MPEP 714.01(e)
Amendments Before First Office Action

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

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714.01(e)    Amendments Before First Office Action [R-07.2015]

37 C.F.R. 1.115 Preliminary amendments.

  • (a) A preliminary amendment is an amendment that is received in the Office (§ 1.6 ) on or before the mail date of the first Office action under § 1.104. The patent application publication may include preliminary amendments (§ 1.215(a) ).
    • (1) A preliminary amendment that is present on the filing date of an application is part of the original disclosure of the application.
    • (2) A preliminary amendment filed after the filing date of the application is not part of the original disclosure of the application.

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A preliminary amendment is an amendment that is received in the Office on or before the mail date of the first Office action under 37 CFR 1.104. See 37 CFR 1.115(a). For applications filed on or after September 21, 2004 (the effective date of 37 CFR 1.115(a)(1) ), a preliminary amendment that is present on the filing date of the application is part of the original disclosure of the application. For applications filed before September 21, 2004, a preliminary amendment that is present on the filing date of the application is part of the original disclosure of the application if the preliminary amendment was referred to in the first executed oath or declaration under 37 CFR 1.63 filed in the application. See MPEP § 602. Any amendment filed after the filing date of the application is not part of the original disclosure of the application. See MPEP § 706.03(o) regarding new matter. When the Office publishes the application under 35 U.S.C. 122(b), the Office may include preliminary amendments in the patent application publication. See MPEP § 1121.

If a preliminary amendment is filed in a format that cannot be included in the publication, the Office of Patent Application Processing (OPAP) will issue a notice to the applicant requiring the applicant to submit the amendment in a format usable for publication purposes. See 37 CFR 1.115(a)(1) and 1.215. The only format for an amendment to the specification (other than the claims) that is usable for publication is a substitute specification in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121(b)(3) and 1.125. As a result, the Office has revised its procedures to mail a notice (e.g., "Notice to File Corrected Application Papers" ) requiring a substitute specification in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121(b)(3) and 1.125, if an applicant included a preliminary amendment to the specification (other than the claims) on filing.

For applications filed prior to September 16, 2012, where applicant intends to claim the benefit of a prior application under 35 U.S.C. 120 or 119(e) and 37 CFR 1.78, the specific reference to the benefit application may be submitted in an application data sheet (ADS) under 37 CFR 1.76 or in a preliminary amendment to the first sentence(s) of the specification. See 37 CFR 1.78(h). If the specific reference is submitted in a preliminary amendment, a substitute specification will not be required if the preliminary amendment only adds or amends a benefit claim to a prior-filed application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, 365(c), or 119(e). If an applicant receives a notice from OPAP (e.g., "Notice to File Corrected Application Papers" ) requiring a substitute specification because a preliminary amendment was filed that only adds or amends a benefit claim, applicant may reply to the notice explaining that a substitute specification should not have been required because the amendment was only to add or amend a benefit claim. In order to avoid abandonment, applicant should file a reply with the required substitute specification or an explanation that the substitute specification is not necessary because the preliminary amendment only adds or amends a benefit claim. If the preliminary amendment contains other amendments to the specification (other than the claims), a substitute specification will be required, and a reply to a notice requiring a substitute specification without the substitute specification will be treated as an incomplete reply with no new time period for reply being provided. Note that the above does not apply to applications filed on or after September 16, 2012, because the reference to a prior application as required by 35 U.S.C. 120 or 119(e) and 37 CFR 1.78, must be submitted in an application data sheet (ADS) under 37 CFR 1.76.

Requiring a substitute specification (with all preliminary amendments made therein) is also important to ensure that applicants do not circumvent the limitations upon redacted publications set forth in 35 U.S.C. 122(b)(2)(B)(v). As preliminary amendments to the specification, excluding the claims, cannot be easily published, the Office must require a substitute specification whenever an application is filed with a preliminary amendment to the specification, excluding the claims, in order to ensure that the application, including any new matter added by way of a preliminary amendment included on the filing date of the application, is published.

Because a preliminary amendment to the claims or abstract in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121(c) or 1.121(b)(2) will include a complete claim listing or replacement abstract, the Office can publish the amended claims or the replacement abstract as submitted in the preliminary amendment without a substitute specification being filed. Applicants should note, however, that there is no need to file a preliminary amendment to the claims on filing. By making the new claim set part of the originally filed specification, applicant may avoid having to pay an application size fee, as both the specification (including the claims) and any preliminary amendment are used in counting the number of pages for purposes of 37 CFR 1.16(s). The claim set submitted should be the set of claims intended to be examined, and when the claims submitted on filing are part of the specification (on sequentially numbered pages of the specification (see 37 CFR 1.52(b)(5) )), no status identifiers and no markings showing the changes need to be used.

