A bit of “pre-grant” news today…. the USPTO has launched a new, internal pilot program entitled “After Final Consideration Pilot” (AFCP). The memo announcing the program to the Examining Corps outlines the purpose as: To advance the goal of compact prosecution, the following guidance is provided to highlight situations when entry of an Amendment After Final Rejection under 37 CFR 1.116(b) may lead to earlier allowance of the application without undue burden on the examiner or applicant. . . . In limited situations further amendments or arguments may be considered.”
In a nutshell the program allots additional time to examiners to consider applicant submissions after final rejection, explaining:
A full and complete review of a response includes any additional search required to determine whether or not proposed amendments distinguish over the prior art. Examiners should review responses under 37 CFR 1.116(b) and use their professional judgment to decide whether the nature and extent of the amendments or arguments presented in the response can be fully considered within the limited amount of time authorized by the After Final Consideration Pilot.
If the examiner determines that the response can be fully considered, including any additional search required, within 3 hours for plant and utility applications or 1 hour for design applications, that amount of non-production time is available whether or not the consideration of the amendment results in allowance of the application . .
The memo is found (here).