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2666    Patent Owner Response to Office Action [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.111   Reply by applicant or patent owner to a non-final Office action.

  • (a)
    • (1) If the Office action after the first examination (§ 1.104) is adverse in any respect, the applicant or patent owner, if he or she persists in his or her application for a patent or reexamination proceeding, must reply and request reconsideration or further examination, with or without amendment. See §§ 1.135 and 1.136 for time for reply to avoid abandonment.
    • (2) Supplemental replies. (i) A reply that is supplemental to a reply that is in compliance with § 1.111(b) will not be entered as a matter of right except as provided in paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section. The Office may enter a supplemental reply if the supplemental reply is clearly limited to:
      • (A) Cancellation of a claim(s);
      • (B) Adoption of the examiner suggestion(s);
      • (C) Placement of the application in condition for allowance;
      • (D) Reply to an Office requirement made after the first reply was filed;
      • (E) Correction of informalities (e.g., typographical errors); or
      • (F) Simplification of issues for appeal.
        • (ii) A supplemental reply will be entered if the supplemental reply is filed within the period during which action by the Office is suspended under § 1.103(a) or (c).
  • (b) In order to be entitled to reconsideration or further examination, the applicant or patent owner must reply to the Office action. The reply by the applicant or patent owner must be reduced to a writing which distinctly and specifically points out the supposed errors in the examiner’s action and must reply to every ground of objection and rejection in the prior Office action. The reply must present arguments pointing out the specific distinctions believed to render the claims, including any newly presented claims, patentable over any applied references. If the reply is with respect to an application, a request may be made that objections or requirements as to form not necessary to further consideration of the claims be held in abeyance until allowable subject matter is indicated. The applicant’s or patent owner’s reply must appear throughout to be a bona fide attempt to advance the application or the reexamination proceeding to final action. A general allegation that the claims define a patentable invention without specifically pointing out how the language of the claims patentably distinguishes them from the references does not comply with the requirements of this section.
  • (c) In amending in reply to a rejection of claims in an application or patent under reexamination, the applicant or patent owner must clearly point out the patentable novelty which he or she thinks the claims present in view of the state of the art disclosed by the references cited or the objections made. The applicant or patent owner must also show how the amendments avoid such references or objections.

37 C.F.R. 1.945   Response to Office action by patent owner in inter partes reexamination.

  • (a) The patent owner will be given at least thirty days to file a response to any Office action on the merits of the inter partes reexamination.
  • (b) Any supplemental response to the Office action will be entered only where the supplemental response is accompanied by a showing of sufficient cause why the supplemental response should be entered. The showing of sufficient cause must include:
    • (1) An explanation of how the requirements of § 1.111(a)(2)(i) are satisfied;
    • (2) An explanation of why the supplemental response was not presented together with the original response to the Office action; and
    • (3) A compelling reason to enter the supplemental response.

I.   SUBSTANCE OF THE RESPONSE

Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.937(b):

“The inter partes reexamination proceeding will be conducted in accordance with §§ 1.104 through 1.116, the sections governing the application examination process…”

Accordingly, the provisions of 37 CFR 1.111 apply to the response by a patent owner in a reexamination proceeding.

The patent owner may request reconsideration of the position stated in the Office action, with or without amendment to the claims and/or specification. As to amendments in reexamination proceedings, see MPEP § 2666.01.

Any request for reconsideration must be in writing and must distinctly and specifically point out each supposed error in the examiner’s action. A general allegation that the claims define a patentable invention, without specifically pointing out how the language of the claims patentably distinguishes them over the references, is inadequate and is not in compliance with 37 CFR 1.111(b).

Reasons must be given as to how and why the claims define over the references, and why any rejections made under 35 U.S.C. 112 are incorrect or inapplicable.

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).

The patent owner cannot file papers on behalf of a third party. If a third party paper accompanies or is submitted as part of a timely filed response, the response and third party paper are considered to be an improper (i.e., informal) submission, and the entire submission shall be returned to the patent owner since the Office will not determine which portion of the submission is the third party paper. The third party paper filed as part of the patent owner’s response will not be considered. The improper response with the third party paper in it should be returned to patent owner as a defective (informal) response, using form PTOL-2069 as the cover letter. See MPEP § 2666.50. The appropriate box on the form should be checked and an explanation for the return of the paper given. The patent owner should be provided an appropriate period of time to refile the patent owner response without the third party paper.

II.   PROCEDURAL CONSIDERATIONS OF THE RESPONSE

The certificate of mailing and the certificate of transmission procedures (37 CFR 1.8), and the 'Express Mail' mailing procedure (37 CFR 1.10), may be used to file a patent owner’s response, as well as any other paper in an existing inter partes reexamination proceeding.

A copy of the response must be served on the third party requester in accordance with 37 CFR 1.248, - see also MPEP § 2666.06. Lack of service poses a problem, since a third party requester must file written comments within a period of 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s response, in order to be timely. Where the record does not show the response to have been served on the third party requester, see MPEP § 2666.06.

The patent owner will normally be given a period of two months to respond to an Office action. An extension of time can be obtained only in accordance with 37 CFR 1.956. Note that 37 CFR 1.136 does not apply in reexamination proceedings.

See MPEP § 2666.10 for the consequences of the failure by the patent owner to respond to the Office action.

III.   SUPPLEMENTAL RESPONSE TO OFFICE ACTION

Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.945(b), any supplemental response to the Office action in an inter partes reexamination proceeding must be accompanied by a showing of sufficient cause why the supplemental response should be entered. If such a showing is not provided, the supplemental response will not be entered, and may be sealed from public view in the Image File Wrapper (IFW), if it has already been scanned into the IFW for the proceeding.

The showing of sufficient cause why the supplemental response should be entered must include:

  • (B) an explanation of why the supplemental response was not presented together with the original response to the Office action; and
  • (C) a compelling reason to enter the supplemental response.

Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.111(a)(2)(i), the Office may enter a supplemental response if the supplemental response is clearly limited to: (1) cancellation of a claim(s); (2) adoption of the examiner suggestion(s); (3) placement of the proceeding in condition for Notice of Intent to Issue Reexamination Certificate (NIRC); (4) a response to an Office requirement made after the first response was filed; (5) correction of informalities (e.g., typographical errors); or (6) simplification of issues for appeal.

In some instances, where there is a clear basis for the supplemental response, the three-prong showing may be easily satisfied. Thus, for example, the patent claim text may have been incorrectly reproduced, where a patent claim is amended in the original response. In such an instance, the patent owner need only point to the provision of 37 CFR 1.111(a)(2)(i)(E) for the correction of the informalities (e.g., typographical errors), and state that the incorrect reproduction of the claim was not noted in the preparation of the original response. The compelling reason to enter the supplemental response is implicit in such a statement, as the record for the proceeding certainly must be corrected as to the incorrect reproduction of the claim.

Any requester comments filed after a patent owner response to an Office action must be filed “within 30 days after the date of service of the patent owner’s response,” to satisfy 35 U.S.C. 314(b)(2). Thus, where the patent owner files a supplemental response to an Office action, the requester would be well advised to file any comments deemed appropriate within 30 days after the date of service of the patent owner’s supplemental response to preserve requester’s comment right, in the event the Office exercises its discretion to enter the supplemental response. The requester’s comments may address whether the patent owner showing is adequate, in addition to addressing the merits of the supplemental response. If the patent owner’s supplemental response is not entered by the Office, then both the supplemental response, and any comments following that supplemental response, will either be returned to the parties or discarded at the sole discretion of the Office. If the supplemental response and/or comments were scanned into the IFW for the reexamination proceeding, and thus, the papers cannot be physically returned or discarded, then the supplemental response and/or comments entries will be marked “closed” and “non-public,” and they will not constitute part of the record of the reexamination proceeding. Such papers will not be displayed in the Office’s image file wrapper that is made available to the public, patent owners, and representatives of patent owners, i.e., they will not be displayed in the Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) at the Office’s website.

