716.01(d) Weighing Objective Evidence [R-08.2012]


When an applicant timely submits evidence traversing a rejection, the examiner must reconsider the patentability of the claimed invention. The ultimate determination of patentability must be based on consideration of the entire record, by a preponderance of evidence, with due consideration to the persuasiveness of any arguments and any secondary evidence. In re Oetiker, 977 F.2d 1443, 24 USPQ2d 1443 (Fed. Cir. 1992). The submission of objective evidence of patentability does not mandate a conclusion of patentability in and of itself. In re Chupp, 816 F.2d 643, 2 USPQ2d 1437 (Fed. Cir. 1987). Facts established by rebuttal evidence must be evaluated along with the facts on which the conclusion of a prima facie case was reached, not against the conclusion itself. In re Eli Lilly, 902 F.2d 943, 14 USPQ2d 1741 (Fed. Cir. 1990). In other words, each piece of rebuttal evidence should not be evaluated for its ability to knockdown the prima facie case. All of the competent rebuttal evidence taken as a whole should be weighed against the evidence supporting the prima facie case. In re Piasecki, 745 F.2d 1468, 1472, 223 USPQ 785, 788 (Fed. Cir. 1984). Although the record may establish evidence of secondary considerations which are indicia of nonobviousness, the record may also establish such a strong case of obviousness that the objective evidence of nonobviousness is not sufficient to outweigh the evidence of obviousness. Newell Cos. v. Kenney Mfg. Co., 864 F.2d 757, 769, 9 USPQ2d 1417, 1427 (Fed. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 814 (1989); Richardson-Vicks, Inc., v. The Upjohn Co., 122 F.3d 1476, 1484, 44 USPQ2d 1181, 1187 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (showing of unexpected results and commercial success of claimed ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine combination in single tablet form, while supported by substantial evidence, held not to overcome strong prima facie case of obviousness). See In re Piasecki, 745 F.2d 1468, 223 USPQ 785 (Fed. Cir. 1984) for a detailed discussion of the proper roles of the examiner’s prima facie case and applicant’s rebuttal evidence in the final determination of obviousness.

If, after evaluating the evidence, the examiner is still not convinced that the claimed invention is patentable, the next Office action should include a statement to that effect and identify the reason(s) (e.g., evidence of commercial success not convincing, the commercial success not related to the technology, etc.). See Demaco Corp. v. F. Von Langsdorff Licensing Ltd., 851 F.2d 1387, 7 USPQ2d 1222 (Fed. Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 956 (1988). See also MPEP § 716.01. See MPEP § 2145 for guidance in determining whether rebuttal evidence is sufficient to overcome a prima facie case of obviousness.