Section 706.02(l)(3) Examination Procedure With Respect to Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c)

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is not applicable to applications subject to examination under the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA as explained in 35 U.S.C. 100 (note) and MPEP § 2159. See MPEP §§ 717.02 et seq., 2154.02(c) and 2156 for the examination of applications subject to the first inventor to file provisions of the AIA involving, inter alia, commonly owned subject matter or a joint research agreement.]

Examiners are reminded that a reference used in an anticipatory rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g) is not disqualified as prior art if the reference is disqualified under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c). Generally, such a reference is only disqualified when

Applications and patents will be considered to be owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the same person, at the time the invention was made, if the applicant(s) or patent owner(s) make(s) a statement to the effect that the application and the reference were, at the time the invention was made, owned by, or subject to an obligation of assignment to, the same person(s) or organization(s). In order to overcome a rejection under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(a) based upon a reference which qualifies as prior art under only one or more of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g), via the CREATE Act, the applicant must comply with the statute and the rules of practice in effect.

See MPEP § 706.02(l)(2) for additional information pertaining to establishing common ownership.

I. EXAMINATION OF APPLICATIONS OF DIFFERENT INVENTIVE ENTITIES WHERE COMMON OWNERSHIP OR A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED

If the application file being examined has not established that the reference is disqualified as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c), the examiner will:

II. EXAMINATION OF APPLICATIONS OF DIFFERENT INVENTIVE ENTITIES WHERE COMMON OWNERSHIP OR A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED

If the application being examined has established that the reference is disqualified as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c) the examiner will:

  • (A) examine the applications as to all grounds, except pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f) and (g) including provisional rejections based on provisional prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e), as they apply through 35 U.S.C. 103;
  • (B) examine the applications for double patenting, including statutory and nonstatutory double patenting, and make a provisional rejection, if appropriate; and
  • (C) invite the applicant to file a terminal disclaimer to overcome any provisional or actual nonstatutory double patenting rejection, if appropriate (see 37 CFR 1.321).

III. DOUBLE PATENTING REJECTIONS

Commonly owned applications of different inventive entities may be rejected on the ground of double patenting, even if the later filed application claims 35 U.S.C. 120 benefit to the earlier application, subject to the conditions discussed in MPEP § 804et seq. In addition, double patenting rejection may arise as a result of the amendment to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c) by the CREATE Act (Public Law 108-453, 118 Stat. 3596 (2004)). Congress recognized that this amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) would result in situations in which there would be double patenting rejections between applications not owned by the same party (see H.R. Rep. No. 108-425, at 5-6 (2003). For purposes of double patenting analysis, the application or patent and the subject matter disqualified under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c) as amended by the CREATE Act will be treated as if commonly owned.

A rejection based on a pending application would be a provisional rejection. The practice of rejecting claims on the ground of double patenting in commonly owned applications of different inventive entities is in accordance with existing case law and prevents an organization from obtaining two or more patents with different expiration dates covering nearly identical subject matter. See MPEP § 804 for guidance on double patenting issues. In accordance with established patent law doctrines, double patenting rejections can be overcome in certain circumstances by disclaiming, pursuant to the existing provisions of 37 CFR 1.321, the terminal portion of the term of the later patent and including in the disclaimer a provision that the patent shall be enforceable only for and during the period the patent is commonly owned with the application or patent which formed the basis for the rejection, thereby eliminating the problem of extending patent life. For a double patenting rejection based on a non-commonly owned patent (treated as if commonly owned pursuant to the CREATE Act), the double patenting rejection may be obviated by filing a terminal disclaimer in accordance with 37 CFR 1.321(d). See MPEP §§ 804 and 804.02.