A supplemental response, which has not been approved for entry, will not be entered when a response to a subsequent Office action is filed, even if a specific request for its entry is made in the subsequent response. If a patent owner wishes to have the unentered supplemental response considered by the examiner, the patent owner must include the contents of the unentered supplemental response in a proper response to a subsequent Office action. If the next Office action is an Action Closing Prosecution under 37 CFR 1.949, or an action that otherwise closes prosecution, the entry of the response is governed by 37 CFR 1.116 (see 37 CFR 1.951(a)).

Patent owner cannot submit an application data sheet (ADS) in a reexamination proceeding since a reexamination proceeding is not an “application” (see 37 CFR 1.76). An ADS is an improper paper in a reexamination proceeding.

2666.01   Amendment by Patent Owner [R-08.2012]

37 C.F.R. 1.941   Amendments by patent owner in inter partes reexamination.

Amendments by patent owner in inter partes reexamination proceedings are made by filing a paper in compliance with §§ 1.530(d)-(k) and 1.943.

37 C.F.R. 1.121   Manner of making amendments in applications.

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  • (j) Amendments in reexamination proceedings. Any proposed amendment to the description and claims in patents involved in reexamination proceedings must be made in accordance with § 1.530.

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37 C.F.R. 1.530   Statement by patent owner in ex parte reexamination; amendment by patent owner in ex parte or inter partes reexamination; inventorship change in ex parte or inter partes reexamination.

*****

  • (d) Making amendments in a reexamination proceeding. A proposed amendment in an ex parte or an inter partes reexamination proceeding is made by filing a paper directing that proposed specified changes be made to the patent specification, including the claims, or to the drawings. An amendment paper directing that proposed specified changes be made in a reexamination proceeding may be submitted as an accompaniment to a request filed by the patent owner in accordance with § 1.510(e), as part of a patent owner statement in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section, or, where permitted, during the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding pursuant to § 1.550(a) or § 1.937.
    • (1) Specification other than the claims. Changes to the specification, other than to the claims, must be made by submission of the entire text of an added or rewritten paragraph including markings pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, except that an entire paragraph may be deleted by a statement deleting the paragraph, without presentation of the text of the paragraph. The precise point in the specification must be identified where any added or rewritten paragraph is located. This paragraph applies whether the amendment is submitted on paper or compact disc (see §§ 1.96 and 1.825).
    • (2) Claims. An amendment paper must include the entire text of each patent claim which is being proposed to be changed by such amendment paper and of each new claim being proposed to be added by such amendment paper. For any claim changed by the amendment paper, a parenthetical expression “amended,” “twice amended,” etc., should follow the claim number. Each patent claim proposed to be changed and each proposed added claim must include markings pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, except that a patent claim or proposed added claim should be canceled by a statement canceling the claim, without presentation of the text of the claim.
    • (3) Drawings. Any change to the patent drawings must be submitted as a sketch on a separate paper showing the proposed changes in red for approval by the examiner. Upon approval of the changes by the examiner, only new sheets of drawings including the changes and in compliance with § 1.84 must be filed. Amended figures must be identified as “Amended,” and any added figure must be identified as “New.” In the event a figure is canceled, the figure must be surrounded by brackets and identified as “Canceled.”
    • (4) The formal requirements for papers making up the reexamination proceeding other than those set forth in this section are set out in § 1.52.
  • (e) Status of claims and support for claim changes. Whenever there is an amendment to the claims pursuant to paragraph (d) of this section, there must also be supplied, on pages separate from the pages containing the changes, the status (i.e., pending or canceled), as of the date of the amendment, of all patent claims and of all added claims, and an explanation of the support in the disclosure of the patent for the changes to the claims made by the amendment paper.
  • (f) Changes shown by markings. Any changes relative to the patent being reexamined which are made to the specification, including the claims, must include the following markings:
    • (1) The matter to be omitted by the reexamination proceeding must be enclosed in brackets; and
    • (2) The matter to be added by the reexamination proceeding must be underlined.
  • (g) Numbering of patent claims p. Patent claims may not be renumbered. The numbering of any claims added in the reexamination proceeding must follow the number of the highest numbered patent claim.
  • (h) Amendment of disclosure may be required. The disclosure must be amended, when required by the Office, to correct inaccuracies of description and definition, and to secure substantial correspondence between the claims, the remainder of the specification, and the drawings.
  • (i) Amendments made relative to patent. All amendments must be made relative to the patent specification, including the claims, and drawings, which are in effect as of the date of filing the request for reexamination.
  • (j) No enlargement of claim scope. No amendment may enlarge the scope of the claims of the patent or introduce new matter. No amendment may be proposed for entry in an expired patent. Moreover, no amendment, other than the cancellation of claims, will be incorporated into the patent by a certificate issued after the expiration of the patent.
  • (k) Amendments not effective until certificate. Although the Office actions will treat proposed amendments as though they have been entered, the proposed amendments will not be effective until the reexamination certificate is issued and published.
  • (l) Correction of inventorship in an ex parte or inter partes reexamination proceeding.
    • (1) When it appears in a patent being reexamined that the correct inventor or inventors were not named through error without deceptive intention on the part of the actual inventor or inventors, the Director may, on petition of all the parties set forth in § 1.324(b)(1)-(3), including the assignees, and satisfactory proof of the facts and payment of the fee set forth in § 1.20(b), or on order of a court before which such matter is called in question, include in the reexamination certificate to be issued under § 1.570 or § 1.997 an amendment naming only the actual inventor or inventors. The petition must be submitted as part of the reexamination proceeding and must satisfy the requirements of § 1.324.
    • (2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1)(1) of this section, if a petition to correct inventorship satisfying the requirements of § 1.324 is filed in a reexamination proceeding, and the reexamination proceeding is concluded other than by a reexamination certificate under § 1.570 or § 1.997, a certificate of correction indicating the change of inventorship stated in the petition will be issued upon request by the patentee.

Amendments to the patent being reexamined (where the patent has not expired) may be filed by the patent owner in the reexamination proceeding. Such amendments may be provided by the patent owners after the first Office action on the merits has been issued. The first Office action on the merits will ordinarily be mailed with the order. In some instances, however, it may not be practical or possible to mail the first Office action together with the order. In the event that the first Office action is mailed after the order, it would not be proper to provide an amendment prior to the first Office action. Such an amendment would not be considered, and it would be returned to the patent owner as an improper paper.

If an amendment is submitted to add claims to the patent being reexamined (i.e., to provide new claims), then excess claims fees pursuant to 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) and (c)(4) may be applicable to the presentation of the added claims. See MPEP § 2666.04. Amendments proposed in a reexamination will normally be entered if timely, and will be considered to be entered for purposes of prosecution before the Office (if they are timely and comply with the rules); however, amendments do not become effective in the patent until the certificate under 35 U.S.C. 316 is issued and published.

Amendments must not enlarge the scope of a claim of the patent nor introduce new matter. Amended or new claims which broaden or enlarge the scope of a claim of the patent should be rejected under 35 U.S.C. 314(a). The test for when an amended or “new claim enlarges the scope of an original claim under 35 U.S.C. 314(a) is the same as that under the 2-year limitation for reissue applications adding enlarging claims under 35 U.S.C. 251, last paragraph.” In re Freeman, 30 F.3d 1459, 1464, 31 USPQ2d 1444, 1447 (Fed. Cir. 1994). See MPEP § 2658 for a discussion of enlargement of the claim scope. For handling of new matter, see MPEP § 2670.

