Patent and Trademark Office December 2011 – Federal Register Recent Federal Regulation Documents
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Changes To Implement the Prioritized Examination for Requests for Continued Examination
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act includes provisions for prioritized examination of patent applications. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) implemented the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act prioritized examination provision following the prioritized examination track (Track I) of the proposed 3-Track examination process in a previous final rule. The final rule was made applicable to newly filed patent applications. In order to provide patent applicants with the flexibility to accelerate processing of their applications in which a request for continued examination has been filed, the Office is now permitting applicants to request prioritized examination for applications after the filing of a request for continued examination.
Sunset of the Patent Application Backlog Reduction Stimulus Plan and a Limited Extension of the Green Technology Pilot Program
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) has provided two procedures under which an applicant may have an application accorded special status for examination. The Patent Application Backlog Reduction Stimulus Plan is available if the applicant expressly abandons another copending unexamined application. The Green Technology Pilot Program is available to patent applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, and greenhouse gas emission reduction. In view of the trend in filings under the Patent Application Backlog Reduction Stimulus Plan, this plan has fulfilled its purpose and will not be extended. In view of the success of the Green Technology Pilot Program, this plan will be extended until 500 additional applications have been accorded special status under this program or until March 30, 2012, whichever occurs earlier. Following the expiration of this extension, the program will be eliminated, and applicants may instead use the newly enacted Prioritized Examination (Track I) program. The Track I program not only provides advancement of examination, but sets a target of reaching final disposition within 12 months from the time advancement is initiated. Furthermore, the advancement in the Track I program is available to all technologies and is not restricted to certain categories of invention as in the Pilot Program.
Revision of Patent Term Adjustment Provisions Relating to Information Disclosure Statements
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) is revising the patent term adjustment provisions of the rules of practice in patent cases. The patent term adjustment provisions of the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 (AIPA) provide for a reduction of any patent term adjustment if the applicant failed to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution of the application. The Office is revising the rules of practice pertaining to the reduction of patent term adjustment for applicant delays to exclude information disclosure statements resulting from the citation of information in a counterpart application that are promptly filed with the Office. The rule change allows the diligent applicant to avoid patent term adjustment reduction for an IDS submission that results from a communication from the Office. Presently, the rule only provides relief if the IDS was cited as a result of a communication from a foreign patent office. Under this final rule, there will be no reduction of patent term adjustment in the following situations: when applicant promptly submits a reference in an information disclosure statement after the mailing of a notice of allowance if the reference was cited by the Office in another application, or when applicant promptly submits a copy of an Office communication (e.g., an Office action) in an information disclosure statement after the mailing of a notice of allowance if the Office communication was issued by the Office in another application or by a foreign patent office in a counterpart foreign application. The above changes are intended to ensure compliance with AIPA in light of the evolving case law.