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710    Period for Reply [R-11.2013]

35 U.S.C. 133   Time for prosecuting application.

Upon failure of the applicant to prosecute the application within six months after any action therein, of which notice has been given or mailed to the applicant, or within such shorter time, not less than thirty days, as fixed by the Director in such action, the application shall be regarded as abandoned by the parties thereto, unless it be shown to the satisfaction of the Director that such delay was unavoidable.

35 U.S.C. 267   Time for taking action in Government applications.

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 133 and 151 of this title, the Director may extend the time for taking any action to three years, when an application has become the property of the United States and the head of the appropriate department or agency of the Government has certified to the Director that the invention disclosed therein is important to the armament or defense of the United States.

See MPEP Chapter 1200 for period for reply when appeal is taken or court review sought.

Extension of time under 35 U.S.C. 267 is decided by the Technology Center Director of work group 3640.

710.01   Statutory Period [R-08.2012]

37 C.F.R. 1.135   Abandonment for failure to reply within time period.

  • (a) If an applicant of a patent application fails to reply within the time period provided under § 1.134 and § 1.136, the application will become abandoned unless an Office action indicates otherwise.
  • (b) Prosecution of an application to save it from abandonment pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section must include such complete and proper reply as the condition of the application may require. The admission of, or refusal to admit, any amendment after final rejection or any amendment not responsive to the last action, or any related proceedings, will not operate to save the application from abandonment.
  • (c) When reply by the applicant is a bona fide attempt to advance the application to final action, and is substantially a complete reply to the non-final Office action, but consideration of some matter or compliance with some requirement has been inadvertently omitted, applicant may be given a new time period for reply under § 1.134 to supply the omission.

The maximum statutory period for reply to an Office action is 6 months. 35 U.S.C. 133. Shortened periods are currently used in practically all cases. See MPEP § 710.02(b).

37 CFR 1.135 provides that if no reply is filed within the time set in the Office action under 37 CFR 1.134 or as it may be extended under 37 CFR 1.136, the application will be abandoned unless an Office action indicates otherwise.

37 CFR 1.135(b) specifies that: (A) the admission of, or refusal to admit, any amendment after final rejection, or any related proceedings, will not operate to save the application from abandonment; and (B) the admission of, or refusal to admit, any amendment not responsive to the last action, or any related proceedings, will not operate to save the application from abandonment.

37 CFR 1.135(c) was amended to change the practice of providing a non-statutory time limit (generally 1 month) during which an applicant may supply an omission to a previous reply. Under the current practice, the examiner may set a shortened statutory time period (generally 1 month) during which an applicant must supply the omission to the previous reply to avoid abandonment.

The prior practice under 37 CFR 1.135(c) was to set a time limit during which the applicant could supply the omission to the previous reply. Failure to supply the omission resulted in the abandonment of the application as of the due date for the previous reply. Filing a new application during the time limit, but beyond the due date for the previous reply, could have caused a loss of patent rights due to the lack of copendency between the applications.

37 CFR 1.135(c) now authorizes the examiner to accept a reply to a non-final Office action that is bona fide and is substantially complete but for an inadvertent omission as an adequate reply to avoid abandonment under 35 U.S.C. 133 and 37 CFR 1.135. When a bona fide attempt to reply includes an inadvertent omission that precludes action on the merits of the application (e.g., an amendment is unsigned or improperly signed, or presents an amendment with additional claims so as to require additional fees pursuant to 37 CFR 1.16(h), (i), or (j)), the examiner may consider that reply adequate to avoid abandonment under 35 U.S.C. 133 and 37 CFR 1.135, and give the applicant a shortened statutory time period of 1 month to correct the omission (e.g ., provide a duplicate paper or ratification, or submit the additional claims fees or cancel the claims so that no fee is due). The failure to timely supply the omission will result in abandonment under 35 U.S.C. 133 and 37 CFR 1.135. Extensions of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) or (b) will be available, unless the action setting the shortened statutory period indicates otherwise.

When a bona fide attempt to reply includes an omission that does not preclude action on the merits of the application (e.g., a reply fails to address a rejection or objection), the examiner may waive the deficiency in the reply and act on the application. The examiner may repeat and make final the rejection, objection, or requirement that was the subject of the omission. Thus, a reply to a non-final Office action that is bona fide but includes an omission may be treated by: (A) issuing an Office action that does not treat the reply on its merits but requires the applicant to supply the omission to avoid abandonment; or (B) issuing an Office action that does treat the reply on its merits (and which can also require the applicant to supply the omission to avoid abandonment).

Finally, whether a 1-month shortened statutory time period is provided to the applicant to supply the omission to the previous reply is within the discretion of the examiner. Where the examiner determines that the omission was not inadvertent (e.g., the applicant is abusing the provisions of 37 CFR 1.135(c) to gain additional time to file a proper reply or to delay examination of the application), the examiner should notify the applicant of the omission in the reply and advise the applicant that the omission to the previous reply must be supplied within the period for reply to the prior action, including extensions of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a), if permitted. See also MPEP § 714.03.

710.01(a)   Statutory Period, How Computed

The actual time taken for reply is computed from the date stamped or printed on the Office action to the date of receipt by the Office of applicant’s reply. No cognizance is taken of fractions of a day and applicant’s reply is due on the corresponding day of the month 6 months or any lesser number of months specified after the Office action.

For example, reply to an Office action with a 3-month shortened statutory period dated November 30 is due on the following February 28 (or 29 if it is a leap year), while a reply to an Office action dated February 28 is due on May 28 and not on the last day of May. Ex parte Messick, 7 USPQ 57 (Comm’r Pat. 1930).

