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2258    Scope of Ex Parte Reexamination [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.552   Scope of reexamination in ex parte reexamination proceedings.

  • (a) Claims in an ex parte reexamination proceeding will be examined on the basis of patents or printed publications and, with respect to subject matter added or deleted in the reexamination proceeding, on the basis of the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112.
  • (b) Claims in an ex parte reexamination proceeding will not be permitted to enlarge the scope of the claims of the patent.
  • (c) Issues other than those indicated in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section will not be resolved in a reexamination proceeding. If such issues are raised by the patent owner or third party requester during a reexamination proceeding, the existence of such issues will be noted by the examiner in the next Office action, in which case the patent owner may consider the advisability of filing a reissue application to have such issues considered and resolved.
  • (d) Any statement of the patent owner and any accompanying information submitted pursuant to § 1.501(a)(2) which is of record in the patent being reexamined (which includes any reexamination files for the patent) may be used after a reexamination proceeding has been ordered to determine the proper meaning of a patent claim when applying patents or printed publications.

The reexamination proceeding provides a complete reexamination of the patent claims on the basis of prior art patents and printed publications. Issues relating to 35 U.S.C. 112 are addressed only with respect to new claims or amendatory subject matter in the specification, claims or drawings. Any new or amended claims are examined to ensure that the scope of the original patent claims is not enlarged, i.e., broadened. See 35 U.S.C. 305.

I.   PRIOR ART PATENTS OR PRINTED PUBLICATIONS, AND DOUBLE PATENTING

Rejections on prior art in reexamination proceedings may only be made on the basis of prior art patents or printed publications. The prior art regime under which the application for the patent was examined (the first-inventor-to-file prior art regime, or the first-to-invent prior art regime) will generally be applied in reexamination of the patent. One exception would be where an amended or new claim having an effective filing date for the new claim on or after March 16, 2013, is presented during the reexamination of a patent that was subject to the first-to-invent prior art regime, in which case the reexamination would be conducted under the first-inventor-to-file prior art regime. Similarly if a benefit claim to a prior application with a filing date before March 16, 2013 is made during the reexamination and the written description of the relied upon application provide adequate written support for all of the patent claims, all claims previously sought in the application that matured into the patent under reexamination and any claim sought in any application the benefit of which was claimed by the application that matured into the patent under reexamination, then reexamination would be subject to the first-to-invent regime even if the patent was examined under the first-inventor-to-file prior art regime.

With respect to the first-inventor-to-file prior art regime, prior art rejections may be based upon the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 102 as it is in effect on and after March 16, 2013, applicable to prior art patents and printed publications. Thus “A person shall be entitled to a patent unless”:

(1) “the claimed invention was patented” or “described in a printed publication” “before the effective filing date of the claimed invention”; or

(2) “the claimed invention was described in a patent issued under section 151, or in an application for patent published or deemed published under section 122(b), in which the patent or application, as the case may be, names another inventor and was effectively filed before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.”

These provisions are subject to the exceptions of 35 U.S.C. 102(b), and effective filing dates are determined pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 102(d). For further information as to the first-inventor-to-file prior art regime, see MPEP Chapter 700.

With respect to the first-to-invent prior art regime, prior art rejections may be based upon the following portions of prior 35 U.S.C. 102 (in effect prior to March 16, 2013):

“(a) . . . patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent, or”

“(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country . . . more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States, or”

*****

“(d) the invention was first patented or caused to be patented, or was the subject of an inventor’s certificate, by the applicant or his legal representatives or assigns in a foreign country prior to the date of the application for patent in this country on an application for patent or inventor’s certificate filed more than twelve months before the filing of the application in the United States, or”

  • (e) the invention was described in — (1) an application for patent, published under section 122(b), by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent or (2) a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent, except that an international application filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) shall have the effects for the purposes of this subsection of an application filed in the United States only if the international application designated the United States and was published under Article 21(2) of such treaty in the English language; or”

*****

“(g)... (2) before such person’s invention thereof, the invention was made in this country by another inventor who had not abandoned, suppressed, or concealed it. In determining priority of invention under this subsection, there shall be considered not only the respective dates of conception and reduction to practice of the invention, but also the reasonable diligence of one who was first to conceive and last to reduce to practice, from a time prior to conception by the other.”

It is to be noted that all citations to 35 U.S.C. discussing the first-to-invent prior art regime are to the relevant statute in effect on March 15, 2013.

Typically, substantial new questions of patentability and rejections in a reexamination proceeding are based on “prior art” patents and publications. There are exceptions, however. For example, in In re Lonardo, 119 F.3d 960, 43 USPQ2d 1262 (Fed. Cir. 1997), the Federal Circuit upheld a nonstatutory double patenting rejection in which the patent upon which the rejection was based and the patent under reexamination shared the same effective filing date. See also the discussion as to double patenting in subsection I.D. below. Analogously, for reexamination proceedings examined under the first-to-invent prior art regime, a 35 U.S.C. 102(g)(2) rejection may be asserted in a reexamination proceeding based on the examples illustrated in the chart below:

Rejection of claims in patent with earlier filing date over claims of patent having later filing date - using 35 U.S.C. 102(g), in a manner analogous to double patenting

A.   Previously Considered Prior Art Patents or Printed Publications

After reexamination is ordered based on a proper substantial new question of patentability, the propriety of making a ground of rejection based on prior art previously considered by the Office (in an earlier examination of the patent) is governed by the guidance set forth in MPEP § 2258.01. Note also In re Hiniker Co., 150 F.3d 1362, 1367, 47 USPQ2d 1523,1527 (Fed. Cir. 1998)(court held the reexamination proceeding was supported by a substantial new question of patentability where the rejection before the court was based on a combination of art that had been before the examiner during the original prosecution, and art newly cited during the reexamination proceeding. The court further stated that any error in the Commissioner’s authority to institute a reexamination was “washed clean” during the reexamination procedure.)

