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2216    Substantial New Question of Patentability [R-11.2013]

Under 35 U.S.C. 304, the Office must determine whether “a substantial new question of patentability” affecting any claim of the patent has been raised. 37 CFR 1.510(b)(1) requires that a request for ex parte reexamination include “a statement pointing out each substantial new question of patentability based on prior patents and printed publications.” If such a new question is found, an order for ex parte reexamination of the patent is issued. It is therefore important that the request clearly set forth in detail what the requester considers the “substantial new question of patentability” to be in view of prior patents and printed publications. The request must point out how any questions of patentability raised are substantially different from those raised in the previous examination of the patent before the Office.

It is not sufficient that a request for reexamination merely proposes one or more rejections of a patent claim or claims as a basis for reexamination. It must first be demonstrated that a patent or printed publication that is relied upon in a proposed rejection presents a new, non-cumulative technological teaching that was not previously considered and discussed on the record during the prosecution of the application that resulted in the patent for which reexamination is requested, and during the prosecution of any other prior proceeding involving the patent for which reexamination is requested. See also MPEP § 2242.

The legal standard for ordering ex parte reexamination, as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 303(a), requires a substantial new question of patentability. The substantial new question of patentability may be based on art previously considered by the Office if the reference is presented in a new light or a different way that escaped review during earlier examination. The clarification of the legal standard for determining obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103 in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex Inc. (KSR), 550 U.S. 398, 82 USPQ2d 1385 (2007) does not alter the legal standard for determining whether a substantial new question of patentability exists. The requirement for a substantial new question of patentability remains in place even if it is clear from the record of a patent for which reexamination is requested that the patent was granted because the Office did not show “motivation” to combine, or otherwise satisfy the teaching, suggestion, or motivation (TSM) test. Thus, a reexamination request relying on previously applied prior art that asks the Office to look at the art again based solely on the Supreme Court’s clarification of the legal standard for determining obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103 in KSR, without presenting the art in new light or different way, will not raise a substantial new question of patentability as to the patent claims, and reexamination will not be ordered.

After the enactment of the Patent and Trademark Office Authorization Act of 2002 (“the 2002 Act”), a substantial new question of patentability can be raised by patents and printed publications “previously cited by or to the Office or considered by the Office” (“old art”). The 2002 Act did not negate the statutory requirement for a substantial new question of patentability that requires raising new questions about pre-existing technology. In the implementation of the 2002 Act, MPEP § 2242, subsection II.A. was revised. The revision permits raising a substantial new question of patentability based solely on old art, but only if the old art is “presented/viewed in a new light, or in a different way, as compared with its use in the earlier examination(s), in view of a material new argument or interpretation presented in the request.” Thus, a request may properly raise an substantial new question of patentability by raising a material new analysis of previously considered reference(s) under the rationales authorized by KSR.

Questions relating to grounds of rejection other than those based on prior art patents or printed publications should not be included in the request and will not be considered by the examiner if included. Examples of such questions that will not be considered are public use, on sale, and conduct by parties.

Affidavits or declarations or other written evidence which explain the contents or pertinent dates of prior art patents or printed publications in more detail may be considered in reexamination. See MPEP § 2258.

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Last Modified: 03/27/2014 10:10:34