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410    Representations to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.4   Nature of correspondence and signature requirements.

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  • (d)

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  • (4) Certifications.
    • (i) Section 11.18 certifications: The presentation to the Office (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) of any paper by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, constitutes a certification under § 11.18(b) of this subchapter. Violations of § 11.18(b)(2) of this subchapter by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, may result in the imposition of sanctions under § 11.18(c) of this subchapter. Any practitioner violating § 11.18(b) of this subchapter may also be subject to disciplinary action. See § 11.18(d) of this subchapter.
    • (ii) Certifications as to the signature :
      • (A) Of another: A person submitting a document signed by another under paragraph (d)(2) of this section is obligated to have a reasonable basis to believe that the person whose signature is present on the document was actually inserted by that person, and should retain evidence of authenticity of the signature.
      • (B) Self certification : The person inserting a signature under paragraph (d)(2) of this section in a document submitted to the Office certifies that the inserted signature appearing in the document is his or her own signature.
      • (C) Sanctions: Violations of the certifications as to the signature of another or a person’s own signature, set forth in paragraphs (d)(4)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section, may result in the imposition of sanctions under § 11.18(c) and (d) of this chapter.
  • (e) The following correspondence must be submitted with an original handwritten signature personally signed in permanent dark ink or its equivalent:
    • (1) Correspondence requiring a person's signature and relating to registration to practice before the Patent and Trademark Office in patent cases, enrollment and disciplinary investigations, or disciplinary proceedings; and
    • (2) Payments by credit cards where the payment is not being made via the Office's electronic filing systems.

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37 C.F.R. 11.18   Signature and certificate for correspondence filed in the Office.

  • (a) For all documents filed in the Office in patent, trademark, and other non-patent matters, and all documents filed with a hearing officer in a disciplinary proceeding, except for correspondence that is required to be signed by the applicant or party, each piece of correspondence filed by a practitioner in the Office must bear a signature, personally signed by such practitioner, in compliance with § 1.4(d)(1) of this subchapter.
  • (b) By presenting to the Office or hearing officer in a disciplinary proceeding (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) any paper, the party presenting such paper, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, is certifying that—
    • (1) All statements made therein of the party’s own knowledge are true, all statements made therein on information and belief are believed to be true, and all statements made therein are made with the knowledge that whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the Office, knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or knowingly and willfully makes any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or knowingly and willfully makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, shall be subject to the penalties set forth under 18 U.S.C. 1001 and any other applicable criminal statute, and violations of the provisions of this section may jeopardize the probative value of the paper; and
    • (2) To the best of the party’s knowledge, information and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances,
      • (i) The paper is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass someone or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of any proceeding before the Office;
      • (ii) The other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;
      • (iii) The allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
      • (iv) The denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence, or if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on a lack of information or belief.
  • (c) Violations of any of paragraphs (b)(2)(i) through (iv) of this section are, after notice and reasonable opportunity to respond, subject to such sanctions or actions as deemed appropriate by the USPTO Director, which may include, but are not limited to, any combination of—
    • (1) Striking the offending paper;
    • (2) Referring a practitioner’s conduct to the Director of Enrollment and Discipline for appropriate action;
    • (3) Precluding a party or practitioner from submitting a paper, or presenting or contesting an issue;
    • (4) Affecting the weight given to the offending paper; or
    • (5) Terminating the proceedings in the Office.
  • (d) Any practitioner violating the provisions of this section may also be subject to disciplinary action.

37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) provides that the presentation to the Office (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) of any paper by a party, whether a practitioner or nonpractitioner, constitutes a certification under 37 CFR 11.18(b), , and that violations of 37 CFR 11.18(b)(2) may subject the party to sanctions under 37 CFR 11.18(c). Thus, by presenting a paper to the Office, the party is making the certifications set forth in 37 CFR 11.18(b), and is subject to sanctions under 37 CFR 11.18(c) for violations of 37 CFR 11.18(b)(2), regardless of whether the party is a practitioner or nonpractitioner. A practitioner violating 37 CFR 11.18(b) may also be subject to disciplinary action in lieu of or in addition to sanctions under 37 CFR 11.18(c) for violations of 37 CFR 11.18(b). See 37 CFR 11.18(d).