B.   Matters Other Than Patents or Printed Publications

Rejections will not be based on matters other than patents or printed publications, such as public use or sale, inventorship, 35 U.S.C. 101, conduct issues, etc. In this regard, see In re Lanham, 1 USPQ2d 1877 (Comm’r Pat. 1986), and Stewart Systemsv. Comm’r of Patents and Trademarks, 1 USPQ2d 1879 (E.D. Va. 1986). A rejection on prior public use or sale, insufficiency of disclosure, etc., cannot be made even if it relies on a prior art patent or printed publication. Prior art patents or printed publications must be applied under an appropriate portion of 35 U.S.C. 102 and/or 103 when making a rejection.

C.   Intervening Patents or Printed Publications

Rejections may be made in reexamination proceedings based on intervening patents or printed publications where the patent claims under reexamination are entitled only to the filing date of the patent and are not supported by an earlier foreign or United States patent application whose filing date is claimed. For example, under 35 U.S.C. 120, the effective date of these claims would be the filing date of the application which resulted in the patent. Intervening patents or printed publications are available as prior art under In re Ruscetta, 255 F.2d 687, 118 USPQ 101 (CCPA 1958), and In re van Langenhoven, 458 F.2d 132, 173 USPQ 426 (CCPA 1972). See also MPEP § 201.11.

D.   Double Patenting

Double patenting is normally proper for consideration in reexamination. See In re Lonardo, 119 F.3d 960, 43 USPQ2d 1262 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In Lonardo, the Federal Circuit reviewed and interpreted the language of 35 U.S.C. 303 and stated that:

Since the statute in other places refers to prior art in relation to reexamination, see id., it seems apparent that Congress intended that the phrases ‘patents and publications’ and ‘other patents or printed publications’ in section 303(a) not be limited to prior art patents or printed publications… . Finally, it is reasonable to conclude that Congress intended to include double patenting over a prior patent as a basis for reexamination because maintenance of a patent that creates double patenting is as much of an imposition on the public as maintenance of patent that is unpatentable over prior art. Thus, we conclude that the PTO was authorized during reexamination to consider the question of double patenting based upon the `762 patent.

In re Lonardo, 119 F.3d at 966, 43 USPQ2d at 1266. Accordingly, the issue of double patenting is appropriate for consideration in reexamination, both as a basis for ordering reexamination and during subsequent examination on the merits. The issue of double patenting is to be considered by the examiner when making the decision on the request for reexamination. The examiner should determine whether the issue of double patenting raises a substantial new question of patentability. The issue of double patenting is also to be considered during the examination stage of reexamination proceeding. In the examination stage, the examiner should determine whether a rejection based on double patenting is appropriate.

See also Ex parte Obiaya, 227 USPQ 58, 60 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1985) (“Double patenting rejections are analogous to rejections under 35 U.S.C. 103 and depend on the presence of a prior patent as the basis for the rejection”).

See MPEP § 804 to § 804.03 for discussion on double patenting.

E.   Affidavits or Declarations or Other Written Evidence

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, but any rejection must be based upon the prior art patents or printed publications as explained by the affidavits or declarations or other written evidence. The rejection in such circumstances cannot be based on the affidavits or declarations or other written evidence as such, but must be based on the prior art patents or printed publications.

F.   Admissions; Use of Admissions

1.   Initial Reexamination Determination and Order

The consideration under 35 U.S.C. 303 of a request for reexamination is limited to prior art patents and printed publications. See Ex parte McGaughey, 6 USPQ2d 1334, 1337 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1988). Thus an admission, per se, may not be the basis for establishing a substantial new question of patentability. However, an admission by the patent owner of record in the file or in a court record may be utilized in combination with a patent or printed publication. While such an admission may be utilized in combination with a patent or printed publication, a written statement of the patent owner submitted pursuant to 37 CFR 1.501(a)(2) and accompanying 37 CFR 1.510(b)(2) explanation (of how each patent owner claim scope statement is being used to determine the proper meaning of patent claim) cannot be considered in making the initial reexamination determination and issuance of the order granting or denying reexamination. See 35 U.S.C. 301(d).

2.   Reexamination Ordered, Examination on the Merits

After reexamination has been ordered, the examination on the merits is dictated by 35 U.S.C. 305, see Ex parteMcGaughey, 6 USPQ2d 1334, 1337 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1988).

35 U.S.C. 301(a)(2) permits a submission under 35 U.S.C. 301 to contain written “statements of the patent owner filed in a proceeding before a Federal court or the Office in which the patent owner took a position on the scope of any claim of a particular patent.” This provision of the statute has been implemented via 37 CFR 1.501(a)(2). If any statement of the patent owner submitted pursuant to 37 CFR 1.501(a)(2) is relied upon in the request, requester must explain how that statement is being used to determine the proper meaning of a patent claim in connection with prior art applied to that claim. 37 CFR 1.510(b)(2) requires that the “detailed explanation” of applying prior art provided in the request for ex parte reexamination must explain how each patent owner claim scope statement is being used to determine the proper meaning of each patent claim in connection with the prior art applied to that claim. The explanation will be considered by the Office during the examination stage, if reexamination is ordered, to determine the proper meaning of a patent claim in connection with prior art applied to that claim.

