Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.291(b), a protest is timely if (1) filed prior to the date the application was published under 37 CFR 1.211 or the date a notice of allowance under 37 CFR 1.311 was given or mailed, whichever occurs first, or (2) accompanied by written consent of the applicant and filed prior to the date a notice of allowance under 37 CFR 1.311 was given or mailed in the application. Publication under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) of an international application would not trigger the end of the 37 CFR 1.291(b) time period for submitting a protest in a national stage application under 35 U.S.C. 371. Likewise, publication under the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs by WIPO of an international registration would not trigger the end of the 37 CFR 1.291(b) time period for submitting a protest in a nonprovisional international design application.
As a practical matter, any protest should be submitted as soon as possible after the protestor becomes aware of the existence of the application to which the protest is to be directed. By submitting a protest early in the examination process, i.e., before the Office acts on the application if possible, the protestor ensures that the protest will be of the most benefit to the Office in its examination of the application. A protest submitted on or after the date a notice of allowance under 37 CFR 1.311 was given or mailed will not be entered and will be discarded pursuant to 37 CFR 1.291(g).
A protest filed after final rejection (and prior to the date the notice of allowance is given or mailed) and complying with all the requirements of 37 CFR 1.291 will be considered if the application is still pending. However, prosecution will not ordinarily be reopened after final rejection if the prior art cited in the protest is merely cumulative of the prior art cited in the final rejection.
A protest filed in a reissue application is not a “form of preissuance opposition to the grant of a patent” because the patent to be reissued has already been granted. Thus, a protest may be filed in a reissue application throughout the pendency of the reissue application prior to the date a notice of allowance is given or mailed subject to the timing constraint of the examination. A protest with regard to a reissue application should, however, be filed within the 2-month period following announcement of the filing of the reissue application in the Official Gazette. See MPEP § 1441.01. If, for some reason, the protest of the reissue application cannot be filed within the 2-month period provided by MPEP § 1441, the protest can be submitted at a later time, but the protestor must be aware that reissue applications are “special” and a later filed protest may be received after action by the examiner. Any request by a protestor in a reissue application for an extension of the 2-month period following the announcement in the Official Gazette , and a delay of the examination until the extended period expires, will be considered only if filed in the form of a petition under 37 CFR 1.182 and accompanied by the petition fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(f). The petition under 37 CFR 1.182 and the petition fee must be filed prior to the expiration of the 2-month period provided by MPEP § 1441. The petition must explain why the additional time is necessary and the nature of the protest intended. A copy of such petition must be served upon applicant in accordance with 37 CFR 1.248. The petition should be directed to the appropriate Technology Center (TC) which will forward the petition to the Office of Patent Legal Administration for decision. Any such petition will be critically reviewed as to demonstrate need before being granted since the delay of examination of a reissue application of another party is being requested. Accordingly, the requests should be made only where necessary, for the minimum period required, and with a justification establishing the necessity for the extension.
Where a protest of a reissue application is submitted after the 2-month period, no petition for entry of the protest under 37 CFR 1.182 is needed with respect to the protest being submitted after the 2 months, unless a final rejection has been issued or prosecution on the merits has been closed for the reissue application. See MPEP § 1441.01. In situations where a final rejection has been issued, or prosecution on the merits has been otherwise closed, a petition under 37 CFR 1.182 along with the petition fee under 37 CFR 1.17(f) must be submitted with the protest. The petition must include an explanation as to why the additional time was necessary and identify the nature of the protest submitted. A copy of the petition must be served upon the applicant in accordance with 37 CFR 1.248. The petition should be directed to the Office of Petitions.
If the protest is a “REISSUE LITIGATION” protest, it is particularly important that it be filed early if protestor wishes it considered at the time the Office first acts on the application. Protestors should be aware that the Office will entertain petitions from reissue applicants under 37 CFR 1.182 to waive the 2-month delay period of MPEP § 1441 in appropriate circumstances. Accordingly, protestors to reissue applications cannot automatically assume that the full 2-month delay period of MPEP § 1441 will always be available.