If the patent expires during the reexamination procedure, and the patent claims have been amended, the Office will hold the amendments as being improper and all subsequent reexamination will be on the basis of the unamended patent claims. This procedure is necessary since no amendments will be incorporated into the patent by certificate after the expiration of the patent. See 37 CFR 1.941 and 37 CFR 1.530(j). The patent expiration date for a utility patent, for example, is determined by taking into account the term of the patent, whether maintenance fees have been paid for the patent, whether any disclaimer was filed as to the patent to shorten its term, any patent term extensions or adjustments for delays within the USPTO under 35 U.S.C. 154 (see MPEP § 2710, et seq.), and any patent term extensions available under 35 U.S.C. 156 for premarket regulatory review (see MPEP § 2750et. seq.). Any other relevant information should also be taken into account.

Once the patent expires, a narrow claim construction is applied. See MPEP § 2258, subsection I.G. “Claim Interpretation and Treatment.”

Amendment Entry - Amendments which comply with 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j) and 37 CFR 1.943 (and are formally presented pursuant to 37 CFR 1.52(a) and (b), and contain fees required by 37 CFR 1.20(c)) will be entered in the reexamination file pursuant to the guidelines set forth in MPEP § 2234.

Manner of Making Amendments - Amendments in an inter partes reexamination proceeding are made in the same manner that amendments in an ex parte reexamination proceeding are made. See MPEP § 2250 for guidance as to the manner of making amendments in a reexamination proceeding.

Form paragraph 22.12 may be used to advise the patent owner of the proper manner of making amendments in an inter partes reexamination proceeding.

¶ 22.12    Amendments Proposed in a Reexamination - 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j)

Patent owner is notified that any proposed amendment to the specification and/or claims in this reexamination proceeding must comply with 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j), must be formally presented pursuant to 37 CFR 1.52(a) and (b), and must contain any fees required by 37 CFR 1.20(c).

Examiner Note:

This paragraph may be used in the order granting reexamination and/or in the first Office action to advise patent owner of the proper manner of making amendments in a reexamination proceeding.

Form paragraph 26.05.01 may be used to notify patent owner in an inter partes reexamination proceeding that a proposed amendment in the proceeding does not comply with 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j).

¶ 26.05.01    Improper Amendment in an Inter Partes Reexamination - 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j)

The amendment filed [1] proposes amendments to [2] that do not comply with 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j), which sets forth the manner of making amendments in reexamination proceedings. A supplemental paper correctly proposing amendments in the present inter partes reexamination proceeding is required.

A shortened statutory period for response to this letter is set to expire ONE MONTH or THIRTY DAYS, whichever is longer, from the mailing date of this letter. If the patent owner fails to timely correct this informality, the amendment will be held not to be an appropriate response, and the consequences set forth in 37 CFR 1.957(b) or (c) will result. See MPEP § 2666.10

Examiner Note:

This paragraph may be used for any 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j) informality as to a proposed amendment submitted in a reexamination proceeding.

The cover sheet to be used for mailing the notification to the patent owner will be PTOL-2069.

As an alternative to using form paragraph 26.05.01, it would also be appropriate to use form PTOL-2069, box 4.

For clerical handling of amendments, see MPEP § 2670. For entry of an amendment in a merged reexamination proceeding, see MPEP § 2686.01 and § 2686.03. For handling of a dependent claim in reexamination proceedings, see MPEP § 2660.03.

2666.02   Correction of Patent Drawings [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.941   Amendments by patent owner in inter partes reexamination.

Amendments by patent owner in inter partes reexamination proceedings are made by filing a paper in compliance with §§ 1.530(d)-(k) and 1.943.

37 C.F.R. 1.530   Statement by patent owner in ex parte reexamination; amendment by patent owner in ex parte or inter partes reexamination; inventorship change in ex parte or inter partes reexamination.

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  • (d) Making amendments in a reexamination proceeding. A proposed amendment in an ex parte or an inter partes reexamination proceeding is made by filing a paper directing that proposed specified changes be made to the patent specification, including the claims, or to the drawings. An amendment paper directing that proposed specified changes be made in a reexamination proceeding may be submitted as an accompaniment to a request filed by the patent owner in accordance with § 1.510(e), as part of a patent owner statement in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section, or, where permitted, during the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding pursuant to § 1.550(a) or § 1.937.

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  • (3) Drawings. Any change to the patent drawings must be submitted as a sketch on a separate paper showing the proposed changes in red for approval by the examiner. Upon approval of the changes by the examiner, only new sheets of drawings including the changes and in compliance with § 1.84 must be filed. Amended figures must be identified as “Amended,” and any added figure must be identified as “New.” In the event a figure is canceled, the figure must be surrounded by brackets and identified as “Canceled.”

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In the reexamination proceeding, the copy of the patent drawings submitted pursuant to 37 CFR 1.915(b)(5) will be used for reexamination purposes, provided no change is made to the drawings. If there is any change in the drawings, a new sheet of drawing for each sheet changed must be submitted. The change may not be made on the original patent drawings. Drawing changes in an inter partes reexamination proceeding are made in the same manner that drawing changes in an ex parte reexamination proceeding are made. 37 CFR 1.530(d)(3) sets forth the manner of making amendments to the drawings. Any amended figure(s) must be identified as “Amended” and any added figure(s) must be identified as “New.” In the event a figure is canceled, the figure must be surrounded by brackets and identified as “Canceled.”

Where the patent owner wishes to change/amend the drawings, the patent owner should submit a sketch in permanent ink showing the proposed change(s)/ amendment(s), for approval by the examiner. The submitted sketch should be presented as a separate paper, which is clearly labeled as “Annotated Sheet,” and it will be made part of the record. Once the proposed changes are approved, sheets of substitute or new drawings must be submitted for each drawing sheet that is to be changed/amended. If a new drawing sheet contains multiple figures, each figure must be marked as “amended” or “new,” if applicable, to comply with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.530(d)(3). For example, if the new drawing sheet contains Figures 1-3 but only Figure 2 is amended, the new drawing sheet must identify Figure 2 as “Amended.” It is not sufficient to generally indicate that the entire sheet is amended by, e.g., placing the term “Amended” in the header of the drawing sheet. The new sheets of drawings should be entered in the reexamination file.

2666.03   Correction of Inventorship [R-08.2012]

Correction of inventorship in an inter partes reexamination proceeding is effected in the same manner that correction of inventorship in an ex parte reexamination proceeding is effected. See MPEP § 2250.02 for the manner of correcting inventorship in both inter partes and ex parte reexamination proceedings.

2666.04    Fees for Adding Claims [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.20   Post issuance fees

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  • (c) In reexamination proceedings
    • (1) For filing a request for ex parte reexamination (§ 1.510(a))......................$12,000.00
    • (2) [Reserved]
    • (3) For filing with a request for reexamination or later presentation at any other time of each claim in independent form in excess of 3 and also in excess of the number of claims in independent form in the patent under reexamination:
      • By a micro entity.......................$105.00
      • By a small entity (§ 1.27(a)).......................$210.00
      • By other than a small entity .......................$420.00
    • (4) For filing with a request for reexamination or later presentation at any other time of each claim (whether dependent or independent) in excess of 20 and also in excess of the number of claims in the patent under reexamination (note that § 1.75(c) indicates how multiple dependent claims are considered for fee calculation purposes):
      • By a micro entity........................$20.00
      • By a small entity (§ 1.27(a))........................$40.00
      • By other than a small entity ........................$80.00
    • (5) If the excess claims fees required by paragraphs (c)(3) and (c)(4) are not paid with the request for reexamination or on later presentation of the claims for which the excess claims fees are due, the fees required by paragraphs (c)(3) and (c)(4) must be paid or the claims canceled by amendment prior to the expiration of the time period set for reply by the Office in any notice of fee deficiency in order to avoid abandonment.