Further, admissions by the patent owner in the record as to matters affecting patentability may be utilized during a reexamination proceeding in combination with a patent or printed publication with respect to the determination of anticipation and obviousness; see 37 CFR 1.104(c)(3).

37 CFR 1.104(c)(3) provides that admissions by the patent owners as to matters affecting patentability may be utilized in a reexamination proceeding. The Supreme Court when discussing 35 U.S.C. 103 in Grahamv. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 6, 148 USPQ 459 (1966) stated, inter alia, “the scope and content of the prior art are to be determined.” Accordingly, a proper evaluation of the scope and content of the prior art in determining obviousness would require a utilization of any “admission” by the patent owner which can be used to interpret or modify a patent or printed publication applied in a reexamination proceeding. This is true whether such admission results from a patent or printed publication or from some other source. An admission as to what is in the prior art is simply that, an admission, and requires no independent proof. It is an acknowledged, declared, conceded, or recognized fact or truth, Ex parte McGaughey, 6 USPQ2d 1334, 1337 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1988). While the scope and content of the admission may sometimes have to be determined, this can be done from the record and from the paper file or IFW file history in the same manner as with patents and printed publications. To ignore an admission by the patent owner, from any source, and not use the admission as part of the prior art in conjunction with patents and printed publications in reexamination would make it impossible for the examiner to properly determine the scope and content of the prior art as required by Graham, supra.

The Board upheld the use of an admission in a reexamination proceeding in Ex parteSeiko Koko Kabushiki Kaisha, 225 USPQ 1260 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1984), Ex parteKimbell, 226 USPQ 688 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1985) and in Ex parte McGaughey, 6 USPQ2d 1334 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1988). In Seiko, the Board relied on In re Nomiya, 509 F.2d 566, 184 USPQ 607 (CCPA 1975) holding an admission of prior art in the specification of the parent undergoing reexamination is considered prior art which may be considered as evidence of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103. In Kimbell, the Board referred to the patent specification and noted the admission by appellant that an explosion-proof housing was well known at the time of the invention. In Ex parteMcGaughey, 6 USPQ2d 1334, 1337 (Bd. Pat. App. & Int. 1988), the Board held that any unequivocal admission relating to prior art is a fact which is part of the scope and content of the prior art and that prior art admissions established in the record are to be considered in reexamination. An admission from any source can be used with respect to interpreting or modifying a prior art patent or printed publication, in a reexamination proceeding. The Board expressly overruled the prior Board decision in Ex parte Horton, 226 USPQ 697 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1985) which held that admissions which are used as a basis for a rejection in reexamination must relate to patents and printed publications.

The admission can reside in the patent file (made of record during the prosecution of the patent application) or may be presented during the pendency of the reexamination proceeding or in litigation. Admissions by the patent owner as to any matter affecting patentability may be utilized to determine the scope and content of the prior art in conjunction with patents and printed publications in a prior art rejection, whether such admissions result from patents or printed publications or from some other source. An admission relating to any prior art (e.g., on sale, public use) established in the record or in court may be used by the examiner in combination with patents or printed publications in a reexamination proceeding. Any admission submitted by the patent owner is proper. A third party, however, may not submit admissions of the patent owner made outside the record of the file or the court record. Such a submission would be outside the scope of reexamination.

G.   Claim Interpretation and Treatment

Original patent claims will be examined only on the basis of prior art patents or printed publications applied under the appropriate parts of 35 U.S.C. 102 and 103. See MPEP § 2217.

35 U.S.C. 301(a)(2) permits a submission under 35 U.S.C. 301 to contain written “statements of the patent owner filed in a proceeding before a Federal court or the Office in which the patent owner took a position on the scope of any claim of a particular patent.” This provision of the statute has been implemented via 37 CFR 1.501(a)(2). Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.552, any written statement of the patent owner and any accompanying information submitted pursuant to 37 CFR 1.501(a)(2) which is of record in the patent being reexamined (which includes any reexamination files for the patent) should be considered (after a reexamination proceeding has been ordered, but not at the order stage) to determine the proper meaning of a patent claim when applying patents or printed publications.

During reexamination, claims are given the broadest reasonable interpretation consistent with the specification and limitations in the specification are not read into the claims (In re Yamamoto, 740 F.2d 1569, 222 USPQ 934 (Fed. Cir. 1984)). In a reexamination proceeding involving claims of an expired patent, claim construction pursuant to the principle set forth by the court in Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1316, 75 USPQ2d 1321, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (words of a claim “are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning” as understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention) should be applied since the expired claim are not subject to amendment. See Ex parte Papst-Motoren, 1 USPQ2d 1655 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1986). The statutory presumption of validity, 35 U.S.C. 282, has no application in reexamination (In re Etter, 756 F.2d 852, 225 USPQ 1 (Fed. Cir. 1985)).