Additional certifications provided in 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) include that a person inserting a signature into a document under 37 CFR 1.4(d)(2) certifies that the inserted signature appearing in the document is his or her own signature. Also, a person filing a document signed by another under 37 CFR 1.4(d)(2) is obligated to have a reasonable basis to believe that the signature present on the document was actually inserted by that person. The person filing the document should retain evidence of the authenticity of the signature. See 37 CFR 1.4(h).

37 CFR 11.18(b) provides that, by presenting any paper to the USPTO, the party presenting such paper is making two certifications: (1) the first certification is that the statements made therein are subject to the declaration clause of 37 CFR 1.68; (2) the second certification is the certification required for papers filed in a federal court under Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The first certification has permitted the USPTO to eliminate the separate verification requirement previously contained in several rules for statements of facts by persons who are not registered to practice before the USPTO. As statements submitted to the USPTO by any person are now, by operation of 37 CFR 11.18(b)(1), verified statements, a separate verification requirement is no longer necessary. The USPTO, however, has retained the verification requirement for a statement to be submitted under oath or declaration (37 CFR 1.68) in a number of sections (e.g., 37 CFR 1.63, 1.64, 1.130, 1.131, 1.132, 1.495(f), and 5.25).

The second certification is based upon Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (2007). This provision is promulgated pursuant to the Director’s authority under 35 U.S.C. 2(b)(2) to establish regulations for the conduct of proceedings in the USPTO, and is intended to discourage the filing of frivolous papers by practitioners or non-practitioners in the USPTO. Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

Representations to Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper—whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it—an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

(3)the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2007).

37 CFR 11.18(b)(2)includes the same substantive requirements as Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b). The advisory committee notes to the 1993 revision of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) provide, in part, that:

[Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) and (c)] restate the provisions requiring attorneys and pro se litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the law and facts before signing pleadings, written motions, and other documents, and prescribing sanctions for violations of these obligations. The [1993] revision in part expands the responsibilities of litigants to the court, while providing greater constraints and flexibility in dealing with infractions of the rule. The rule continues to require litigants to “stop-and-think” before initially making legal or factual contentions. It also, however, emphasizes the duty of candor by subjecting litigants to potential sanctions for insisting upon a position after it is no longer tenable and by generally providing protection against sanctions if they withdraw or correct contentions after a potential violation is called to their attention.

The rule applies only to assertions contained in papers filed with or submitted to the court. It does not cover matters arising for the first time during oral presentations to the court, when counsel may make statements that would not have been made if there had been more time for study and reflection. However, a litigant's obligations with respect to the contents of these papers are not measured solely as of the time they are filed with or submitted to the court, but include reaffirming to the court and advocating positions contained in those pleadings and motions after learning that they cease to have any merit. For example, an attorney who during a pretrial conference insists on a claim or defense should be viewed as “presenting to the court” that contention and would be subject to the obligations of [Rule 11(b)] measured as of that time. Similarly, if after a notice of removal is filed, a party urges in federal court the allegations of a pleading filed in state court (whether as claims, defenses, or in disputes regarding removal or remand), it would be viewed as “presenting”-- and hence certifying to the district court under Rule 11--those allegations.

The certification with respect to allegations and other factual contentions is revised in recognition that sometimes a litigant may have good reason to believe that a fact is true or false but may need discovery, formal or informal, from opposing parties or third persons to gather and confirm the evidentiary basis for the allegation. Tolerance of factual contentions in initial pleadings by plaintiffs or defendants when specifically identified as made on information and belief does not relieve litigants from the obligation to conduct an appropriate investigation into the facts that is reasonable under the circumstances; it is not a license to join parties, make claims, or present defenses without any factual basis or justification. Moreover, if evidentiary support is not obtained after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery, the party has a duty under the rule not to persist with that contention. [Rule 11(b)] does not require a formal amendment to pleadings for which evidentiary support is not obtained, but rather calls upon a litigant not thereafter to advocate such claims or defenses.

The certification is that there is (or likely will be) “evidentiary support” for the allegation, not that the party will prevail with respect to its contention regarding the fact. That summary judgment is rendered against a party does not necessarily mean, for purposes of this certification, that it had no evidentiary support for its position. On the other hand, if a party has evidence with respect to a contention that would suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment based thereon, it would have sufficient “evidentiary support” for purposes of Rule 11.

