The general policy of the Office is that applicants are not permitted to shift to claim another invention after an election is made and an Office action on the merits is made on the elected invention. The applicant cannot, as a matter of right, file a request for continued examination (RCE) on claims that are independent and distinct from the claims previously claimed and examined (i.e., applicant cannot switch inventions by way of an RCE as a matter of right). See MPEP § 706.07(h), subsection VI.(B). When claims are presented which the examiner finds are drawn to an invention other than the one elected, he or she should treat the claims as outlined in MPEP § 821.03.
A restriction requirement (and election thereto) made in a parent application does not carry over to a continuation, CIP, or divisional application. See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Pharmachemie BV, 361 F.3d 1343, 1348, 70 USPQ2d 1097, 1100 (Fed. Cir. 2004)(An original restriction requirement in an earlier filed application does not carry over to claims of a continuation application in which the examiner does not reinstate or refer to the restriction requirement in the parent application.). In design applications, but not international design applications, where a continued prosecution application (CPA) filed under 37 CFR 1.53(d) is a continuation of its parent application and not a divisional, an express election made in the prior (parent) application in reply to a restriction requirement does carry over to the CPA unless otherwise indicated by applicant.
While applicant, as a matter of right, may not shift from claiming one invention to claiming another, the examiner is not precluded from permitting a shift. The examiner is most likely to do so where the shift results in no additional burden, and particularly where the shift reduces work by simplifying the issues.