II.   COMPLIANCE WITH 35 U.S.C. 112

Where new claims are presented or where any part of the disclosure is amended, the claims of the reexamination proceeding, are to be examined for compliance with 35 U.S.C. 112. Consideration of 35 U.S.C. 112 issues should, however, be limited to the amendatory (e.g., new language) matter. For example, a claim which is amended or a new claim which is presented containing a limitation not found in the original patent claim should be considered for compliance under 35 U.S.C. 112 only with respect to that limitation. To go further would be inconsistent with the statute to the extent that 35 U.S.C. 112 issues would be raised as to matter in the original patent claim. Thus, a term in a patent claim which the examiner might deem to be too broad cannot be considered as too broad in a new or amended claim unless the amendatory matter in the new or amended claim creates the issue. If a limitation that appears in an existing patent claim also appears in a claim newly presented in a reexamination proceeding, that limitation cannot be examined as to 35 U.S.C. 112. If a dependent claim is rewritten as an independent claim in a reexamination proceeding, that independent claim cannot be examined as to 35 U.S.C. 112, unless the nature of the rewriting raises a new question (e.g., by newly providing a lack of claim antecedent for a term in the claim).

A.   35 U.S.C. 112 Issues To Be Considered

Compliance of new or amended claims with the enablement and/or description requirements of the first paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112 should be considered as to the amendatory and new text in the reexamination proceeding. Likewise, the examiner should determine whether the new or amended claims comply with the second paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112. MPEP § 2163 - § 2173.05(v) provide extensive guidance as to these matters.

B.   New Matter

35 U.S.C. 305 provides for examination under 35 U.S.C. 132, which prohibits the introduction of new matter into the disclosure. Thus, the question of new matter should be considered in a reexamination proceeding. See MPEP § 2163.06 as to the relationship of the written description requirement of the first paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112 and the new matter prohibition under 35 U.S.C. 132. Where the new matter is added to the claims or affects claim limitations, the claims should be rejected under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, for failing to meet the written description requirement.

C.   Amendment of the Specification

Where the specification is amended in a reexamination proceeding, the examiner should make certain that the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112 are met. An amendment to the specification can redefine the scope of the terms in a claim such that the claim is no longer clear or is not supported by the specification. Thus, an amendment to the specification can result in the failure of the claims to comply with 35 U.S.C. 112, even where the claims are not amended in any respect.

III.   CLAIMS IN PROCEEDING MUST NOT ENLARGE SCOPE OF THE CLAIMS OF THE PATENT

Where new or amended claims are presented or where any part of the disclosure is amended, the claims of the reexamination proceeding should be examined under 35 U.S.C. 305, to determine whether they enlarge the scope of the original claims. 35 U.S.C. 305 states that “no proposed amended or new claim enlarging the scope of the claims of the patent will be permitted in a reexamination proceeding...”.

A.   Criteria for Enlargement of the Scope of the Claims

A claim presented in a reexamination proceeding “enlarges the scope” of the claims of the patent being reexamined where the claim is broader than each and every claim of the patent. See MPEP § 1412.03 for guidance as to when the presented claim is considered to be a broadening claim as compared with the claims of the patent, i.e., what is broadening and what is not. If a claim is considered to be a broadening claim for purposes of reissue, it is likewise considered to be a broadening claim in reexamination.

B.   Amendment of the Specification

Where the specification is amended in a reexamination proceeding, the examiner should make certain that the amendment to the specification does not enlarge the scope of the claims of the patent. An amendment to the specification can enlarge the scope of the claims by redefining the scope of the terms in a claim, even where the claims are not amended in any respect.

C.   Rejection of Claims Where There Is Enlargement

Any claim in a reexamination proceeding which enlarges the scope of the claims of the patent should be rejected under 35 U.S.C. 305. Form paragraph 22.11 is to be employed in making the rejection.

¶ 22.11    Rejection, 35 U.S.C. 305, Claim Enlarges Scope of Patent - Ex Parte Reexamination

Claim [1] rejected under 35 U.S.C. 305 as enlarging the scope of the claim(s) of the patent being reexamined. In 35 U.S.C. 305, it is stated that "[n]o proposed amended or new claim enlarging the scope of a claim of the patent will be permitted in a reexamination proceeding...." A claim presented in a reexamination "enlarges the scope" of the patent claim(s) where the claim is broader than any claim of the patent. A claim is broader in scope than the original claims if it contains within its scope any conceivable product or process which would not have infringed the original patent. A claim is broadened if it is broader in any one respect, even though it may be narrower in other respects.

[2]

Examiner Note:

The claim limitations which are considered to broaden the scope should be identified and explained in bracket 2. See MPEP § 2258.

IV.   OTHER MATTERS

A.   Patent Under Reexamination Subject of a Prior Office or Court Decision

Where some of the patent claims in a patent being reexamined have been the subject of a prior Office or court decision, see MPEP § 2242. Where other proceedings involving the patent are copending with the reexamination proceeding, see MPEP § 2282 - § 2286.

Patent claims not subject to reexamination because of their prior adjudication by a court should be identified. See MPEP § 2242. For handling a “live” claim dependent on a patent claim not subject to reexamination, see MPEP § 2260.01. All added claims will be examined.

Where grounds are set forth in a prior Office decision or Federal Court decision, which are not based on patents or printed publications and which clearly raise questions as to the validity of the claims, the examiner’s Office action should clearly state that the claims have not been examined as to those grounds not based on patents or printed publications that were stated in the prior decision. See 37 CFR 1.552(c). See In re Knight, 217 USPQ 294 (Comm’r Pat. 1982).