A preliminary amendment filed with a submission to enter the national stage of an international application under 35 U.S.C. 371 is not part of the original disclosure under 37 CFR 1.115(a) because it was not present on the international filing date accorded to the application under PCT Article 11. See MPEP § 1893.03(b). Accordingly, a "Notice to File Corrected Application Papers" requiring a substitute specification will not ordinarily be mailed in an international application even if the national stage submission includes a preliminary amendment.

Since a request for continued examination (RCE) is not a new application, an amendment filed before the first Office action after the filing of the RCE is not a preliminary amendment. See MPEP § 706.07(h). Any amendment canceling claims in order to reduce the excess claims fees should be filed before the expiration of the time period set forth in a notice that requires excess claims fees. Such an amendment would be effective to reduce the number of claims to be considered in calculating the excess claims fees. See MPEP § 607.

I.    PRELIMINARY AMENDMENTS MUST COMPLY WITH 37 CFR 1.121

Any preliminary amendment, regardless of when it is filed, must comply with 37 CFR 1.121, e.g., the preliminary amendment must include a complete listing of all of the claims and each section of the amendment must begin on a separate sheet of paper. See MPEP § 714. Preliminary amendments made in a transmittal letter of the application will not comply with 37 CFR 1.121. For example, applicants should include the reference to a prior filed application in the first sentence(s) of the specification following the title (for applications filed prior to September 16, 2012) or in an application data sheet in compliance with 37 CFR 1.78 instead of submitting the reference in a preliminary amendment in a transmittal letter. See MPEP § 211 et seq. If a preliminary amendment filed after the filing date of the application fails to comply with 37 CFR 1.121, applicant will be notified by way of a Notice of Non-Compliant Amendment and given a non-extendable period of two months to bring the amendment into compliance with 37 CFR 1.121. If the applicant takes no corrective action, examination of the application will commence without consideration of the proposed changes in the non-compliant preliminary amendment. If a preliminary amendment that is present on the filing date of the application fails to comply with 37 CFR 1.121, the Office of Patent Application Processing (OPAP) will notify applicant of the non-compliance and give a two-month time period to correct the non-compliance to avoid the abandonment of the application. See MPEP § 714.

Filing a preliminary amendment is not recommended because the changes made by the preliminary amendment may not be reflected in the patent application publication even if the preliminary amendment is referred to in an oath or declaration. If there is insufficient time to have the preliminary amendment be entered into the Office file wrapper of the application before technical preparations for publication of the application have begun, the preliminary amendment will not be reflected in the patent application publication. Technical preparations for publication of an application generally begin four months prior to the projected date of publication. For more information on publication of applications, see MPEP § 1121. Applicants may avoid preliminary amendments by incorporating any desired amendments into the text of the specification including a new set of claims, even where the application is a continuation or divisional application of a previously filed patent application. In such a continuation or divisional application, a clean copy of a specification (i.e., reflecting amendments made in the parent application) may be submitted together with a copy of the oath or declaration from the previously filed application. See 37 CFR 1.63(d)(1) and MPEP § 201.06(c).

II.    PRELIMINARY AMENDMENTS PRESENT ON THE FILING DATE OF THE APPLICATION

Applicants are strongly discouraged from submitting any preliminary amendments so as to minimize the burden on the Office in processing preliminary amendments and reduce delays in processing the application.

For applications filed on or after September 21, 2004 (the effective date of 37 CFR 1.115(a)(1) ), a preliminary amendment that is present on the filing date of the application is part of the original disclosure of the application.

For applications filed before September 21, 2004, a preliminary amendment that was present on the filing date of the application is part of the original disclosure of the application if the preliminary amendment was referred to in the first oath or declaration in compliance with 37 CFR 1.63 filed in the application. See MPEP §§ 602 and 608.04(b). If the preliminary amendment was not referred to in the oath or declaration, applicant should submit a supplemental oath or declaration under 37 CFR 1.67 referring to both the application and the preliminary amendment filed with the original application. A surcharge under 37 CFR 1.16(f) will also be required unless it has been previously paid.

