909.02(e) General Guidelines Governing the Assignment of Nonprovisional Design and Plant Applications for Examination [R-07.2022]

This section applies only to nonprovisional design and plant applications. It does not apply to provisional applications since such applications are not examined. For nonprovisional utility applications see MPEP § 909.01.

The following are only general guides, and exceptions frequently arise because of some unusual condition. Patent examiners are confronted with an already existing classification made up of newly revised classes, those revised years ago and which have somewhat outgrown their definitions and limits, and still others made a generation ago and never changed. Also, these classes are based on different theories and plans, some on art, some on structure, some on functions, and some on the material worked upon. The patent examiners cannot change this existing condition as each application comes up for assignment, but must seek to place the cases where they are appropriately assigned. An application will be assigned as follows:

  • (A) The assignment of nonprovisional design and plant applications follows, as far as possible, the rules or principles governing the classification of patents. Applications are generally assigned on the basis of where the application would have an original classification, if the claims it contains were in a patent.
  • (B) The criteria by which the original classification is determined are set forth in MPEP § 903.07.
  • (C) The claims and statement of invention are generally taken as they read; however, claims must be read in light of the disclosure (claimed disclosure). Any attempt to go behind the record and decide the case upon what is deemed the “real invention” would, it is believed, introduce more errors than such action would cure. Supervisory patent examiners (SPEs) cannot possess the specific knowledge of the state of the art in all the classes that the patent examiners collectively possess. Further, such questions are matters of merit for the examiners to determine and are often open to argument and are a subject for appeal.
  • (D) Within a class, looking down from the top of the schedule, the OR subclass is chosen from among the classifications of the claimed disclosure according to whichever one is the most indented subclass of the first subclass array.
  • (E) As stated in MPEP § 903.07, the location of the United States patents constituting the prior art is generally controlling over all else. (Note: Where time permits, obvious misplacements of the patents constituting the prior art are corrected, but to straighten all lines as the cases come up for assignment would require the time of several people.)
  • (F) Ordinarily, an application cannot be assigned to a class which includes one element or part only of several claimed in combination. The claim is treated in its entirety.
  • (G) An examiner seeking the transfer of a case may make a search, both of their own class and the class to which they think the case should be transferred, and the examiner in charge of the art unit should ensure the record includes the result of the search.