A 1-month extension of time extends the time for reply to the date corresponding to the Office action date in the following month. For example, a reply to an Office action mailed on January 31 with a 3-month shortened statutory period would be due on April 30. If a 1-month extension of time were given, the reply would be due by May 31. The fact that April 30 may have been a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday has no effect on the extension of time. Where the period for reply is extended by some time period other than “1-month” or an even multiple thereof, the person granting the extension should indicate the date upon which the extended period for reply will expire.

When a timely reply is ultimately not filed, the application is regarded as abandoned after midnight of the date the period for reply expired. In the above example where May 31 is not a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday and no further extensions of time are obtained prior to the end of the 6-month statutory period, the application would be abandoned as of June 1. The fact that June 1 may be a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday does not change the abandonment date since the reply was due on May 31, a business day. See MPEP § 711.04(a) regarding the pulling and forwarding of abandoned applications.

A 30-day period for reply in the Office means 30 calendar days including Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays. However, if the period ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday, the reply is timely if it is filed on the next succeeding business day. If the period for reply is extended, the time extended is added to the last calendar day of the original period, as opposed to being added to the day it would have been due when said last day is a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday.

The date of receipt of a reply to an Office action is given by the “Office date” stamp which appears on the reply paper.

In some cases the examiner’s Office action does not determine the beginning of a statutory reply period. In all cases where the statutory reply period runs from the date of a previous action, a statement to that effect should be included.

Since extensions of time are available pursuant to 37 CFR 1.136(a), it is incumbent upon applicants to recognize the date for reply so that the proper fee for any extension will be submitted. Thus, the date upon which any reply is due will normally be indicated only in those instances where the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(a) are not available. See MPEP Chapter 2200 for reexamination proceedings.

710.02   Shortened Statutory Period and Time Limit Actions Computed [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.136   Extensions of time.

  • (a)
    • (1) If an applicant is required to reply within a nonstatutory or shortened statutory time period, applicant may extend the time period for reply up to the earlier of the expiration of any maximum period set by statute or five months after the time period set for reply, if a petition for an extension of time and the fee set in § 1.17(a) are filed, unless:
      • (i) Applicant is notified otherwise in an Office action;
      • (ii) The reply is a reply brief submitted pursuant to § 41.41 of this title;
      • (iii) The reply is a request for an oral hearing submitted pursuant to § 41.47(a) of this title;
      • (iv) The reply is to a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board pursuant to § 1.304 or to § 41.50 or § 41.52 of this title; or
      • (v) The application is involved in a contested case (§ 41.101(a) of this title) or a derivation proceeding (§ 42.4(b) of this title).
    • (2) The date on which the petition and the fee have been filed is the date for purposes of determining the period of extension and the corresponding amount of the fee. The expiration of the time period is determined by the amount of the fee paid. A reply must be filed prior to the expiration of the period of extension to avoid abandonment of the application (§ 1.135), but in no situation may an applicant reply later than the maximum time period set by statute, or be granted an extension of time under paragraph (b) of this section when the provisions of this paragraph are available. See § 1.304 for extensions of time to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or to commence a civil action; § 1.550(c) for extensions of time in ex parte reexamination proceedings, § 1.956 for extensions of time in inter partes reexamination proceedings; and §§ 41.4(a) and 41.121(a)(3) of this title for extensions of time in contested cases before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; and § 42.5(c) of this title for extensions of time in trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
    • (3) A written request may be submitted in an application that is an authorization to treat any concurrent or future reply, requiring a petition for an extension of time under this paragraph for its timely submission, as incorporating a petition for extension of time for the appropriate length of time. An authorization to charge all required fees, fees under § 1.17, or all required extension of time fees will be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time in any concurrent or future reply requiring a petition for an extension of time under this paragraph for its timely submission. Submission of the fee set forth in § 1.17(a) will also be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time in any concurrent reply requiring a petition for an extension of time under this paragraph for its timely submission.
  • (b) When a reply cannot be filed within the time period set for such reply and the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section are not available, the period for reply will be extended only for sufficient cause and for a reasonable time specified. Any request for an extension of time under this paragraph must be filed on or before the day on which such reply is due, but the mere filing of such a request will not effect any extension under this paragraph. In no situation can any extension carry the date on which reply is due beyond the maximum time period set by statute. See § 1.304 for extensions of time to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or to commence a civil action; § 1.550(c) for extensions of time in ex parte reexamination proceedings; § 1.956 for extensions of time in inter partes reexamination proceedings; and §§ 41.4(a) and 41.121(a)(3) of this title for extensions of time in contested cases before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; and § 42.5(c) of this title for extensions of time in trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Any request under this section must be accompanied by the petition fee set forth in § 1.17(g).
  • (c) If an applicant is notified in a “Notice of Allowability” that an application is otherwise in condition for allowance, the following time periods are not extendable if set in the “Notice of Allowability” or in an Office action having a mail date on or after the mail date of the “Notice of Allowability”:
    • (1) The period for submitting the inventor’s oath or declaration;
    • (2) The period for submitting formal drawings set under § 1.85(c); and
    • (3) The period for making a deposit set under § 1.809(c).

37 CFR 1.136 implements 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(8) which directs the Director of the USPTO to charge fees for extensions of time to take action in patent applications.

Under 37 CFR 1.136 (35 U.S.C. 133) an applicant may be required to reply in a shorter period than 6 months, not less than 30 days. Some situations in which shortened periods for reply are used are listed in MPEP § 710.02(b).

In other situations, for example, the rejection of a copied patent claim, the examiner may require applicant to reply on or before a specified date. These are known as time limit actions and are established under authority of 35 U.S.C. 2 and 35 U.S.C. 3. Some situations in which time limits are set are noted in MPEP § 710.02(c). The time limit requirement should be typed in capital letters where required.

An indication of a shortened time for reply should appear prominently on the first page of all copies of actions in which a shortened time for reply has been set so that a person merely scanning the action can easily see it.

