When the Board designates a new ground of rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(b), the appellant, as to each claim so rejected, has the option of:
- (A) reopening prosecution before the examiner by submitting an appropriate amendment and/or new evidence (37 CFR 41.50(b)(1)); or
- (B) requesting rehearing before the Board (37 CFR 41.50(b)(2)).
This procedure only applies where the Board designates a rejection as a new ground of rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(b). If an appellant believes that a Board decision that appears to be an affirmance is actually a new ground of rejection, review of any undesignated new ground of rejection is by way of 37 CFR 41.50(c) and 37 CFR 41.52 and not through the procedure described here.
Where a decision designates a new ground of rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(b), the Board retains jurisdiction over the appeal until:
- (a) the time for response expires and the Board enters an order of dismissal (37 CFR 41.35(b)(5)), or
- (b) appellant reopens prosecution in response to the new grounds of rejection (37 CFR 41.35(b)(6)).
The amendment and/or new evidence under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(1), or the request for rehearing under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(2), must be filed within 2 months from the date of the Board’s decision. In accordance with 37 CFR 41.50(f), this 2-month time period may not be extended by the filing of a petition and fee under 37 CFR 1.136(a), but only under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.136(b), or under 37 CFR 1.550(c) if the appeal involves an ex parte reexamination proceeding.
If an appellant files an appropriate amendment or new evidence (see paragraph I below) as to less than all of the claims rejected by the Board under 37 CFR 41.50(b), and a request for rehearing (see paragraph II below) as to the remainder of the claims so rejected, the examiner will not consider the claims for which rehearing was requested. The request for rehearing will be considered by the Board after prosecution before the examiner with respect to the first group of claims is terminated. Argument as to any of the claims rejected by the Board which is not accompanied by an appropriate amendment or new evidence as to those claims will be treated as a request for rehearing as to those claims.
I. SUBMISSION OF AMENDMENT OR NEW EVIDENCE
37 CFR 41.50(b)(1) provides that the application will be remanded to the examiner for reconsideration if the appellant submits “an appropriate amendment” of the claims rejected by the Board, “or new evidence relating to the claims so rejected, or both.” An amendment is “appropriate” under the rule if it amends one or more of the claims rejected, or substitutes new claims to avoid the art or reasons adduced by the Board. Ex parte Burrowes, 110 O.G. 599, 1904 C.D. 155 (Comm’r Pat. 1904). Such amended or new claims must be directed to the same subject matter as the appealed claims. Ex parte Comstock, 317 O.G. 4,1923 C.D. 82 (Comm’r Pat. 1923). An amendment which adds new claims without either amending the rejected claims, or substituting new claims for the rejected claims, is not appropriate. The new claims will not be entered, and the examiner should consult a supervisor to have the entry in the file changed to a request for rehearing under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(2), if it contains any argument concerning the Board’s rejection. The “new evidence” under the rule may be a showing under 37 CFR 1.130, 1.131 or 1.132, as may be appropriate.
If the appellant submits an argument without either an appropriate amendment or new evidence as to any of the claims rejected by the Board, it will be treated as a request for rehearing under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(2).
The new ground of rejection raised by the Board does not reopen prosecution except as to that subject matter to which the new rejection was applied. If the Board’s decision in which the rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(b) was made includes an affirmance of the examiner’s rejection, the basis of the affirmed rejection is not open to further prosecution. If the appellant elects to proceed before the examiner with regard to the new rejection, the Board’s affirmance of the examiner’s rejection will be treated as nonfinal for purposes of seeking judicial review, and no request for reconsideration of the affirmance need be filed at that time. Prosecution before the examiner of the 37 CFR 41.50(b) rejection can incidentally result in overcoming the affirmed rejection even though the affirmed rejection is not open to further prosecution. Therefore, it is possible for the application to be allowed as a result of the limited prosecution before the examiner of the 37 CFR 41.50(b) rejection. If the application becomes allowed, the application should not be returned to the Board. Likewise, if the application is abandoned for any reason, the application should not be returned to the Board. If the rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(b) is not overcome, the applicant can file a second appeal (as discussed below). Such appeal must be limited to the 37 CFR 41.50(b) rejection and may not include the affirmed rejection. If the application does not become allowed or abandoned as discussed above, once prosecution of the claims which were rejected under 37 CFR 41.50(b) is terminated before the examiner, the application file must be returned to the Board so that a decision making the original affirmance final can be entered.
The time for filing a request for rehearing on the affirmance or seeking court review runs from the date of the decision by the Board making the original affirmance final. See MPEP §§ 1214.03 and 1216. The date of the decision is the “mailing date” or “notification date” indicated on form PTOL-90 accompanying the Board decision. See In re McNeil-PPC, 574 F.3d 1393, 91 USPQ2d 1576 (Fed. Cir. 2009).
If the examiner does not consider that the amendment and/or new evidence overcomes the rejection, the examiner will again reject the claims. If appropriate, the rejection will be made final.
An applicant in whose application such a final rejection has been made by the examiner may mistakenly believe that they are entitled to review by the Board of the rejection by virtue of the previous appeal, but under the provisions of 37 CFR 41.50(b)(1), after such a final rejection, an applicant who desires further review of the matter must file a new appeal to the Board. Such an appeal from the subsequent rejection by the examiner will be an entirely new appeal involving a different ground and will require a new notice of appeal, appeal brief, and the payment of the appropriate fees.
II. REQUEST FOR REHEARING
Instead of filing an amendment and/or new evidence under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(1), an appellant may elect to proceed under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(2) and file a request for rehearing of the Board’s new rejection. The rule requires that the request for rehearing “must address any new ground of rejection and state with particularity the points believed to have been misapprehended or overlooked in rendering the decision and also state all other grounds upon which rehearing is sought.” By proceeding in this manner, the appellant waives their right to further prosecution before the examiner. In re Greenfield, 40 F.2d 775, 5 USPQ 474 (CCPA 1930). This waiver extends to the appellant’s right to amend claims under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(1); appellant may still invoke the limited right to rewrite dependent claims not subject to the new grounds of rejection into independent form. See MPEP § 1214.06. A request for rehearing accompanied by an appropriate amendment of the claims rejected by the Board, and/or by new evidence, does not constitute a proper request for rehearing under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(2), and will be treated as a submission under 37 CFR 41.50(b)(1).
If the Board’s decision also includes an affirmance of the examiner’s rejection, a request for rehearing of the affirmance (see MPEP §§ 1214.03 and 1214.06, subsection IV.) should be filed in a separate paper to facilitate consideration.