37 CFR 1.499 Unity of invention during the national stage
If the examiner finds that a national stage application lacks unity of invention under § 1.475, the examiner may in an Office action require the applicant in the response to that action to elect the invention to which the claims shall be restricted. Such requirement may be made before any action on the merits but may be made at any time before the final action at the discretion of the examiner. Review of any such requirement is provided under §§ 1.143 and 1.144.
Examiners are reminded that unity of invention (not restriction practice pursuant to 37 CFR 1.141 – 1.146) is applicable in international applications (both Chapter I and II) and in national stage applications submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371. Restriction practice in accordance with 37 CFR 1.141–1.146 continues to apply to U.S. national applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a), even if the application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. 120 and 365(c) to an earlier international application designating the United States or to an earlier U.S. national stage application submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371.
The sections of the MPEP relating to double patenting rejections (MPEP § 804), election and reply by applicant (MPEP § 818), and rejoinder of nonelected inventions (MPEP § 821.04) generally also apply to national stage applications submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371. See MPEP § 823.
When making a unity of invention requirement, the examiner must (1) list the different groups of claims and (2) explain why each group lacks unity with each other group (i.e., why there is no single general inventive concept) specifically describing the unique special technical feature in each group.
The principles of unity of invention are used to determine the types of claimed subject matter and the combinations of claims to different categories of invention that are permitted to be included in a single international or national stage patent application. See MPEP § 1850 for a detailed discussion of Unity of Invention. The basic principle is that an application should relate to only one invention or, if there is more than one invention, that applicant would have a right to include in a single application only those inventions which are so linked as to form a single general inventive concept.
A group of inventions is considered linked to form a single general inventive concept where there is a technical relationship among the inventions that involves at least one common or corresponding special technical feature. The expression special technical features is defined as meaning those technical features that define the contribution which each claimed invention, considered as a whole, makes over the prior art. For example, a corresponding technical feature is exemplified by a key defined by certain claimed structural characteristics which correspond to the claimed features of a lock to be used with the claimed key. Note also the examples contained in Chapter 10 of the International Search and Preliminary Examination Guidelines which can be obtained from the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit or WIPO’s website (www.wipo.int/pct/en/texts/gdlines.html).
A process is “specially adapted” for the manufacture of a product if the claimed process inherently produces the claimed product with the technical relationship being present between the claimed process and the claimed product. The expression “specially adapted” does not imply that the product could not also be manufactured by a different process.
An apparatus or means is specifically designed for carrying out the process when the apparatus or means is suitable for carrying out the process with the technical relationship being present between the claimed apparatus or means and the claimed process. The expression specifically designed does not imply that the apparatus or means could not be used for carrying out another process, nor does it imply that the process could not be carried out using an alternative apparatus or means.
Note: the determination regarding unity of invention is made without regard to whether a group of inventions is claimed in separate claims or as alternatives within a single claim. The basic criteria for unity of invention are the same, regardless of the manner in which applicant chooses to draft a claim or claims.
If an examiner (1) determines that the claims do not meet the unity of invention requirement and (2) requires election of a single invention, when all of the claims drawn to the elected invention are allowable (i.e., meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103 and 112), the nonelected invention(s) should be considered for rejoinder. Any nonelected product claim that requires all the limitations of an allowable product claim, and any nonelected process claim that requires all the limitations of an allowable process claim, should be rejoined. See MPEP § 821.04. Any nonelected processes of making and/or using an allowable product should be considered for rejoinder. The examiner should notify applicants of potential rejoinder of non-elected process claims by placing form paragraph 8.21.04 at the end of any lack of unity determination made between a product and a process of making the product or between a product and a process of using the product.
FORM PARAGRAPHS FOR LACK OF UNITY IN NATIONAL STAGE APPLICATIONS
¶ 18.18 Heading for Lack of Unity Action in National Stage Applications Submitted Under 35 U.S.C. 371 (Including Species)
REQUIREMENT FOR UNITY OF INVENTION
As provided in 37 CFR 1.475(a), a national stage application shall relate to one invention only or to a group of inventions so linked as to form a single general inventive concept (“requirement of unity of invention”). Where a group of inventions is claimed in a national stage application, the requirement of unity of invention shall be fulfilled only when there is a technical relationship among those inventions involving one or more of the same or corresponding special technical features. The expression “special technical features” shall mean those technical features that define a contribution which each of the claimed inventions, considered as a whole, makes over the prior art.
The determination whether a group of inventions is so linked as to form a single general inventive concept shall be made without regard to whether the inventions are claimed in separate claims or as alternatives within a single claim. See 37 CFR 1.475(e).
When Claims Are Directed to Multiple Categories of Inventions:
As provided in 37 CFR 1.475(b), a national stage application containing claims to different categories of invention will be considered to have unity of invention if the claims are drawn only to one of the following combinations of categories:
- (1) A product and a process specially adapted for the manufacture of said product; or
- (2) A product and a process of use of said product; or
- (3) A product, a process specially adapted for the manufacture of the said product, and a use of the said product; or
- (4) A process and an apparatus or means specifically designed for carrying out the said process; or
- (5) A product, a process specially adapted for the manufacture of the said product, and an apparatus or means specifically designed for carrying out the said process.
Otherwise, unity of invention might not be present. See 37 CFR 1.475(c).
- 1. Begin all Lack of Unity actions in national stage applications submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371 (including species) with this heading.
- 2. Follow with form paragraph 18.19 or 18.20, as appropriate.
- 3. For lack of unity during the international phase, use form paragraph 18.05 instead of this form paragraph.