Shortened statutory periods are subject to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(a) unless applicant is notified otherwise in an Office action. See MPEP § 710.02(e) for a discussion of extensions of time. See Chapter 2200 for ex parte reexamination proceedings and Chapter 2600 for inter partes reexamination proceedings.

710.02(a)   [Reserved]

710.02(b)   Shortened Statutory Period: Situations in Which Used

Under the authority given him or her by 35 U.S.C. 133, the Director of the USPTO has directed the examiner to set a shortened period for reply to every action. The length of the shortened statutory period to be used depends on the type of reply required. Some specific cases of shortened statutory periods for reply are given below. These periods may be changed under special, rarely occurring circumstances.

A shortened statutory period may not be less than 30 days (35 U.S.C. 133).

  1 MONTH (NOT LESS THAN 30 DAYS)

  • (A) Requirement for restriction or election of species only (no action on the merits) ...... MPEP § 809.02(a) and § 817.
  • (B) When a reply by an applicant for a nonfinal Office action is bona fide but includes an inadvertent omission, the examiner may set a 1 month (not less than 30 days) shortened statutory time period to correct the omission .... MPEP § 710.01 and § 714.03.

  2 MONTHS

  • (A) Winning party in a terminated interference to reply to an unanswered Office action ...... MPEP Chapter 2300 .

    Where, after the termination of an interference proceeding, the application of the winning party contains an unanswered Office action, final rejection or any other action, the primary examiner notifies the applicant of this fact. In this case reply to the Office action is required within a shortened statutory period running from the date of such notice. See Ex parte Peterson, 49 USPQ 119, 1941 C.D. 8, 525 O.G. 3 (Comm’r Pat. 1941).

  • (B) To reply to an Ex parteQuayle Office action ......... MPEP § 714.14.

    When an application is in condition for allowance, except as to matters of form, such as correction of the specification, a new oath, etc., the application will be considered special and prompt action taken to require correction of formal matters. Such action should include an indication on the Office Action Summary form PTOL-326 that prosecution on the merits is closed in accordance with the decision in Ex parte Quayle, 25 USPQ 74, 453 O.G. 213 (Comm’r Pat. 1935). A 2-month shortened statutory period for reply should be set.

  • (C) Multiplicity rejection — no other rejection ........ MPEP § 2173.05(n).

  3 MONTHS

To reply to any Office action on the merits.

  PERIOD FOR REPLY RESTARTED

Where the citation of a reference is incorrect or an Office action contains some other defect and this error is called to the attention of the Office within 1 month of the mail date of the action, the Office will restart the previously set period for reply to run from the date the error is corrected, if requested to do so by applicant. See MPEP § 710.06.

710.02(c)   Specified Time Limits: Situations in Which Used

There are certain situations in which the examiner specifies a time for the applicant to take some action, and the applicant’s failure to timely take the specified action results in a consequence other than abandonment. Situations in which a specified time limit for taking an action is set are as follows:

  • (A) Where a member of the public files a petition under 37 CFR 1.14(a) for access to an application, the Office may give the applicant a specified time (usually 3 weeks) within which to state any objections to the granting of the petition for access and the reasons why it should be denied. The failure to timely reply will not affect the prosecution of the application (assuming that it is still pending), but will result in the Office rendering a decision on the petition for access without considering any objections by the applicant. See MPEP § 103.
  • (B) Where an information disclosure statement complies with the requirements set forth in 37 CFR 1.97 (including the requirement for fees or statement under 37 CFR 1.97(e) based upon the time of filing), but part of the content requirement of 37 CFR 1.98 has been inadvertently omitted, the examiner may set a 1-month time limit for completion of the information disclosure statement. The failure to timely comply will not result in abandonment of the application, but will result in the information disclosure statement being placed in the application file with the noncomplying information not being considered. See MPEP § 609.05(a).
  • (C) Where an application is otherwise allowable but contains a traverse of a restriction requirement, the applicant may be given a specified time (e.g., a 1-month time limit) to cancel claims to the nonelected invention or species or take other appropriate action (i.e., petition the restriction requirement under 37 CFR 1.144). The failure to timely file a petition under 37 CFR 1.144 (or cancel the claims to the nonelected invention or species) will not result in abandonment of the application, but will be treated as authorization to cancel the claims to the non-elected invention or species, and the application will be passed to issue. See 37 CFR 1.141 and 1.144, and MPEP § 821.01 and § 821.04(a) .
  • (D) A portion of 37 CFR 41.202(c) provides that in suggesting claims for interference:

    An examiner may require an applicant to add a claim to provoke an interference for an application subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). Failure to satisfy the requirement within a period (not less than one month) the examiner sets will operate as a concession of priority for the subject matter of the claim.

    The failure to timely present the suggested claim will not result in abandonment of the application, but will be treated as a concession by the applicant of the priority of the subject matter of the claim. See MPEP Chapter 2300.

Where the failure to take the specified action may result in abandonment (e.g., filing a new complete appeal brief correcting the deficiencies in a prior appeal brief), a time period should be set for taking the specified action. Where the condition of the application requires that such action not be subject to extensions under 37 CFR 1.136, the action should specify that the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136 (or 1.136(a)) do not apply to the time period for taking action (i.e., a specified time limit should not be set simply to exclude the possibility of extending the period for reply under 37 CFR 1.136).

