An information disclosure statement (IDS) must comply with the provisions of 37 CFR 1.98 as to content for the information listed in the IDS to be considered by the Office. Each information disclosure statement must comply with the applicable provisions of subsection I., II., and III. below.
I. LIST OF ALL PATENTS, PUBLICATIONS, U.S. APPLICATIONS, OR OTHER INFORMATION
Each information disclosure statement must include a list of all patents, publications, U.S. applications, or other information submitted for consideration by the Office.
37 CFR 1.98(a)(1) requires the following format for an IDS listing: (A) a specified format/identification for each page of an IDS, and that U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications be listed in a section separately from citations of other documents; (B) a column that provides a space next to each document listed to permit the examiner’s initials; and (C) a heading that identifies the list as an IDS.
37 CFR 1.98(a)(1) specifically requires that U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications be listed separately from the citations of other documents. The separation of citations will permit the Office to obtain the U.S. patent numbers and the U.S. patent application publication numbers by optical character recognition (OCR) from the scanned documents such that the documents can be made available electronically to the examiner to facilitate searching and retrieval of the cited U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications from the Office’s search databases. Applicants will comply with this requirement if they use forms PTO/SB/08A and 08B, which provide a separate section for listing U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications. Applicants who do not use these forms for submitting an IDS must make sure that the U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications are listed in a separate section from citations of other documents.
37 CFR 1.98(a)(1) also requires that each page of the list must clearly identify the application number of the application in which the IDS is being submitted, if known. In the past, the Office has experienced problems associated with lists that do not properly identify the application in which the IDS is being submitted (e.g., when applicants submit a list that includes copies of PTO/SB/08 or PTO-892 forms from other applications). Even though the IDS cover sheet had the proper application number, each page of the list did not include the proper application number, but instead had the application numbers of the other applications. If the pages of the list became separated, the Office could not associate the pages with the proper application.
In addition, 37 CFR 1.98(a)(1) requires that the list must include a column that provides a space next to each document listed in order to permit the examiner to enter his or her initials next to the citations of the documents that have been considered by the examiner. This provides a notification to the applicant and a clear record in the application to indicate which documents have been considered by the examiner in the application. Applicants are strongly discouraged from submitting a list that includes copies of PTO/SB/08 or PTO-892 forms from other applications. A completed PTO/SB/08 form from another application may already have initials of an examiner and the application number of another application. This information will likely confuse the record. Furthermore, when the spaces provided on the form have initials of an examiner, there are no spaces available next to the documents listed for the examiner of the subsequent application to provide his or her initials, and the previously relevant initials may be erroneously construed as being applied for the current application.
37 CFR 1.98(a)(1) also requires that each page of the list include a heading that clearly indicates that the list is an IDS. Since the Office treats an IDS submitted by the applicant differently than information submitted by a third-party (e.g., the Office may discard any non-compliant third-party submission under 37 CFR 1.99), a heading on each page of the list to indicate that the list is an IDS would promote proper treatment of the IDS submitted by the applicant and reduce handling errors.
37 CFR 1.98(b) requires that each item of information in an IDS be identified properly. U.S. patents must be identified by the inventor, patent number, and issue date. U.S. patent application publications must be identified by the applicant, patent application publication number, and publication date. The Office will also accept a citation in an IDS where a U.S. patent application publication is identified using the inventor instead of the applicant. U.S. applications must be identified by the inventor, the eight digit application number (the two digit series code and the six digit serial number), and the filing date. If a U.S. application being listed in an IDS has been issued as a patent or has been published, the applicant should list the patent or application publication in the IDS instead of the application. Each foreign patent or published foreign patent application must be identified by the country or patent office which issued the patent or published the application, an appropriate document number, and the publication date indicated on the patent or published application. Each publication must be identified by publisher, author (if any), title, relevant pages of the publication, and date and place of publication. The date of publication supplied must include at least the month and year of publication, except that the year of publication (without the month) will be accepted if the applicant points out in the information disclosure statement that the year of publication is sufficiently earlier than the effective U.S. filing date and any foreign priority date so that the particular month of publication is not in issue. The place of publication refers to the name of the journal, magazine, or other publication in which the information being submitted was published. See MPEP § 707.05(e), for more information on data that should be used when citing publications and electronic documents. Pending U.S. applications that are being cited can be listed under the non-patent literature section or in a new section appropriately labeled.
For publications obtained from the Internet, the uniform resource locator (URL) of the Web page that is the source of the publication must be provided for the place of publication (e.g., “www.uspto.gov”). Further, for an Internet publication obtained from a website that archives Web pages, both the URL of the archived Web page submitted for consideration and the URL of the website from which the archived copy of the Web page was obtained should be provided on the document listing (e.g., “Hand Tools,” Web page <http://www.farmshopstore.com/handtools.html>, 1 page, August 18, 2009, retrieved from Internet Archive Wayback Machine <http://web.archive.org/web/20090818144217/ http://www.farmshopstore.com/handtools.html> on December 20, 2012). Where the actual publication date of a non-patent document is not known, the applicant must, at a minimum, provide a date of retrieval (e.g., the date a Web page was retrieved) or a time frame (e.g., a year, a month and year, a certain period of time ) when the document was available as a publication.
