MPEP 1207.05
Substitute Examiner’s Answer

This is the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 08.2017, Last Revised in January 2018

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1207.05    Substitute Examiner’s Answer [R-11.2013]

After receipt of a reply brief in compliance with 37 CFR 41.41, jurisdiction over the appeal passes to the Board. Normally, the examiner does not need to acknowledge the reply brief and will not have an opportunity for further comment prior to a decision by the Board. However, the Board may remand the appeal to the examiner to furnish a substitute examiner’s answer responsive to the remand.

37 C.F.R. 41.50 Decisions and other actions by the Board.

  • (a)
    • (1) Affirmance and reversal. The Board, in its decision, may affirm or reverse the decision of the examiner in whole or in part on the grounds and on the claims specified by the examiner. The affirmance of the rejection of a claim on any of the grounds specified constitutes a general affirmance of the decision of the examiner on that claim, except as to any ground specifically reversed. The Board may also remand an application to the examiner.
    • (2) If a substitute examiner's answer is written in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection pursuant to paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the appellant must within two months from the date of the substitute examiner's answer exercise one of the following two options to avoid sua sponte dismissal of the appeal as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the proceeding:
      • (i) Reopen prosecution. Request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner by filing a reply under § 1.111 of this title with or without amendment or submission of affidavits (§§ 1.130, 1.131 or 1.132 of this title) or other Evidence. Any amendment or submission of affidavits or other Evidence must be relevant to the issues set forth in the remand or raised in the substitute examiner's answer. A request that complies with this paragraph (a) will be entered and the application or the patent under ex parte reexamination will be reconsidered by the examiner under the provisions of § 1.112 of this title. Any request that prosecution be reopened under this paragraph will be treated as a request to withdraw the appeal.
      • (ii) Maintain appeal. Request that the appeal be maintained by filing a reply brief as provided in § 41.41. If such a reply brief is accompanied by any amendment, affidavit or other Evidence, it shall be treated as a request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner under paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section.

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The examiner may only furnish a substitute examiner’s answer in response to a remand.

In response to a substitute examiner’s answer that is written in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection, appellant must either file: (1) a reply under 37 CFR 1.111 to request that prosecution be reopened; or (2) a reply brief to request that the appeal be maintained, within two months from the mailing of the substitute examiner’s answer, to avoid sua sponte dismissal of the appeal as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the proceeding. Examiner may include a new ground of rejection in the substitute examiner’s answer responding to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection. See MPEP § 1207.03.

I.    SUBSTITUTE EXAMINER’S ANSWER RESPONDING TO A REMAND FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF REJECTION

The examiner may provide a substitute examiner’s answer in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(a). Appellant must respond to such substitute examiner’s answer and has the option to request that prosecution be reopened. A substitute examiner’s answer written in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection pursuant to 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2) may set forth a new ground of rejection. Any new ground of rejection made in such a substitute examiner’s answer must comply with the requirements set forth in MPEP § 1207.03. The examiner may use form paragraph 12.285 in preparing the substitute examiner’s answer responding a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection.

¶ 12.285    Substitute Examiner’s Answer - On Remand FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF A REJECTION

Pursuant to the remand under 37 CFR 41.50(a)(1) by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board on [1] for further consideration of a rejection, a substitute Examiner’s Answer under 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2) is set forth below: [2].

The appellant must within TWO MONTHS from the date of the substitute examiner’s answer exercise one of the following two options to avoid sua sponte dismissal of the appeal as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the proceeding:

(1) Reopen prosecution. Request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner by filing a reply under 37 CFR 1.111 with or without amendment, affidavit, or other evidence. Any amendment, affidavit, or other evidence must be relevant to the issues set forth in the remand or raised in the substitute examiner’s answer. Any request that prosecution be reopened will be treated as a request to withdraw the appeal. See 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2)(i).

(2) Maintain appeal. Request that the appeal be maintained by filing a reply brief as set forth in 37 CFR 41.41. If such a reply brief is accompanied by any amendment, affidavit or other evidence, it shall be treated as a request that prosecution be reopened under 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2)(i). See 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2)(ii).

Extensions of time under 37 CFR 1.136(a) are not applicable to the TWO MONTH time period set forth above. See 37 CFR 1.136(b) for extensions of time to reply for patent applications and 37 CFR 1.550(c) for extensions of time to reply for ex parte reexamination proceedings.

A Technology Center Director or designee has approved this substitute examiner’s answer by signing below:

[3]

Examiner Note:

1. For use if the notice of appeal was filed on or after January 23, 2012.

2. In bracket 1, insert the date of the remand.

3. In bracket 2, provide reasons supporting the rejections set forth in the substitute Examiner’s Answer.

4. In bracket 3, insert the TC Director’s or designee’s signature. A TC Director or designee must approve every substitute examiner’s answer.

