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715    Swearing Behind a Reference — Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a) [R-07.2015]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section and the provisions of 37 CFR 1.131(a) are not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

37 CFR 1.131  Affidavit or declaration of prior invention or to disqualify commonly owned patent or published application as prior art.

  • (a) When any claim of an application or a patent under reexamination is rejected, the inventor of the subject matter of the rejected claim, the owner of the patent under reexamination, or the party qualified under § 1.42 or § 1.46, may submit an appropriate oath or declaration to establish invention of the subject matter of the rejected claim prior to the effective date of the reference or activity on which the rejection is based. The effective date of a U.S. patent, U.S. patent application publication, or international application publication under PCT Article 21(2) is the earlier of its publication date or the date that it is effective as a reference under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as in effect on March 15, 2013. Prior invention may not be established under this section in any country other than the United States, a NAFTA country, or a WTO member country. Prior invention may not be established under this section before December 8, 1993, in a NAFTA country other than the United States, or before January 1, 1996, in a WTO member country other than a NAFTA country. Prior invention may not be established under this section if either:
    • (1) The rejection is based upon a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication of a pending or patented application naming another inventor which claims interfering subject matter as defined in § 41.203(a) of this chapter, in which case an applicant may suggest an interference pursuant to § 41.202(a) of this chapter; or
    • (2) The rejection is based upon a statutory bar.
  • (b) The showing of facts for an oath or declaration under paragraph (a) of this section shall be such, in character and weight, as to establish reduction to practice prior to the effective date of the reference, or conception of the invention prior to the effective date of the reference coupled with due diligence from prior to said date to a subsequent reduction to practice or to the filing of the application. Original exhibits of drawings or records, or photocopies thereof, must accompany and form part of the affidavit or declaration or their absence must be satisfactorily explained.
  • (c) When any claim of an application or a patent under reexamination is rejected under 35 U.S.C. 103 as in effect on March 15, 2013, on a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication which is not prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) as in effect on March 15, 2013, and the inventions defined by the claims in the application or patent under reexamination and by the claims in the patent or published application are not identical but are not patentably distinct, and the inventions are owned by the same party, the applicant or owner of the patent under reexamination may disqualify the patent or patent application publication as prior art. The patent or patent application publication can be disqualified as prior art by submission of:
    • (1) A terminal disclaimer in accordance with § 1.321(c); and
    • (2) An oath or declaration stating that the application or patent under reexamination and patent or published application are currently owned by the same party, and that the inventor named in the application or patent under reexamination is the prior inventor under 35 U.S.C. 104 as in effect on March 15, 2013.
  • (d) The provisions of this section apply to any application for patent, and to any patent issuing thereon, that contains, or contained at any time:
    • (1) A claim to an invention that has an effective filing date as defined in § 1.109 that is before March 16, 2013; or
    • (2) A specific reference under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, 365(c), or 386(c) to any patent or application that contains, or contained at any time, a claim to an invention that has an effective filing date as defined in § 1.109 that is before March 16, 2013.
  • (e) In an application for patent to which the provisions of § 1.130 apply, and to any patent issuing thereon, the provisions of this section are applicable only with respect to a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 102(g) as in effect on March 15, 2013.

Under 37 CFR 1.131(a) which provides for the establishment of a date of completion of the invention in a NAFTA or WTO member country, as well as in the United States, an applicant or patent owner can establish a date of completion in a NAFTA member country on or after December 8, 1993, the effective date of section 331 of Public Law 103-182, the North American Free Trade Agreement Act, and can establish a date of completion in a WTO member country other than a NAFTA member country on or after January 1, 1996, the effective date of section 531 of Public Law 103-465, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). Acts occurring prior to the effective dates of NAFTA or URAA may be relied upon to show completion of the invention; however, a date of completion of the invention may not be established under 37 CFR 1.131(a) before December 8, 1993, in a NAFTA country or before January 1, 1996, in a WTO country other than a NAFTA country, in applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 104.

If a country joined the WTO after January 1, 1996, the effective date for proving inventive activity in that country for the purpose of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 104 and 37 CFR 1.131(a) is the date the country becomes a member of the WTO. See MPEP § 213.01 for a list that includes WTO member countries.

Any printed publication or activity dated prior to an applicant’s or patent owner’s effective filing date, or any domestic patent of prior filing date, which is in its disclosure pertinent to the claimed invention, is available for use by the examiner as a reference in the rejection of the claims of the application or patent under reexamination. In addition, patent application publications and certain international application publications having an effective prior art date prior to the application being examined may be used in a rejection of the claims. See MPEP §§ 706.02(a) and 2136 - 2136.03.

Such a rejection may be overcome, in certain instances noted below, by filing of an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a), known as “swearing behind” the reference.

It should be kept in mind that it is the rejection that is withdrawn and not the reference.

I.SITUATIONS WHERE 37 CFR 1.131 AFFIDAVITS OR DECLARATIONS CAN BE USED

Affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131 may be used to overcome rejections in applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102, and to overcome rejections under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g) in applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g) and current 35 U.S.C. 102, for example:

II.SITUATIONS WHERE 37 CFR 1.131(a) AFFIDAVITS OR DECLARATIONS ARE INAPPROPRIATE

An affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is not appropriate in the following situations:

  • (A) Where the application is subject to current 35 U.S.C. 102 and the affidavit or declaration is not directed to evidence used in a rejection based on pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g).
  • (B) Where the reference publication date is more than 1 year prior to applicant’s or patent owner’s effective filing date. Such a reference is a “statutory bar” under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b) as referenced in 37 CFR 1.131(a)(2). A reference that only qualifies as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (e) is not a “statutory bar.”
  • (C) Where the reference U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication claims interfering subject matter as defined in 37 CFR 41.203(a). See MPEP § 715.05 for a discussion of "interfering subject matter" and MPEP Chapter 2300 . Where the reference patent and the application or patent under reexamination are commonly owned, and the inventions defined by the claims in the application or patent under reexamination and by the claims in the patent are not identical but are not patentably distinct, a terminal disclaimer and an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(c) may be used to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103. See MPEP § 718.
  • (D) Where the reference is a foreign patent for the same invention to applicant or patent owner or his or her legal representatives or assigns issued prior to the filing date of the domestic application or patent on an application filed more than 12 months prior to the filing date of the domestic application. See pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(d).
  • (E) Where the effective filing date of applicant’s or patent owner’s parent application or an International Convention proved filing date is prior to the effective date of the reference, an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is unnecessary because the reference should not have been used. See MPEP §§ 211 - 216.
  • (F) Where the reference is a prior U.S. patent to the same entity, claiming the same invention. The question involved is one of “double patenting.”
  • (G) Where applicant has clearly admitted on the record that subject matter relied on in the reference is prior art. In this case, that subject matter may be used as a basis for rejecting his or her claims and may not be overcome by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131. In re Hellsund, 474 F.2d 1307, 177 USPQ 170 (CCPA 1973); In re Garfinkel, 437 F.2d 1000, 168 USPQ 659 (CCPA 1971); In re Blout, 333 F.2d 928, 142 USPQ 173 (CCPA 1964); In re Lopresti, 333 F.2d 932, 142 USPQ 177 (CCPA 1964).
  • (H) Where the subject matter relied upon is prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f).
  • (I) Where the subject matter corresponding to a lost count in an interference is either prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g) or barred to applicant by the doctrine of interference estoppel. In re Bandel, 348 F.2d 563, 146 USPQ 389 (CCPA 1965); In re Kroekel, 803 F.2d 705, 231 USPQ 640 (Fed. Cir. 1986). See also In re Deckler, 977 F.2d 1449, 24 USPQ2d 1448 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (Under the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel, applicant was not entitled to claims that were patentably indistinguishable from the claim lost in interference even though the subject matter of the lost count was not available for use in an obviousness rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103). But see In re Zletz, 893 F.2d 319, 13 USPQ2d 1320 (Fed. Cir. 1989) (A losing party to an interference, on showing that the invention now claimed is not “substantially the same” as that of the lost count, may employ the procedures of 37 CFR 1.131(a) to antedate the filing date of an interfering application). On the matter of when a “lost count” in an interference constitutes prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g), see In re McKellin, 529 F.2d 1342, 188 USPQ 428 (CCPA 1976) (A count is not prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g) as to the loser of an interference where the count was lost based on the winner’s foreign priority date). Similarly, where one party in an interference wins a count by establishing a date of invention in a NAFTA or WTO member country (see pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 104), the subject matter of that count is unpatentable to the other party by the doctrine of interference estoppel, even though it is not available as statutory prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See MPEP §§ 2138.01 and 2138.02.
III.REFERENCE DATE TO BE OVERCOME