Denials of factual contentions involve somewhat different considerations. Often, of course, a denial is premised upon the existence of evidence contradicting the alleged fact. At other times a denial is permissible because, after an appropriate investigation, a party has no information concerning the matter or, indeed, has a reasonable basis for doubting the credibility of the only evidence relevant to the matter. A party should not deny an allegation it knows to be true; but it is not required, simply because it lacks contradictory evidence, to admit an allegation that it believes is not true.

The changes in [Rule 11(b)(3) and (4)] will serve to equalize the burden of the rule upon plaintiffs and defendants, who under Rule 8(b) are in effect allowed to deny allegations by stating that from their initial investigation they lack sufficient information to form a belief as to the truth of the allegation. If, after further investigation or discovery, a denial is no longer warranted, the defendant should not continue to insist on that denial. While sometimes helpful, formal amendment of the pleadings to withdraw an allegation or denial is not required by [Rule 11(b)].

Arguments for extensions, modifications, or reversals of existing law or for creation of new law do not violate [Rule 11(b)(2)] provided they are “nonfrivolous.” This establishes an objective standard, intended to eliminate any “empty-head pure-heart” justification for patently frivolous arguments. However, to the extent to which a litigant has researched the issues and found some support for its theories even in minority opinions, in law review articles, or through consultation with other attorneys should certainly be taken into account in determining whether [Rule 11(b)(2)] has been violated. Although arguments for a change in law are not required to be specifically so identified, a contention that is so identified should be viewed with greater tolerance under [Rule 11].

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure at 50-53 (1993). An “inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” requirement of 37 CFR 10.18(b)(2) is identical to that in Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b). The Federal courts have stated in regard to the “reasonable inquiry” requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11:

In requiring reasonable inquiry before the filing of any pleading in a civil case in federal district court, Rule 11 demands “an objective determination of whether a sanctioned party's conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.” In effect it imposes a negligence standard, for negligence is a failure to use reasonable care. The equation between negligence and failure to conduct a reasonable precomplaint inquiry is . . . that “the amount of investigation required by Rule 11 depends on both the time available to investigate and on the probability that more investigation will turn up important evidence; the Rule does not require steps that are not cost-justified.”

Hays v. Sony Corp. of Am., 847 F.2d 412, 418, 7 USPQ2d 1043, 1048 (7th. Cir. 1988) (citations omitted) (decided prior to the 1993 amendment to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, but discussing a “reasonable under the circumstances” standard).

37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) and 11.18 do not require a practitioner to advise the client (or third party) providing information of this certification effect (or the sanctions applicable to noncompliance), or question the client (or third party) when such information or instructions are provided. When a practitioner is submitting information (e.g., a statement of fact) from the applicant or a third party, or relying upon information from the applicant or a third party in his/her arguments, the Office will consider a practitioner's “inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” duty under 37 CFR 11.18 met so long as the practitioner has no knowledge of information that is contrary to the information provided by the applicant or third party or would otherwise indicate that the information provided by the applicant or third party was so provided for the purpose of a violation of 37 CFR 11.18 (e.g., was submitted to cause unnecessary delay).

Nevertheless, it is highly advisable for a practitioner to advise a client or third party that any information so provided must be reliable and not misleading. The submission by an applicant of misleading or inaccurate statements of facts during the prosecution of applications for patent has resulted in the patents issuing on such applications being held unenforceable. See, e.g. , Refac Int'l Ltd. v. Lotus Development Corp., 81 F.3d 1576, 38 USPQ2d 1665 (Fed. Cir. 1996); Paragon Podiatry Laboratory, Inc. v. KLM Laboratories, Inc., 984 F.2d 1182, 25 USPQ2d 1561 (Fed. Cir 1993); Rohm & Haas Co. v. Crystal Chem. Co., 722 F.2d 1556, 200 USPQ 289 (Fed. Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 851 (1984); Ott v. Goodpasture, 40 USPQ2d 1831 (D.N. Tex. 1996); Herman v. William Brooks Shoe Co., 39 USPQ2d 1773 (S.D.N.Y. 1996); Golden Valley Microwave Food Inc. v. Weaver Popcorn Co., 837 F. Supp. 1444, 24 USPQ2d 1801 (N.D. Ind. 1992), aff'd, 11 F.3d 1072 (Fed. Cir. 1993)(table), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1128 (1994). Likewise, false statements by a practitioner in a paper submitted to the Office during the prosecution of an application for patent have resulted in the patent issuing on such application also being held unenforceable. See General Electro Music Corp. v. Samick Music Corp., 19 F.3d 1405, 30 USPQ2d 1149 (Fed. Cir. 1994)(false statement in a petition to make an application special constitutes inequitable conduct, and renders the patent issuing on such application unenforceable).