B.   “Live” Claims That Are Reexamined During Reexamination

The Office’s determination in both the order for reexamination and the examination stage of the reexamination will generally be limited solely to a review of the “live” claims (i.e., existing claims not held invalid by a final decision, after all appeals) for which reexamination has been requested. If the requester was interested in having all of the claims reexamined, requester had the opportunity to include them in its request for reexamination. However, if the requester chose not to do so, those claim(s) for which reexamination was not requested will generally not be reexamined by the Office. It is further noted that 35 U.S.C. 302 requires that “[t]he request must set forth the pertinency and manner of applying cited prior art to every claim for which reexamination is requested.” If requester fails to apply the art to certain claims, requester is not statutorily entitled to reexamination of such claims. If a request fails to set forth the pertinency and manner of applying the cited art to any claim for which reexamination is requested as required by 37 CFR 1.510(b), that claim will generally not be reexamined.

The decision to reexamine any claim for which reexamination has not been requested lies within the sole discretion of the Office, to be exercised based on the individual facts and situation of each individual case. If the Office chooses to reexamine any claim for which reexamination has not been requested, it is permitted to do so. In addition, the Office may always initiate a reexamination on its own initiative of the non-requested claim (35 U.S.C. 303(a)).

Similarly, if prior art patents or printed publications are discovered during reexamination which raise a substantial new question of patentability as to one or more patent claims for which reexamination has not been ordered (while reexamination has been ordered for other claims in the patent), then such claims may be added, within the sole discretion of the Office, during the examination phase of the proceeding.

C.   Restriction Not Proper in Reexamination

Restriction requirements cannot be made in a reexamination proceeding since no statutory basis exists for restriction in a reexamination proceeding. Note also that the addition of claims to a “separate and distinct” invention to the patent would be considered as being an enlargement of the scope of the patent claims. See Ex parte Wikdahl, 10 USPQ2d 1546 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1989). See MPEP § 1412.03.

D.   Ancillary Matters

There are matters ancillary to reexamination which are necessary and incident to patentability which will be considered. Amendments may be made to the specification to correct, for example, an inadvertent failure to claim foreign priority or the continuing status of the patent relative to a parent application if such correction is necessary to overcome a reference applied against a claim of the patent.

E.   Claiming Foreign and Domestic Priority in Reexamination

The patent owner may obtain the right of foreign priority under 35 U.S.C. 119 (a)-(d) where a claim for priority had been made before the patent was granted, and it is only necessary for submission of the certified copy in the reexamination proceeding to perfect priority. Likewise, patent owner may obtain the right of foreign priority under 35 U.S.C. 119 (a)-(d) where it is necessary to submit for the first time both the claim for priority and the certified copy. However, where it is necessary to submit for the first time both the claim for priority and the certified copy, and the patent to be reexamined matured from a utility or plant application filed on or after November 29, 2000, then the patent owner must also file a grantable petition for an unintentionally delayed priority claim under 37 CFR 1.55(c). See MPEP § 201.14(a).

Also, patent owner may correct the failure to adequately claim (in the application for the patent reexamined) benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 of an earlier filed copending U.S. patent application. For a patent to be reexamined which matured from a utility or plant application filed on or after November 29, 2000, the patent owner must file a grantable petition for an unintentionally delayed priority claim under 37 CFR 1.78(a)(3). See MPEP § 201.11.

For a patent to be reexamined which matured from a utility or plant application filed before November 29, 2000, the patent owner can correct via reexamination the failure to adequately claim benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) of an earlier filed provisional application. Under no circumstances can a reexamination proceeding be employed to add or correct a benefit claim under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) for a patent matured from a utility or plant application filed on or after November 29, 2000.

Section 4503 of the American Inventor’s Protection Act of 1999 (AIPA) amended 35 U.S.C. 119(e)(1) to state that:

No application shall be entitled to the benefit of an earlier filed provisional application under this subsection unless an amendment containing the specific reference to the earlier filed provisional application is submitted at such time during the pendency of the application as required by the Director. The Director may consider the failure to submit such an amendment within that time period as a waiver of any benefit under this subsection. The Director may establish procedures, including the payment of a surcharge, to accept an unintentionally delayed submission of an amendment under this section during the pendency of the application.

35 U.S.C. 119(e)(1), as amended by the AIPA, clearly prohibits the addition or correction of benefit claims under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) when the application is no longer pending, e.g., an issued patent. Therefore, a reexamination is not a valid mechanism for adding or correcting a benefit claim under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) after a patent has been granted (for a patent matured from a utility or plant application filed on or after November 29, 2000).

No renewal of previously made claims for foreign priority under 35 U.S.C. 119 or domestic benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120, is necessary during reexamination.

F.    Correction of Inventorship

Correction of inventorship may also be made during reexamination. See 37 CFR 1.324 and MPEP § 1481 for petition for correction of inventorship in a patent. If a petition filed under 37 CFR 1.324 is granted, a Certificate of Correction indicating the change of inventorship will not be issued, because the reexamination certificate that will ultimately issue will contain the appropriate change-of-inventorship information (i.e., the Certificate of Correction is in effect merged with the reexamination certificate).

G.   Affidavits in Reexamination

Affidavits under 37 CFR 1.131(a) and 1.132 may be utilized in a reexamination proceeding. Note, however, that an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.131(a) may not be used to “swear behind” a reference patent if the reference patent is claiming the “same invention” as the patent undergoing reexamination. In such a situation, the patent owner may, if appropriate, seek to raise this issue via an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.131(c) (see MPEP § 718) or in an interference proceeding via an appropriate reissue application if such a reissue application may be filed (see MPEP § 1449.02).

