If an abandoned application was previously published under 35 U.S.C. 122(b), that patent application publication is available as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) and 102(b) and 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) as of its patent application publication date because the patent application publication is considered to be a “printed” publication within the meaning of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) and 102(b) and 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1), even though the patent application publication is disseminated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Office) using only electronic media. See MPEP § 2128. Additionally, as described in MPEP § 901.03, a patent application publication published under 35 U.S.C. 122(b) of an application that has become abandoned may be available as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) as of the earliest effective U.S. filing date of the published application and may be available under 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(2) as of the date it was effectively filed. As provided in 37 CFR 1.11(a), unless a redacted copy of the application was used for the patent application publication, the specification, drawings, and all papers relating to the file of an abandoned published application are open to inspection by the public, and copies may be obtained from the Office. The information that is available to the public under 37 CFR 1.11(a) may be used as prior art under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or 102(b) or 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) as of the date the information became publicly available.
Where an unpublished abandoned application is identified or whose benefit is claimed in a U.S. patent, a statutory invention registration, a U.S. patent application publication, or an international patent application publication of an international application that was published in accordance with PCT Article 21(2), the file contents of the unpublished abandoned application may be made available to the public. See 37 CFR 1.14(a)(1)(iv). Subject matter from abandoned applications which is available to the public under 37 CFR 1.14 may be used as prior art against a pending U.S. application under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or 102(b) or 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) as of the date the subject matter became publicly available.
In re Heritage,182 F.2d 639, 86 USPQ 160 (CCPA 1950), holds that where a patent refers to and relies on the disclosure of a previously copending but subsequently abandoned application, such disclosure is available as a reference. See also In re Lund,376 F.2d 982, 153 USPQ 625 (CCPA 1967).
It has also been held that where the reference patent refers to a previously copending but subsequently abandoned application which discloses subject matter in common with the patent, the effective date of the reference as to the common subject matter is the filing date of the abandoned application. See In re Switzer, 166 F.2d 827, 77 USPQ 156 (CCPA 1948); Ex parte Peterson, 63 USPQ 99 (Bd. App. 1944); and Ex parte Clifford, 49 USPQ 152 (Bd. App. 1940). See MPEP § 2127, subsection I.