Posted in PCT |

Learn about PCT in San Francisco on March 13

The PCT Learning Center, with support from the World Intellectual Property Organization, will be sponsoring a seminar about the Patent Cooperation Treaty in San Francisco on Monday, March 13.  The presenters will be Gary Smith and yours truly.

You can sign up for the morning part only (“PCT Boot Camp”) or the afternoon part only (“PCT Strategies Session”) or both (“The Essential PCT”).

For more information, or to register, click here.

Posted in PCT |

Seats still available for PCT seminar in San Jose this Thursday

It looks like there are still seats available for the PCT Seminar that will take place this Thursday in San Jose.  I say this because the registration web page is still accepting registrations.  I must assume that the program will soon be sold out, so people should register now.

This Seminar is being provided free of charge by the patent firm Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner P.A. with additional sponsorship by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

I will be the presenter for this Seminar.  I really enjoy presenting this subject matter and I think the Seminar will be a lot of fun.  I urge readers to register and attend.

The end of Accelerated Examination

The year 2006 was a remarkable year for the patent community in the United States.  Jon Dudas was the Director of the USPTO then, and in the USPTO’s annual report, he reported that the allowance rate had been successfully reduced to 54 percent.  In the annual report Director Dudas stated, as a matter of some pride, that “at 54 percent, the patent allowance rate was … the lowest on record.”

2006 was also the year in which Mr. Dudas launched the Accelerated Examination program for patent applicants. Now in 2017 it seems likely the AE program will be brought to a close.

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The money-saving strategy I described does not actually work

Readers of this blog will recall my article of a few days ago, describing what I suggested would be a strategy for saving a little money on PCT search fees.  I’m posting this note to draw your attention to a correction to that article which I posted today.  I offer my thanks to a nice person at WIPO who gently pointed out to me a couple of PCT rules which make clear that the strategy that I described a few days ago doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) work.

There’s still a bit of an opportunity to save money on PCT search fees, although not the opportunity that I described in that article of a few days ago.

In that article of a few days ago, I described that a filer might file a PCT application on February 28, 2017, while not paying the Search Fee.  I described that the filer might then on March 1, 2017 pay the Search Fee.  For a Search Fee the amount of which dropped on March 1, I figured this would be a chance to save some money.  Not so.  As I describe in the correction to the previous posting, the amount of Search Fee due is determined not by the date that the Search Fee is paid, but by the PCT filing date.

But for a filer that has the flexibility to file a PCT application on the filer’s choice of February 28, 2017 or March 1, 2017, the reduction in Search Fee could be taken advantage of simply by postponing the PCT filing until March 1.  (For example perhaps an identical priority document had been filed on or after March 1, 2016.)

A strategy (not!) for saving a little money on PCT search fees

Update:  A nice person at WIPO reminded me of PCT Rule 16.1(f) and PCT Rule 15.3.  These rules, taken together, provide that the search fee due is based upon the international filing date, not the date of payment of the search fee.  This means that what I wrote in the blog article of a few days ago isn’t right.

The Receiving Office, upon reviewing the fees paid and working out whether any addition fee is due, will (or at least should, according to the rules) check to see whether the fee actually paid ($1372, in my example) matches the fee that was due on filing day ($1536, in my example).  If the two fees don’t match, the Receiving Office would mail out a Form PCT/RO/102 indicating that the deficiency ($164, in my example) needs to be paid.

So the trick of filing on February 28, 2017, and paying the search fee on March 1, 2017, would not work.  My thanks to the nice person at WIPO who pointed this out to me.

PCT Rule 16.1(f) is interesting for a second reason.  It uses the delightful Latin expression mutatis mutandis.

Reasons to look forward

So often there is reason to be discouraged about this development somewhere in the world or that event in the US.  But today I was reminded that even with innumerable reasons to be discouraged, there are sometimes reasons to look forward.

Today an important argument took place before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.  The Court made this hearing accessible to everyone across the US to many places outside the US, via Youtube.  As you can see on the screen shot, some 136000 people were watching the Youtube stream.  (I understand that the Youtube stream was further propagated to some millions of additional listeners by various media.)

It gave me pause to realize that I was but one among millions of people listening to the lawyers for the two sides, and listening to the judges.  Each of us perhaps finding this point more persuasive, that point less persuasive.  Hearing a judge asking a question of one of the lawyers, maybe we asked ourselves how we would have answered the question.  Maybe we compared the answer that we would have given with the answer that the lawyer actually gave.  Each of us participating, in our own small way, in the making of history today.

Maybe one reader of this blog favored one side in this appeal, and maybe another reader of this blog favored another side.  I don’t mean for this blog to be a place for arguing the merits of the appeal itself; there are many forums better suited to hosting such issues.  My point is that we live in a country with institutions, including the courts, that have survived for over two hundred years.  What I urge in this blog is for us to consider that it strengthens those institutions that across the US, and indeed in many countries around the world, anyone who wished to listen in on this appellate argument was able to do so.

Retrofitting a boiler to spark ignition

before thermocouple burner
after spark burner

The problem was that the pilot light in my boiler kept blowing out.  This blog article describes how I managed to fix that problem.  Continue reading

Getting into the US examination queue from a PCT?