III.    PRELIMINARY AMENDMENTS MUST BE TIMELY

Any preliminary amendments should either accompany the application or be filed after the application has received its application number and filing date so that the preliminary amendments would include the appropriate identifications (e.g., the application number and filing date). See MPEP § 502. Any amendments filed after the mail date of the first Office action is not a preliminary amendment. If the date of receipt (37 CFR 1.6 ) of the amendment is later than the mail date of the first Office action and is not responsive to the first Office action, the Office will not mail a new Office action, but simply advise the applicant that the amendment is nonresponsive to the first Office action and that a responsive reply must be timely filed to avoid abandonment. See MPEP § 714.03.

IV.    PRELIMINARY AMENDMENTS MAY BE DISAPPROVED

37 C.F.R. 1.115 Preliminary amendments.

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  • (b) A preliminary amendment in compliance with § 1.121 will be entered unless disapproved by the Director.
    • (1) A preliminary amendment seeking cancellation of all the claims without presenting any new or substitute claims will be disapproved.
    • (2) A preliminary amendment may be disapproved if the preliminary amendment unduly interferes with the preparation of a first Office action in an application. Factors that will be considered in disapproving a preliminary amendment include:
      • (i) The state of preparation of a first Office action as of the date of receipt (§ 1.6 ) of the preliminary amendment by the Office; and
      • (ii) The nature of any changes to the specification or claims that would result from entry of the preliminary amendment.
    • (3) A preliminary amendment will not be disapproved under (b)(2) of this section if it is filed no later than:
      • (i) Three months from the filing date of an application under § 1.53(b);
      • (ii) The filing date of a continued prosecution application under § 1.53(d); or
      • (iii) Three months from the date the national stage is entered as set forth in § 1.491 in an international application.
    • (4) The time periods specified in paragraph (b)(3) of this section are not extendable.

A preliminary amendment filed in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121 will be entered unless it is disapproved by the Director. A preliminary amendment will be disapproved by the Director if the preliminary amendment cancels all the claims in the application without presenting any new or substitute claims. A preliminary amendment may also be disapproved by the Director if the preliminary amendment unduly interferes with the preparation of an Office action. 37 CFR 1.115(b).

A.    Cancellations of All the Claims

If applicant files a preliminary amendment (whether submitted prior to, on or after the filing date of the application) seeking cancellation of all claims in the application without presenting any new claims, the Office will not enter such an amendment. See Exxon Corp. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 265 F.3d 1249, 60 USPQ2d 1369 (Fed. Cir. 2001), 37 CFR 1.115(b)(1), and MPEP § 601.01(e). Thus, the application will not be denied a filing date merely because such a preliminary amendment was submitted on filing. For fee calculation purposes, the Office will treat such an application as containing only a single claim. In most cases, an amendment that cancels all the claims in the application without presenting any new claims would not meet the requirements of 37 CFR 1.121(c) that requires a complete claim listing. See MPEP § 714. The Office will send a notice of non-compliant amendment (37 CFR 1.121 ) to applicant and require an amendment in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121.

B.    Unduly Interferes With the Preparation of an Office Action

Once the examiner has started to prepare a first Office action, entry of a preliminary amendment may be disapproved if the preliminary amendment unduly interferes with the preparation of the first Office action. Applicants are encouraged to file all preliminary amendments as soon as possible. Entry of a preliminary amendment will not be disapproved under 37 CFR 1.115(b)(2) if it is filed no later than:

  • (A) 3 months from the filing date of the application under 37 CFR 1.53(b);
  • (B) 3 months from the date the national stage is entered as set forth in 37 CFR 1.491 in an international application;
  • (C) the filing date of a CPA under 37 CFR 1.53(d) in a design application; or
  • (D) the last day of any suspension period requested by applicant under 37 CFR 1.103 (see MPEP § 709).

Even if the examiner has spent a significant amount of time preparing the first Office action, entry of a preliminary amendment filed within these time periods should not be disapproved under 37 CFR 1.115(b)(2). These time periods are not extendable. See 37 CFR 1.115(b)(4).

If a preliminary amendment is filed after these time periods and the conditions set forth below are met, entry of the preliminary amendment may be denied subject to the approval of the supervisory patent examiner (MPEP § 1002.02(d)).

1.    When Disapproval is Appropriate

The factors that will be considered for denying entry of preliminary amendments under 37 CFR 1.115 include:

  • (A) The state of preparation of a first Office action as of the date of receipt (37 CFR 1.6 ) of the preliminary amendment; and
  • (B) The nature of any changes to the specification or claims that would result from entry of the preliminary amendment.