An applicant has no duty to conduct a prior art search as a prerequisite to filing an application for patent. See Nordberg, Inc. v. Telsmith, Inc., 82 F.3d 394, 397, 38 USPQ2d 1593, 1595-96 (Fed. Cir. 1996); FMC Corp. v. Hennessy Indus., Inc., 836 F.2d 521, 526 n.6, 5 USPQ2d 1272, 1275-76 n.6 (Fed. Cir. 1987); FMC Corp. v. Manitowoc Co., 835 F.2d 1411, 1415, 5 USPQ2d 1112, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 1987); American Hoist & Derrick Co. v. Sowa & Sons, Inc., 725 F.2d 1350, 1362, 220 USPQ 763, 772 (Fed. Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 821, 224 USPQ 520 (1984). Thus, the “inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” requirement of 37 CFR 11.18 does not create any new duty on the part of an applicant for patent to conduct a prior art search. See MPEP § 609; cf. Judin v. United States, 110 F.3d 780, 42 USPQ2d 1300 (Fed. Cir 1997)(the failure to obtain and examine the accused infringing device prior to bringing a civil action for infringement violates the 1983 version of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11). The “inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” requirement of 37 CFR 11.18, however, will require an inquiry into the underlying facts and circumstances when a practitioner provides conclusive statements to the Office (e.g., a statement that the entire delay in filing the required reply from the due date for the reply until the filing of a grantable petition pursuant to 37 CFR 1.137(b) was unintentional).

37 CFR 11.18(c) specifically provides that violations of 37 CFR 11.18(b)(1) may jeopardize the validity of the application or document, or the validity or enforceability of any patent, trademark registration, or certificate resulting therefrom, and that violations of any of 37 CFR 11.18(b)(2)(i) through (iv) are, after notice and reasonable opportunity to respond, subject to such sanctions as deemed appropriate by the USPTO Director, which may include, but are not limited to, any combination of:

  • (1) Striking the offending paper;
  • (2) Referring a practitioner’s conduct to the Director of Enrollment and Discipline for appropriate action;
  • (3) Precluding a party or practitioner from submitting a paper, or presenting or contesting an issue;
  • (4) Affecting the weight given to the offending paper; or
  • (5) Terminating the proceedings in the Office

The Office has amended 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) and 11.18 with the objective of discouraging the filing of frivolous or clearly unwarranted correspondence in the Office, not to routinely review correspondence for compliance with 37 CFR 11.18(b)(2) and impose sanctions under 37 CFR 11.18(c).

Where the circumstances of an application or other proceeding warrant a determination of whether there has been a violation of 37 CFR 11.18(b), the file or the application or other proceeding will be forwarded to the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) for a determination of whether there has been a violation of 37 CFR 11.18(b). In the event that OED determines that a provision of 37 CFR 11.18(b) has been violated, the USPTO Director will determine what (if any) sanction(s) under 37 CFR 11.18(c) is to be imposed in the application or other proceeding. In addition, if OED determines that a provision of 37 CFR 11.18(b) has been violated by a practitioner, OED will determine whether such practitioner is to be subject to disciplinary action (see 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) and 11.18(d)). That is, OED will provide a determination of whether there has been a violation of 37 CFR 11.18(b), and if such violation is by a practitioner, whether such practitioner is to be subject to disciplinary action; however, OED will not be responsible for imposing sanctions under 37 CFR 11.18(c) in an application or other proceeding.

37 CFR 11.18(d) provides that any practitioner violating the provisions of this section may also be subject to disciplinary action. 37 CFR 11.18(d) (and the corresponding provision of 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4)) clarifies that a practitioner may be subject to disciplinary action in lieu of, or in addition to, the sanctions set forth in 37 CFR 11.18(c) for violations of 37 CFR 11.18.

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