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Excess claims fees as specified in 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(2) as amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 are applicable to excess claims proposed to be added to a patent by their presentation during a reexamination proceeding. Under "former" 35 U.S.C. 41, excess claims fees were included as part of the “application” filing fee under 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(1), and thus did not apply during reexamination proceedings. The Consolidated Appropriations Act does not include the excess claims as part of the “application” filing fee under 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(1), but separately provides for excess claims fees in 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(2) (as being in addition to the filing fee in 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(1)). 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(2) provides that an excess claims fee is due “on filing or on presentation at any other time” (e.g., during a reexamination proceeding) of an independent claim in excess of three or of a claim (whether independent or dependent) in excess of twenty.

37 CFR 1.20 was amended, effective December 8, 2004, to provide for excess claims fees in a reexamination proceeding. The excess claims fees specified in 37 CFR 1.20(c) apply to all patents eligible for inter partes reexamination. The fees must be submitted for any excess claims presented in a reexamination proceeding on or after December 8, 2004 (no excess claims fee was due under 35 U.S.C. 41 for any claim presented during a reexamination proceeding before December 8, 2004). Even though a reexamination proceeding was commenced prior to December 8, 2004, the excess claims fees are due for any amendment filed on or after December 8, 2004.

When a patent owner presents an amendment to the claims (on or after December 8, 2004) during an inter partes reexamination proceeding, excess claims fees may be applicable. If the amendment is limited to revising the existing claims, i.e., it does not provide any new claim, there is no claim fee. The excess claims fees apply only to the submission of new, i.e., “excess” claims.

The excess claims fees specified in 37 CFR 1.20(c) apply to excess claims that result from an amendment as follows:

  • (A) The fee designated in 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) as the independent claims fee must be paid for each independent claim in excess of three and also in excess of the number of independent claims in the patent being reexamined. The amendment must increase the number of independent claims to be more than both of these limits, in order for the “independent excess claims fee” to apply;
  • (B) The fee designated in 37 CFR 1.20(c)(4) as the total claims fee must be paid for each claim (whether independent or dependent) in excess of twenty and also in excess of the number of claims in the patent being reexamined. The amendment must increase the total number of claims to be more than both of these limits, in order for the “total excess claims fee” to apply.

    The following examples illustrate the application of the excess claims fees in a patent (non-small entity) to be reexamined containing six independent claims and thirty total claims:

  • (A) No excess claims fee is due if the patent owner cancels ten claims, two of which are independent, and adds ten claims, two of which are independent.
  • (B) The 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) excess independent claims fee for a seventh independent claim is due if the patent owner cancels ten claims, two of which are independent, and adds ten claims, three of which are independent.
  • (C) The 37 CFR 1.20(c)(4) excess total claims fee for a thirty-first claim is due if the patent owner cancels ten claims, two of which are independent, and adds eleven claims, two of which are independent.
  • (D) The 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) excess independent claims fee for a seventh independent claim and the 37 CFR 1.20(c)(4) excess total claims fee for a thirty-first claim are due if the patent owner cancels ten claims, two of which are independent, and adds eleven claims, three of which are independent.

A claim that has been disclaimed under 35 U.S.C. 253 and 37 CFR 1.321(a) as of the date of filing of the request for reexamination is not considered to be a claim in the patent under reexamination for purposes of excess claims fee calculations. The same applies to a claim canceled via a prior Reexamination Certificate, reissue patent, or Certificate of Correction.

If the excess claims fees required by 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) and (c)(4) are not paid with the presentation of the excess claims, a notice of fee deficiency will be issued as a Notice of Defective Paper In Inter Partes Reexamination, PTOL-2069. A one-month time period will be set in the form PTOL-2069 for correction of the defect, i.e., the fee deficiency. An extension of time to correct the fee deficiency may be requested under 37 CFR 1.956. If the unpaid excess claims fees required by 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) and (c)(4) are not paid within the time period set for response to the Notice, the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding will be terminated under 37 CFR 1.957(b) or limited under 37 CFR 1.957(c) (as is appropriate for the particular case), to effect the “abandonment” set forth in 37 CFR 1.20(c)(5).

2666.05   Third Party Comments After Patent Owner Response [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.947   Comments by third party requester to patent owner’s response in inter partes reexamination.

Each time the patent owner files a response to an Office action on the merits pursuant to § 1.945, a third party requester may once file written comments within a period of 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s response. These comments shall be limited to issues raised by the Office action or the patent owner’s response. The time for submitting comments by the third party requester may not be extended. For the purpose of filing the written comments by the third party requester, the comments will be considered as having been received in the Office as of the date of deposit specified in the certificate under § 1.8.

37 C.F.R. 1.948   Limitations on submission of prior art by third party requester following the order for inter partes reexamination.

  • (a) After the inter partes reexamination order, the third party requester may only cite additional prior art as defined under § 1.501 if it is filed as part of a comments submission under § 1.947 or § 1.951(b) and is limited to prior art:
    • (1) which is necessary to rebut a finding of fact by the examiner;
    • (2) which is necessary to rebut a response of the patent owner; or
    • (3) which for the first time became known or available to the third party requester after the filing of the request for inter partes reexamination proceeding. Prior art submitted under paragraph (a)(3) of this section must be accompanied by a statement as to when the prior art first became known or available to the third party requester and must include a discussion of the pertinency of each reference to the patentability of at least one claim.
  • (b) [Reserved].

I.   TIMELINESS

A third party requester may once file written comments on any patent owner response to an Office action, during the examination stage of an inter partes reexamination proceeding. The third party requester comments must be filed within a period of 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s response on the third party requester. 37 CFR 1.947. The date that the Office receives the patent owner’s response has no bearing on the time period for which the third party requester must file the comments.

The certificate of mailing and the certificate of transmission procedures (37 CFR 1.8), and the “Express Mail” mailing procedure (37 CFR 1.10), may be used to file comments. Any comments by the third party requester must be served upon the patent owner in accordance with 37 CFR 1.248, - see also MPEP § 2666.06.

If the third party requester comments are filed after 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s response on the third party requester, the comments will not be considered. See 37 CFR 1.957(a).

The following special circumstance is to be noted. It may happen that a patent owner files a response to an Office action and the page length of the response exceeds the page length set by 37 CFR 1.943(b). Accompanying the response is a petition under 37 CFR 1.183 requesting waiver of the 37 CFR 1.943(b) requirement. Until such a 37 CFR 1.183 petition to waive the page length is granted, or a page length compliant response is filed (if the 37 CFR 1.183 petition is not granted), the patent owner response is incomplete. Pursuant to MPEP § 2666.40, “[a]fter the owner completes the response, the examiner will wait two months from the date of service of the patent owner’s completion of the response, and then take up the case for action, since the 30 days for the third party requester comments on the response as completed will have expired by that time. The third party requester may file comments on the response as completed …The response as completed is treated as a new response on-the-merits to the Office action; thus, the third party requester is entitled to file comments and has 30 days to do so.” Based on the above, at the time the 37 CFR 1.183 petition is granted, the patent owner response becomes complete with its content being set in place, and the requester has 30 days from the date of the decision granting the 37 CFR 1.183 petition to file a comment paper pursuant to 37 CFR 1.947.

When the requester takes issue with the page length of the patent owner’s response and there the patent owner has not filed a petition requesting waiver of the page length requirement, the requester may file a 37 CFR 1.181 petition to expunge an improper paper that was entered into the IFW record, accompanying its comments on patent owner’s response (which must be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the response). The 37 CFR 1.181 petition may request that (A) if the patent owner response is expunged, then the accompanying comments should not be entered, and the requester’s comment period be re-set to run 30 days from the date of service of a corrected patent owner response, and (B) if the petition to expunge is denied/dismissed, then the comments accompanying the petition should be entered and that 37 CFR 1.943(b) be waived to the extent that entry of the accompanying comment paper is permitted.