If you sometimes use the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and if you have not yet joined the PCT Listserv, please let this blog post remind you that you may wish to join that listserv.  As a member of that listserv, you can be surrounded by the brightest PCT practitioners all around the world.  Today in the PCT Listserv, alert member William Slate asked some very good questions, the answers to which remind us of Best Practices to be followed when pursuing entry into the US national phase from a PCT application.  Mr. Slate asks:

The short answer is that so far as positioning in the USPTO Examiner’s examination queue is concerned, a well executed national phase entry or a well executed bypass continuation will end up in the same place in the queue.  But as will be discussed, many US national phase entries are not “well executed”.

371 cases.  A 371 case drops into the Examiner’s examination queue based upon the date upon which the applicant perfected entry into the US national phase.  In the majority of cases this will be the “30-month date”, that is, the date that is 30 months after the priority date.

Of course quite often the queue position is the 30-month date because the filer hands in the papers for US national-phase entry on the last possible date.  (Which might be due to procrastination on the part of the practitioner or on the part of the client.)

But if you review a lot of 371 file wrappers, you will find that very often the practitioner “leaves money on the table” regarding the position that is obtained in the Examiner’s examination queue.  By this I mean that the requirements for perfection of US national-phase entry will have been satisfied chronologically prior to the 30-month date.  The practitioner filed a document requesting US national-phase entry, and paid the needed fees, and provided translations into English (if needed), and handed in all of these things prior to the 30-month date.  But then the practitioner failed to say the magic words.  The practitioner failed to make “an express request for early national-phase entry”.

Such a failure means that the application could have entered the Examiner’s examination queue on the day of the (not filed) express request.  Instead, the application sits on ice until the 30-month date, at which point for the first time it drops into the Examiner’s queue.

Such a failure “leaves money on the table” in at least two ways.  First, we all have this old-fashioned notion that the reason we exist as practitioners is to help a client get a patent.  And losing a few days (or a few weeks or months) in the examination queue means a probable delay in the eventual grant of a patent.

Second, the Patent Term Adjustment calculations, which are very complicated, sometimes count one of the time periods from the date upon which the application entered the Examiner’s queue.  So a failure to file an Express Request will sometimes lead to a loss of PTA that would otherwise have been granted.

The Filing Receipt in a 371 case will list a “filing or 371” date, and it is this date on the official Filing Receipt that will determine the place in the examination queue.

Bypass continuations.  In most patent offices around the world, there is only one path to patent protection from a PCT, namely entry into the national phase.  But alert listserv member William Slate correctly reminds us that in the US, there are two available paths for patent protection from a PCT.  One is the (very familiar) entry into the US national phase.  The other is the (not so often employed) “bypass continuation”.  There are many factors which might influence an applicant’s choice of one path or the other, factors the discussion of which can fill an entire hour of discussion during a PCT Seminar (see here and here and here) of a day or two’s duration.  But Mr. Slate draws our attention to one particular factor, namely where does the application fall in the Examiner’s examination queue, depending upon the practitioner’s choice of filing path?

We have already discussed where a US national phase (371) case falls in an Examiner’s queue.  The position in the queue is the 30-month date, unless the practitioner is savvy enough to file an Express Request (and to fulfill the other requirements such as fees and translations and the inventor’s oath or declaration).  But what about the bypass continuation?  What position does it earn in the Examiner’s queue?

The answer is, the position in the queue for a bypass continuation is the same as for an ordinary domestic US patent application that has no priority claim or domestic benefit claim.  The simple “filing date” as shown on the Filing Receipt will determine the position of the bypass continuation in the Examiner’s examination queue.

Which then brings us to Mr. Slate’s sub-questions.

Does the IFD make a difference depending on whether we pick 371 or bypass?  No, the IFD (international filing date) does not play any part in the position in the examination queue in the USPTO.  Not for a 371 case, not for a bypass case.

Does the choice of RO make a difference depending on whether we pick 371 or bypass?  No, nothing about this is tied in any way to the particular Receiving Office (“RO”) which the applicant selected.  Picking RO/US rather than some other RO does not lead to an earlier position in the examination queue.  Not for a 371 case, not for a bypass case.

Does it make a difference depending upon where the priority application was filed?  No, nothing about this is tied in any way to whether the priority application was filed in the USPTO or at some other patent office.  Arranging for the priority application to be a US provisional rather than a non-US patent application does not lead to an earlier place in the US examination queue.  Not for a 371 case, not for a bypass case.

The applicant that is concerned about how quickly an application will get examined, then, will not be particularly slanted toward one path or the other (371 or bypass).  But as mentioned above, there are many other factors (other than examination queue position) that might influence the savvy filer’s choice of one path or the other.  Go to a PCT Seminar  (see here and here and here) to hear about this for an hour or so.

Getting ahead in the queue?   The applicant that is concerned about how quickly an application will get examined may wish to pay close attention to other initiatives that can make a big difference.  In our office the initiative that we use most often is the Patent Prosecution Highway.  The PCT applicant can arrange to receive a favorable Written Opinion from the International Searching Authority.  Or failing that, the PCT applicant can file a Demand and winkle a favorable International Preliminary Report on Patentability (under Chapter II of the PCT) from the International Preliminary Examining Authority.  Either of these accomplishments permits the PCT applicant to move to the very front of the line for examination in the USPTO, using the PPH.

Another initiative which some applicants pursue is Track I.  There are many pros and cons as between Track I on the one hand and PPH on the other hand, which will be the subject of a later blog posting here.

To summarize, so far as positioning in the USPTO Examiner’s examination queue is concerned, a well executed national phase entry or a well executed bypass continuation will end up in the same place in the queue.

Again, hats off to alert listserv member William Slate for reminding us of these important Best Practice issues.