Supplemental Examination
By Scott A. McKeown
| October 30, 2013
USPTO Changes Extension of Time Practice in Patent Reexamination & Supplemental Examination

No-Cause Extensions Available for Patent Owner/Director Initiated Post Grant Patent Proceedings


Tucked away in last week's Federal Register Notice is a significant change to patent reexamination/supplemental examination procedures at the USPTO. Currently, any extension of time sought in an ex parte patent reexamination (the only type of patent reexamination still in existence) requires a show of cause for the requested extension. This is not a trivial matter as the USPTO's Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) can be quite strict in granting such requests. However, on December 18, 2013, this practice will change for some filers. (Federal Register Notice here)


Starting in December extensions of time for up to two months will no longer require a showing of cause in proceedings that were not initiated by a third party. That is, for Director/Patent Owner initiated reexaminations, extensions of time for up to two months will be available as a matter of right. This change would also apply to supplemental examinations, which are patentee requested and are largely conducted under the same reexamination rules. The version of 1.550(c) that takes effect on December 18, 2013 is shown below (applies to all filings in existence on that date).



§ 1.550 Conduct of ex parte reexamination proceedings.

* * * * *

(c) The time for taking any action by a patent owner in an ex parte reexamination proceeding may be extended as provided in this paragraph.

(1) Any request for such an extension must specify the requested period of extension and be accompanied by the petition fee set forth in § 1.17(g).

(2) Any request for an extension in a third party requested ex parte reexamination must be filed on or before the day on which action by the patent owner is due, and the mere filing of such a request for extension will not effect the extension. A request for an extension in a third party requested ex parte reexamination will not be granted in the absence of sufficient cause or formore than a reasonable time.

(3) Any request for an extension in a patent owner requested or Director ordered ex parte reexamination for up to two months from the time period set in the Office action must be filed no later than two months from the expiration of the time period set in the Office action. A request for an extension in a patent owner requested or Director ordered ex parte reexamination for more than two months from the time period set in the Office action must be filed on or before the day on which action by the patent owner is due, and the mere filing of a request for an extension for more than two months from the time period set in the Office action will not effect the extension. The time for taking action in a patent owner requested or Director ordered ex parte reexamination will not be extended for more than two months from the time period set in the Office action in the absence of sufficient cause or for more than a reasonable time.

(4) The reply or other action must in any event be filed prior to the expiration of the period of extension, but in no situation may a reply or other action be filed later than the maximum time period set by statute.

(5) See § 90.3(c) of this title for extensions of time for filing a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or for commencing a civil action.

* * * * *

(e) If a response by the patent owner is not timely filed in the Office, a petition may be filed pursuant to § 1.137 to revive a reexamination prosecution terminated under paragraph (d) of this section if the delay in response was unintentional.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 15, 2013
Patentee Tactic for Looming PTAB Patent Challenges

Preemptive Filing May Provide More Patentee Flexibilty in Amending


Prior to the AIA, some patentees would preemptively challenge their own patents in an ex parte reexamination proceeding in the hopes of staving off an imminent inter partes reexamination challenge. The thinking was that since the challenge was inevitable, it made more sense to choose the ex parte proceeding as statistically more favorable to patentees.  In essence the patent owner would rush in with art identified by an opponent so that a later presentation of the same art by the opponent in an inter partes reexamination filing would be deemed cumulative— and in some cases it worked. 

For patentees facing the imminent threat of a new AIA filing (IPR, PGR, or CBM) is this tactic still effective?
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By Scott A. McKeown
| March 26, 2013
Post Grant Buzz - Spring 2013

Robust Filings Reported for Some AIA Proceedings


Late last week, the USPTO issued a Final Rule to implement the Technical Amendment to the America Invents Act (AIA). The Notice essentially revises 37 C.F.R. § 42.102 to eliminate the "dead zone" for certain first inventor to file patents. You can find the straight forward rule notice (here) The rule became effective yesterday, March 25th.

In other news, the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) convened on March 15th at the USPTO Alexandria campus. During the meeting, the USPTO reported on the progress of AIA filings to date. There continues to be robust demand for Inter Partes Review (IPR), but others of the new AIA mechanisms have not proven nearly as popular as originally thought.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| November 20, 2012
Supplemental Examination....Who Needs It?

Tepid Demand for New Proceeding


Supplemental Examination (SE) is a new mechanism of the AIA designed to effectively cure inequitable conduct via a new post grant proceeding of the USPTO. The new mechanism went into effect on September 16, 2012 along with the other major post grant provisions.

As reported by Patently-O last week, only a handfulof SE filings have been submitted to date, far fewer than expected by some.

In operation, SE allows a Patentee to submit very detailed explanations of potential issues that may render the patent invalid under an inequitable conduct theory. Upon submission of Substantial New Questions of Patentability (SNQs) detailing such potential defects, the Office will reconsider the information; that is to say the Office will perform a “supplemental examination.” Once such issues are considered and dispatched by an SE certificate, the subject patent would be free of inequitable conduct charges based on the issues considered in the SE. On the other hand, should the materials presented raise an SNQ, a form of patent reexamination is conducted (differing from typical practices in that it is not be limited to patents and printed publications).

Sounds like a great idea....and it was, prior to Therasense.


