 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (The electronics technician who contributed to one of the two alternative structures in the specification to define “the means for detaining” in a claim limitation was held to be a joint inventor.).

2137.02   Applicability of Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c) [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to examination under the first inventor to file (FITF) provisions of the AIA as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 100 (note). See MPEP § 2159 et seq. to determine whether an application is subject to examination under the FITF provisions, and MPEP § 2150 et seq. for examination of applications subject to those provisions.]

Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c) states that subsection (f) of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 will not preclude patentability where subject matter developed by another person, that would otherwise qualify under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f), and the claimed invention of an application under examination were owned by the same person, subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person, or involved in a joint research agreement, which meets the requirements of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) and (c)(3), at the time the invention was made. See MPEP § 706.02(l) and § 2146.

Inventorship is generally “by another” where there are different inventive entities with at least one inventor in common. For case law relating to inventorship by “another” involving different inventive entities with at least one inventor in common see Ex parte DesOrmeaux, 25 USPQ2d 2040 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1992) (the presence of a common inventor in a reference patent and a pending application does not preclude the determination that the reference inventive entity is to “another” within the meaning of [pre-AIA] 35 U.S.C. 102(e)) and the discussion of prior art available under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) in MPEP § 2136.04.

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Last Modified: 03/27/2014 10:10:33