II.   CONTENT

The third party requester comments must be directed to points and issues covered by the Office action and/or the patent owner’s response. The written comments filed by a third party requester should specify the issues and points in the Office action or the patent owner’s response to which each comment is directed. Thus, the third party requester should (1) set forth the point or issue, (2) state the page of the Office action and/or the patent owner response where the point or issue is recited, and (3) then present the third party requester’s discussion and argument as to the point or issue. If this is not done by the third party requester, the comments should not be held defective if the examiner can ascertain that all of the comments filed by the third party requester are directed to the issues and points in the Office action and/or the patent owner’s response.

Third party requester comments are limited to issues covered by the Office action or the patent owner’s response. New prior art can be submitted with the comments only where the prior art (A) is necessary to rebut a finding of fact by the examiner, (B) is necessary to rebut a response of the patent owner, or (C) for the first time became known or available to the third party requester after the filing of the request for inter partes reexamination.

As to item (A) above, 37 CFR 1.948(a)(1) permits the requester to provide new prior art rebutting the examiner’s interpretation/finding of what the art of record shows. However, a statement in an Office action that a particular claimed feature is not shown by the prior art of record (which includes references that were cited by requester) does NOT permit the requester to then cite new art to replace the art originally advanced by requester. Such a substitution of a new art for the art of record is not a rebuttal of the examiner’s finding that a feature in question is not taught by the art of record. Rather, such a substitution would amount to a rebuttal of a finding that a feature in question is not taught by any art in existence. A finding that the feature in question is not taught by any art in existence could not realistically be made for the reexamination proceeding, since the proceeding does not include a comprehensive validity search, and such was not envisioned by Congress as evidenced by the 35 U.S.C. 314(c) mandate that reexamination proceedings are to be conducted in the Office with special dispatch.

As to item (B) above, 37 CFR 1.948(a)(2) permits the requester to provide a new proposed rejection, where such new proposed rejection is necessitated by patent owner’s amendment of the claims. Analogous to item (A) above, a statement by the patent owner that a particular claimed feature is not shown, or is not obvious, by the prior art of record does NOT permit the requester to then (for unamended claims) cite newly-presented prior art to show the particular claimed feature, or otherwise propose any new rejection to replace the originally advanced proposed rejections in the reexamination request. Such a substitution of a newly proposed rejection for the original proposed rejection (for the unamended claims) is not a rebuttal of the patent owner's statement asserting that a feature in question is not taught, or is not obvious, by the art of record. Rather, to rebut the patent owner's statement in accordance with 37 CFR 1.947 and 1.948(a)(2), the requester may cite newly presented art directed to supporting the originally advanced proposed rejection(s) made in the request for reexamination, and include the new art as a supporting reference in the existing rejection. For example, the newly presented art may provide evidence that the modification of the reference(s) in the originally advanced proposed rejection would be obvious.

As to item (C) above, prior art submitted under 37 CFR 1.948(a)(3) must be accompanied by a statement that explains the circumstances as to when the prior art first became known or available to the third party requester, including the date and manner that the art became known or available, and why it was not available earlier. The submission must also include a discussion of the pertinency of each reference to the patentability of at least one claim. It is to be noted that entry of prior art submitted under 37 CFR 1.948(a)(3) does not, in and of itself, allow for a proposed rejection based on that art.

In summary, newly presented patents and printed publications (art) may be cited only in accordance with items (A) – (C) above. A newly proposed rejection based on the newly presented art, or on art already of record, may only be presented if the patent owner has presented an amendment to the patent claims, or proposed new claims, which necessitated the newly proposed rejection. The third party requester must present each newly proposed rejection in compliance with the guidelines set forth in MPEP § 2617, since any such new proposed rejection stands on the same footing as a proposed rejection presented with the request for reexamination, and is treated the same way as to future Office actions and any appeal. See MPEP § 2617 as to the required discussion of the pertinency of each reference to the patentability of at least one claim presented for the newly submitted prior art. An explanation pursuant to the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 311 of how the art is applied is no less important at this stage of the prosecution, than it is when filing the request. (It is to be understood that a rejection may be “proposed” by requester if the examiner withdrew that rejection in a prior Office action, and this is the first time requester has had an entry right to make it a “proposed” rejection; however, such is not being discussed here, since, although it is “newly proposed,” it is an old rejection to the case, based on art already of record).

Where the third party requester written comments are directed to matters other than issues and points covered by the Office action or the patent owner’s response, or where the prior art submitted with the comments does not satisfy at least one of (A) - (C) above, the written comments are improper. If the written comments are improper, the examiner should return the written comments (the entire paper) with an explanation of what is not proper; if the comments have been scanned into the Image File Wrapper (IFW) for the reexamination proceeding prior to the discovery of the impropriety, they should be expunged from the record, with notification being sent to the third party requester. The notification to the third party requester is to provide a time period of fifteen (15) days for the third party requester to rectify and refile the comments. If, upon the second submission, the comments are still not proper, the comments will be returned to third party requester with an explanation of what is not proper, and at that point the comments can no longer be resubmitted. The loss of right to submit further comments applies only to the patent owner response at hand. See MPEP § 2666.20. To the extent that 37 CFR 1.947 provides that the third party requester “may once” file written comments, that provision is hereby waived to the extent of providing the third party requester the one additional opportunity to remedy a comments paper containing merits-content that goes beyond what is permitted by the rules; 37 CFR 1.947 is not waived to provide any further opportunity in view of the statutory requirement for special dispatch in reexamination.

Any replacement comments submitted in response to the notification must be strictly limited to (i.e., must not go beyond) the comments in the original (returned) comments submission. No comments that add to those in the returned paper will be considered for entry.

The above practice of giving the third party requester a time period of 15 days to rectify and refile comments that are responsive but go beyond the regulatory requirements to the extent discussed above should not be confused with the situation where the third party requester files comments that are late (untimely), or such comments are “inappropriate” within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.957(a) and the time for response has expired. Where the comments are late or inappropriate, an additional 15 days is not given; rather, the comments must be refused consideration pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(a).

The third party requester is not permitted to file further papers to supplement the third party requester’s written comments. Any such improper supplemental comments will not be considered, and will be returned. A third party requester may, however, file written comments to any supplemental response filed by the patent owner.

See MPEP § 2666.20 for the situation where a third party requester elects not to file written comments on a patent owner response.

Where the patent owner does not respond to an Office action, the third party requester is prohibited from filing written comments under 37 CFR 1.947.

Note that a prior art citation which is proper under 37 CFR 1.501 and is submitted by any party as a separate paper and does not include argument and comments and does not go to the merits of the case, will not be returned, but rather will be stored until the ongoing reexamination proceeding is concluded. See MPEP § 2204 and 2206. Also note that prior art returned by the examiner in connection with the third party requester comments as discussed above can be resubmitted as a separate prior art citation under 37 CFR 1.501, and it will be stored until the ongoing reexamination proceeding is concluded.

