[Editor Note: This MPEP section is only applicable to applications subject to examination under the first inventor to file (FITF) provisions of the AIA as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 100 (note). See MPEP § 2159 et seq. to determine whether an application is subject to examination under the FITF provisions, and MPEP § 2131–MPEP § 2138 for examination of applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102.]
AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) indicates that a prior patent of a claimed invention will preclude the grant of a subsequent patent on the claimed invention. This means that if a claimed invention was patented in this or a foreign country before the effective filing date of the claimed invention, AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) precludes the grant of a patent on the claimed invention. The effective date of the patent for purposes of determining whether the patent qualifies as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) is the grant date of the patent. There is an exception to this rule if the patent is secret as of the date the rights are awarded. See In re Ekenstam, 256 F.2d 321, 323, 118 USPQ 349, 353 (CCPA 1958); see also MPEP § 2126.01. In such situations, the patent is available as prior art as of the date the patent was made available to the public by being laid open for public inspection or disseminated in printed form. See In re Carlson, 983 F.2d 1032, 1037, 25 USPQ2d 1207 (Fed. Cir. 1992); see also MPEP § 2126. The phrase “patented” in AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) has the same meaning as “patented” in pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) and (b). For a discussion of “patented” as used in pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) and (b), see generally MPEP § 2126.
Although an invention may be described in a patent and not claimed therein, the grant date would also be the applicable prior art date for purposes of relying on the subject matter disclosed therein as “described in a printed publication,” provided that the patent was made available to the public on its grant date. Note that a U.S. patent that issues after the effective filing date of a claimed invention and is not available as prior art against that invention under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) could be available as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(2).