710.02(d)   Difference Between Shortened Statutory Periods for Reply and Specified Time Limits

Examiners and applicants should not lose sight of the distinction between a specified time for a particular action and a shortened statutory period for reply under 35 U.S.C. 133:

  • (A) The penalty attaching to failure to take a particular action within a specified time is a loss of rights in regard to the particular matter (e.g., the failure to timely copy suggested claims results in a disclaimer of the involved subject matter). On the other hand, a failure to reply within the set statutory period under 35 U.S.C. 133 results in abandonment of the entire application. Abandonment of an application is not appealable, but a petition to revive may be granted if the delay was unavoidable (37 CFR 1.137(a)) or unintentional (37 CFR 1.137(b)).
  • (B) As a specified time or time limit is not a shortened statutory period under 35 U.S.C. 133, the Office may specify a time for taking action (or a time limit) of less than the 30 day minimum specified in 35 U.S.C. 133. See MPEP § 103.
  • (C) Where an applicant replies a day or two after the specified time, the delay may be excused by the examiner if satisfactorily explained. The examiner may use his or her discretion to request an explanation for the delay if the reason for the delay is not apparent from the reply. A reply 1 day late in an application carrying a shortened statutory period under 35 U.S.C. 133, no matter what the excuse, results in abandonment. Extensions of the statutory period under 35 U.S.C. 133 may be obtained under 37 CFR 1.136, provided the extension does not go beyond the 6-month statutory period from the date of the Office action (35 U.S.C. 133).

The 2-month time period for filing an appeal brief on appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (37 CFR 41.37(a) ) and the 1-month time period for filing a new appeal brief to correct the deficiencies in a defective appeal brief (37 CFR 41.37(d) ) are time periods, but are not (shortened) statutory periods for reply set pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 133. Thus, these periods are, unless otherwise provided, extendable by up to 5 months under 37 CFR 1.136(a), and, in an exceptional situation, further extendable under 37 CFR 1.136(b) (i.e., these periods are not statutory periods subject to the 6-month maximum set in 35 U.S.C. 133). In addition, the failure to file an appeal brief (or a new appeal brief) within the time period set in 37 CFR 41.37(a) (or (d)) results in dismissal of the appeal. The dismissal of an appeal results in abandonment, unless there is any allowed claim(s) (see MPEP § 1215.04), in which case the examiner should cancel the nonallowed claims and allow the application.

The 2-month time period for reply to A Notice to File Missing Parts of an Application is not identified on the Notice as a statutory period subject to 35 U.S.C. 133. Thus, extensions of time of up to 5 months under 37 CFR 1.136(a), followed by additional time under 37 CFR 1.136(b), when appropriate, are permitted.

710.02(e)   Extension of Time

37 C.F.R. 1.136   Extensions of time.

  • (a)
    • (1) If an applicant is required to reply within a nonstatutory or shortened statutory time period, applicant may extend the time period for reply up to the earlier of the expiration of any maximum period set by statute or five months after the time period set for reply, if a petition for an extension of time and the fee set in § 1.17(a) are filed, unless:
      • (i) Applicant is notified otherwise in an Office action;
      • (ii) The reply is a reply brief submitted pursuant to § 41.41 of this title;
      • (iii) The reply is a request for an oral hearing submitted pursuant to § 41.47(a) of this title;
      • (iv) The reply is to a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board pursuant to § 1.304 or to § 41.50 or § 41.52 of this title; or
      • (v) The application is involved in a contested case (§ 41.101(a) of this title).
    • (2) The date on which the petition and the fee have been filed is the date for purposes of determining the period of extension and the corresponding amount of the fee. The expiration of the time period is determined by the amount of the fee paid. A reply must be filed prior to the expiration of the period of extension to avoid abandonment of the application (§ 1.135), but in no situation may an applicant reply later than the maximum time period set by statute, or be granted an extension of time under paragraph (b) of this section when the provisions of this paragraph are available. See § 1.304 for extensions of time to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or to commence a civil action; § 1.550(c) for extensions of time in ex parte reexamination proceedings, § 1.956 for extensions of time in inter partes reexamination proceedings; and §§ 41.4(a) and 41.121(a)(3) of this title for extensions of time in contested cases before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; ; and § 42.5(c) of this title for extensions of time in trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
    • (3) A written request may be submitted in an application that is an authorization to treat any concurrent or future reply, requiring a petition for an extension of time under this paragraph for its timely submission, as incorporating a petition for extension of time for the appropriate length of time. An authorization to charge all required fees, fees under § 1.17, or all required extension of time fees will be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time in any concurrent or future reply requiring a petition for an extension of time under this paragraph for its timely submission. Submission of the fee set forth in § 1.17(a) will also be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time in any concurrent reply requiring a petition for an extension of time under this paragraph for its timely submission.
  • (b) When a reply cannot be filed within the time period set for such reply and the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section are not available, the period for reply will be extended only for sufficient cause and for a reasonable time specified. Any request for an extension of time under this paragraph must be filed on or before the day on which such reply is due, but the mere filing of such a request will not affect any extension under this paragraph. In no situation can any extension carry the date on which reply is due beyond the maximum time period set by statute. See § 1.304 for extensions of time to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or to commence a civil action; § 1.550(c) for extensions of time in ex parte reexamination proceedings; § 1.956 for extensions of time in inter partes reexamination proceedings; and §§ 41.4(a) and 41.121(a)(3) of this title for extensions of time in contested cases before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; and § 42.5(c) of this title for extensions of time in trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Any request under this section must be accompanied by the petition fee set forth in § 1.17(g).
  • (c) If an applicant is notified in a "Notice of Allowability" that an application is otherwise in condition for allowance, the following time periods are not extendable if set in the "Notice of Allowability" or in an Office action having a mail date on or after the mail date of the "Notice of Allowability" :
    • (1) The period for submitting an inventor’s oath or declaration
    • (2) The period for submitting formal drawings set under § 1.85(c); and
    • (3) The period for making a deposit set under § 1.809(c).

37 CFR 1.136 provides for two distinct procedures to extend the period for action or reply in particular situations. The procedure which is available for use in a particular situation will depend upon the circumstances. 37 CFR 1.136(a) permits an applicant to file a petition for extension of time and a fee as set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a) up to 5 months after the end of the time period set to take action except:

  • (A) where prohibited by statute,
  • (B) where prohibited by one of the items listed in the rule, or
  • (C) where applicant has been notified otherwise in an Office action.