III.   EXAMINER WITHDRAWS A GROUND OF REJECTION

If the examiner withdraws a ground of rejection at any time in the prosecution of the inter partes reexamination proceeding, the following guidelines apply:

  • (A) Where the examiner withdraws a ground of rejection originally initiated by the examiner, such withdrawal should be clearly stated in the Office action as a decision favorable to patentability with respect to the withdrawn rejection. The third party requester’s next set of comments that may be filed (after a patent owner response to an action) may propose the withdrawn rejection as a “rejection proposed by the third party requester.” In the event the patent owner fails to respond to all actions leading to the Right of Appeal Notice (RAN), including the Action Closing Prosecution (ACP), and a RAN is then issued, the third party requester may appeal this withdrawal of rejection as a final decision favorable to patentability. See 37 CFR 41.61(a)(2). Likewise, where the rejection is first withdrawn in the RAN, there will be no requester opportunity to comment prior to appeal, and the requester may appeal this withdrawal of rejection in the RAN as a final decision favorable to patentability.
  • (B) Where the claims have not been amended and the examiner withdraws a ground of rejection previously proposed by the third party requester (e.g., based on patent owner’s argument or evidence submitted), the examiner should treat the issue as a rejection proposed by the third party requester that the examiner refuses to adopt.
  • (C) Generally (subject to the below-stated exception), where the claims have been amended and the examiner withdraws a ground of rejection previously proposed by the third party requester, this is not a refusal of the examiner to adopt the rejection proposed by the requester, since the rejection was never proposed as to the amended claims. The third party requester’s next set of comments that may be filed (after a patent owner response to an action) may propose the withdrawn rejection as a “rejection proposed by the third party requester” as to the amended claims. In the event the patent owner fails to respond to all actions leading to the RAN, including the ACP, and a RAN is then issued, the third party requester may appeal this withdrawal of rejection as a final decision favorable to patentability. See 37 CFR 41.61(a)(2). Likewise, where the rejection is first withdrawn in the RAN, there will be no requester opportunity to comment prior to appeal, and the requester may appeal this withdrawal of rejection in the RAN as a final decision favorable to patentability.
  • (D) If a claim is amended merely to include a dependent claim that was previously subjected to a proposed requester rejection, and the examiner withdraws that ground of rejection as to the newly amended claim, such would be a refusal to adopt the third party requester’s previously proposed rejection of the dependent claim. Thus, the examiner would treat the issue as a rejection proposed by the third party requester that the examiner refuses to adopt.

2666.06    Service of Papers [R-08.2012]

37 C.F.R. 1.915   Content of request for inter partes reexamination.

*****

  • (b) A request for inter partes reexamination must include the following parts:

*****

  • (6) A certification by the third party requester that a copy of the request has been served in its entirety on the patent owner at the address provided for in § 1.33(c). The name and address of the party served must be indicated. If service was not possible, a duplicate copy of the request must be supplied to the Office.

*****

37 C.F.R. 1.903   Service of papers on parties in inter partes reexamination.

The patent owner and the third party requester will be sent copies of Office actions issued during the inter partes reexamination proceeding. After filing of a request for inter partes reexamination by a third party requester, any document filed by either the patent owner or the third party requester must be served on every other party in the reexamination proceeding in the manner provided in § 1.248. Any document must reflect service or the document may be refused consideration by the Office. The failure of the patent owner or the third party requester to serve documents may result in their being refused consideration.

Any paper filed with the Office, i.e., any submission made, by either the patent owner or the third party requester must be served on every other party in the reexamination proceeding including any other third party requester that is part of the proceeding due to merger of reexamination proceedings.

As proof of service, the party submitting the paper to the Office must attach a certificate of service to the paper. It is required that the certificate of service set forth the name and address of the party served and the method of service. Further, a copy of the certificate of service must be attached with the copy of the paper that is served on the other party.

Lack of service poses a problem, since, by statute (35 U.S.C. 314(b)(2)), a third party requester must file written comments within a period of 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s response, in order to be timely. In any instance where proof of service is not attached to a paper, a Notice of Defective Paper (PTOL-2069) will be mailed to the party, providing the party with a time period of one month or 30 days, whichever is longer, to complete the paper via a supplemental paper indicating the manner and date of service.

If it is known that service of a submission was not made, form paragraph 26.68 should be used to give notice to the party that made the submission of the requirement for service under 37 CFR 1.903.

¶ 26.68    Lack of Service in inter partes examination-37 CFR 1.903

The submission filed [1] is defective because it appears that the submission was not served on [2]. After the filing of a request for inter partes reexamination by a third party requester, any document filed by either the patent owner or the third party requester must be served on the other party (or parties where two third party requester proceedings are merged) in the inter partes reexamination proceeding in the manner provided in 37 CFR 1.248. See 37 CFR 1.903.

It is required that service of the submission be made, and a certificate of service be provided to the Office, within ONE MONTH from the date of this letter or within the time remaining in the response period of the last Office action (if applicable), whichever is longer.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. This paragraph may be used where a submission to the Office was not served as required in an inter partes reexamination proceeding.
  • 2. In bracket 2, insert “patent owner” or “third party requester,” whichever is appropriate.

PTOL-2071 should be used as the cover sheet for mailing the notice.

See MPEP § 2620 for service of the initial request on the patent owner.

As pointed out above, the service provision of the statute poses a problem, since, 35 U.S.C. 314(b)(2) mandates that, in order to be timely, a third party requester must file any written comments to the patent owner’s response (to an Office action on the merits) within a period of 30 days from the date of service of such patent owner’s response. Accordingly, if a patent owner’s response to an Office action on the merits that is served on a third party requester is received by the third party requester more than 5 business days after the date of service set forth on the certificate of service, the third party requester may submit a verified statement, specifying the date of actual receipt, as an attachment to the third party requester’s comments. The date of service will then be deemed by the Office to be the date of actual receipt by the third party requester of the patent owner’s response.

2666.07 - 2666.09   [Reserved]

2666.10   Patent Owner Does Not Respond to Office Action [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.957   Failure to file a timely, appropriate or complete response or comment in inter partes reexamination.

  • (a) If the third party requester files an untimely or inappropriate comment, notice of appeal or brief in an inter partes reexamination, the paper will be refused consideration.
  • (b) If no claims are found patentable, and the patent owner fails to file a timely and appropriate response in an inter partes reexamination proceeding, the prosecution in the reexamination proceeding will be a terminated prosecution and the Director will proceed to issue and publish a certificate concluding the reexamination proceeding under § 1.997 in accordance with the last action of the Office.
  • (c) If claims are found patentable and the patent owner fails to file a timely and appropriate response to any Office action in an inter partes reexamination proceeding, further prosecution will be limited to the claims found patentable at the time of the failure to respond, and to any claims added thereafter which do not expand the scope of the claims which were found patentable at that time.
  • (d) When action by the patent owner is a bona fide attempt to respond and to advance the prosecution and is substantially a complete response to the Office action, but consideration of some matter or compliance with some requirement has been inadvertently omitted, an opportunity to explain and supply the omission may be given.

I.   OFFICE ACTION PRIOR TO ACTION CLOSING PROSECUTION

If the patent owner fails to file a timely response to any Office action prior to an Action Closing Prosecution (ACP), it will result in the following consequences set forth in 37 CFR 1.957(b) or (c):

  • (A) Where there were no claims found patentable in the Office action, the examiner will issue a Notice of Intent to Issue Inter Partes Reexamination Certificate (NIRC) terminating prosecution and indicating the status of the claims as canceled. See MPEP § 2687.
  • (B) Where at least one claim is found patentable, all future prosecution will be limited to the claim(s) found patentable at the time of the failure to respond and to claims which do not expand the scope of the claim(s) found patentable at that time. The patent owner will not be permitted to add claims broader in the scope than the patentable claims which remain in the proceeding at the time of the patent owner’s failure to timely respond. The examiner will proceed to issue an ACP indicating that:
    • (1) Any claims under rejection or objection are withdrawn from consideration and will be canceled upon publication of the certificate; and
    • (2) Prosecution will be limited to the claim(s) found patentable at the time of the failure to respond and to claims which do not expand the scope of the claim(s) found patentable at that time.

The ACP will set a period for the patent owner response and the third party requester comments under 37 CFR 1.951. See also MPEP §§ 2671.02 and  2671.03.