H.    Issues Not Considered in Reexamination

If questions other than those indicated above (for example, questions of patentability based on public use or on sale, conduct issues, abandonment under 35 U.S.C. 102(c) for a patent that was examined under the first-to-invent prior art regime, etc.) are raised by the third party requester or the patent owner during a reexamination proceeding, the existence of such questions will be noted by the examiner in an Office action, in which case the patent owner may desire to consider the advisability of filing a reissue application to have such questions considered and resolved. Such questions could arise in a reexamination requester’s 37 CFR 1.510 request or in a 37 CFR 1.535 reply by the requester. Note form paragraph 22.03.

¶ 22.03    Issue Not Within Scope of Ex Parte Reexamination

It is noted that an issue not within the scope of reexamination proceedings has been raised. [1]. The issue will not be considered in a reexamination proceeding. 37 CFR 1.552(c). While this issue is not within the scope of reexamination, the patentee is advised that it may be desirable to consider filing a reissue application provided that the patentee believes one or more claims to be partially or wholly inoperative or invalid based upon the issue.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. In bracket 1, identify the issues.
  • 2. This paragraph may be used either when the patent owner or third party requester raises issues such as public use or on sale, conduct, or abandonment of the invention. Such issues should not be raised independently by the patent examiner.

If questions of patentability based on public use or on sale, conduct issues, abandonment under 35 U.S.C. 102(c) for reexamination proceedings examined under the first-to-invent prior art regime, etc. are independently discovered by the examiner during a reexamination proceeding but were not raised by the third party requester or the patent owner, the existence of such questions will not be noted by the examiner in an Office action, because 37 CFR 1.552(c) is only directed to such questions “raised by the patent owner or the third party requester.”

I.   Request for Reexamination Filed on Patent After It Has Been Reissued

Where a request for reexamination is filed on a patent after it has been reissued, reexamination will be denied because the patent on which the request for reexamination is based has been surrendered. Should reexamination of the reissued patent be desired, a new request for reexamination including, and based on, the specification and claims of the reissue patent must be filed.

Any amendment made by the patent owner to accompany the initial reexamination request, or in later prosecution of the reexamination proceeding, should treat the changes made by the granted reissue patent as the text of the patent, and all bracketing and underlining made with respect to the patent as changed by the reissue.

Where the reissue patent issues after the filing of a request for reexamination, see MPEP § 2285.

J.   No Preissuance Submissions

Because a reexamination proceeding is a post-issuance proceeding, a preissuance submission under 35 U.S.C. 122(e) is not permitted to be filed in a reexamination proceeding; 35 U.S.C. 122(e) is limited to preissuance submissions by third parties in patent applications. A preissuance submission filed in a reexamination proceeding is not to be entered, and will be expunged if it is inadvertently entered.

2258.01   Use of Previously Cited/Considered Art in Rejections [R-11.2013]

In the examining stage of a reexamination proceeding, the examiner will consider whether the claims are subject to rejection based on art. Before making such a rejection, the examiner should check the patent’s file history to ascertain whether the art that will provide the basis for the rejection was previously cited/considered in an earlier concluded Office examination of the patent (e.g., in the examination of the application for the patent). For the sake of expediency, such art is referred to as “old art” throughout, since the term “old art” was coined by the Federal Circuit in its decision of In re Hiniker, 150 F.3d 1362, 1365-66, 47 USPQ2d 1523, 1526 (Fed. Cir. 1998).

If the rejection to be made by the examiner will be based on a combination of “old art” and art newly cited during the reexamination proceeding, the rejection is proper, and should be made. See In re Hiniker, 150 F.3d at 1367, 47 USPQ2d at 1527. (Court held the reexamination proceeding was supported by a substantial new question of patentability where the rejection before the court was based on a combination of art that had been before the examiner during the original prosecution, and art newly cited during the reexamination proceeding.)

If the “old art” provides the sole basis for a rejection, the following applies:

  • (A) Reexamination was ordered on or after November 2, 2002:

For a reexamination that was ordered on or after November 2, 2002 (the date of enactment of Public Law 107-273; see Section 13105, of the Patent and Trademark Office Authorization Act of 2002), reliance solely on old art (as the basis for a rejection) does not necessarily preclude the existence of a substantial new question of patentability (SNQ) that is based exclusively on that old art. Determinations on whether a SNQ exists in such an instance shall be based upon a fact-specific inquiry done on a case-by-case basis. For example, a SNQ may be based solely on old art where the old art is being presented/viewed in a new light, or in a different way, as compared with its use in the earlier concluded examination(s), in view of a material new argument or interpretation presented in the request.

When an Office action is being considered, and it is newly determined that a SNQ based solely on old art is raised by a request in a reexamination that was ordered on or after November 2, 2002, form paragraph 22.01.01 should be included in the Office action. Form paragraph 22.01.01 should be included in any Office action in which a SNQ based solely on the old art is first set forth (i.e., it was not set forth in the order granting reexamination or a prior Office action in the proceeding).

¶ 22.01.01    Criteria for Applying "Old Art" as Sole Basis for Reexamination

The above [1] is based solely on patents and/or printed publications already cited/considered in an earlier examination of the patent being reexamined. On November 2, 2002, Public Law 107-273 was enacted. Title III, Subtitle A, Section 13105, part (a) of the Act revised the reexamination statute by adding the following new last sentence to 35 U.S.C. 303(a) and 312(a):

"The existence of a substantial new question of patentability is not precluded by the fact that a patent or printed publication was previously cited by or to the Office or considered by the Office."

