MPEP 1875
Unity of Invention Before the International Preliminary Examining Authority

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

Previous: §1874 | Next: §1875.01

1875    Unity of Invention Before the International Preliminary Examining Authority [R-07.2015]

PCT Article 34

Procedure before the International Preliminary Examining Authority

*****

  • (3)
    • (a) If the International Preliminary Examining Authority considers that the international application does not comply with the requirement of unity of invention as set forth in the Regulations, it may invite the applicant, at his option, to restrict the claims so as to comply with the requirement or to pay additional fees.
    • *****
    • (c) If the applicant does not comply with the invitation referred to in subparagraph (a) within the prescribed time limit, the International Preliminary Examining Authority shall establish an international preliminary examination report on those parts of the international application which relate to what appears to be the main invention and shall indicate the relevant facts in the said report. The national law of any elected State may provide that, where its national Office finds the invitation of the International Preliminary Examining Authority justified, those parts of the international application which do not relate to the main invention shall, as far as effects in that State are concerned, be considered withdrawn unless a special fee is paid by the applicant to that Office.

*****

37 C.F.R. 1.488  Determination of unity of invention before the International Preliminary Examining Authority.

  • (a) Before establishing any written opinion or the international preliminary examination report, the International Preliminary Examining Authority will determine whether the international application complies with the requirement of unity of invention as set forth in § 1.475.
  • (b) If the International Preliminary Examining Authority considers that the international application does not comply with the requirement of unity of invention, it may:
    • (1) Issue a written opinion and/or an international preliminary examination report, in respect of the entire international application and indicate that unity of invention is lacking and specify the reasons therefor without extending an invitation to restrict or pay additional fees. No international preliminary examination will be conducted on inventions not previously searched by an International Searching Authority.
    • (2) Invite the applicant to restrict the claims or pay additional fees, pointing out the categories of invention found, within a set time limit which will not be extended. No international preliminary examination will be conducted on inventions not previously searched by an International Searching Authority, or
    • (3) If applicant fails to restrict the claims or pay additional fees within the time limit set for reply, the International Preliminary Examining Authority will issue a written opinion and/or establish an international preliminary examination report on the main invention and shall indicate the relevant facts in the said report. In case of any doubt as to which invention is the main invention, the invention first mentioned in the claims and previously searched by an International Searching Authority shall be considered the main invention.
  • (c) Lack of unity of invention may be directly evident before considering the claims in relation to any prior art, or after taking the prior art into consideration, as where a document discovered during the search shows the invention claimed in a generic or linking claim lacks novelty or is clearly obvious, leaving two or more claims joined thereby without a common inventive concept. In such a case the International Preliminary Examining Authority may raise the objection of lack of unity of invention.

The examiner will usually begin the preliminary examination by checking the international application for unity of invention. The international preliminary examination will only be directed to inventions which have been searched by the International Searching Authority. All claims directed to inventions which have not been searched by the International Searching Authority will not be considered by the International Preliminary Examining Authority. If the examiner in the International Preliminary Examining Authority finds lack of unity of invention in the claims to be examined, an invitation is normally prepared and sent to the applicant requesting the payment of additional fees or the restriction of the claims on Form PCT/IPEA/405. Such an invitation will include the identification of what the examiner considers to be the "main invention" which will be examined if no additional fees are paid or restriction is made by the applicant.

The procedure before the International Preliminary Examining Authority regarding lack of unity of invention is governed by PCT Article 34(3)(a) through (c), PCT Rule 68 (see also PCT Rule 70.13 ), and 37 CFR 1.475 and 1.488. It should be noted that in most instances lack of unity of invention will have been noted and reported upon by the International Searching Authority which will have drawn up an international search report and a written opinion based on those parts of the international application relating to the invention, or unified linked group of inventions, first mentioned in the claims ("main invention"), unless the applicant has paid additional fees. If the applicant has paid additional search fees, additional inventions would also have been searched. No international preliminary examination will be conducted on inventions not previously searched by an International Searching Authority (37 CFR 1.488(b)(2) ).

If the examiner determines that unity of invention is lacking, there are two options:

  • (A) The examiner may conduct an international preliminary examination covering all the claimed and previously searched inventions and indicate that unity of invention is lacking and specify the reasons therefor without extending an invitation to restrict or pay additional fees (PCT Rule 68.1 ), or
  • (B) The examiner may invite the applicant to restrict the claims, so as to comply with the requirement, or pay additional fees, pointing out the categories of invention found using Form PCT/IPEA/405 or USPTO/499 (telephone practice). See MPEP § 1875.01. The invitation to restrict or pay additional fees shall state the reasons for which the international application is considered as not complying with the requirement of unity of invention. (PCT Rule 68.2 ). Inventions not previously searched will not be considered or included in the invitation.

The written opinion, if any, and the international preliminary examination report must be established on all inventions for which examination fees have been paid.

If the applicant fails to reply to the invitation to restrict the claims or pay additional examination fees due to lack of unity of invention (by not paying the additional fees or by not restricting the claims either sufficiently or at all), the written opinion, if any, and international preliminary examination report must be established on the claims directed to what appears to be the main invention (PCT Article 34(3)(c) ). The main invention, in case of doubt, is the first claimed invention for which an international search report has been issued by the International Searching Authority. The main invention, as viewed by the examiner, must be set forth on Form PCT/IPEA/405.

If the applicant timely complies with the invitation to pay additional fees even under protest, or to restrict the claims, the examiner carries out international preliminary examination on those claimed inventions for which additional fees have been paid or to which the claims have been restricted. It should be noted that the national law of any elected State may provide that, where its national Office finds the invitation of the International Preliminary Examining Authority justified, those parts of the international application which do not relate to the main invention shall, as far as effects in that State are concerned, be considered withdrawn unless a special fee is paid by the applicant to that Office (PCT Article 34(3)(c) ). Whether or not the question of unity of invention has been raised by the International Searching Authority, it may be considered by the examiner when serving as an authorized officer of the International Preliminary Examining Authority. In the examiner’s consideration, all documents cited by the International Searching Authority should be taken into account and any additional relevant documents considered. However, there are cases of lack of unity of invention, where, compared with the procedure of inviting the applicant to restrict the international application or pay additional fees (PCT Rule 68.2 ), little or no additional effort is involved in establishing the written opinion, if any, and the international preliminary examination report for the entire international application. Then reasons of economy may make it advisable for the examiner to use the option referred to in PCT Rule 68.1 by choosing not to invite the applicant to restrict the claims or to pay additional fees.

Unity of invention is defined by 37 CFR 1.475 which describes the circumstances in which the requirement of unity of invention is considered fulfilled.