The Post-Prosecution Pilot Program, dubbed “P3” by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), offers applicants a new, and arguably improved, path through the after-final landscape. P3 provides applicants the opportunity to orally present proposed amendments or arguments to a panel of examiners after a final rejection has been issued but before filing a notice of appeal. As the USPTO’s latest rollout under the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, P3 incorporates effective features of the existing Pre-Appeal Brief Conference Pilot program (Pre-Appeal) and the After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 program (AFCP). Applicants should consider taking advantage of this no-fee program to make their case for allowance, propose non-broadening amendments, and receive feedback from a larger pool of examiners prior to filling a notice of appeal or Request for Continued Examination (RCE).
A website recently launched that aggregates individual examiner data in real-time to provide practitioners with information they may find helpful in determining prosecution strategies that may be effective in achieving allowance before a particular examiner. The website, known as Examiner Ninja, allows a user to look-up data about any examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The website presents data about allowance rates when various prosecution strategies are utilized, and also provides data about how quickly an examiner takes particular types of action during prosecution. The data is provided for each examiner, and each individual examiner’s data is compared to the same data for all examiners in that particular examiner’s art unit, and to all examiners at the USPTO.
To date, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari (commonly referred to as cert) to five patent-related cases this term, which will result in three oral arguments likely to be decided before the end of the term. Two of the cases were consolidated into a single argument, while another case was subject to a Grant-Vacate-and-Remand (GVR) order, meaning the previous decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has been vacated by the Supreme Court and the case must be reconsidered by the CAFC. There are also over 20 pending Petitions for Writ of Certiorari, which may result in additional patent matters being heard by the Court this term.
Most patent owners are aware that under 35 U.S.C. § 154(d), publication of a United States patent application confers provisional rights to the patent owner. The provisional rights allow an owner to collect damages for infringement of issued claims dating back to the date of publication provided that the claims are substantially similar to the claims that are included in the published application. It can often be difficult for a patent owner to prove that issued claims are substantially similar to published claims. However, even if a patent owner is able to prove claim similarity from publication to issuance, a further obstacle to collect pre-issuance damages was solidified by the Federal Circuit recently in Rosebud LMS v. Adobe Systems—the statutory requirement of actual notice. In the recent Federal Circuit decision, the Court found that constructive notice was insufficient to meet the actual notice requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 154(d), and that instead a patent owner must prove the infringer was actually aware of the patent at issue.
Earlier this fall the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the “Streamlined, Expedited Patent Appeal Pilot for Small Entities” program (the Streamlined, Expedited program), which allows small and micro entities to expedite a single ex parte patent appeal pending before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board). In order to take advantage of this program, a patent applicant must:
- Be a small or micro entity appellant;
- Have only a single ex parte patent appeal pending before the Board as of September 18, 2015;
- Have no claim involved in the appeal that can be subject to a rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 112;
- For each ground of rejection that is applied to more than one claim, select a single claim as representative and only discuss that claim in the appeal for that ground;
- Agree to waive any requested oral hearing; and
- Acknowledge that any oral hearing fees paid in connection with the appeal will not be refunded.
Summary: The USPTO announced a year-long program aimed at reducing the backlog of pending ex parte patent appeals. An ex parte patent appeal is an appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board typically made by applicants after receiving a final rejection from an examiner and failing to reach agreement on the allowability of the patent application. Currently, the average time to receive a final decision on an ex parte appeal is between 2 to 3 years. Under the new program, an applicant/appellant can have one appeal finally decided within 6 months of entering the program if the applicant willingly withdraws a second appeal. The applicant can contemporaneously file an RCE for the withdrawn appeal to keep the subject matter of the application alive.
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