The petition and fee must be filed within the extended time period for reply requested in the petition and can be filed prior to, with, or without the reply. The filing of the petition and fee will extend the time period to take action up to 5 months dependent on the amount of the fee paid except in those circumstances noted above. 37 CFR 1.136(a) will effectively reduce the amount of paperwork required by applicants and the Office since the extension will be effective upon filing of the petition and payment of the appropriate fee and without acknowledgment or action by the Office and since the petition and fee can be filed with or without the reply. 37 CFR 1.136(b) provides for requests for extensions of time upon a showing of sufficient cause when the procedure of 37 CFR 1.136(a) is not available. Although the petition and fee procedure of 37 CFR 1.136(a) will normally be available within 5 months after a set period for reply has expired, an extension request for cause under 37 CFR 1.136(b) must be filed during the set period for reply. Extensions of time in interference proceedings are governed by 37 CFR 41.4(a).

It should be very carefully noted that neither the primary examiner nor the Director of the USPTO has authority to extend the shortened statutory period unless a petition for the extension is filed. While the shortened period may be extended within the limits of the statutory 6 months period, no extension can operate to extend the time beyond the 6 months.

Any request under 37 CFR 1.136(b) for extension of time for reply must state a reason in support thereof and supply the fee under 37 CFR 1.17(g). Such extensions will only be granted for sufficient cause and must be filed prior to the end of the set period for reply.

Extensions of time with the payment of a fee pursuant to 37 CFR 1.136(a) are possible in reply to most Office actions of the examiner. Exceptions include:

  • (A) all extensions in a reexamination proceeding (see 37 CFR 1.550(c) and MPEP § 2265) for ex parte reexamination, and 37 CFR 1.956 and MPEP § 2665 for inter partes reexamination;
  • (B) all extensions during an interference proceeding (but not preparatory to an interference where a claim is suggested for interference);
  • (C) those specific situations where an Office action states that the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(a) are not applicable (e.g., reply to a notice of allowability, in reissue applications associated with litigation, or where an application in allowable condition has nonelected claims and time is set to cancel such claims); and
  • (D) those limited instances where applicant is given a specified time limit to take certain actions.

The fees for extensions of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) are set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a) and are subject to a 50% reduction for persons or concerns qualifying as small entities. The fees itemized at 37 CFR 1.17(a) are cumulative. Thus, if an applicant has paid an extension fee in the amount set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a)(l) for a 1-month extension of time and thereafter decides that an additional 1 month is needed, the proper fee would be the amount set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a)(2) less the amount set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a)(l) which was previously paid.

37 CFR 1.136(a)(3) provides that:

  • (A) a written request may be submitted in an application that is an authorization to treat any concurrent or future reply that requires a petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) to be timely, as incorporating a petition for extension of time for the appropriate length of time;
  • (B) an authorization to charge all required fees, fees under 37 CFR 1.17, or all required extension of time fees will be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time in any concurrent or future reply requiring a petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) to be timely; and
  • (C) submission of the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a) will be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time in any concurrent reply requiring a petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) to be timely.

This is a change in practice, in that applicants were previously required to file a petition (some writing that manifested an intent to obtain an extension of time) in reply to the Office action for which the extension was requested.

37 CFR 1.136(a)(3) is a "safety net" to avoid a potential loss of patent rights for applicants who inadvertently omitted a petition, but who had:

  • (A) previously filed a written request to treat a reply requiring an extension of time as incorporating a petition for such extension of time;
  • (B) previously filed an authorization to charge all required fees, fees under 37 CFR 1.17, or all required extension of time fees; or
  • (C) submitted the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a) with the reply.

The Office strongly recommends including a written petition for any desired extension of time in reply to the Office action for which the extension was requested to avoid processing delays.

A proper petition may be only a few sentences such as

The applicant herewith petitions the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to extend the time for reply to the Office action dated ____ for ____ month(s) from ____ to ____ . Submitted herewith is a check for $____ to cover the cost of the extension [Please Charge my deposit account number ____ , in the amount of $ ____ to cover the cost of the extension. Any deficiency or overpayment should be charged or credited to the above numbered deposit account.]

37 CFR 1.136(a)(2) provides, in part, that “[t]he date on which the petition and the fee have been filed is the date for purposes of determining the period of extension and the corresponding amount of the fee.” Thus, a petition under 37 CFR 1.136(a) need not be accompanied by a reply (e.g., in situations in which the extension is necessary for copendency with a continuing application). 37 CFR 1.136(a)(2), however, clarifies that “[a] reply must be filed prior to the expiration of the period of extension to avoid abandonment of the application” under 35 U.S.C. 133 and 37 CFR 1.135 (e.g., where the extension is obtained solely for the purpose of copendency with a continuing application, and no reply is filed, the application will become abandoned upon expiration of the so-extended period for reply).

While a petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) must be filed within the extended period for reply, the petition need not be filed within the original shortened statutory period for reply. If a petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) (with or without a reply) requests an insufficient period of extension such that the petition would be filed outside the so-extended period for reply, but the period for reply could be further extended under 37 CFR 1.136(a) such that the petition would be filed within the further extended period for reply, it is Office practice to simply treat the petition for extension of time as requesting the period of extension necessary to make the petition filed within the further extended period for reply if the petition or application contains an authorization to charge extension fees or fees under 37 CFR 1.17 to a deposit account. That is, in such situations a petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) is simply construed as requesting the appropriate period of extension. For example, if a petition (and requisite fee) for a two-month extension of time containing an authorization to charge fee deficiencies to a deposit account are filed in an application four and one-half months after the date a notice of appeal was filed in that application, it is Office practice to treat the petition as requesting the period of extension (three months) necessary to make the petition filed within the extended period for reply. This practice applies even if no further reply (appeal brief or continued prosecution application (CPA) under 37 CFR 1.53(d)) is filed in the application to be treated as a constructive petition for an extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a)(3).