The date to be overcome under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is the effective date of the reference (i.e., the date on which the reference is available as prior art).

A.U.S. Patents, U.S. Patent Application Publications, and International Application Publications

See MPEP §§ 706.02(a), 706.02(f)(1), and 2136 - 2136.03 for a detailed discussion of the effective date of a U.S. patent, U.S. patent application publication, or WIPO publication of an international application as a reference under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e).

The effective date of a domestic patent when used as a reference in a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) is not the foreign filing date to which the application for patent may have been entitled under 35 U.S.C. 119(a) during examination. In re Hilmer, 359 F.2d 859, 149 USPQ 480 (CCPA 1966). Therefore, the date to be overcome under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is the effective U.S. filing date, not the foreign priority date. When a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication reference is entitled to claim the benefit of an earlier filed application, its effective filing date is determined under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e). See MPEP §§ 706.02(a), 706.02(f)(1), and 2136 - 2136.03.

B.Foreign Patents

See MPEP §§ 2126 through 2127 regarding date of availability of foreign patents as prior art.

C.Printed Publications

A printed publication, including a published foreign patent application, is effective as of its publication date, not its date of receipt by the publisher. For additional information regarding effective dates of printed publications, see MPEP §§ 2128 - 2128.02.

D.Activities

An applicant may make an admission, or submit evidence of use of the invention or knowledge of the invention by others, or the examiner may have personal knowledge that the invention was used or known by others in this country. See MPEP §§ 706.02(c) and 2133.03. The effective date of the activity used to reject the claim(s) is the date the activity was first known to have occurred.

FORM PARAGRAPHS

Form paragraphs 7.57.fti - 7.64.fti may be used to respond to 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavits.

¶ 7.57.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective- Heading

The [1] filed on [2] under 37 CFR 1.131(a) has been considered but is ineffective to overcome the [3] reference.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. In bracket 1, insert either --affidavit-- or --declaration--.
  • 2. This form paragraph must be followed by one or more of form paragraphs 7.58.fti to 7.63.fti or a paragraph setting forth proper basis for the insufficiency, such as failure to establish acts performed in this country, or that the scope of the declaration or affidavit is not commensurate with the scope of the claim(s).

¶ 7.58.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective, Claiming Same Invention

The [1] reference is a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication of a pending or patented application that claims the rejected invention. An affidavit or declaration is inappropriate under 37 CFR 1.131(a) when the reference is claiming interfering subject matter as defined in 37 CFR 41.203(a), see MPEP Chapter 2300. If the reference and this application are not commonly owned, the reference can only be overcome by establishing priority of invention through interference proceedings. See MPEP Chapter 2300 for information on initiating interference proceedings. If the reference and this application are commonly owned, the reference may be disqualified as prior art by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(c). See MPEP § 718.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. If used to respond to the submission of an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.131(a), this paragraph must be preceded by paragraph 7.57.fti.
  • 2. This form paragraph may be used without form paragraph 7.57.fti when an affidavit has not yet been filed, and the examiner desires to notify applicant that the submission of an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.131(a) would be inappropriate.

¶ 7.59.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective, Insufficient Evidence of Reduction to Practice Before Reference Date

The evidence submitted is insufficient to establish a reduction to practice of the invention in this country or a NAFTA or WTO member country prior to the effective date of the [1] reference. [2]

Examiner Note:

  • 1. This form paragraph must be preceded by form paragraph 7.57.fti.
  • 2. An explanation of the lack of showing of the alleged reduction to practice must be provided in bracket 2.

¶ 7.60.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective, Reference Is a Statutory Bar

The [1] reference is a statutory bar under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b) and thus cannot be overcome by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a).

Examiner Note:

This form paragraph must be preceded by form paragraph 7.57.fti.

¶ 7.61.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective, Insufficient Evidence of Conception

The evidence submitted is insufficient to establish a conception of the invention prior to the effective date of the [1] reference. While conception is the mental part of the inventive act, it must be capable of proof, such as by demonstrative evidence or by a complete disclosure to another. Conception is more than a vague idea of how to solve a problem. The requisite means themselves and their interaction must also be comprehended. See Mergenthaler v. Scudder, 1897 C.D. 724, 81 OG 1417 (D.C. Cir. 1897). [2]

Examiner Note:

  • 1. This form paragraph must be preceded by form paragraph 7.57.fti.
  • 2. An explanation of the deficiency in the showing of conception must be presented in bracket 2.
  • 3. If the affidavit additionally fails to establish either diligence or a subsequent reduction to practice, this form paragraph should be followed by form paragraph 7.62.fti and/or 7.63.fti. If either diligence or a reduction to practice is established, a statement to that effect should follow this paragraph.

¶ 7.62.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective, Diligence Lacking

The evidence submitted is insufficient to establish diligence from a date prior to the date of reduction to practice of the [1] reference to either a constructive reduction to practice or an actual reduction to practice. [2]

Examiner Note:

  • 1. This form paragraph must be preceded by form paragraph 7.57.fti.
  • 2. If the affidavit additionally fails to establish conception, this paragraph must also be preceded by form paragraph 7.61.fti. If the affidavit establishes conception, a statement to that effect should be added to this paragraph.
  • 3. If the affidavit additionally fails to establish an alleged reduction to practice prior to the application filing date, this paragraph must be followed by form paragraph 7.63.fti. If such an alleged reduction to practice is established, a statement to that effect should be added to this paragraph.
  • 4. An explanation of the reasons for a holding of non-diligence must be provided in bracket 2.
  • 5. See MPEP § 715.07(a) which explains that diligence is not required after reduction to practice.