II.   ACTION CLOSING PROSECUTION

A response to an ACP is not required. Where the patent owner does not respond to an ACP, the Office will issue an Right of Appeal Notice (see MPEP § 2673.02) in due course. Accordingly, the consequences of 37 CFR 1.957(b) and (c), do NOT apply to the patent owner’s failure to respond to an ACP.

III.   RIGHT OF APPEAL NOTICE AND APPEAL

Where the patent owner fails to make a timely appeal after the issuance of a Right of Appeal Notice, or where a timely patent owner’s appeal is subsequently dismissed, the following consequences would result:

  • (A) If no claim was found patentable at the time that the patent owner fails to take the timely action, a NIRC will immediately be issued. See MPEP § 2687.
  • (B) Where at least one claim was found patentable and the third party requester does not appeal, or fails to continue its appeal, the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding should be terminated. In order to do so, a NIRC will be issued. See MPEP § 2687.
  • (C) Where at least one claim was found patentable and the third party appellant continues its appeal, the claims in the proceeding will be limited to the claim(s) found patentable at the time that the patent owner fails to take the timely action, and all other claims will be withdrawn from consideration pending cancellation of same when the NIRC is issued. Any future prosecution is limited to the claims that do not expand the scope of the claim(s) found patentable at that time.

IV.   FAILURE OF THIRD PARTY REQUESTER TO TIMELY SUBMIT PAPER

See MPEP § 2666.20 for a discussion of the consequences where the third party requester fails to timely submit a paper where a time period is set for same.

2666.11 - 2666.19   [Reserved]

2666.20   Third Party Does Not Comment After Patent Owner Response [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.957   Failure to file a timely, appropriate or complete response or comment in inter partes reexamination.

  • (a) If the third party requester files an untimely or inappropriate comment, notice of appeal or brief in an inter partes reexamination, the paper will be refused consideration.

*****

Where a third party requester does not timely file written comments on a patent owner response, any subsequent submission of comments on that response will be refused consideration. The third party requester does not, however, lose any rights as to commenting on future patent owner responses. The failure to file the comments applies only to the specific response which the third party requester elects not to comment upon.

Note that where the third party requester did not file comments on a response that was determined by the Office to be incomplete, the third party requester may file comments on the response once it is completed (by patent owner’s submission of a supplemental response). However, where only a fee (other than an excess claims fee to support an amendment) is needed to complete the response, the third party requester may not file comments after the fee is submitted; see MPEP § 2666.40 for a detailed discussion.

Where the third party requester fails to make a timely appeal or the third party requester’s appeal is dismissed, the third party requester loses further rights as the appellant in the appeal. However, where a patent owner appellant continues its appeal, the third party requester as the respondent can file a respondent brief. Also, the third party requester can enter the appeal pursuant to 37 CFR 41.77(c) and (e) (submission after a Board decision). In addition, the third party requester can comment on any subsequent patent owner response to any Office action, where the action is issued after the appeal.

Where the third party requester fails to timely appeal, or the requester’s appeal is dismissed, and no other appeal is pending in the proceeding, the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding should be terminated by the issuance of a NIRC.

2666.21 - 2666.29   [Reserved]

2666.30   Submission Not Fully Responsive to Non-final Office Action [R-08.2012]

37 C.F.R. 1.957   Failure to file a timely, appropriate or complete response or comment in inter partes reexamination.

*****

  • (d) When action by the patent owner is a bona fide attempt to respond and to advance the prosecution and is substantially a complete response to the Office action, but consideration of some matter or compliance with some requirement has been inadvertently omitted, an opportunity to explain and supply the omission may be given.

A response by the patent owner will be considered not fully responsive to a non-final Office action where a bona fide response to an examiner’s Office action is filed before the expiration of the permissible response period but through an apparent oversight or inadvertence, some point necessary to a full response has been omitted (i.e., appropriate consideration of a matter that the action raised, or compliance with some requirement, has been omitted). In this situation, the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding should not be terminated. Rather, the examiner may, pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(d), treat the patent owner submission which is not fully responsive to an Office action by:

  • (A) waiving the deficiencies (if not serious) in the response and acting on the patent owner submission;
  • (B) treating the amendment/response as an incomplete response to the Office action and notifying the patent owner (via a written notification action pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(d)) that the response must be completed within the period for response set in the notification action (or within any extension pursuant to 37 CFR 1.956)) to avoid termination of the prosecution (pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(b)) or limiting prosecution of the claims to those found patentable (pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(c)).

Discussion of Option (A). Where a patent owner submission responds to the rejections, objections, or requirements in an Office action and is a bona fide attempt to advance the reexamination proceeding to final action, but contains a minor deficiency (e.g., fails to treat every rejection, objection, or requirement), the examiner may simply act on the amendment and issue a new Office action. The new Office action may simply reiterate the rejection, objection, or requirement not addressed by the patent owner submission, or the action may indicate that such rejection, objection, or requirement is no longer applicable. In the new Office action, the examiner will identify the part of the previous Office action which was not responded to and clearly indicate what is needed. This course of action would not be appropriate in instances in which a patent owner submission contains a serious deficiency (e.g., the patent owner submission does not appear to have been filed in response to the Office action).

Discussion of Option (B). Where the patent owner’s submission contains a serious deficiency, i.e., omission, to be dealt with prior to issuing an action on the merits and the period for response has expired, or there is insufficient time remaining to take corrective action before the expiration of the period for response, the patent owner should be notified of the deficiency and the correction needed, and given a new time period for response (usually 1 month) pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(d). The patent owner must then supply the omission within the new time period for response or any extensions under 37 CFR 1.956 thereof to avoid termination of the prosecution (pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(b)) or limiting prosecution of the claims to those found patentable (pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(c)).

Form paragraph 26.06 may be used where option (B) is employed by the examiner to obtain correction of the deficiency.

¶ 26.06    Submission Not Fully Responsive to Office Action

The communication filed on [1] is not fully responsive to the prior Office action. [2]. The response appears to be bona fide, but through an apparent oversight or inadvertence, consideration of some matter or compliance with some requirement has been omitted. Patent owner is required to supply the omission or correction to thereby provide a full response to the prior Office action.

A shortened statutory period for response to this letter is set to expire (a) ONE MONTH, or THIRTY DAYS (whichever is longer), from the mailing date of this letter, or (b) after the due date for response to the last Office action, whichever of (a) or (b) is longer. THE PERIOD FOR RESPONSE SET IN THIS LETTER MAY BE EXTENDED UNDER 37 CFR 1.956.

If patent owner fails to timely supply the omission or correction and thereby provide a full response to the prior Office action, the consequences set forth in 37 CFR 1.957(b) or (c) will result. See MPEP § 2666.10.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. In bracket 2, the examiner should explain the nature of the omitted point necessary to complete the response, i.e., what part of the Office action was not responded to. The examiner should also clearly indicate what is needed to correct the omission.
  • 2. This paragraph may be used for a patent owner communication that is not completely responsive to the outstanding (i.e., prior) Office action. See MPEP § 2666.30.
  • 3. This practice does not apply where there has been a deliberate omission of some necessary part of a complete response. See MPEP § 2666.30.

I.   NO NOTIFICATION BY TELEPHONE

It should be noted that the patent owner cannot simply be notified by telephone that the omission must be supplied within the remaining time period for response. This notification would be an interview, and interviews are prohibited in inter partes reexamination. 37 CFR 1.955.

II.   FURTHER DISCUSSION

The practice of giving the patent owner a time period to supply an omission in a bona fide response (pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(d)) does not apply where there has been a deliberate omission of some necessary part of a complete response. It is applicable only when the missing matter or lack of compliance is considered by the examiner as being “inadvertently omitted” pursuant to 37 CFR 1.957(d). Once an inadvertent omission is brought to the attention of the patent owner, the question of inadvertence no longer exists. Therefore, a second written notification action giving another new (1 month) time period to supply the omission would not be appropriate. However, if the patent owner’s response to the notification of the omission raises a different issue of a different inadvertently omitted matter, a second written notification action may be given.