To facilitate processing, any petition for an extension of time (or petition to revive under 37 CFR 1.137) in which a continuing application is filed in lieu of a reply should specifically refer to the filing of the continuing application and also should include an express abandonment of the prior application conditioned upon the granting of the petition and the granting of a filing date to the continuing application.

Applicants are cautioned that an extension of time will not be effected in the prior application by filing a petition for an extension of time, extension fee, or fee authorization, in the continuing application. This is because the petition for an extension of time (or constructive petition under 37 CFR 1.136(a)(3)) must be directed toward and filed in the application to which it pertains in accordance with 37 CFR 1.4 and 1.5.

Where a reply is filed after the set period for reply has expired and no petition or fee accompanies it, the reply will not be accepted as timely until the petition (which may be a constructive petition under 37 CFR 1.136(a)(3)) and the appropriate fee are submitted. For example, if an Office action sets a 3-month period for reply and applicant replies in the 4th month and includes only the petition for a 1-month extension of time, the reply is not acceptable until the fee is filed. If the fee is not filed until the 5th month, an additional fee for the 2nd month extension would also be required in order to render the reply timely.

An extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136 is not necessary when submitting a supplemental reply to an Office action if a complete first reply was timely filed in reply to the Office action.

When the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(a) are not applicable, extensions of time for cause pursuant to 37 CFR 1.136(b) may be possible. Any such extension must be filed on or before the day on which the reply is due. The mere filing of such a request will not effect any extension. All such requests are to be decided by the Technology Center (TC) Director. No extension can operate to extend the time beyond the 6-month statutory period. Extensions of time under 37 CFR 1.136(b) (or 37 CFR 1.136(a)) are not available to extend the time period set in a Notice of Allowability, or in an Office action having a mail date after the mail date of the Notice of Allowability, to submit an inventor’s oath or declaration under 37 CFR 1.63 and 1.64, to submit formal drawings, or to make a deposit of biological material.

If a request for extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(b) is filed in duplicate and accompanied by a stamped return-addressed envelope, the Office will indicate the action taken on the duplicate and return it promptly in the envelope. For Image File Wrapper (IFW) processing, see IFW Manual. Utilization of this procedure is optional on the part of applicant. In this procedure, the action taken on the request should be noted on the original and on the copy which is to be returned. The notation on the original, which becomes a part of the file record, should be signed by the person granting or denying the extension, and the name and title of that person should also appear in the notation on the copy which is returned to the person requesting the extension.

When the request is granted, no further action by the Office is necessary. When the request is granted in part, the extent of the extension granted will be clearly indicated on both the original and on the copy which is to be returned. When the request is denied, the reason for the denial will be indicated on both the original and on the copy which is to be returned or a formal decision letter giving the reason for the denial will be forwarded promptly after the mailing of the duplicate.

If the request for extension of time is granted, the due date is computed from the date stamped or printed on the action, as opposed to the original due date. See MPEP § 710.01(a). For example, a reply to an action with a 3-month shortened statutory period, dated November 30, is due on the following February 28 (or 29, if it is a leap year). If the period for reply is extended an additional month, the reply becomes due on March 30, not on March 28.

Hand-carried requests for extensions of time will no longer be accepted in the TCs. Hand-carried requests for extensions of time may only be delivered to the Customer Window, which is located at:

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Customer Service Window
Randolph Building
401 Dulany Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Applicant should be advised promptly regarding action taken on the request for extension of time under 37 CFR 1.136(b) so that the file record will be complete.

Form paragraphs 7.98 or 7.98.01 may be used where a reply is filed late but an extension of time is possible.

¶ 7.98    Reply Is Late, Extension of Time Suggested

Applicant’s reply was received in the Office on [1], which is after the expiration of the period for reply set in the last Office action mailed on [2]. This application will become abandoned unless applicant obtains an extension of time to reply to the last Office action under 37 CFR 1.136(a).

Examiner Note:

Since the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(a) do not apply to reexamination proceedings or to litigation related reissue applications, do not use this form paragraph in these cases.

¶ 7.98.01    Reply Is Late, Extension of Time Suggested, Pro Se

Applicant’s reply to the Office Action of [1] was received in the Patent and Trademark Office on [2], which is after the expiration of the period for reply set in the above noted Office action. The application will become abandoned unless applicant obtains an extension of the period for reply set in the above noted Office action. An extension of the reply period may be obtained by filing a petition under 37 CFR 1.136(a). The petition must be accompanied by the appropriate fee as set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(a) (copy of current fee schedule attached). The date on which the reply, the petition, and the fee have been filed is the date of the reply and also the date for purposes of determining the period of extension and the corresponding amount of the fee due. The expiration of the time period is determined by the amount of the fee paid. Applicant is advised that in no case can any extension carry the date for reply to an Office action beyond the maximum period of SIX MONTHS set by statute. Additionally, extensions may not be granted under 37 CFR 1.136(a) for more than FIVE MONTHS beyond the time period set in an Office action.

Examiner Note:

Enclose a photocopy of current fee schedule with action so that applicant can determine the required fee.

I.   FINAL REJECTION — TIME FOR REPLY

If an applicant initially replies within 2 months from the date of mailing of any final rejection setting a 3-month shortened statutory period for reply and the Office does not mail an advisory action until after the end of the 3-month shortened statutory period, the period for reply for purposes of determining the amount of any extension fee will be the date on which the Office mails the advisory action advising applicant of the status of the application, but in no event can the period extend beyond 6 months from the date of the final rejection. This procedure applies only to a first reply to a final rejection. The following language must be included by the examiner in each final rejection.