For any reexamination ordered on or after November 2, 2002, the effective date of the statutory revision, reliance on previously cited/considered art, i.e., “old art,” does not necessarily preclude the existence of a substantial new question of patentability (SNQ) that is based exclusively on that old art. Rather, determinations on whether a SNQ exists in such an instance shall be based upon a fact-specific inquiry done on a case-by-case basis.

In the present instance, there exists a SNQ based solely on [2]. A discussion of the specifics now follows:

[3]

Examiner Note:

  • 1. In bracket 1, insert "substantial new question of patentability" if the present form paragraph is used in an order granting reexamination (or a TC or CRU Director’s decision on petition of the denial of reexamination). If this form paragraph is used in an Office action, insert "ground of rejection" .
  • 2. In bracket 2, insert the old art that is being applied as the sole basis of the SNQ. For example, "the patent to J. Doe" or "the patent to J. Doe when taken with the Jones publication" or "the combination of the patent to J. Doe and the Smith publication" could be inserted. Where more than one SNQ is presented based solely on old art, the examiner would insert all such bases for SNQ.
  • 3. In bracket 3, for each basis identified in bracket 2, explain how and why that fact situation applies in the proceeding being acted on. The explanation could be for example that the old art is being 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. See Ex parte Chicago Rawhide Mfg. Co., 223 USPQ 351 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1984).
  • 4. This form paragraph is only used the first time the "already cited/considered" art is applied, and is not repeated for the same art in subsequent Office actions.
  • (B) Reexamination was ordered prior to November 2, 2002:

For a reexamination that was ordered prior to November 2, 2002, old art cannot (subject to the exceptions set forth below) be used as the sole basis for a rejection.

In determining the presence or absence of “a substantial new question of patentability” on which to base a rejection, the use of “old art” in a reexamination that was ordered prior to November 2, 2002, is controlled by In re Portola Packaging Inc., 110 F.3d 786, 42 USPQ2d 1295 (Fed. Cir. 1997). (Note that Portola Packaging was decided based on the reexamination statute as it existed prior to the amendment by Public Law 107-273, Section 13105 of the Patent and Trademark Office Authorization Act of 2002). The amendment by Public Law 107-273, Section 13105, overruled the Portola Packaging decision for any reexamination that was ordered on or after November 2, 2002. See In re Bass, 314 F.3d 575, 576-77, 65 USPQ2d 1156, 1157 (Fed. Cir. 2002) where the Court stated in the sole footnote:

The following guidelines are provided for reviewing ongoing reexaminations ordered prior to November 2, 2002, for compliance with the Portola Packaging decision.

On November 2, 2002, 35 U.S.C. 303(a) was amended by the passage of Pub. L. No. 107-273, 13105, (116 Stat.) 1758, 1900, to add “[t]he existence of a substantial new question of patentability is not precluded by the fact that a patent or printed publication was previously cited by or to the Office or considered by the Office,” thereby overruling Portola Packaging. The following guidelines are provided for reviewing ongoing reexaminations ordered prior to November 2, 2002, for compliance with the Portola Packaging decision.

    • (1) General principles governing compliance with Portola Packaging for ongoing reexaminations ordered prior to November 2, 2002.

      If prior art was previously relied upon to reject a claim in a concluded prior related Office proceeding, the Office will not conduct reexamination based only on such prior art. “Prior related Office proceedings” include the application which matured into the patent that is being reexamined, any reissue application for the patent, and any reexamination proceeding for the patent.

      If prior art was not relied upon to reject a claim, but was cited in the record of a concluded prior related Office proceeding, and its relevance to the patentability of any claim was actually discussed on the record, the Office will not conduct reexamination based only on such prior art. The relevance of the prior art to patentability may have been discussed by either the applicant, patentee, examiner, or any third party. However, 37 CFR 1.2 requires that all Office business be transacted in writing. Thus, the Office cannot presume that a prior art reference was previously relied upon or discussed in a prior Office proceeding if there is no basis in the written record to so conclude other than the examiner’s initials or a check mark on a form PTO/SB/08A or 08B, or PTO/SB/42 (or on a form having a format equivalent to one of these forms) submitted with an information disclosure statement. Thus, any specific discussion of prior art must appear on the record of a prior related Office proceeding. Generalized statements such as the prior art is “cited to show the state of the art,” “cited to show the background of the invention,” or “cited of interest” would not preclude reexamination.

      The Office may conduct reexamination based on prior art that was cited but whose relevance to patentability of the claims was not discussed in any prior related Office proceeding.

    • (2) Procedures for determining whether the prosecution of an ongoing reexamination must be terminated in compliance with Portola Packaging.

      Office personnel must adhere to the following procedures when determining whether the prosecution of an ongoing reexamination should be terminated in compliance with the Federal Circuit’s decision in Portola Packaging.

      • (a) Ascertain that the order granting reexamination was mailed prior to November 2, 2002. If the order granting reexamination was not mailed prior to November 2, 2002, see above “Reexamination was ordered on or after November 2, 2002” for guidance.
      • (b) Prior to making any rejection in the ongoing reexamination, determine for any prior related Office proceeding what prior art was (i) relied upon to reject any claim, or (ii) cited and discussed.
      • (c) Base any and all rejections of the patent claims under reexamination at least in part on prior art that was, in any prior related Office proceeding, neither (i) relied upon to reject any claim, nor (ii) cited and its relevance to patentability of any claim discussed.
      • (d) Withdraw any rejections based only on prior art that was, in any prior related Office proceeding, previously either (i) relied upon to reject any claim, or (ii) cited and its relevance to patentability of any claim discussed.
      • (e) Terminate the prosecution of any reexamination in which the only remaining rejections are entirely based on prior art that was, in any prior related Office proceeding, previously (i) relied upon to reject any claim, and/or (ii) cited and its relevance to patentability of a claim discussed.