This practice authorizes, but does not require, an examiner to give the patent owner a new time period to supply an omission. Thus, where the examiner concludes that the patent owner is attempting to abuse the practice to obtain additional time for filing a response, the practice should not be followed.

2666.31 - 2666.39   [Reserved]

2666.40   Patent Owner Completion of Response and Third Party Comments Thereon [R-08.2012]

In most cases, the patent owner will have 30-days or one month (whichever is longer) to complete the response. After the owner completes the response, the examiner will wait two months from the date of service of the patent owner’s completion of the response, and then take up the case for action, since the 30 days for the third party requester comments on the response as completed will have expired by that time.

The third party requester may file comments on the response as completed. This is true whether or not the third party requester filed comments on the response that was incomplete. The response as completed is treated as a new response on-the-merits to the Office action; thus, the third party requester is entitled to respond and has 30 days to do so.

In some instances, only a fee will be needed for the patent owner to complete the response. In these instances (other than a failure to pay excess claims fees), any third party requester comments must be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s original response (which was indicated by the Office as incomplete due to the omission of the necessary fee). The third party requester is not permitted to file comments in response to the submission of the fee, because the submission of a fee clearly adds nothing on the merits. An example of this would be where a terminal disclaimer is newly required in a reexamination proceeding and is submitted, but the fee is inadvertently omitted. The response would then be incomplete only as to the omitted fee. Any third party requester comments on the terminal disclaimer must be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s terminal disclaimer on the third party requester. Where the patent owner then completes the response by filing the fee, the third party requester is not permitted to then comment. However, if the patent owner’s response is not limited to the bare submission of the fee, i.e., if the response also includes argument, then the third party can comment since the patent owner has addressed the merits of the case.

In those instances where there is a failure to pay an excess claims fee by the patent owner, the third party requester does not have the new claim “package” to comment on. Thus, the third party requester comments may be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the patent owner’s response correcting the excess claims fee deficiency.

2666.41 - 2666.49   [Reserved]

2666.50   Examiner Issues Notice of Defective Paper in Inter Partes Reexamination [R-08.2012 ]

Even if the substance of a submission is complete, the submission can still be defective, i.e., an “informal submission.” Defects in the submission can be, for example:

  • (A) The paper filed does not include proof of service;
  • (B) The paper filed is unsigned;
  • (C) The paper filed is signed by a person who is not of record;
  • (D) The amendment filed by the patent owner does not comply with 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j); or
  • (E) The amendment filed by the patent owner does not comply with 37 CFR 1.20(c)(3) and/or (c)(4).

Where a submission made is defective (informal), form PTOL-2069 is used to provide notification of the defects present in the submission. Form PTOL-2069 is reproduced below. In many cases, it is only necessary to check the appropriate box on the form and fill in the blanks. However, if the defect denoted by one of the entries on form PTOL-2069 needs further clarification (such as the specifics of why the amendment does not comply with 37 CFR 1.530(d)-(j)), the additional information should be set forth on a separate sheet of paper which is then attached to the form PTOL-2069.

The defects identified in (A) through (E) above are specifically included in form PTOL-2069. If the submission contains a defect other than those specifically included on the form, the “Other” box on the form is to be checked and the defect explained in the space provided for the explanation. For example, a response might be presented on easily erasable paper, and thus, a new submission would be needed.

Where both the patent owner response and the third party comments are defective, a first form PTOL-2069 should be completed for the patent owner (setting forth the defects in the patent owner response), and a second form PTOL-2069 completed for the third party requester (setting forth the defects in the third party requester’s comments). A copy of both completed forms would then be sent to all parties.

A time period of one month or thirty days, whichever is longer, from the mailing date of the PTOL-2069 letter will be set in the letter for correcting the defect(s). The patent owner may request an extension of time to correct the defect(s) under 37 CFR 1.956. The third party requester, however, is barred from requesting an extension of time by statute. 35 U.S.C. 314(b)(2). If, in response to the notice, the defect still is not corrected, the submission will not be entered. If the failure to comply with the notice results in a patent owner failure to file a timely and appropriate response to any Office action, the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding generally will be terminated or limited under 37 CFR 1.957 (whichever is appropriate).

If the defect in the patent owner response or the third party requester comments is limited to a problem with the signature, claim format, or some other obvious defect (easily corrected), and such is noted by the staff of the Office of Patent Legal Administration (OPLA) processing the papers, then the staff of OPLA may, in some instances, issue form PTOL-2069 to notify parties of the defect, and obtain a response to the form, prior to forwarding the case to the examiner. Otherwise, the responsibility is with the examiner to obtain the needed correction of the defects in the papers, which defects are either identified to the examiner by the staff of OPLA in an informal memo, or noted independently by the examiner.

PTOL 2069. Notice Re Defective Paper in Inter Partes Reexamination

2666.51 - 2666.59   [Reserved]

2666.60   Response by Patent Owner/Third Party to Notice of Defective Paper [R-08.2012]

The patent owner and/or the third party requester will be given a time period of one month or thirty days, whichever is longer, from the mailing date of the notice of defective paper or the time remaining in the response/comments period set in the last Office action to correct the defect in a submission. If, in response to the notice, the defect still is not corrected, the submission will not be entered. If the failure to comply with the notice results in a patent owner failure to file a timely and appropriate response to any Office action, the prosecution of the reexamination proceeding will be terminated under 37 CFR 1.957(b) or limited under 37 CFR 1.957(c) (as is appropriate for the case).

After the patent owner or the third party requester has provided a submission directed solely to correcting the defect, the other party is not permitted to comment on the submission correcting the defect, since the submission correcting the defect is directed to form and does not go to the merits of the case. This would be the case, for example, where the failure to provide a signature or a certificate of service is corrected, or where a permanent copy is submitted to replace an “easily erasable” paper that was originally submitted.

In the case of correcting a defective amendment, however, other issues come into play. Where for example, new claims 10-20 are improperly presented in a patent owner response (e.g., not properly underlined), they generally will not be entered and form PTOL-2069 (Box 4) will be used to notify the patent owner of the need to correct this defect. Until the defect is corrected, claims 10-20 do not yet exist in the proceeding for the third party requester to comment on. Likewise, any argument that was directed to such claims is not truly ripe for the third party requester comment. After the patent owner corrects the defect, claims 10-20 come into existence in the proceeding, and the argument presented by the patent owner becomes relevant. At this point, the third party requester has a right to provide comments in response to the patent owner’s argument, whether or not the argument that was included in the original patent owner submission is re-presented with the paper correcting the defect. Thus, any third party requester comments submitted either in response to the patent owner’s initial paper (presenting the informal claims) or in response to the patent owner’s supplemental paper (correcting the informality) will be considered by the examiner.

Any submission correcting the defect which provides a discussion of the merits should (A) set forth that discussion separately from the portion of the response that corrects the defect, and (B) clearly identify the additional discussion as going to the merits. The additional discussion going to the merits must, in and of itself, have an entry right, or the entire submission will be returned to the party that submitted it, and one additional opportunity (30-days or one month, whichever is longer) will be provided, to correct the defect without a discussion of the merits. If the portion directed to the merits is not clearly delineated and identified, the entire submission may be returned to the party that submitted it, and one additional opportunity (30-days or one month, whichever is longer) is then given for that party to correct the defect without intermixed discussion of the merits. The examiner may, however, choose to permit entry of such a paper.

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Last Modified: 03/27/2014 10:10:35