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By Scott A. McKeown
| September 5, 2012
USPTO Proposes Revising Fees for Post Grant Patent Proceedings

Proposal Apportions Post Grant Patent Trial Fees Into Petition & Trial Phases


As I predicted in early August, the USPTO has announced a proposal to apportion the filing fees for the new post grant proceedings of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) across petition and trial phases; primarily as a mechanism to facilitate refunds. A portion of the proposed fees would correspond to the cost of considering the petition filing, the second portion would correspond to the cost of conducting the trial. This proposed fee structure is set pursuant to Section 10 of the America Invents Act (AIA), and provides revised fees not only for the new post grant patent proceedings, but also for ex parte application prosecution as well. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday. (advanced reading room copy here)


Aside from the post grant fee apportionment (discussed in detail below, which actually provides a slight fee reduction), notable fee increases include a change to the RCE filing fee for ex parte prosecution. The RCE fee based upon the number of previously filed RCEs. For example, the cost of an RCE moves from the current $930 for large entitites to $1200 for the first RCE, and $1700 for the second and subsequent RCEs. You may recall that initially the USPTO was seeking a change to $1700 for all such filings. The Office has now recognized that since 70% of applicants file at least one RCE, it seems some modest additional time is required to resolve most issues, hence the difference in pricing between the first and second RCE filing.


As to fee decreases, the following are noteworthy:

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By Scott A. McKeown
| June 27, 2012
Enhanced Patent Reexamination Speed Coming Soon?

Reduction in Incoming Requests & Inter Partes Workload to Free Up Resources


Much attention has been given to the contested proceedings of the newly formed Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) since enactment of the America Invents Act (AIA) last fall. Starting in September of 2012, these new patentability trials (Post Grant Review (PGR), Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents (TPCBMP) and Inter Partes Review (IPR)) will become available, and must conclude by statute within 12-18 months of initiation. The pendency of the new trial proceedings is a significant improvement relative to existing patent reexamination and is expected to be a significant driver behind filings concurrent with litigation.

As a result of the new options for contested proceedings, the law eliminates inter partes patent reexamination. So, going forward, the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) will lose a significant, resource intensive stream of work. While it is true that the CRU will remain responsible for legacy inter partes reexamination filings, the 100+ examiners will necessarily have extra time on their hands post-AIA.

Absent a replacement stream of work, the remaining stream, ex parte patent reexamination filings, may benefit from the newly available bandwidth.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| May 2, 2012
USPTO Justifies Supplemental Examination Guidelines

Item of Information Limit Accounts for Practical Realities


Supplemental Examination (SE) is a mechanism of the AIA that is designed to effectively cure inequitable conduct via a new post grant proceeding of the USPTO. This mechanism, effective September 16, 2012 will be available to all issued patents.

In operation, SE allows a Patentee to submit very detailed explanations of potential issues that may render the patent invalid under an inequitable conduct theory. Upon submission of Substantial New Questions of patentability (SNQs) detailing such potential defects, the Office will reconsider or correct such information; that is to say the Office will perform a “supplemental examination.” Once such issues are considered, any patent issuing as a result of the SE would be free of inequitable conduct charges based on the same issues considered in the SE.

In the proposed rules to implement SE, the USPTO has limited the number of "items of information" for presenting a SNQ to 10. Public comments directed to this implementation detail have been largely negative.

A few days back, the Director more or less made clear that this limitation will remain in the Final rules.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| February 14, 2012
Is Supplemental Examination a Risk Worth Taking?

In re Tanaka Decision Likely to Drive Two-Part Supplemental Examination Filing Strategy


During yesterday's Strafford Legal webinar on the topic, I explained that Supplemental Examination (SE) is a mechanism of the AIA that is designed to effectively cure inequitable conduct via a new post grant proceeding of the USPTO. This mechanism, effective September 16, 2012 will be available to all issued patents.

In operation, SE allows a Patentee to submit very detailed explanations of potential issues that may serve to render the patent invalid under an inequitable conduct theory in litigation. Upon submission of Substantial New Questions of patentability (SNQs) detailing such potential defects, the Office will reconsider or correct such information; that is to say the Office will perform a "supplemental examination."

If the SNQs of an SE request do not rise to the appropriate level to justify further proceedings, an SE certificate is issued stating such, and the proceeding concludes. Likewise, should SNQs be identified in the request for SE, a certificate is issued identifying such. Thereafter, a modified form of “re-examination” is initiated by the Office to explore the SNQs presented in the request. Should the Office determine that the identified SNQs do not preclude patentability in the reexamination phase, a reexamination certificate is issued to complement the SE certificate. Thus, SE is modeled on the same "but for" materiality standard pronounced in Therasense.

At first blush, the option to cure potential inequitable conduct issues seems an attractive option for Patentees. Yet, practically speaking, there may be very few instances in which an SE filing is advisable.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| January 25, 2012
Supplemental Examination Rules Issued by USPTO

New Mechanism to Cleanse Inequitable Conduct


Yesterday, the USPTO issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to outline the procedures for conducting supplemental examination (here). (See the earlier discussion on the related changes to patent reexamination fees provided by this Notice).

As a reminder, the America Invents Act provided supplemental examination (SE) as a mechanism to cure inequitable conduct before the USPTO. Upon submission of SNQs that explain potential issues for supplemental examination, the Office may initiate a type of “re-examination” that follows the procedures for ex parte patent reexamination with some modification. In essence this proceeding was based on a “but for” theory later adopted in Therasense.

In addition to proposing a steep price to initiate SE and conduct the related reexamination proceeding, (roughly $22K) the Office has outlined the rules for conducting supplemental examination.


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