MPEP 706
Rejection of Claims

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

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706    Rejection of Claims [R-07.2015]

After the application has been read and the claimed invention understood, a prior art search for the claimed invention is made. With the results of the prior art search, including any references provided by the applicant, the patent application should be reviewed and analyzed in conjunction with the state of the prior art to determine whether the claims define a useful, novel, nonobvious, and enabled invention that has been clearly described in the specification. The goal of examination is to clearly articulate any rejection early in the prosecution process so that the applicant has the opportunity to provide evidence of patentability and otherwise reply completely at the earliest opportunity. The examiner then reviews all the evidence, including arguments and evidence responsive to any rejection, before issuing the next Office action. Where the examiner determines that information reasonably necessary for the examination should be required from the applicant under 37 CFR 1.105, such a requirement should generally be made either prior to or with the first Office action on the merits and should follow the procedures in MPEP § 704.10 et seq.

Although this part of the Manual explains the procedure in rejecting claims, the examiner should never overlook the importance of his or her role in allowing claims which properly define the invention.

37 C.F.R. 1.104 Nature of examination.

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  • (c) Rejection of claims.
    • (1) If the invention is not considered patentable, or not considered patentable as claimed, the claims, or those considered unpatentable will be rejected.
    • (2) In rejecting claims for want of novelty or for obviousness, the examiner must cite the best references at his or her command. When a reference is complex or shows or describes inventions other than that claimed by the applicant, the particular part relied on must be designated as nearly as practicable. The pertinence of each reference, if not apparent, must be clearly explained and each rejected claim specified.
    • (3) In rejecting claims the examiner may rely upon admissions by the applicant, or the patent owner in a reexamination proceeding, as to any matter affecting patentability and, insofar as rejections in applications are concerned, may also rely upon facts within his or her knowledge pursuant to paragraph (d)(2) of this section.
    • (4)
      • (i) Subject matter which would otherwise qualify as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(2) and a claimed invention will be treated as commonly owned for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 102(b)(2)(C) if the applicant or patent owner provides a statement to the effect that the subject matter and the claimed invention, not later than the effective filing date of the claimed invention, were owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.
      • (ii) Subject matter which would otherwise qualify as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(2) and a claimed invention will be treated as commonly owned for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 102(b)(2)(C) on the basis of a joint research agreement under 35 U.S.C. 102(c) if:
        • (A) The applicant or patent owner provides a statement to the effect that the subject matter was developed and the claimed invention was made by or on behalf of one or more parties to a joint research agreement, within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 100(h) and § 1.9(e), that was in effect on or before the effective filing date of the claimed invention, and the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and
        • (B) The application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.
    • (5)
      • (i) Subject matter which qualifies as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g) in effect prior to March 16, 2013, and a claimed invention in an application filed on or after November 29, 1999, or any patent issuing thereon, in an application filed before November 29, 1999, but pending on December 10, 2004, or any patent issuing thereon, or in any patent granted on or after December 10, 2004, will be treated as commonly owned for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) in effect prior to March 16, 2013, if the applicant or patent owner provides a statement to the effect that the subject matter and the claimed invention, at the time the claimed invention was made, were owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.
      • (ii) Subject matter which qualifies as prior art under 35 U.S.C. 102(e), (f), or (g) in effect prior to March 16, 2013, and a claimed invention in an application pending on or after December 10, 2004, or in any patent granted on or after December 10, 2004, will be treated as commonly owned for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 103(c) in effect prior to March 16, 2013, on the basis of a joint research agreement under 35 U.S.C. 103(c)(2) in effect prior to March 16, 2013, if:
        • (A) The applicant or patent owner provides a statement to the effect that the subject matter and the claimed invention were made by or on behalf of the parties to a joint research agreement, within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 100(h) and § 1.9(e), which was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made, and that the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and
        • (B) The application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.
      • (6) Patents issued prior to December 10, 2004, from applications filed prior to November 29, 1999, are subject to 35 U.S.C. 103(c) in effect on November 28, 1999.