A SHORTENED STATUTORY PERIOD FOR REPLY TO THIS FINAL ACTION IS SET TO EXPIRE THREE MONTHS FROM THE DATE OF THIS ACTION. IN THE EVENT A FIRST REPLY IS FILED WITHIN TWO MONTHS OF THE MAILING DATE OF THIS FINAL ACTION AND THE ADVISORY ACTION IS NOT MAILED UNTIL AFTER THE END OF THE THREE-MONTH SHORTENED STATUTORY PERIOD, THEN THE SHORTENED STATUTORY PERIOD WILL EXPIRE ON THE DATE THE ADVISORY ACTION IS MAILED, AND ANY EXTENSION FEE PURSUANT TO 37 CFR 1.136(a) WILL BE CALCULATED FROM THE MAILING DATE OF THE ADVISORY ACTION. IN NO EVENT WILL THE STATUTORY PERIOD FOR REPLY EXPIRE LATER THAN SIX MONTHS FROM THE DATE OF THIS FINAL ACTION.

For example, if applicant initially replies within 2 months from the date of mailing of a final rejection and the examiner mails an advisory action before the end of 3 months from the date of mailing of the final rejection, the shortened statutory period will expire at the end of 3 months from the date of mailing of the final rejection. In such a case, if a petition for extension of time is granted, the due date for a reply is computed from the date stamped or printed on the Office action with the final rejection. See MPEP § 710.01(a). If the examiner, however, does not mail an advisory action until after the end of 3 months, the shortened statutory period will expire on the date the examiner mails the advisory action and any extension of time fee may be calculated from the mailing date of the advisory action. In no event will the statutory period for reply expire later than 6 months from the mailing date of the final Office action.

See also MPEP § 706.07(f).

II.   EXTENSIONS OF TIME TO SUBMIT AFFIDAVITS AFTER FINAL REJECTION

Frequently, applicants request an extension of time, stating as a reason therefor that more time is needed in which to submit an affidavit. When such a request is filed after final rejection, the granting of the request for extension of time is without prejudice to the right of the examiner to question why the affidavit is now necessary and why it was not earlier presented. If applicant’s showing is insufficient, the examiner may deny entry of the affidavit, notwithstanding the previous grant of an extension of time to submit it. The grant of an extension of time in these circumstances serves merely to keep the application from becoming abandoned while allowing the applicant the opportunity to present the affidavit or to take other appropriate action. Moreover, prosecution of the application to save it from abandonment must include such timely, complete and proper action as required by 37 CFR 1.113. The admission of the affidavit for purposes other than allowance of the application, or the refusal to admit the affidavit, and any proceedings relative thereto, shall not operate to save the application from abandonment.

Implicit in the above practice is the fact that affidavits submitted after final rejection are subject to the same treatment as amendments submitted after final rejection. See 37 CFR 1.116(c).

Failure to file a reply during the shortened statutory period results in abandonment of the application.

Extensions of time to appeal to the courts under 37 CFR 90.3(c) is covered in MPEP § 1216.

III.   NO EXTENSIONS OF TIME AFTER PAYMENT OF ISSUE FEE

The statutory (nonextendable) time period for payment of the issue fee is 3 months from the date of the Notice of Allowance (35 U.S.C. 151). In situations where informalities such as drawing corrections or submission of supplemental or corrected declarations are outstanding at the time of allowance, applicants will be notified on the PTOL-37 (Notice of Allowability) of such informalities. Extensions of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) or (b) are NOT available to correct such informalities. Any such informalities must be corrected and the issue fee and the publication fee, if required, must be paid within the 3-month period.

710.03   [Reserved]

710.04   Two Periods Running [R-08.2012]

There sometimes arises a situation where two different periods for reply are running against an application, the one limited by the regular statutory period, the other by the limited period set in a subsequent Office action. The running of the first period is not suspended nor affected by an ex parte limited time action or even by an appeal therefrom. For an exception involving suggested claims, see MPEP Chapter 2300 .

710.04(a)   Copying Patent Claims

Where, in an application in which there is an unanswered rejection of record, claims are copied from a patent and all of these claims are rejected there results a situation where two different periods for reply are running against the application. One period, the first, is the regular statutory period of the unanswered rejection of record, the other period is the limited period set for reply to the rejection (either first or final). The date of the last unanswered Office action on the claims other than the copied patent claims is the controlling date of the statutory period. See Ex parte Milton, 63 USPQ 132 (P.O. Super Exam. 1938). See also MPEP Chapter 2300 .

710.05   Period Ending on Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal Holiday [R-08.2012]

35 U.S.C. 21   Filing date and day for taking action.

*****

  • (b) When the day, or the last day, for taking any action or paying any fee in the United States Patent and Trademark Office falls on Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday within the District of Columbia the action may be taken, or the fee paid, on the next succeeding secular or business day.

37 C.F.R. 1.7   Times for taking action; Expiration on Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday.

  • (a) Whenever periods of time are specified in this part in days, calendar days are intended. When the day, or the last day fixed by statute or by or under this part for taking any action or paying any fee in the United States Patent and Trademark Office falls on Saturday, Sunday, or on a Federal holiday within the District of Columbia, the action may be taken, or the fee paid, on the next succeeding business day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday. See § 1.304 for time for appeal or for commencing civil action.
  • (b) If the day that is twelve months after the filing date of a provisional application under 35 U.S.C. 111(b) and § 1.53(c) falls on Saturday, Sunday, or on a Federal holiday within the District of Columbia, the period of pendency shall be extended to the next succeeding secular or business day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday.

The Federal holidays under 5 U.S.C. 6103(a) are New Year’s Day, January 1; Martin Luther King’s birthday, the third Monday in January; Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February; Memorial Day, the last Monday in May; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, the first Monday in September; Columbus Day, the second Monday in October; Veteran’s Day, November 11; Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November; and Christmas Day, December 25. Whenever a Federal holiday falls on a Sunday, the following day (Monday) is also a Federal holiday. Exec. Order No. 10,358, 17 Fed. Reg., 5269; 5 U.S.C. 6103.