A.    Appellant’s Reply

If a substitute examiner’s answer is written in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection pursuant to 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2), the appellant must, within two months of the date of the substitute examiner's answer, exercise one of the following two options to avoid sua sponte dismissal of the appeal as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the proceeding:

  • (i) Reopen prosecution. Request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner by filing a reply under 37 CFR 1.111 with or without amendment or submission of affidavits (37 CFR 1.130, 1.131 or 1.132 ) or other evidence. Any amendment or submission of affidavits or other evidence must be relevant to the issues set forth in the remand or raised in the substitute examiner’s answer. A request that complies with 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2)(i) will be entered and the application or the patent under ex parte reexamination will be reconsidered by the examiner under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.112. Any request that prosecution be reopened under 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2)(i) will be treated as a request to withdraw the appeal.
  • (ii) Maintain appeal. Request that the appeal be maintained by filing a reply brief as provided in 37 CFR 41.41. If such a reply brief is accompanied by any amendment, affidavit or other evidence, it shall be treated as a request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner under 37 CFR 41.50(a)(2)(i).

The two month time period for reply is not extendable under 37 CFR 1.136(a), but is extendable under 37 CFR 1.136(b) for patent applications and 37 CFR 1.550(c) for ex parte reexamination proceedings.

1.    Request That Prosecution Be Reopened by Filing a Reply

If appellant requests that prosecution be reopened, the appellant must file a reply that addresses each ground of rejection set forth in the substitute examiner’s answer in compliance with 37 CFR 1.111 within two months from the mailing of the substitute examiner’s answer. The reply may also include amendments, evidence, and/or arguments directed to claims not subject to the ground of rejection set forth in the substitute examiner's answer or other rejections. If there is after-final amendment (or affidavit or other evidence) that was not entered, appellant may include such amendment in the reply to the substitute examiner’s answer.

If the reply is not fully responsive to the ground of rejection set forth in the substitute examiner’s answer, but the reply is bona fide, the examiner should provide a time period for appellant to complete the reply pursuant to 37 CFR 1.135(c). If the reply is not bona fide (e.g., does not address the ground of rejection) and the two-month time period has expired, the examiner must sua sponte dismiss the appeal as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the case.

Once appellant files a reply in compliance with 37 CFR 1.111 in response to a substitute examiner’s answer responding to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(a), the examiner must reopen prosecution by entering and considering the reply. Examiner may make the next Office action final unless the examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is neither necessitated by the applicant’s amendment of the claims nor based on information submitted in an information disclosure statement filed during the period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p). See MPEP § 706.07(a).

2.    Request That the Appeal Be Maintained by Filing a Reply Brief

If appellant requests that the appeal be maintained, the appellant must file a reply brief to address each grounds of rejection set forth in the substitute examiner’s answer in compliance with 37 CFR 41.37(c)(1)(iv) within two months from the mailing of the substitute examiner's answer. The reply brief must also be in compliance with requirements set forth in 37 CFR 41.41 (e.g., it cannot include any new amendment or affidavit). If the reply brief is accompanied by an amendment, affidavit or other evidence, it will be treated as a request that prosecution be reopened before the examiner.

B.    Failure To Reply to a Substitute Examiner’s Answer Under 37 CFR 41.50(a)

If appellant fails to timely file a reply under 37 CFR 1.111 or a reply brief in response to a substitute examiner’s answer that was written in response to a remand by the Board for further consideration of a rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(a), the appeal will be sua sponte dismissed as to the claims subject to the rejection for which the Board has remanded the proceeding. As jurisdiction passes to the Board at the expiration of time to file a reply brief, the Board will prepare and mail the dismissal. If all of the claims under appeal are subject to the rejection, the entire appeal will be dismissed. The examiner should follow the procedure set forth in MPEP § 1215 after the appeal is dismissed. For example, if there is no allowed claim in the application, the application would be abandoned when the two-month time period has expired.

If only some of the claims under appeal are subject to the rejection, the dismissal of the appeal as to those claims operates as an authorization to cancel those claims and the appeal continues as to the remaining claims. The Board will render a decision in due course.

II.    SUBSTITUTE EXAMINER’S ANSWER RESPONDING TO A REMAND THAT IS NOT FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF REJECTION

The Director of the USPTO may remand an appeal to the examiner. See 37 CFR 41.35(c). The Board may remand an application to the examiner for a reason that is not for further consideration of a rejection, such as to consider an information disclosure statement filed before jurisdiction over the appeal transerred to the Board under 37 CFR 41.35(d), a reply brief that raised new issues that were not considered by the examiner, an amendment, or an affidavit. See MPEP § 1211. Consideration of any Information Disclosure Statement or petition filed while the Board possesses jurisdiction over the proceeding will be held in abeyance until the Board’s jurisdiction ends. The examiner may provide a substitute examiner’s answer in response to the remand. Appellant may respond by filing a reply brief within two months from the mailing of the substitute answer. Appellant does not have the option to request that prosecution be reopened pursuant to 37 CFR 41.50(a) unless the remand by the Board is for further consideration of a rejection under 37 CFR 41.50(a).