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I.    UNIFORM APPLICATION OF THE PATENTABILITY STANDARD

The standards of patentability applied in the examination of claims must be the same throughout the Office. In every art, whether it be considered "complex," "newly developed," "crowded," or "competitive," all of the requirements for patentability (e.g., patent eligible, useful, novel, nonobvious, enabled, and clearly described as provided in 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103 and 112 ) must be met before a claim is allowed. The mere fact that a claim recites in detail all of the features of an invention (i.e., is a "picture" claim) is never, in itself, justification for the allowance of such a claim.

An application should not be allowed, unless and until issues pertinent to patentability have been raised and resolved in the course of examination and prosecution, since otherwise the resultant patent would not justify the statutory presumption of validity (35 U.S.C. 282 ), nor would it "strictly adhere" to the requirements laid down by Congress in the 1952 Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The standard to be applied in all cases is the "preponderance of the evidence" test. In other words, an examiner should reject a claim if, in view of the prior art and evidence of record, it is more likely than not that the claim is unpatentable.

II.    DEFECTS IN FORM OR OMISSION OF A LIMITATION; CLAIMS OTHERWISE ALLOWABLE

When an application discloses patentable subject matter and it is apparent from the claims and the applicant’s arguments that the claims are intended to be directed to such patentable subject matter, but the claims in their present form cannot be allowed because of defects in form or omission of a limitation, the examiner should not stop with a bare objection or rejection of the claims. The examiner’s action should be constructive in nature and when possible should offer a definite suggestion for correction.

III.    PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER DISCLOSED BUT NOT CLAIMED

If the examiner is satisfied after the search has been completed that patentable subject matter has been disclosed and the record indicates that the applicant intends to claim such subject matter, he or she may note in the Office action that certain aspects or features of the patentable invention have not been claimed and that if properly claimed such claims may be given favorable consideration.

IV.    RECONSIDERATION OF CLAIMS AFTER REPLY BY APPLICANT

37 C.F.R. 1.112 Reconsideration before final action.

After reply by applicant or patent owner (§ 1.111 or § 1.945 ) to a non-final action and any comments by an inter partes reexamination requester (§ 1.947 ), the application or the patent under reexamination will be reconsidered and again examined. The applicant, or in the case of a reexamination proceeding the patent owner and any third party requester, will be notified if claims are rejected, objections or requirements made, or decisions favorable to patentability are made, in the same manner as after the first examination (§ 1.104 ). Applicant or patent owner may reply to such Office action in the same manner provided in § 1.111 or § 1.945, with or without amendment, unless such Office action indicates that it is made final (§ 1.113 ) or an appeal (§ 41.31 of this title) has been taken (§ 1.116 ), or in an inter partes reexamination, that it is an action closing prosecution (§ 1.949 ) or a right of appeal notice (§ 1.953 ).

37 CFR 1.112 provides for the reconsideration and continued examination of an application after reply by the applicant, and for the reconsideration and continued examination of a reexamination proceeding after a response by the patent owner. If claims are rejected, or objections or requirements are made, the applicant or patent owner will be notified in the same manner as notification was provided after the first examination. Applicant or patent owner may reply to such Office action (with or without amendment) in the same manner provided in 37 CFR 1.111, or 37 CFR 1.945 for an inter partes reexamination, unless such Office action indicates that it is made final (37 CFR 1.113 ), or an appeal under 37 CFR 41.31 has been taken (37 CFR 1.116 ), or such Office action indicates in an inter partes reexamination that it is an action closing prosecution (37 CFR 1.949 ) or a right of appeal notice (37 CFR 1.953 ). Once an appeal has been taken in an application or in an ex parte reexamination proceeding, any amendment (filed prior to an appeal brief) is subject to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.116(b) and (c), even if the appeal is in reply to a non-final Office action. See 37 CFR 41.33(b) for amendments filed with or after the filing of an appeal brief.

V.    REJECTIONS IN STATUTORY INVENTION REGISTRATIONS

See MPEP Chapter 1100 for rejection of claims in an application for a Statutory Invention Registration.