The entry of a preliminary amendment that would unduly interfere with the preparation of an Office action may be denied if the following two conditions are met:

  • (A) the examiner has devoted a significant amount of time on the preparation of an Office action before the amendment is received in the Office (i.e., the 37 CFR 1.6 receipt date of the amendment); and
  • (B) the entry of the amendment would require significant additional time in the preparation of the Office action.

For example, if the examiner has spent a significant amount of time to conduct a prior art search or draft an Office action before a preliminary amendment is received by the Office, the first condition is satisfied. Entry of the amendment may be denied if it:

  • (A) amends the claims;
  • (B) adds numerous new claims;
  • (C) amends the specification to change the scope of the claims;
  • (D) amends the specification so that a new matter issue would be raised;
  • (E) includes arguments;
  • (F) includes an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 or 37 CFR 1.132; or
  • (G) includes evidence traversing rejections from a prior Office action in the parent application,

and would require the examiner to spend significant additional time to conduct another prior art search or revise the Office action (i.e., the second condition is satisfied). This list is not an exhaustive list, and the entry of a preliminary amendment may be denied in other situations that satisfy the two conditions set forth above. Once these conditions are met, the examiner should obtain the approval of the SPE before the entry of the amendment may be denied.

2.    When Disapproval is Inappropriate

Denying entry of a preliminary amendment under 37 CFR 1.115(b)(2) is inappropriate if either:

  • (A) the examiner has NOT devoted a significant amount of time on the preparation of an Office action before the amendment is received in the Office (i.e., the 37 CFR 1.6 receipt date of the amendment); or
  • (B) the entry of the amendment would NOT require significant additional time in the preparation of the Office action.

Thus, the amendment will be entered unless it is denied entry for other reasons such as those listed in MPEP § 714.19.

For example, if before the preliminary amendment is received in the Office, the examiner has not started working on the Office action or has started, but has merely inspected the file for formal requirements, then the examiner should enter and consider the preliminary amendment.

Furthermore, even if the examiner has devoted a significant amount of time to prepare an Office action prior to the date the preliminary amendment is received in the Office, it is not appropriate to disapprove the entry of such an amendment if it:

  • (A) merely cancels some of the pending claims;
  • (B) amends the claims to overcome rejections under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph;
  • (C) amends the claims to place the application in condition for allowance; or
  • (D) only includes changes that were previously suggested by the examiner, and would not require the examiner to spend significant additional time to revise the Office action.

3.    Form Paragraph

Form paragraph 7.46 should be used to notify applicant that the entry of a preliminary amendment is denied because the amendment unduly interferes with the preparation of an Office action.

¶ 7.46    Preliminary Amendment Unduly Interferes with the Preparation of an Office Action

The preliminary amendment filed on [1] was not entered because entry of the amendment would unduly interfere with the preparation of the Office action. See 37 CFR 1.115(b)(2). The examiner spent a significant amount of time on the preparation of an Office action before the preliminary amendment was received. On the date of receipt of the amendment, the examiner had completed [2].

Furthermore, entry of the preliminary amendment would require significant additional time on the preparation of the Office action. Specifically, entry of the preliminary amendment would require the examiner to [3].

A responsive reply (under 37 CFR 1.111 or 37 CFR 1.113 as appropriate) to this Office action must be timely filed to avoid abandonment.

If this is not a final Office action, applicant may wish to resubmit the amendment along with a responsive reply under 37 CFR 1.111 to ensure proper entry of the amendment.

Examiner Note:

1. In bracket 1, provide the date that the Office received the preliminary amendment (use the date of receipt under 37 CFR 1.6, not the certificate of mailing date under 37 CFR 1.8 ).

2. In bracket 2, provide an explanation on the state of preparation of the Office action as of the receipt date of the preliminary amendment. For example, where appropriate insert --the claim analysis and the search of prior art of all pending claims-- or --the drafting of the Office action and was waiting for the supervisory patent examiner’s approval--.

3. In bracket 3, provide a brief explanation of how entry of the preliminary amendment would require the examiner to spend significant additional time in the preparation of the Office action. For example, where appropriate insert --conduct prior art search in another classification area that was not previously searched and required-- or --revise the Office action extensively to address the new issues raised and the new claims added in the preliminary amendment--.