216 Entitlement to Priority [R-11.2013]
When the claim to priority and the certified copy of the foreign application are received while the application is pending before the examiner, the examiner generally makes no examination of the papers except to see that they contain no obvious formal defects and correspond in number, date and country to the application identified in the application data sheet for an application filed on or after September 16, 2012, or oath or declaration for an application filed prior to September 16, 2012. In addition, for original applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) (other than design applications), the examiner should make sure that the claim for foreign priority is timely. Examiners may use form paragraph 2.21.01 to notify applicant that the foreign priority claim is untimely. See also MPEP § 214.03.
The subject matter of the application is not examined to determine whether the applicant is actually entitled to the benefit of the foreign filing date on the basis of the disclosure thereof. The only times during ex parte prosecution that the examiner considers the merits of an applicant’s claim of priority is when a reference is found with an effective date between the date of the foreign filing and the date of filing in the United States and when an interference situation is under consideration. If at the time of making an action the examiner has found such an intervening reference, he or she simply rejects whatever claims may be considered unpatentable thereover, without paying any attention to the priority date (assuming the certified copy of the priority papers has not yet been filed). The applicant in his or her reply may argue the rejection if it is of such a nature that it can be argued, or present the foreign papers for the purpose of overcoming the date of the reference. If the applicant argues the reference, the examiner, in the next action in the application, may specifically require the foreign papers to be filed in addition to repeating the rejection if it is still considered applicable, or he or she may merely continue the rejection.
Form paragraph 2.19 may be used in this instance.
¶ 2.19 Overcome Rejection by Translation
Applicant cannot rely upon the certified copy of the foreign priority application to overcome this rejection because a translation of said application has not been made of record in accordance with 37 CFR 1.55. See MPEP § 201.15.
This paragraph should follow a rejection based on an intervening reference.
In those cases where the applicant files the certified copy of the foreign application for the purpose of overcoming the effective date of a reference, a translation is required if the certified copy is not in the English language. When the examiner requires the filing of the certified copy, the translation should also be required at the same time. This translation must be filed together with a statement that the translation of the certified copy is accurate. When the necessary certified copy and translation are filed to overcome the date of the reference, the examiner’s action, if he or she determines that the applicant is not entitled to the priority date, is to repeat the rejection on the reference, stating the reasons why the applicant is not considered entitled to the date. If it is determined that the applicant is entitled to the date, the rejection is withdrawn in view of the priority date.
If the certified copy, and translation if necessary, is already in the file when the examiner finds a reference with the intervening effective date, the examiner will study the certified copy, if it is in the English language, to determine if the applicant is entitled to the priority date. If the applicant is found to be entitled to the priority date, the reference is not relied upon as prior art, but may be cited to applicant on form PTO-892. If the applicant is found not entitled to the date, the unpatentable claims are rejected on the reference with an explanation. If the certified copy is not in the English language and there is no translation, the examiner may reject the unpatentable claims and at the same time require an English translation for the purpose of determining the applicant’s right to rely on the foreign filing date.
The foreign application may have been filed by and in the name of the assignee or legal representative or agent of the inventor, as applicant. In such cases, if the certified copy of the foreign application corresponds with the one identified in the oath or declaration as required by 37 CFR 1.63 (for an application filed prior to September 16, 2012) or an application data sheet and no discrepancies appear, it may be assumed that the inventors are entitled to the claim for priority. If there is disagreement as to inventors on the certified copy, the priority date should be refused until the inconsistency or disagreement is resolved.
The most important aspect of the examiner’s action pertaining to a right of priority is the determination of the identity of invention between the U.S. and the foreign applications. The foreign application may be considered in the same manner as if it had been filed in this country on the same date that it was filed in the foreign country, and the applicant is ordinarily entitled to any claims based on such foreign application that he or she would be entitled to under our laws and practice. The foreign application must be examined for the question of sufficiency of the disclosure under 35 U.S.C. 112, as well as to determine if there is a basis for the claims sought.
