2203 Persons Who May Cite Prior Art [R-7]
The patent owner, or any member of the public, may submit prior art citations of patents or printed publications to the Office. 35 U.S.C. 301 states that “Any person at any time may cite to the Office. . . .”
“Any person” may be a corporate or governmental entity as well as an individual.
If a person citing prior art desires his or her identity to be kept confidential, such a person need not identify himself or herself.
“Any person” includes patentees, licensees, reexamination requesters, real parties in interest > to the patent owner or requester < , persons without a real interest, and persons acting for real parties in interest without a need to identify the real party of interest.
The statute indicates that “at the written request of the person citing the prior art, his or her identity will be excluded from the patent file and kept confidential”. Although an attempt will be made to exclude any such written request from the public files, since the review will be mainly clerical in nature, complete assurance of such exclusion cannot be given. Persons citing art who desire to remain confidential are therefore advised to not identify themselves anywhere in their papers.
Confidential citations should include at least an unsigned statement indicating that the patent owner has been sent a copy of the citation papers. In the event that it is not possible to serve a copy on the patent owner, a duplicate copy should accompany the original of the prior art citation, when the original is filed with the Office.
Patent examiners should not, at their own initiative, place in a patent file or forward for placement in the patent file, any citations of prior art. Patent examiners are charged with the responsibility of making decisions as to patentability for the Director of the Office. Any activity by examiners which would appear to indicate that patent claims are not patentable, outside of those cases pending before them, is considered to be inappropriate.