704.11 What Information May Be Required [R-11.2013]
Information which may be required under 37 CFR 1.105 is that information reasonably necessary to properly examine or treat a matter in a pending or abandoned application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111 (including a reissue application), in a pending or abandoned application that has entered the national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371, in a patent, or in a reexamination proceeding.
There must be a reasonable basis for the information required that would aid in the examination of an application or treatment of some matter. A requirement for information under 37 CFR 1.105 places a substantial burden on the applicant that is to be minimized by clearly focusing the reason for the requirement and the scope of the expected response. Thus, the scope of the requirement should be narrowly defined, and a requirement under 37 CFR 1.105 may only be made when the examiner has a reasonable basis for requiring information.
The terms “factual” and “facts” are included in 37 CFR 1.105 to make it clear that it is facts and factual information, that are known to applicant, or readily obtained after reasonable inquiry by applicant, that are sought, and that requirements under 37 CFR 1.105 are not requesting opinions that may be held or would be required to be formulated by applicant. Where the factual information requested related to the subject application, and details thereof, applicant would be expected to make a reasonable inquiry under the circumstances to find the factual information requested (37 CFR 11.18(b)(2)). Applicant need not, however, derive or independently discover a fact, such as by experimentation, in response to a requirement for information. The purpose of 37 CFR 1.105 is to improve patent quality, and render better decisions, and not to put applicants in jeopardy of meeting their duties of candor and good faith in their replies to a requirement for information.
INFORMATION REASONABLY NECESSARY FOR FINDING PRIOR ART
The criteria stated in 37 CFR 1.105 for making a requirement for information is that the information be reasonably necessary to the examination or treatment of a matter in an application. The information required would typically be that necessary for finding prior art or for resolving an issue arising from the results of the search for art or from analysis of the application file. A requirement for information necessary for finding prior art is not a substitute for the examiner performing a search of the relevant prior art; the examiner must make a search of the art according to MPEP §§ 704.01 and 904 – 904.03.
The criteria of reasonable necessity is generally met, e.g., where:
- (A) the examiner’s search and preliminary analysis demonstrates that the claimed subject matter cannot be adequately searched by class or keyword among patents and typical sources of non-patent literature, or
- (B) either the application file or the lack of relevant prior art found in the examiner’s search justifies asking the applicant if he or she has information that would be relevant to the patentability determination.
The first instance generally occurs where the invention as a whole is in a new area of technology which has no patent classification or has a class with few pieces of art that diverge substantially from the nature of the claimed subject matter. In this situation, the applicant is likely to be among the most knowledgeable in the art, as evidenced by the scarcity of art, and requiring the applicant’s information of areas of search is justified by the need for the applicant’s expertise.
The second instance generally occurs where the application file, or other related applications or publications authored by the applicant, suggests the applicant likely has access to information necessary to a more complete understanding of the invention and its context. In this situation, the record suggests that the details of such information may be relevant to the issue of patentability, and thus shows the need for information in addition to that already submitted by the applicant.