In applications filed from the United Kingdom there may be submitted a certified copy of the “provisional specification,” which may also in some cases be accompanied by a copy of the “complete specification.” The nature and function of the United Kingdom provisional specification is described in an article in the Journal of the Patent Office Society of November 1936, pages 770-774. According to United Kingdom law the provisional specification need not contain a complete disclosure of the invention in the sense of 35 U.S.C. 112, but need only describe the general nature of the invention, and neither claims nor drawings are required. Consequently, in considering such provisional specifications, the question of completeness of disclosure is important. If it is found that the United Kingdom provisional specification is insufficient for lack of disclosure, reliance may then be had on the complete specification and its date, if one has been presented, the complete specification then being treated as a different application and disregarded as to the requirement to file within 1 year. In some instances, the specification and drawing of the foreign application may have been filed at a date subsequent to the filing of the petition in the foreign country. Even though the petition is called the application and the filing date of this petition is the filing date of the application in a particular country, the date accorded here is the date on which the specification and drawing were filed.
It may occasionally happen that the U.S. application will be found entitled to the filing date of the foreign application with respect to some claims and not with respect to others. Occasionally an applicant may rely on two or more different foreign applications and may be entitled to the filing date of one of them with respect to certain claims and to another with respect to other claims.
216.01 Using Certificate of Correction to Perfect Claim for Priority Under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) or (f) [R-11.2013]
35 U.S.C. 119 Benefit of Earlier Filing Date; Right of Priority.
- (1) No application for patent shall be entitled to this right of priority unless a claim is filed in the Patent and Trademark Office, identifying the foreign application by specifying the application number on that foreign application, the intellectual property authority or country in or for which the application was filed, and the date of filing the application, at such time during the pendency of the application as required by the Director.
- (2) The Director may consider the failure of the applicant to file a timely claim for priority as a waiver of any such claim. The Director may establish procedures, including the payment of a surcharge, to accept an unintentionally delayed claim under this section.
- (3) The Director may require a certified copy of the original foreign application, specification, and drawings upon which it is based, a translation if not in the English language, and such other information as the Director considers necessary. Any such certification shall be made by the foreign intellectual property authority in which the foreign application was filed and show the date of the application and of the filing of the specification and other papers.
The failure to perfect a claim to foreign priority benefit prior to issuance of the patent may be cured by filing a reissue application. Brenner v. State of Israel, 400 F.2d 789, 158 USPQ 584 (D.C. Cir. 1968).
However, under certain conditions, this failure may also be cured by filing a certificate of correction request under 35 U.S.C. 255 and 37 CFR 1.323. For example, applicants are required to submit the certified copy of the foreign application before the patent is granted. If the claim for priority or the certified copy of the foreign application is filed after the date the issue fee is paid, it must be accompanied by the processing fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(i), but the patent will not include the priority claim unless corrected by a certificate of correction under 35 U.S.C. 255 and 37 CFR 1.323. See 37 CFR 1.55. As another example, in In re Van Esdonk, 187 USPQ 671 (Comm’r Pat. 1975), the Commissioner granted a request to issue a certificate of correction in order to perfect a claim to foreign priority benefits. In that case, a claim to foreign priority benefits had not been filed in the application prior to issuance of the patent. However, the application was a continuation of an earlier application in which the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) or (f) had been satisfied. Accordingly, the Commissioner held that the “applicants’ perfection of a priority claim under 35 U.S.C. 119 in the parent application will satisfy the statute with respect to their continuation application.”
Although In re Van Esdonk involved the patent of a continuation application filed under former 37 CFR 1.60, it is proper to apply the holding of that case in similar factual circumstances to any patented application having benefits under 35 U.S.C. 120. This is primarily because a claim to foreign priority benefits in a continuing application, where the claim has been perfected in the parent application, constitutes in essence a mere affirmation of the applicant’s previously expressed desire to receive benefits under 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) or (f) for subject matter common to the foreign, parent, and continuing applications.
In summary, a certificate of correction under 35 U.S.C. 255 and 37 CFR 1.323 may be requested and issued in order to perfect a claim for foreign priority benefit in a patented application if the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) or (f) had been satisfied in the patented application or in a parent application prior to issuance of the patent and the requirements of 37 CFR 1.55 are met. If the continuing application which issued as a patent is other than a design application, in addition to the filing of a certificate of correction request, patentee must also file a petition for an unintentionally delayed foreign priority claim under 37 CFR 1.55 along with the surcharge as set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(t) when necessary. However, a claim to foreign priority benefits cannot be perfected via a certificate of correction if the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 119(a)-(d) or (f) had not been satisfied in the patented application, or its parent, prior to issuance and the requirements of 37 CFR 1.55 are not met. In this latter circumstance, the claim to foreign priority benefits can be perfected only by way of a reissue application in accordance with the rationale set forth in Brenner v. State of Israel, 158 USPQ 584.