¶ 7.63.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Ineffective, Insufficient Evidence of Actual Reduction to Practice

The evidence submitted is insufficient to establish applicant’s alleged actual reduction to practice of the invention in this country or a NAFTA or WTO member country after the effective date of the [1] reference. [2].

Examiner Note:

  • 1. This form paragraph must be preceded by form paragraph 7.57.fti.
  • 2. If the alleged reduction to practice is prior to the effective date of the reference, do not use this paragraph. See form paragraph 7.59.fti.
  • 3. If the affidavit additionally fails to establish either conception or diligence, form paragraphs 7.61.fti and/or 7.62.fti should precede this paragraph. If either conception or diligence is established, a statement to that effect should be included after this paragraph.
  • 4. An explanation of the lack of showing of the alleged reduction to practice must be given in bracket 2.

¶ 7.64.fti    Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a): Effective To Overcome Reference

The [1] filed on [2] under 37 CFR 1.31(a) is sufficient to overcome the [3] reference.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. In bracket 1, insert either --affidavit-- or --declaration--.
  • 2. In bracket 2, insert the filing date of the affidavit or declaration.
  • 3. In bracket 3, insert the name of the reference.

715.01   37 CFR 1.131(a) Affidavits Versus 37 CFR 1.132 Affidavits [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.].

The purpose of a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration is to overcome a prior art rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103 by proving invention of the claimed subject matter by applicant prior to the effective date of the reference or activity relied upon in the rejection.

In some situations, an applicant may, alternatively, be able to overcome prior art rejections relying on references or activities which are available as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or references which are available as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) by proving that the subject matter relied upon in the reference or activity was applicant’s own invention.

Similarly, where the reference relied upon in a 35 U.S.C. 103 rejection qualifies as prior art only under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f) or (g), or, in an application filed on or after November 29, 1999, under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e), applicant may be able to overcome this rejection by proving that the subject matter relied upon and the claimed invention were commonly owned or subject to common assignment at the time the later invention was made. See MPEP § 706.02(l)(1) through § 706.02(l)(3).

715.01(a)   Reference Is a Joint Patent or Published Application to Applicant and Another [R-07.2015]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

When subject matter disclosed in a patent or patent application publication filed jointly by S and another is claimed in a later application filed by S, the joint patent or joint patent application publication is a valid reference under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a), (e), or (f) unless overcome by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) showing prior invention (see MPEP § 715) or by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132. An unequivocal declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 by S that he/she conceived or invented the subject matter that was disclosed but not claimed in the patent or application publication and relied on in the rejection would be sufficient to overcome the rejection. In re DeBaun, 687 F.2d 459, 214 USPQ 933 (CCPA 1982). Where the reference is a U.S. patent or patent application publication which includes a claim reciting the subject matter relied upon in a rejection and that subject matter anticipates or would render obvious the subject matter of a claim in the application under examination, a declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 must also explain the presence of the additional inventor in the reference (e.g., the disclosure in claim 1 of the reference is relied upon to reject the claims; the affidavit or declaration explains that S is the sole inventor of claim 1, and the additional inventor and S are joint inventors of claim 2 of the reference). Disclaimer by the other patentee or applicant of the patent application publication should not be required but, if submitted, may be accepted by the examiner.

Note that an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) cannot be used to overcome a rejection based on a U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication naming another inventor which claims interfering subject matter as defined in 37 CFR 41.203(a). See MPEP § 715.05. See MPEP § 716.10 for a discussion of the use of 37 CFR 1.132 affidavits or declarations to overcome rejections by establishing that the subject matter relied on in the patent or application publication was the invention of the applicant.

For applications subject to current 35 U.S.C. 102, see MPEP §§ 717 and 2155.01.

Although affidavits or declarations submitted for the purpose of establishing that the reference discloses applicant’s invention are properly filed under 37 CFR 1.132, rather than 37 CFR 1.131(a), such affidavits submitted improperly under 37 CFR 1.131(a) will be considered as though they were filed under 37 CFR 1.132 to traverse a ground of rejection. In re Facius, 408 F.2d 1396, 161 USPQ 294 (CCPA 1969).

715.01(b)   Reference and Application Have Common Assignee [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

The mere fact that the reference patent or application publication which shows but does not claim certain subject matter and the application which claims it are owned by the same assignee does not avoid the necessity of filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a), in the absence of a showing under 37 CFR 1.132 that the patentee derived the subject matter relied on from the applicant (MPEP § 716.10). The common assignee does not obtain any rights in this regard by virtue of common ownership which he or she would not have in the absence of common ownership. In re Frilette, 412 F.2d 269, 162 USPQ 163 (CCPA 1969); Pierce v. Watson, 275 F.2d 890, 124 USPQ 356 (D.C. Cir. 1960); In re Beck, 155 F.2d 398, 69 USPQ 520 (CCPA 1946). Where, however, a rejection is applied under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f)/103 or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g)/103, or, in an application filed on or after November 29, 1999, under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e)/103 using the reference, a showing that the invention was commonly owned, or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person, at the time the later invention was made would preclude such a rejection or be sufficient to overcome such a rejection. See MPEP § 706.02(l) and § 706.02(l)(1). For applications subject to current 35 U.S.C. 102, see MPEP § 2154.02(c).

715.01(c)   Reference Is Publication of Applicant’s Own Invention [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

Unless it is a statutory bar, a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 prior art based on a publication may be overcome by a showing that it was published either by applicant himself/herself or on his/her behalf. Since such a showing is not made to show a date of invention by applicant prior to the date of the reference under 37 CFR 1.131(a), the limitation in pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 104 and in 37 CFR 1.131(a) that only acts which occurred in this country or in a NAFTA or WTO member country may be relied on to establish a date of invention is not applicable. See MPEP § 716.10 regarding 37 CFR 1.132 affidavits submitted to show that the reference is a publication of applicant’s own invention to overcome a rejection based on pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103. For applications subject to current 35 U.S.C. 102, see MPEP §§ 2153 and 2154.

I.CO-AUTHORSHIP

Where the applicant is one of the co-authors of a publication cited against his or her application, he or she may overcome the rejection by filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a). Alternatively, the applicant may overcome the rejection by filing a specific affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 establishing that the article is describing applicant’s own work. An affidavit or declaration by applicant alone indicating that applicant is the sole inventor and that the others were merely working under his or her direction is sufficient to remove the publication as a reference under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a). In re Katz, 687 F.2d 450, 215 USPQ 14 (CCPA 1982).

II.DERIVATION

When the unclaimed subject matter of a patent, application publication, or other publication is applicant’s own invention, a rejection, which is not a statutory bar, on that patent or publication may be removed by submission of evidence establishing the fact that the patentee, applicant of the published application, or author derived his or her knowledge of the relevant subject matter from applicant. Moreover applicant must further show that he or she made the invention upon which the relevant disclosure in the patent, application publication, or other publication is based. In re Mathews, 408 F.2d 1393, 161 USPQ 276 (CCPA 1969); In re Facius, 408 F.2d 1396, 161 USPQ 294 (CCPA 1969).

715.01(d)   Activities Applied Against the Claims [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

Unless it is a statutory bar, a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103 based on an activity showing that the claimed invention was used or known prior to the filing date of the application may be overcome by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) establishing a date of invention prior to the date of the activity. Alternatively, the applicant(s) may overcome the rejection by filing a specific affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 showing that the activity was performed by the applicant(s).

