MPEP 216
Entitlement to Priority

Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 10.2019, Last Revised in June 2020

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216    Entitlement to Priority [R-08.2017]

When the claim to priority and the certified copy of the foreign application are received while the application is pending before the examiner, the examiner generally makes no examination of the papers except to see that they contain no obvious formal defects and correspond in number, date and country to the application identified in the application data sheet for an application filed on or after September 16, 2012, or oath or declaration or application data sheet for an application filed prior to September 16, 2012. In addition, for original applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) (other than design applications) and international applications entering the national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371, the examiner should make sure that the claim for foreign priority is timely. Examiners may use form paragraph 2.21.01 to notify applicant that the foreign priority claim is untimely. See also MPEP § 214.03.

The subject matter of the application is not examined to determine whether the applicant is actually entitled to the benefit of the foreign filing date on the basis of the disclosure thereof. The only times during ex parte prosecution that the examiner considers the merits of an applicant’s claim of priority is when a reference is found with an effective date between the date of the foreign filing and the date of filing in the United States and when an interference situation is under consideration. If at the time of making an action the examiner has found such an intervening reference, the examiner simply rejects whatever claims may be considered unpatentable thereover, without paying any attention to the priority date (assuming the certified copy of the priority papers has not yet been filed). The applicant in reply may argue the rejection if it is of such a nature that it can be argued, or present the foreign papers for the purpose of overcoming the date of the reference. If the applicant argues the reference, the examiner, in the next action in the application, may specifically require the foreign papers to be filed in addition to repeating the rejection if it is still considered applicable, or the examiner may merely continue the rejection.

Form paragraph 2.19 may be used in this instance.

¶ 2.19    Overcome Rejection by Translation

Applicant cannot rely upon the certified copy of the foreign priority application to overcome this rejection because a translation of said application has not been made of record in accordance with 37 CFR 1.55. See MPEP §§ 215 and 216.

Examiner Note:

This paragraph should follow a rejection based on an intervening reference.

In those cases where the applicant files the certified copy of the foreign application for the purpose of overcoming the effective date of a reference, a translation is required if the certified copy is not in the English language. When the examiner requires the filing of the certified copy, the translation should also be required at the same time. This translation must be filed together with a statement that the translation of the certified copy is accurate. When the necessary certified copy and translation are filed to overcome the date of the reference, the examiner’s action, if the examiner determines that the applicant is not entitled to the priority date, is to repeat the rejection on the reference, stating the reasons why the applicant is not considered entitled to the date. If it is determined that the applicant is entitled to the date, the rejection is withdrawn in view of the priority date.

If the certified copy, and translation if necessary, is already in the file when the examiner finds a reference with the intervening effective date, the examiner will study the certified copy, if it is in the English language, to determine if the applicant is entitled to the priority date. If the applicant is found to be entitled to the priority date, the reference is not relied upon as prior art, but may be cited to applicant on form PTO-892. If the applicant is found not entitled to the date, the unpatentable claims are rejected on the reference with an explanation. If the certified copy is not in the English language and there is no translation, the examiner may reject the unpatentable claims and at the same time require an English translation for the purpose of determining the applicant’s right to rely on the foreign filing date.

The foreign application may have been filed by and in the name of the assignee or legal representative or agent of the inventor, as applicant. In such cases, if the certified copy of the foreign application corresponds with the one identified in an application data sheet, or for applications filed prior to September 16, 2012, in an application data sheet or in the oath or declaration filed under 37 CFR 1.63 (see 37 CFR 1.55(n) ) and no discrepancies appear, it may be assumed that the nonprovisional application is entitled to claim priority to the foreign application. If the nonprovisional application and the certified copy of the foreign application do not name the same inventor or do not have at least one joint inventor in common, the priority date should be refused until the inconsistency is resolved. See also MPEP § 213.02.

The most important aspect of the examiner’s action pertaining to a right of priority is the determination of the identity of invention between the U.S. and the foreign applications. The foreign application may be considered in the same manner as if it had been filed in this country on the same date that it was filed in the foreign country, and the applicant is ordinarily entitled to any claims based on such foreign application that applicant would be entitled to under U.S. laws and practice. The foreign application must be examined for the question of sufficiency of the disclosure under 35 U.S.C. 112 as well as to determine if there is a basis for the claims sought.

In applications filed from the United Kingdom there may be submitted a certified copy of the "provisional specification," which may also in some cases be accompanied by a copy of the "complete specification." The nature and function of the United Kingdom provisional specification is described in an article in the Journal of the Patent Office Society of November 1936, pages 770-774. According to United Kingdom law the provisional specification need not contain a complete disclosure of the invention in the sense of 35 U.S.C. 112, but need only describe the general nature of the invention, and neither claims nor drawings are required. Consequently, in considering such provisional specifications, the question of completeness of disclosure is important. If it is found that the United Kingdom provisional specification is insufficient for lack of disclosure, reliance may then be had on the complete specification and its date, if one has been presented, the complete specification then being treated as a different application than the provisional specification. In some instances, the specification and drawing of the foreign application may have been filed at a date subsequent to the filing of the petition in the foreign country. Even though the petition is called the application and the filing date of this petition is the filing date of the application in a particular country, the date accorded here is the date on which the specification and drawing were filed.

A nonprovisional application may be found entitled to the filing date of the foreign application with respect to some claims and not with respect to others. In addition, an applicant may rely on two or more different foreign applications and may be entitled to the filing date of one of them with respect to certain claims and to another with respect to other claims.