        The Director of the USPTO may conduct a search for new art to determine whether a substantial new question of patentability exists prior to terminating the prosecution of any ongoing reexamination proceeding. See 35 U.S.C. 303. See also 35 U.S.C. 305 (indicating that “reexamination will be conducted according to the procedures established for initial examination,” thereby suggesting that the Director of the USPTO may conduct a search during an ongoing reexamination proceeding).

    • (3) Application of Portola Packaging to unusual fact patterns.

The Office recognizes that each case must be decided on its particular facts and that cases with unusual fact patterns will occur. In such a case, the reexamination should be brought to the attention of the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) or Technology Center (TC) Director who will then determine the appropriate action to be taken.

Unusual fact patterns may appear in cases in which prior art was relied upon to reject any claim or cited and discussed with respect to the patentability of a claim in a prior related Office proceeding, but other evidence clearly shows that the examiner did not appreciate the issues raised in the reexamination request or the ongoing reexamination with respect to that art. Such other evidence may appear in the reexamination request, in the nature of the prior art, in the prosecution history of the prior examination, or in an admission by the patent owner, applicant, or inventor. See 37 CFR 1.104(c)(3).

The following examples are intended to be illustrative and not inclusive.

For example, if a textbook was cited during prosecution of the application which matured into the patent, the record of that examination may show that only select information from the textbook was discussed with respect to the patentability of the claims. The file history of the prior Office proceeding should indicate which portion of the textbook was previously considered. See 37 CFR 1.98(a)(2)(ii) (an information disclosure statement must include a copy of each “publication or that portion which caused it to be listed”). If a subsequent reexamination request relied upon other information in the textbook that actually teaches what is required by the claims, it may be appropriate to rely on this other information in the textbook to order and/or conduct reexamination. However, a reexamination request that merely provides a new interpretation of a reference already previously relied upon or actually discussed by the Office does not create a substantial new question of patentability.

Another example involves the situation where an examiner discussed a reference in a prior Office proceeding, but did not either reject a claim based upon the reference or maintain the rejection based on the mistaken belief that the reference did not qualify as prior art. For example, the examiner may not have believed that the reference qualified as prior art because: (i) the reference was undated or was believed to have a bad date; (ii) the applicant submitted a declaration believed to be sufficient to antedate the reference under 37 CFR 1.131(a); or (iii) the examiner attributed an incorrect filing date to the claimed invention. If the reexamination request were to explain how and why the reference actually does qualify as prior art, it may be appropriate to rely on the reference to order and/or conduct reexamination. For example, the request could: (i) verify the date of the reference; (ii) undermine the sufficiency of the declaration filed under 37 CFR 1.131(a) (by a showing of an inaccuracy/mistake of fact in the declaration); or (iii) explain the correct filing date accorded a claim where the issue was not previously addressed in an earlier examination of the patent. See e.g., Heinl v. Godici, 143 F. Supp.2d 593 (E.D.Va. 2001) (reexamination on the basis of art previously presented without adequate proof of date may proceed if prior art status is now established).

Another example involves foreign language prior art references. If a foreign language prior art reference was cited and discussed in any prior Office proceeding but the foreign language prior art reference was never completely and accurately translated into English during the original prosecution, Portola Packaging may not prohibit reexamination over a complete and accurate translation of that foreign language prior art reference. Specifically, if a reexamination request were to explain why a more complete and accurate translation of that same foreign language prior art reference actually teaches what is required by the patent claims, it may be appropriate to rely on the foreign language prior art reference to order and/or conduct reexamination.

Another example of an unusual fact pattern involves cumulative references. To the extent that a cumulative reference is repetitive of a prior art reference that was previously applied or discussed, Portola Packaging may prohibit reexamination of the patent claims based only on the repetitive reference. For purposes of reexamination, a cumulative reference that is repetitive is one that substantially reiterates verbatim the teachings of a reference that was either previously relied upon or discussed in a prior Office proceeding even though the title or the citation of the reference may be different. However, it is expected that a repetitive reference which cannot be considered by the Office during reexamination will be a rare occurrence since most references teach additional information or present information in a different way than other references, even though the references might address the same general subject matter.

    • (4) Notices regarding compliance with Portola Packaging.
      • (a) If the prosecution of an ongoing reexamination is terminated under (2)(e) above in order to comply with the Federal Circuit’s decision in Portola Packaging, the Notice of Intent to Issue Ex Parte Reexamination Certificate should state:

        “The prosecution of this reexamination is terminated based on In re Portola Packaging, Inc., 110 F.3d 786, 42 USPQ2d 1295 (Fed. Cir. 1997). No patentability determination has been made in this reexamination proceeding.”

      • (b) If a rejection in the reexamination has previously been issued and that rejection is withdrawn under (2)(d) above in order to comply with the Federal Circuit’s decision in Portola Packaging, the Office action withdrawing such rejection should state:

        “The rejection(s) based upon _______is/are withdrawn in view of In re Portola Packaging, Inc., 110 F.3d 786, 42 USPQ2d 1295 (Fed. Cir. 1997). No patentability determination of the claims of the patent in view of such prior art has been made in this reexamination proceeding.”

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