715.02   How Much of the Claimed Invention Must Be Shown, Including the General Rule as to Generic Claims [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

The 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration must establish possession of either the whole invention claimed or something falling within the claim (such as a species of a claimed genus), in the sense that the claim as a whole reads on it. In re Tanczyn, 347 F.2d 830, 146 USPQ 298 (CCPA 1965) (Where applicant claims an alloy comprising both nitrogen and molybdenum, an affidavit showing applicant made an alloy comprising nitrogen but not molybdenum is not sufficient under 37 CFR 1.131 to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103 based on the combined teachings of one reference disclosing an alloy comprising nitrogen but not molybdenum and a second reference disclosing an alloy comprising molybdenum but not nitrogen). Note, however, where the differences between the claimed invention and the disclosure of the reference(s) are so small as to render the claims obvious over the reference(s), an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is required to show no more than the reference shows. In re Stryker, 435 F.2d 1340, 168 USPQ 372 (CCPA 1971). In other words, where the examiner, in rejecting a claim under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103, has treated a claim limitation as being an obvious feature or modification of the disclosure of the reference(s) relied upon, without citation of a reference which teaches such feature or modification, a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration may be sufficient to overcome the rejection even if it does not show such feature or modification.

Further, a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit is not insufficient merely because it does not show the identical disclosure of the reference(s) or the identical subject matter involved in the activity relied upon. If the affidavit contains facts showing a completion of the invention commensurate with the extent of the invention as claimed is shown in the reference or activity, the affidavit or declaration is sufficient, whether or not it is a showing of the identical disclosure of the reference or the identical subject matter involved in the activity. See In re Wakefield, 422 F.2d 897, 164 USPQ 636 (CCPA 1970).

Even if applicant’s 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit is not fully commensurate with the rejected claim, the applicant can still overcome the rejection by showing that the differences between the claimed invention and the showing under 37 CFR 1.131(a) would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art, in view of applicant’s 37 CFR 1.131(a) evidence, prior to the effective date of the reference(s) or the activity. Such evidence is sufficient because applicant’s possession of what is shown carries with it possession of variations and adaptations which would have been obvious, at the same time, to one of ordinary skill in the art. However, the affidavit or declaration showing must still establish possession of the invention (i.e., the basic inventive concept) and not just of what one reference (in a combination of applied references) happens to show, if that reference does not itself teach the basic inventive concept. In re Spiller, 500 F.2d 1170, 182 USPQ 614 (CCPA 1974) (Claimed invention was use of electrostatic forces to adhere dry starch particles to a wet paper web on the Fourdrinier wire of a paper-making machine. 37 CFR 1.131 affidavit established use of electrostatic forces to adhere starch particles to wet blotting paper moved over a fluidized bed of starch particles prior to the applied reference date. Affidavit was sufficient in view of prior art reference showing that deposition of dry coatings directly on wet webs on the Fourdrinier wire of a paper-making machine was well known in the art prior to the date of the applied reference. The affidavit established possession of the basic invention, i.e., use of electrostatic forces to adhere starch to wet paper.).

I.SWEARING BEHIND ONE OF A PLURALITY OF COMBINED REFERENCES

Applicant may overcome a pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103 rejection based on a combination of references by showing completion of the invention by applicant prior to the effective date of any of the references; applicant need not antedate the reference with the earliest filing date. However, as discussed above, applicant’s 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit must show possession of either the whole invention as claimed or something falling within the claim(s) prior to the effective date of the reference being antedated; it is not enough merely to show possession of what the reference happens to show if the reference does not teach the basic inventive concept.

Where a claim has been rejected under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103 based on Reference A in view of Reference B, with the effective date of secondary Reference B being earlier than that of Reference A, the applicant can rely on the teachings of Reference B to show that the differences between what is shown in his or her 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration and the claimed invention would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art prior to the date of Reference A. However, the 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration must still establish possession of the claimed invention, not just what Reference A shows, if Reference A does not teach the basic inventive concept.

II.GENERAL RULE AS TO GENERIC CLAIMS

A reference or activity applied against generic claims may (in most cases) be antedated as to such claims by an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) showing completion of the invention of only a single species, within the genus, prior to the effective date of the reference or activity (assuming, of course, that the reference or activity is not a statutory bar or a patent, or an application publication, claiming the same invention). See Ex parte Biesecker, 144 USPQ 129 (Bd. App. 1964). See, also, In re Fong, 288 F.2d 932, 129 USPQ 264 (CCPA 1961); In re Dafano, 392 F.2d 280, 157 USPQ 192 (CCPA 1968) (distinguishing chemical species of genus compounds from embodiments of a single invention). See, however, MPEP § 715.03 for practice relative to cases in unpredictable arts.

715.03   Genus-Species, Practice Relative to Cases Where Predictability Is in Question [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

Where generic claims have been rejected on a reference or activity which discloses a species not antedated by the affidavit or declaration, the rejection will not ordinarily be withdrawn, subject to the rules set forth below, unless the applicant is able to establish that he or she was in possession of the generic invention prior to the effective date of the reference or activity. In other words, the affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) must show as much as the minimum disclosure required by a patent specification to furnish support for a generic claim.

I.REFERENCE OR ACTIVITY DISCLOSES SPECIES

A.Species Claim

Where the claim under rejection recites a species and the reference or activity discloses the claimed species, the rejection can be overcome under 37 CFR 1.131(a) directly by showing prior completion of the claimed species or indirectly by a showing of prior completion of a different species coupled with a showing that the claimed species would have been an obvious modification of the species completed by applicant. See In re Spiller, 500 F.2d 1170, 182 USPQ 614 (CCPA 1974).

B.Genus Claim

The principle is well established that the disclosure of a species in a cited reference is sufficient to prevent a later applicant from obtaining a “generic claim.” In re Gosteli, 872 F.2d 1008, 10 USPQ2d 1614 (Fed. Cir. 1989); In re Slayter, 276 F.2d 408, 125 USPQ 345 (CCPA 1960).

Where the only pertinent disclosure in the reference or activity is a single species of the claimed genus, the applicant can overcome the rejection directly under 37 CFR 1.131(a) by showing prior possession of the species disclosed in the reference or activity. On the other hand, a reference or activity which discloses several species of a claimed genus can be overcome directly under 37 CFR 1.131(a) only by a showing that the applicant completed, prior to the date of the reference or activity, all of the species shown in the reference. In re Stempel, 241 F.2d 755, 113 USPQ 77 (CCPA 1957).