The list of information complying with the format requirements of 37 CFR 1.98(a)(1) and the identification requirements of 37 CFR 1.98(b) may not be incorporated into the specification of the application in which it is being supplied, but must be submitted in a separate paper. A separate list is required so that it is easy to confirm that applicant intends to submit an information disclosure statement and because it provides a readily available checklist for the examiner to indicate which identified documents have been considered. A separate list will also provide a simple means of communication to applicant to indicate the listed documents that have been considered and those listed documents that have not been considered. Use of form PTO/SB/08A and 08B, Information Disclosure Statement, to list the documents is encouraged.
II. LEGIBLE COPIES
In addition to the list of information, each information disclosure statement must also include a legible copy of:
- (A) Each foreign patent ;
- (B) Each publication or that portion which caused it to be listed , other than U.S. patents and U.S. patent application publications unless required by the Office;
- (C) For each cited pending unpublished U.S. application, the application specification including the claims, and any drawings of the application, or that portion of the application which caused it to be listed including any claims directed to that portion, unless the cited pending U.S. application is stored in the Image File Wrapper (IFW) system. The requirement in 37 CFR 1.98(a)(2)(iii) for a legible copy of the specification, including the claims, and drawings of each cited pending U.S. patent application (or portion of the application which caused it to be listed) is sua sponte waived where the cited pending application is stored in the USPTO’s IFW system. See Waiver of the Copy Requirement in 37 CFR 1.98 for Cited Pending U.S. Patent Applications, 1287 OG 163 (October 19, 2004); and
- (D) All other information or that portion which caused it to be listed.
The requirement for a copy of each U.S. patent or U.S. patent application publication listed in an IDS, has been eliminated, unless required by the Office. 37 CFR 1.98(a)(2).
37 CFR 1.98(a)(2)(iii) requires a copy of a pending U.S. application that is being cited in an IDS if (A) the cited information is not part of the specification, including the claims, and the drawings (e.g., an Office Action, remarks in an amendment paper, etc.), or (B) the cited application is not stored in the USPTO’s IFW system. The requirement in 37 CFR 1.98(a)(2)(iii) for a legible copy of the specification, including the claims, and drawings of each cited pending U.S. patent application (or portion of the application which caused it to be listed) is sua sponte waived where the cited pending application is stored in the USPTO’s IFW system. This waiver is limited to the specification, including the claims, and drawings in the U.S. application (or portion of the application). If material other than the specification, including the claims, and drawings in the file of a U.S. patent application is being cited in an IDS, the IDS must contain a legible copy of such material.
A pending U.S. application only identified in the specification’s background information rather than being cited separately on an IDS listing is not part of an IDS submission. Therefore, the requirements of 37 CFR 1.98(a)(2)(iii) of supplying a copy of the pending application is not applicable. Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.98(a)(2)(iii), applicant may choose to cite only a portion of a pending application including any claims directed to that portion rather than the entire application. There are exceptions to this requirement that a copy of the information must be provided. First, 37 CFR 1.98(d) states that a copy of any patent, publication, pending U.S. application, or other information listed in an information disclosure statement is not required to be provided if: (A) the information was previously cited by or submitted to, the Office in a prior application, provided that the prior application is properly identified in the IDS and is relied on for an earlier filing date under 35 U.S.C. 120; and (B) the IDS submitted in the earlier application complies with 37 CFR 1.98(a)-(c). If both of these conditions are met, the examiner will consider the information previously cited or submitted to the Office and considered by the Office in a prior application relied on under 35 U.S.C. 120. This exception to the requirement for copies of information does not apply to information which was cited in an international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. If the information cited or submitted in the prior application was not in English, a concise explanation of the relevance of the information to the new application is not required unless the relevance of the information differs from its relevance as explained in the prior application. See subsection III. below.
Second, 37 CFR 1.98(c) states that when the disclosures of two or more patents or publications listed in an information disclosure statement are substantively cumulative, a copy of one of the patents or publications may be submitted without copies of the other patents or publications provided that a statement is made that these other patents or publications are cumulative. The examiner will then consider only the patent or publication of which a copy is submitted and will so indicate on the list, form PTO/SB/08A and 08B, submitted, e.g., by crossing out the listing of the cumulative information. But see Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 204 F.3d 1368, 1374, 54 USPQ2d 1001, 1005 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (Reference was not cumulative since it contained a more complete combination of the claimed elements than any other reference before the examiner. “A withheld reference may be highly material when it discloses a more complete combination of relevant features, even if those features are before the patent examiner in other references.” (citations omitted).).
