MPEP 2133.03(e)(4)
Factors Indicative of an Experimental Purpose

Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 07.2022, Last Revised in February 2023

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2133.03(e)(4)    Factors Indicative of an Experimental Purpose [R-07.2022]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section may be applicable to applications subject to examination under the first inventor to file (FITF) provisions of the AIA as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 100 (note). See MPEP § 2159 et seq. to determine whether an application is subject to examination under the FITF provisions, and MPEP § 2150 et seq. for examination of applications subject to those provisions. See MPEP § 2152.02(c) through (e) for a detailed discussion of the public use and on sale provisions of AIA 35 U.S.C. 102.]

The courts have considered a number of factors in determining whether a claimed invention was the subject of a commercial offer for sale primarily for purposes of experimentation. "These factors include: (1) the necessity for public testing, (2) the amount of control over the experiment retained by the inventor, (3) the nature of the invention, (4) the length of the test period, (5) whether payment was made, (6) whether there was a secrecy obligation, (7) whether records of the experiment were kept, (8) who conducted the experiment,... (9) the degree of commercial exploitation during testing[,]... (10) whether the invention reasonably requires evaluation under actual conditions of use, (11) whether testing was systematically performed, (12) whether the inventor continually monitored the invention during testing, and (13) the nature of contacts made with potential customers." Allen Eng’g Corp. v. Bartell Indus., Inc., 299 F.3d 1336, 1353, 63 USPQ2d 1769, 1780 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (quoting EZ Dock v. Schafer Sys., Inc., 276 F.3d 1347, 1357, 61 USPQ2d 1289, 1296 (Fed. Cir. 2002)) (Linn, J., concurring). Another critical attribute of experimentation is the "customer’s awareness of the purported testing in the context of a sale." Electromotive Div. of Gen. Motors Corp. v. Transportation Sys. Div. of Gen. Elec. Co., 417 F.3d 1203, 1241, 75 USPQ2d 1650, 1658 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

Once alleged experimental activity is advanced by an applicant to explain a prima facie case of unpatentability, the examiner must determine whether the scope and length of the activity were reasonable in terms of the experimental purpose intended by the applicant and the nature of the subject matter involved. No one of, or particular combination of, factors is necessarily determinative of this purpose.

See MPEP § 2133.03(e)(1) for factors indicative of commercial exploitation.