Proof of prior completion of a species different from the species of the reference or activity will be sufficient to overcome a reference indirectly under 37 CFR 1.131(a) if the species shown in the reference or activity would have been obvious in view of the species shown to have been made by the applicant. In re Clarke, 356 F.2d 987, 148 USPQ 665 (CCPA 1966); In re Plumb, 470 F.2d 1403, 176 USPQ 323 (CCPA 1973); In re Hostettler, 356 F.2d 562, 148 USPQ 514 (CCPA 1966). Alternatively, if the applicant cannot show possession of the species of the reference or activity in this manner, the applicant may be able to antedate the reference or activity indirectly by, for example, showing prior completion of one or more species which put him or her in possession of the claimed genus prior to the reference’s or activity’s date. The test is whether the species completed by applicant prior to the reference date or the activity’s date provided an adequate basis for inferring that the invention has generic applicability. In re Plumb, 470 F.2d 1403, 176 USPQ 323 (CCPA 1973); In re Rainer, 390 F.2d 771, 156 USPQ 334 (CCPA 1968); In re Clarke, 356 F.2d 987, 148 USPQ 665 (CCPA 1966); In re Shokal, 242 F.2d 771, 113 USPQ 283 (CCPA 1957).

It is not necessary for the affidavit evidence to show that the applicant viewed his or her invention as encompassing more than the species actually made. The test is whether the facts set out in the affidavit are such as would persuade one skilled in the art that the applicant possessed so much of the invention as is shown in the reference or activity. In re Schaub, 537 F.2d 509, 190 USPQ 324 (CCPA 1976).

C.Species Versus Embodiments

References or activities which disclose one or more embodiments of a single claimed invention, as opposed to species of a claimed genus, can be overcome by filing a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit showing prior completion of a single embodiment of the invention, whether it is the same or a different embodiment from that disclosed in the reference or activity. See In re Fong, 288 F.2d 932, 129 USPQ 264 (CCPA 1961) (Where applicant discloses and claims a washing solution comprising a detergent and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), with no criticality alleged as to the particular detergent used, the PVP being used as a soil-suspending agent to prevent the redeposition of the soil removed, the invention was viewed as the use of PVP as a soil-suspending agent in washing with a detergent. The disclosure in the reference of the use of PVP with two detergents, both of which differed from that shown in applicant’s 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit, was considered a disclosure of different embodiments of a single invention, rather than species of a claimed genus); In re Defano, 392 F.2d 280, 157 USPQ 192 (CCPA 1968).

II. REFERENCE OR ACTIVITY DISCLOSES CLAIMED GENUS

In general, where the reference or activity discloses the claimed genus, a showing of completion of a single species within the genus is sufficient to antedate the reference or activity under 37 CFR 1.131(a). Ex parte Biesecker, 144 USPQ 129 (Bd. App. 1964).

In cases where predictability is in question, on the other hand, a showing of prior completion of one or a few species within the disclosed genus is generally not sufficient to overcome the reference or activity. In re Shokal, 242 F.2d 771, 113 USPQ 283 (CCPA 1957). The test is whether the species completed by applicant prior to the reference date or the date of the activity provided an adequate basis for inferring that the invention has generic applicability. In re Mantell, 454 F.2d 1398, 172 USPQ 530 (CCPA 1973); In re Rainer, 390 F.2d 771, 156 USPQ 334 (CCPA 1968); In re DeFano, 392 F.2d 280, 157 USPQ 192 (CCPA 1968); In re Clarke, 356 F.2d 987, 148 USPQ 665 (CCPA 1965). In the case of a small genus such as the halogens, which consists of four species, a reduction to practice of three, or perhaps even two, species might show possession of the generic invention, while in the case of a genus comprising hundreds of species, reduction to practice of a considerably larger number of species would be necessary. In re Shokal, supra.

It is not necessary for the affidavit evidence to show that the applicant viewed his or her invention as encompassing more than the species he or she actually made. The test is whether the facts set out in the affidavit are such as would persuade one skilled in the art that the applicant possessed so much of the invention as is shown in the reference. In re Schaub, 537 F. 509, 190 USPQ 324 (CCPA 1976).

715.04   Who May Make Affidavit or Declaration Under 37 CFR 1.131(a); Formal Requirements of Affidavits and Declarations [R-07.2015]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

I.WHO MAY MAKE AFFIDAVIT OR DECLARATION

Affidavits or declarations filed under 37 CFR 1.131 to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103 must be made by either:

  • (A) All the inventors of the subject matter claimed.
  • (B) Less than all named inventors of an application if it is shown by affidavit or declaration that less than all named inventors of an application invented the subject matter of the claim or claims under rejection. For example, one of two joint inventors is accepted where it is shown that one of the joint inventors is the sole inventor of the claim or claims under rejection.
  • (C) For affidavits and declarations submitted in an application filed before September 16, 2012, a joint inventor or assignee under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.47 if a petition under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.47 was granted or the application was accepted under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.42 or 1.43.
  • (D) For affidavits and declarations in applications filed before September 16, 2012, the legal representative of a deceased, insane or otherwise legally incapacitated inventor under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.42 or 1.43.
  • (E) For affidavits and declarations submitted in applications filed on or after September 16, 2012, the party qualified under 37 CFR 1.42 or 1.46.
  • (F) The assignee or other party in interest when it is not possible to produce the affidavit or declaration of the inventor. Ex parte Foster, 1903 C.D. 213, 105 OG 261 (Comm’r Pat. 1903).
  • (G) The owner of the patent under reexamination.

For affidavits and declarations submitted in applications filed before September 16, 2012, where one or more of the named inventors of the subject matter of the rejected claim(s) (who had originally signed the oath or declaration for patent application under 37 CFR 1.63) is thereafter unavailable to sign an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a), the affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) may be signed by the remaining joint inventors provided a petition under 37 CFR 1.183 requesting waiver of the signature of the unavailable inventor is submitted with the affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a). Proof that the non-signing inventor is unavailable or cannot be found (similar to the proof required for a petition under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.47) must be submitted with the petition under 37 CFR 1.183 (see MPEP § 409.03(d)). Petitions under 37 CFR 1.183 are decided by the Office of Petitions (see MPEP § 1002.02(b)).

II.FORMAL REQUIREMENTS OF AFFIDAVITS AND DECLARATIONS

An affidavit is a statement in writing made under oath before a notary public, magistrate, or officer authorized to administer oaths. See MPEP § 602et seq. for additional information regarding formal requirements of affidavits.

37 CFR 1.68 permits a declaration to be used instead of an affidavit. The declaration must include an acknowledgment by the declarant that willful false statements and the like are punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both (18 U.S.C. 1001) and may jeopardize the validity of the application or any patent issuing thereon. The declarant must set forth in the body of the declaration that all statements made of the declarant’s own knowledge are true and that all statements made on information and belief are believed to be true.

715.05   U.S. Patent or Application Publication Claiming Same Invention [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

For applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102, when the reference in question is a noncommonly owned U.S. patent or patent application publication claiming the same invention as applicant and its publication date is less than 1 year prior to the presentation of claims to that invention in the application being examined, applicant’s remedy, if any, must be by way of 37 CFR 41.202 instead of 37 CFR 1.131(a). If the reference is claiming the same invention as the application and its publication date is less than 1 year prior to the presentation of claims to that invention in the application, this fact should be noted in the Office action. The reference can then be overcome only by way of interference. See MPEP Chapter 2300. If the reference is a U.S. patent which claims the same invention as the application and its issue date is more than 1 year prior to the presentation of claims to that invention in the application, a rejection of the claims of the application under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b)(1) applicable generally to applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102, see MPEP § 2159, should be made. See In re McGrew, 120 F.3d 1236, 1238, 43 USPQ2d 1632, 1635 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (The court holding that application of 35 U.S.C. 135(b) is not limited to inter partes interference proceedings, but may be used as a basis for ex parte rejections.). The expression “prior to one year from the date on which the patent was granted” in pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b) includes the one-year anniversary date of the issuance of a patent. See Switzer v. Sockman, 333 F.2d 935, 142 USPQ 226 (CCPA 1964).