When a Federal holiday falls on a Saturday, the preceding day, Friday, is considered to be a Federal holiday and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will be closed for business on that day (5 U.S.C. 6103). Accordingly, any action or fee due on such a Federal holiday Friday or Saturday is to be considered timely if the action is taken, or the fee paid, on the next succeeding day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday.

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 6103(c), Inauguration Day (January 20, every 4 years) “is a legal public holiday for the purpose of statutes relating to pay and leave of employees . . .” employed in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas. It further provides that when Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday, the next day selected for the observance of the Inauguration is considered a legal public holiday for purposes of this subsection. No provision is made for an Inauguration Day falling on a Saturday.

When an amendment is filed a day or two later than the expiration of the period fixed by statute, care should be taken to ascertain whether the last day of that period was Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday and if so, whether the amendment was filed or the fee paid on the next succeeding day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday.

An amendment received on such succeeding day which was due on Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday is endorsed with the date of receipt. The Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday is also indicated.

The period of pendency of a provisional application will be extended to the next succeeding secular or business day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday, if the day that is twelve months after the filing date of the provisional application under 35 U.S.C. 111(b) and 37 CFR 1.53(c) falls on Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday within the District of Columbia. See 35 U.S.C. 119(e)(3) and MPEP § 201.04.

710.06   Situations When Reply Period Is Reset or Restarted [R-11.2013]

Where the citation of a reference is incorrect or an Office action contains some other error that affects applicant’s ability to reply to the Office action and this error is called to the attention of the Office within 1 month of the mail date of the action, the Office will restart the previously set period for reply to run from the date the error is corrected, if requested to do so by applicant. If the error is brought to the attention of the Office within the period for reply set in the Office action but more than 1 month after the date of the Office action, the Office will set a new period for reply, if requested to do so by the applicant, to substantially equal the time remaining in the reply period. For example, if the error is brought to the attention of the Office 5 weeks after mailing the action, then the Office would set a new 2-month period for reply. The new period for reply must be at least 1 month and would run from the date the error is corrected. See MPEP § 707.05(g) for the manner of correcting the record where there has been an erroneous citation.

Where for any reason it becomes necessary to remail any action (MPEP § 707.13), applicant’s period for reply will be restarted to correspond to the remailing date of the action.

A supplementary action after a rejection explaining the references more explicitly or giving the reasons more fully, even though no further references are cited, establishes a new date from which the statutory period runs.

If the error in citation or other defective Office action is called to the attention of the Office after the expiration of the period for reply, the period will not be restarted and any appropriate extension fee will be required to render a reply timely. The Office letter correcting the error will note that the time period for reply remains as set forth in the previous Office action.

See MPEP § 505, § 512, and § 513 for U.S. Patent and Trademark Office practice on date stamping documents.

In the event that correspondence from the Office is received late (A) due to delays in the U.S. Postal Service, or (B) because the mail was delayed in leaving the USPTO (the postmark date is later than the mail date printed on the correspondence), applicants may petition to reset the period for reply, which petition shall be evaluated according to the guidelines which follow. Where the Office action involved in the petition was mailed by a Technology Center (TC), the authority to decide such petitions has been delegated to the TC Director. See Notice entitled “Petition to reset a period for response due to late receipt of a PTO action,” 1160 O.G. 14 (March 1, 1994).

I.   PETITIONS TO RESET A PERIOD FOR REPLY DUE TO LATE RECEIPT OF AN OFFICE ACTION

The Office will grant a petition to restart the previously set period for reply to an Office action to run from the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address when the following criteria are met:

  • (A) the petition is filed within 2 weeks of the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address;
  • (B) a substantial portion of the set reply period had elapsed on the date of receipt (e.g., at least 1 month of a 2- or 3-month reply period had elapsed); and
  • (C) the petition includes (1) evidence showing the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address (e.g., a copy of the Office action having the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address stamped thereon, a copy of the envelope (which contained the Office action) having the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address stamped thereon, etc.), and (2) a statement setting forth the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address and explaining how the evidence being presented establishes the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address.

There is no statutory requirement that a shortened statutory period of longer than 30 days to reply to an Office action be reset due to delay in the mail or in the Office. However, when a substantial portion of the set reply period had elapsed on the date of receipt at the correspondence address (e.g., at least 1 month of a 2- or 3-month period had elapsed), the procedures set forth above for late receipt of action are available. Where an Office action was received with less than 2 months remaining in a shortened statutory period of 3 months the period may be restarted from the date of receipt. Where the period remaining is between 2 and 3 months, the period will be reset only in extraordinary situations, e.g., complex Office action suggesting submission of comparative data.

II.   PETITIONS TO RESET A PERIOD FOR REPLY DUE TO A POSTMARK DATE LATER THAN THE MAIL DATE PRINTED ON AN OFFICE ACTION

The Office will grant a petition to restart the previously set period for reply to an Office action to run from the postmark date shown on the Office mailing envelope which contained the Office action when the following criteria are met:

  • (A) the petition is filed within 2 weeks of the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address;
  • (B) the reply period was for payment of the issue fee, or the reply period set was 1 month or 30 days; and
  • (C) the petition includes (1) evidence showing the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address (e.g., copy of the Office action having the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address stamped thereon, etc.), (2) a copy of the envelope which contained the Office action showing the postmark date, and (3) a statement setting forth the date of receipt of the Office action at the correspondence address and stating that the Office action was received in the postmarked envelope.

The provisions of 37 CFR 1.8 and 1.10 apply to the filing of the above-noted petitions with regard to the requirement that the petition be filed within 2 weeks of the date of receipt of the Office action.

The showings outlined above may not be sufficient if there are circumstances that point to a conclusion that the Office action may have been delayed after receipt rather than a conclusion that the Office action was delayed in the mail or in the Office.

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