37 CFR 1.98(a)(3)(ii) states that if a written English language translation of a non-English language document, or portion thereof, is within the possession, custody or control of, or is readily available to any individual designated in 37 CFR 1.56(c), a copy of the translation shall accompany the statement. Translations are not required to be filed unless they have been reduced to writing and are actually translations of what is contained in the non-English language information. If no translation is submitted, the examiner will consider the information in view of the concise explanation and insofar as it is understood on its face, e.g., drawings, chemical formulas, English language abstracts, in the same manner that non-English language information in Office search files is considered by examiners in conducting searches.
Electronic means or medium for filing IDSs are not permitted except for: (A) citations to U.S. patents, U.S. patent application publications, foreign patent documents, and non-patent literature (NPLs) in an IDS filed via the Office’s Electronic Filing System (EFS) (see MPEP § 609.07); or (B) a compact disc (CD) that has tables, sequence listings, or program listings included in a paper IDS in compliance with 37 CFR 1.52(e). A CD cannot be used to submit an IDS listing or copies of the documents cited in the IDS. For example, published information, such as the visual output of a software program or a video, may be submitted only if reduced to writing, such as in the form of screen shots and/or a transcript.
III. CONCISE EXPLANATION OF RELEVANCE FOR NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE INFORMATION
Each information disclosure statement must further include a concise explanation of the relevance, as it is presently understood by the individual designated in 37 CFR 1.56(c) most knowledgeable about the content of the information listed that is not in the English language. The concise explanation may be either separate from the specification or part of the specification. If the concise explanation is part of the specification, the IDS listing should include the page(s) or line(s) numbers where the concise explanation is located in the specification.
The requirement for a concise explanation of relevance is limited to information that is not in the English language. The explanation required is limited to the relevance as understood by the individual designated in 37 CFR 1.56(c) most knowledgeable about the content of the information at the time the information is submitted to the Office. If a complete translation of the information into English is submitted with the non-English language information, no concise explanation is required. There is no requirement for the translation to be verified, including reliable machine translations. An English-language equivalent application may be submitted to fulfill this requirement if it is, in fact, a translation of a foreign language application being listed in an information disclosure statement. The English language equivalent application should be separately listed and identified as an English language equivalent in the information disclosure statement. Submission of an English language abstract of a reference, such as one generated by a foreign patent office, may fulfill the requirement for a concise explanation. Where the information listed is not in the English language, but was cited in a search report or other action by a foreign patent office in a counterpart foreign application, the requirement for a concise explanation of relevance can be satisfied by submitting an English-language version of the search report or action which indicates the degree of relevance found by the foreign office. This may be an explanation of which portion of the reference is particularly relevant, to which claims it applies, or merely an “X”, “Y”, or “A” indication on a search report. The requirement for a concise explanation of non-English language information would not be satisfied by a statement that a reference was cited in the prosecution of a United States application which is not relied on under 35 U.S.C. 120.
If information cited or submitted in a prior application relied on under 35 U.S.C. 120 was not in English, a concise explanation of the relevance of the information to the new application is not required unless the relevance of the information differs from its relevance as explained in the prior application.
The concise explanation may indicate that a particular figure or paragraph of the patent or publication is relevant to the claimed invention. It might be a simple statement pointing to similarities between the item of information and the claimed invention. It is permissible but not necessary to discuss differences between the cited information and the claims. However, see Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 204 F.3d 1368, 1376, 54 USPQ2d 1001, 1007 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (“[A]lthough MPEP Section 609A(3) allows the applicant some discretion in the manner in which it phrases its concise explanation, it nowhere authorizes the applicant to intentionally omit altogether key teachings of the reference.”).
In Semiconductor Energy Laboratory, patentee during prosecution submitted an untranslated 29-page Japanese reference as well as a concise explanation of its relevance and an existing one-page partial English translation, both of which were directed to less material portions of the reference. The untranslated portions of the Japanese reference “contained a more complete combination of the elements claimed [in the patent] than anything else before the PTO.” 204 F.3d at 1376, 54 USPQ2d at 1005. The patentee, whose native language was Japanese, was held to have understood the materiality of the reference. “The duty of candor does not require that the applicant translate every foreign reference, but only that the applicant refrain from submitting partial translations and concise explanations that it knows will misdirect the examiner’s attention from the reference’s relevant teaching.” 204 F.3d at 1378, 54 USPQ2d at 1008.
Although a concise explanation of the relevance of the information is not required for English language information, applicants are encouraged to provide a concise explanation of why the English-language information is being submitted and how it is understood to be relevant. Concise explanations (especially those which point out the relevant pages and lines) are helpful to the Office, particularly where documents are lengthy and complex and applicant is aware of a section that is highly relevant to patentability or where a large number of documents are submitted and applicant is aware that one or more are highly relevant to patentability.