If the reference is a U.S. patent application publication under 35 U.S.C. 122(b), or a WIPO publication on an international application filed on or after November 29, 2000, which claims the same invention as the application being examined and its publication date is more than 1 year prior to the presentation of claims to that invention in the application being examined, a rejection of the claims of the application (being examined) under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b)(2) applicable generally to applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102, see MPEP § 2159, should be made only if the application being examined was filed after the publication date of the reference.

Form paragraph 23.14 or 23.14.01 may be used when making a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b).

¶ 23.14    Claims Not Copied Within One Year of Patent Issue Date

Claim [l] rejected under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b)(1) as not being made prior to one year from the date on which U.S. Patent No. [2] was granted. See In re McGrew, 120 F.3d 1236, 1238, 43 USPQ2d 1632, 1635 (Fed. Cir. 1997) where the Court held that pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b) may be used as a basis for ex parte rejections.

¶ 23.14.01    Claims Not Copied Within One Year Of Application Publication Date

Claim [l] rejected under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b)(2) as not being made prior to one year from the date on which [2] was published under 35 U.S.C. 122(b). See In re McGrew, 120 F.3d 1236, 1238, 43 USPQ2d 1632, 1635 (Fed. Cir. 1997) where the Court held that pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 135(b) may be used as a basis for ex parte rejections.

Examiner Note:

  • 1. In bracket 2, insert the publication number of the published application.
  • 2. This form paragraph should only be used if the application being examined was filed after the publication date of the published application.

Where the reference and the application or patent under reexamination are commonly owned, and the inventions defined by the claims in the application or patent under reexamination and by the claims in the reference are not identical but are not patentably distinct, a terminal disclaimer and an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(c) may be used to overcome a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103. See MPEP § 718.

A 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit is ineffective to overcome a United States patent or patent application publication, not only where there is a verbatim correspondence between claims of the application and of the patent, but also where there is no patentable distinction between the respective claims. In re Clark, 457 F.2d 1004, 173 USPQ 359 (CCPA 1972); In re Hidy, 303 F.2d 954, 133 USPQ 650 (CCPA 1962); In re Teague, 254 F.2d 145, 117 USPQ 284 (CCPA 1958); In re Ward, 236 F.2d 428, 111 USPQ 101 (CCPA 1956); In re Wagenhorst, 62 F.2d 831, 16 USPQ 126 (CCPA 1933).

If the application (or patent under reexamination) and the domestic reference contain claims which are identical, or which are not patentably distinct, then the application and patent are claiming "interfering subject matter" as defined in 37 CFR 41.203(a).

As provided in 37 CFR 41.203(a), an interference exists if the subject matter of a claim of one party would, if prior art, have anticipated or rendered obvious the subject matter of a claim of the opposing party and vice versa. An applicant who is claiming an invention which is identical to, or obvious in view of, the invention as claimed in a domestic patent or patent application publication cannot employ an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.131(a) as a means for avoiding an interference with the reference. To allow an applicant to do so would result in the issuance of two patents to the same invention.

Since 37 CFR 1.131(a) defines "interfering subject matter" in the same way as the interference rules (37 CFR 41.203(a)), the USPTO cannot prevent an applicant from overcoming a reference by a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration on the grounds that the reference claims applicant’s invention and, at the same time, deny applicant an interference on the grounds that the claims of the application and those of the reference are not for substantially the same invention. See In re Eickmeyer, 602 F.2d 974, 202 USPQ 655 (CCPA 1979). Where, in denying an applicant’s motion in interference to substitute a broader count, it is held that the limitation to be deleted was material for the opponent patentee, this constitutes a holding that the proposed count is for an invention which is not interfering subject matter with respect to the claims of the reference. Therefore, the applicant may file an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) to overcome a prior art rejection based on the reference. Adler v. Kluver, 159 USPQ 511 (Bd. Pat. Int. 1968).

Form paragraph 7.58.fti (reproduced in MPEP § 715) may be used to note such a situation in the Office action.

715.06   [Reserved]

715.07   Facts and Documentary Evidence [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

I.GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

The essential thing to be shown under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is priority of invention and this may be done by any satisfactory evidence of the fact. FACTS, not conclusions, must be alleged. Evidence in the form of exhibits may accompany the affidavit or declaration. Each exhibit relied upon should be specifically referred to in the affidavit or declaration, in terms of what it is relied upon to show. For example, the allegations of fact might be supported by submitting as evidence one or more of the following:

  • (A) attached sketches;
  • (B) attached blueprints;
  • (C) attached photographs;
  • (D) attached reproductions of notebook entries;
  • (E) an accompanying model;
  • (F) attached supporting statements by witnesses, where verbal disclosures are the evidence relied upon. Ex parte Ovshinsky, 10 USPQ2d 1075 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1989);
  • (G) testimony given in an interference. Where interference testimony is used, the applicant must point out which parts of the testimony are being relied on; examiners cannot be expected to search the entire interference record for the evidence;
  • (H) documents submitted under the Disclosure Document Program (discontinued February 1, 2007) may be used as documentary evidence of conception.

Exhibits and models must comply with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.91 to be entered into an application file. See also MPEP § 715.07(d).

A general allegation that the invention was completed prior to the date of the reference is not sufficient. Similarly, a declaration by the inventor to the effect that his or her invention was conceived or reduced to practice prior to the reference date, without a statement of facts demonstrating the correctness of this conclusion, is insufficient to satisfy 37 CFR 1.131(a).

37 CFR 1.131(b) requires that original exhibits of drawings or records, or photocopies thereof, accompany and form part of the affidavit or declaration or their absence satisfactorily explained. In Ex parte Donovan, 1890 C.D. 109, 52 OG 309 (Comm’r Pat. 1890) the court stated:

If the applicant made sketches he should so state, and produce and describe them; if the sketches were made and lost, and their contents remembered, they should be reproduced and furnished in place of the originals. The same course should be pursued if the disclosure was by means of models. If neither sketches nor models are relied upon, but it is claimed that verbal disclosures, sufficiently clear to indicate definite conception of the invention, were made the witness should state as nearly as possible the language used in imparting knowledge of the invention to others.

When reviewing a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration, the examiner must consider all of the evidence presented in its entirety, including the affidavits or declarations and all accompanying exhibits, records and “notes.” An accompanying exhibit need not support all claimed limitations, provided that any missing limitation is supported by the declaration itself. Ex parte Ovshinsky, 10 USPQ2d 1075 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1989).