¶ 18.19 Restriction Requirement in National Stage Applications Submitted Under 35 U.S.C. 371
This application contains the following inventions or groups of inventions which are not so linked as to form a single general inventive concept under PCT Rule 13.1.
In accordance with 37 CFR 1.499, applicant is required, in reply to this action, to elect a single invention to which the claims must be restricted.
- 1. This form paragraph is to be used when making a restriction requirement in a national stage application submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371.
- 2. This form paragraph is to be followed by form paragraphs 18.06 – 18.06.02, as appropriate, and by form paragraphs 18.07 – 18.07.02, as appropriate.
- 3. All restriction requirements between a product/apparatus and a process of making the product/apparatus or between a product and a process of using the product should be followed by form paragraph 8.21.04 to notify the applicant that if all product/apparatus claims are found allowable, process claims that require all the limitations of the patentable product/apparatus should be considered for rejoinder.
- 4. When all of the claims directed to the elected invention are in condition for allowance, the propriety of the restriction requirement should be reconsidered to verify that the non-elected claims do not share a same or corresponding technical feature with the allowable claims.
¶ 8.21.04 Notice of Potential Rejoinder of Process Claims
The examiner has required restriction between product and process claims. Where applicant elects claims directed to the product/apparatus, and all product/apparatus claims are subsequently found allowable, withdrawn process claims that include all the limitations of the allowable product/apparatus claims should be considered for rejoinder. All claims directed to a nonelected process invention must include all the limitations of an allowable product/apparatus claim for that process invention to be rejoined.
In the event of rejoinder, the requirement for restriction between the product/apparatus claims and the rejoined process claims will be withdrawn, and the rejoined process claims will be fully examined for patentability in accordance with 37 CFR 1.104. Thus, to be allowable, the rejoined claims must meet all criteria for patentability including the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103 and 112. Until all claims to the elected product/apparatus are found allowable, an otherwise proper restriction requirement between product/apparatus claims and process claims may be maintained. Withdrawn process claims that are not commensurate in scope with an allowable product/apparatus claim will not be rejoined. See MPEP § 821.04. Additionally, in order for rejoinder to occur, applicant is advised that the process claims should be amended during prosecution to require the limitations of the product/apparatus claims. Failure to do so may result in no rejoinder. Further, note that the prohibition against double patenting rejections of 35 U.S.C. 121 does not apply where the restriction requirement is withdrawn by the examiner before the patent issues. See MPEP § 804.01.
This form paragraph should appear at the end of any requirement for restriction between a process and a product/apparatus for practicing the process (see form paragraph 8.17), a product/apparatus and a process of making the product/apparatus (see form paragraph 8.18) or between a product/apparatus and a process of using the product/apparatus (see form paragraph 8.20). See MPEP § 821.04 for rejoinder practice.
¶ 18.20 Election of Species in National Stage Applications Submitted Under 35 U.S.C. 371
This application contains claims directed to more than one species of the generic invention. These species are deemed to lack unity of invention because they are not so linked as to form a single general inventive concept under PCT Rule 13.1.
The species are as follows:
Applicant is required, in reply to this action, to elect a single species to which the claims shall be restricted if no generic claim is finally held to be allowable. The reply must also identify the claims readable on the elected species, including any claims subsequently added. An argument that a claim is allowable or that all claims are generic is considered non-responsive unless accompanied by an election.
Upon the allowance of a generic claim, applicant will be entitled to consideration of claims to additional species which are written in dependent form or otherwise require all the limitations of an allowed generic claim. Currently, the following claim(s) are generic: .
- 1. This form paragraph is to be used when making an election of species requirement in a national stage application submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371.
- 2. In bracket 1, identify the species from which an election is to be made.
- 3. In bracket 2, identify each generic claim by number or insert the word –NONE–.
- 4. This form paragraph is to be followed by form paragraphs 18.07 – 18.07.03, as appropriate.
¶ 18.21 Election by Original Presentation in National Stage Applications Submitted Under 35 U.S.C. 371
Newly submitted claim  directed to an invention that lacks unity with the invention originally claimed for the following reasons: 
Since applicant has received an action on the merits for the originally presented invention, this invention has been constructively elected by original presentation for prosecution on the merits. Accordingly, claim  withdrawn from consideration as being directed to a nonelected invention. See 37 CFR 1.142(b) and MPEP § 821.03.
¶ 18.22 Requirement for Election and Means for Traversal in National Stage Applications Submitted Under 35 U.S.C. 371
Applicant is advised that the reply to this requirement to be complete must include (i) an election of a species or invention to be examined even though the requirement may be traversed (37 CFR 1.143) and (ii) identification of the claims encompassing the elected invention.
The election of an invention or species may be made with or without traverse. To preserve a right to petition, the election must be made with traverse. If the reply does not distinctly and specifically point out supposed errors in the restriction requirement, the election shall be treated as an election without traverse. Traversal must be presented at the time of election in order to be considered timely. Failure to timely traverse the requirement will result in the loss of right to petition under 37 CFR 1.144. If claims are added after the election, applicant must indicate which of these claims are readable on the elected invention or species.
Should applicant traverse on the ground that the inventions have unity of invention (37 CFR 1.475(a)), applicant must provide reasons in support thereof. Applicant may submit evidence or identify such evidence now of record showing the inventions to be obvious variants or clearly admit on the record that this is the case. Where such evidence or admission is provided by applicant, if the examiner finds one of the inventions unpatentable over the prior art, the evidence or admission may be used in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103(a) of the other invention.
- 1. This form paragraph should be used when requiring restriction (including an election of species) in an application that entered the national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371.
- 2. This form paragraph should follow form paragraph 8.23.01 when a telephone call was made that did not result in an election being made.