The affidavit or declaration and exhibits must clearly explain which facts or data applicant is relying on to show completion of his or her invention prior to the particular date. Vague and general statements in broad terms about what the exhibits describe along with a general assertion that the exhibits describe a reduction to practice “amounts essentially to mere pleading, unsupported by proof or a showing of facts” and, thus, does not satisfy the requirements of 37 CFR 1.131(b). In re Borkowski, 505 F.2d 713, 184 USPQ 29 (CCPA 1974). Applicant must give a clear explanation of the exhibits pointing out exactly what facts are established and relied on by applicant. 505 F.2d at 718-19, 184 USPQ at 33. See also In re Harry, 333 F.2d 920, 142 USPQ 164 (CCPA 1964) (Affidavit “asserts that facts exist but does not tell what they are or when they occurred.”).

II.ESTABLISHMENT OF DATES

If the dates of the exhibits have been removed or blocked off, the matter of dates can be taken care of in the body of the oath or declaration.

When alleging that conception or a reduction to practice occurred prior to the effective date of the reference, the dates in the oath or declaration may be the actual dates or, if the applicant or patent owner does not desire to disclose his or her actual dates, he or she may merely allege that the acts referred to occurred prior to a specified date. However, the actual dates of acts relied on to establish diligence must be provided. See MPEP § 715.07(a) regarding the diligence requirement.

III.THREE WAYS TO SHOW PRIOR INVENTION

The affidavit or declaration must state FACTS and produce such documentary evidence and exhibits in support thereof as are available to show conception and completion of invention in this country or in a NAFTA or WTO member country (MPEP § 715.07(c)), at least the conception being at a date prior to the effective date of the reference. Where there has not been reduction to practice prior to the date of the reference, the applicant or patent owner must also show diligence in the completion of his or her invention from a time just prior to the date of the reference continuously up to the date of an actual reduction to practice or up to the date of filing his or her application (filing constitutes a constructive reduction to practice, 37 CFR 1.131).

As discussed above, 37 CFR 1.131(b) provides three ways in which an applicant can establish prior invention of the claimed subject matter. The showing of facts must be sufficient to show:

  • (A) (actual) reduction to practice of the invention prior to the effective date of the reference; or
  • (B) conception of the invention prior to the effective date of the reference coupled with due diligence from prior to the reference date to a subsequent (actual) reduction to practice; or
  • (C) conception of the invention prior to the effective date of the reference coupled with due diligence from prior to the reference date to the filing date of the application (constructive reduction to practice).

A conception of an invention, though evidenced by disclosure, drawings, and even a model, is not a complete invention under the patent laws, and confers no rights on an inventor, and has no effect on a subsequently granted patent to another, UNLESS THE INVENTOR FOLLOWS IT WITH REASONABLE DILIGENCE BY SOME OTHER ACT, such as an actual reduction to practice or filing an application for a patent. Automatic Weighing Mach. Co. v. Pneumatic Scale Corp., 166 F.2d 288, 1909 C.D. 498, 139 OG 991 (1st Cir. 1909).

Conception is the mental part of the inventive act, but it must be capable of proof, as by drawings, complete disclosure to another person, etc. In Mergenthaler v. Scudder, 1897 C.D. 724, 81 OG 1417 (D.C. Cir. 1897), it was established that conception is more than a mere vague idea of how to solve a problem; the means themselves and their interaction must be comprehended also.

In general, proof of actual reduction to practice requires a showing that the apparatus actually existed and worked for its intended purpose. However, “there are some devices so simple that a mere construction of them is all that is necessary to constitute reduction to practice.” In re Asahi/America Inc., 68 F.3d 442, 37 USPQ2d 1204, 1206 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (Citing Newkirk v. Lulejian, 825 F.2d 1581, 3USPQ2d 1793 (Fed. Cir. 1987) and Sachs v. Wadsworth, 48 F.2d 928, 929, 9 USPQ 252, 253 (CCPA 1931). The claimed restraint coupling held to be so simple a device that mere construction of it was sufficient to constitute reduction to practice. Photographs, coupled with articles and a technical report describing the coupling in detail were sufficient to show reduction to practice.).

The facts to be established under 37 CFR 1.131(a) are similar to those to be proved in interference. The difference lies in the way in which the evidence is presented. If applicant disagrees with a holding that the facts are insufficient to overcome the rejection, his or her remedy is by appeal from the continued rejection.

See MPEP § 2138.04 through § 2138.06 for a detailed discussion of the concepts of conception, reasonable diligence, and reduction to practice.

For the most part, the terms “conception,” “reasonable diligence,” and “reduction to practice” have the same meanings under 37 CFR 1.131(a) as they have in interference proceedings. However, in In re Eickmeyer, 602 F.2d 974, 202 USPQ 655 (CCPA 1979), the court stated:

The purpose of filing a [37 CFR 1.]131 affidavit is not to demonstrate prior invention, per se, but merely to antedate the effective date of a reference. See In re Moore, 58 CCPA 1340, 444 F.2d 572, 170 USPQ 260 (1971). Although the test for sufficiency of an affidavit under Rule 131(b) parallels that for determining priority of invention in an interference under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g), it does not necessarily follow that Rule 131 practice is controlled by interference law. To the contrary, “[t]he parallel to interference practice found in Rule 131(b) should be recognized as one of convenience rather than necessity.” Id. at 1353, 444 F.2d at 580, 170 USPQ at 267. Thus, “the ‘conception’ and ‘reduction to practice’ which must be established under the rule need not be the same as what is required in the ‘interference’ sense of those terms.” Id.; accord, In re Borkowski, 505 F.2d 713, 718-19, 184 USPQ 29, 33 (CCPA 1974).

One difference is that in interference practice a reduction to practice requires a proof that a utility was known, whereas under 37 CFR 1.131(a) practice, proof of a utility must be shown only if the reference discloses a utility. In re Wilkinson, 304 F.2d 673, 134 USPQ 171 (CCPA 1962); In re Moore, 444 F.2d 572, 170 USPQ 260 (CCPA 1971). Where proof of utility is required, whether or not test results are required to establish the utility of the subject matter in question depends on the facts of each case. The ultimate issue is whether the evidence is such that one of ordinary skill in the art would be satisfied to a reasonable certainty that the subject matter necessary to antedate the reference possessed the alleged utility. In re Blake, 358 F.2d 750, 149 USPQ 217 (CCPA 1966). Also, in interference practice, conception, reasonable diligence, and reduction to practice require corroboration, whereas averments made in a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration do not require corroboration; an applicant may stand on his or her own affidavit or declaration if he or she so elects. Ex parte Hook, 102 USPQ 130 (Bd. App. 1953).

Form paragraph 7.59 or 7.63 (both reproduced in MPEP § 715) may be used where insufficient evidence is included in a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit.

715.07(a)   Diligence [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

Where conception occurs prior to the date of the reference, but reduction to practice is afterward, it is not enough merely to allege that applicant or patent owner had been diligent. Rather, applicant must show evidence of facts establishing diligence.

In determining the sufficiency of a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration, diligence need not be considered unless conception of the invention prior to the effective date is clearly established, pursuant to 37 CFR 1.131(b), diligence comes into question only after prior conception is established.

In patent law, an inventor is either diligent at a given time or he is not diligent; there are no degrees of diligence. An applicant may be diligent within the meaning of the patent law when he or she is doing nothing, if his or her lack of activity is excused. Note, however, that the record must set forth an explanation or excuse for the inactivity; the USPTO or courts will not speculate on possible explanations for delay or inactivity. See In re Nelson, 420 F.2d 1079, 164 USPQ 458 (CCPA 1970). Diligence must be judged on the basis of the particular facts in each case. See MPEP § 2138.06 for a detailed discussion of the diligence requirement for proving prior invention.

Under 37 CFR 1.131(a), the critical period in which diligence must be shown begins just prior to the effective date of the reference or activity and ends with the date of a reduction to practice, either actual or constructive (i.e., filing a United States patent application). Note, therefore, that only diligence before reduction to practice is a material consideration. Any lack of due diligence between an actual reduction to practice of an invention and the filing of an application thereon is not relevant to the sufficiency of an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a).

Form paragraph 7.62 (reproduced in MPEP § 715) may be used to respond to a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit where diligence is lacking.

715.07(b)   Interference Testimony Sometimes Used [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

In place of an affidavit or declaration the testimony of the applicant in an interference may be sometimes used to antedate a reference in lieu of a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration.

The part of the testimony to form the basis of priority over the reference should be pointed out. Ex parte Bowyer, 1939 C.D. 5, 42 USPQ 526 (Comm’r Pat. 1939).

715.07(c)   Acts Relied Upon Must Have Been Carried Out in This Country or a NAFTA or WTO Member Country [R-07.2015]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 104   Invention Made Abroad.

  • (a) IN GENERAL.—
    • (1) PROCEEDINGS.—In proceedings in the Patent and Trademark Office, in the courts, and before any other competent authority, an applicant for a patent, or a patentee, may not establish a date of invention by reference to knowledge or use thereof, or other activity with respect thereto, in a foreign country other than a NAFTA country or a WTO member country, except as provided in sections 119 and 365.
    • (2) RIGHTS.—If an invention was made by a person, civil or military—
      • (A) while domiciled in the United States, and serving in any other country in connection with operations by or on behalf of the United States,
      • (B) while domiciled in a NAFTA country and serving in another country in connection with operations by or on behalf of that NAFTA country, or
      • (C) while domiciled in a WTO member country and serving in another country in connection with operations by or on behalf of that WTO member country, that person shall be entitled to the same rights of priority in the United States with respect to such invention as if such invention had been made in the United States, that NAFTA country, or that WTO member country, as the case may be.
    • (3) USE OF INFORMATION.—To the extent that any information in a NAFTA country or a WTO member country concerning knowledge, use, or other activity relevant to proving or disproving a date of invention has not been made available for use in a proceeding in the Patent and Trademark Office, a court, or any other competent authority to the same extent as such information could be made available in the United States, the Director, court, or such other authority shall draw appropriate inferences, or take other action permitted by statute, rule, or regulation, in favor of the party that requested the information in the proceeding.
  • (b) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section—
    • (1) The term “NAFTA country” has the meaning given that term in section 2(4) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act; and
    • (2) The term “WTO member country” has the meaning given that term in section 2(10) of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

The 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration must contain an allegation that the acts relied upon to establish the date prior to the reference or activity were carried out in this country or in a NAFTA country or WTO member country. See pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 104.

Under 37 CFR 1.131(a), which provides for the establishment of a date of completion of the invention in a NAFTA or WTO member country, as well as in the United States, the applicant or patent owner can establish a date of completion in a NAFTA member country on or after December 8, 1993, the effective date of section 331 of Public Law 103-182, the North American Free Trade Agreement Act, and can establish a date of completion in a WTO member country other than a NAFTA member country on or after January 1, 1996, the effective date of section 531 of Public Law 103-465, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. Acts occurring prior to the effective dates of NAFTA or URAA may be relied upon to show completion of the invention; however, a date of completion of the invention may not be established under 37 CFR 1.131(a) before December 8, 1993 in a NAFTA country or before January 1, 1996 in a WTO country other than a NAFTA country.

715.07(d)   Disposition of Exhibits [R-11.2013]

Exhibits, such as those filed as part of an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a), must comply with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.91 to be entered into an application file. Exhibits that do not comply with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.91 will be disposed of or returned to applicant at the discretion of the Office. See also MPEP § 608.03(a).

715.08   Decided by Primary Examiner [R-11.2013]

The question of sufficiency of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(a) should be reviewed and decided by a primary examiner.

Review of an examiner’s decision with regard to questions of formal sufficiency and propriety of an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131(a) is by a petition filed under 37 CFR 1.181. Such petitions are answered by the Technology Center Directors (MPEP § 1002.02(c)).

Review of an examiner’s determination on the merits of a 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavit or declaration is by appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

715.09   Timely Presentation [R-11.2013]

Affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(a) must be timely presented in order to be admitted. Affidavits and declarations submitted under 37 CFR 1.131(a) and other evidence traversing rejections are considered timely if submitted:

  • (A) prior to a final rejection;
  • (B) before appeal in an application not having a final rejection;
  • (C) after final rejection, but before or on the same date of filing an appeal, upon a showing of good and sufficient reasons why the affidavit or other evidence is necessary and was not earlier presented in compliance with 37 CFR 1.116(e); or
  • (D) after the prosecution is closed (e.g., after a final rejection, after appeal, or after allowance) if applicant files the affidavit or other evidence with a request for continued examination (RCE) under 37 CFR 1.114 in a utility or plant application filed on or after June 8, 1995; or a continued prosecution application (CPA) under 37 CFR 1.53(d) in a design application.

All admitted affidavits and declarations are acknowledged and commented upon by the examiner in his or her next succeeding action.

For affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(a) filed after appeal, see 37 CFR 41.33(d) and MPEP § 1206 and § 1211.03.

Review of an examiner’s refusal to enter an affidavit as untimely is by petition and not by appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. In re Deters, 515 F.2d 1152, 185 USPQ 644 (CCPA 1975); Ex parte Hale, 49 USPQ 209 (Bd. App. 1941). See MPEP § 715.08 regarding review of questions of propriety of 37 CFR 1.131(a) affidavits and declarations.

715.10   Review of Affidavit or Declaration for Evidence of Prior Public Use or Sale or Failure to Disclose Best Mode [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA unless being relied upon to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(g). See 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. For a discussion of 37 CFR 1.130, affidavits or declarations of attribution or prior public disclosure in applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA, see MPEP § 717. For a discussion of affidavits or declarations under 37 CFR 1.131(c), see MPEP § 718.]

Any affidavits or declarations submitted under 37 CFR 1.131(a) and the accompanying evidence must be reviewed carefully by the examiner in order to determine whether they show that the claimed invention was “in public use” or “on sale” in this country more than one year prior to the effective filing date of the application, which acts constitute a statutory bar under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b). Although the rejection based on the reference(s) or activity sought to be antedated may actually be overcome by such an affidavit or declaration, the effect of the applicant’s prior “public use” or “on sale” activities may not be overcome under 37 CFR 1.131(a). See MPEP § 2133.03 regarding rejections based on “public use” and “on sale” statutory bars under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102.

Where the 37 CFR 1.131(a) evidence relies on an embodiment of the invention not disclosed in the application, the question of whether the application includes the “best mode” must be considered. However, a “best mode” rejection should not be made unless the record, taken as a whole, establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that applicant’s specification has not set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor of carrying out the invention. See MPEP §§ 2165 - § 2165.04 regarding the best mode requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph.

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