The USPTO clarified its position concerning the treatment of petitions to withdraw a holding of abandonment that are not timely filed because the applicant failed to exercise reasonable diligence in monitoring the status of the application. The USPTO receives petitions under 37 CFR 1.181(a) to withdraw holdings of abandonment (based on non-receipt of an Office action, or upon non-receipt or loss of a reply by the applicant). Some of these petitions are filed years after the application is held abandoned, causing extensive prosecution delays. To prevent these delays from inappropriately extending the term of any patent issued from the application, the USPTO is clarifying its position concerning the treatment of petitions to withdraw holdings of abandonment that are not timely filed because the applicant failed to exercise reasonable diligence in monitoring the status of the application.

Utility and Plant Applications Filed on or after May 29, 2000.

The term of a patent issuing from a utility or plant application filed on or after June 8, 1995, ends on the date that is twenty years from the filing date of the application, or the earliest filing date for which a benefit is claimed under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c). Utility and plant applications filed on or after May 29, 2000, however, are eligible for patent term adjustment under the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 (AIPA). Therefore, if a petition to withdraw a holding of abandonment is not filed within two months from the mailing date of the notice of abandonment, any patent term adjustment will be reduced under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.704(c)(4).

If applicant does not receive the notice of abandonment, any patent term adjustment may be reduced under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.704(a) by a period equal to the period of time during which the applicant "failed to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution" (processing or examination) of the application, in which case any period of adjustment shall be reduced by the number of days, if any, beginning on the day after the date that is twelve months from the date of applicant’s filing or submission of correspondence with the USPTO for which further action by the USPTO can reasonably be expected and ending on the filing date of a grantable petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment.

Utility and plant applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, but before May 29, 2000

Utility and plant applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, but before May 29, 2000, are eligible for patent term extension under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). The URAA provides for patent term extension only if issuance of the patent was delayed due to: (1) an interference proceeding; (2) imposition of a secrecy order; or (3) successful appellate review. See 35 U.S.C. 154(b) (1994). Unless an application is held abandoned during one of these three periods, the untimely filing of a petition to withdraw a holding of abandonment will not operate to extend the term of the patent because the USPTO has no authority to grant patent term extension under the URAA for other administrative delays. If a petition to withdraw a holding of abandonment is not filed within two months from the mailing date of the notice of abandonment during a period of appellate review, any patent term extension accrued under 37 CFR 1.701(a)(3) (extension due to successful appellate review) may be reduced under the "due diligence" provisions of 37 CFR 1.701(d)(2).

Design Applications, Utility Applications Filed Before June 8, 1995, and Plant Applications Filed Before June 8, 1995

(A) Applicant Receives Notice of Abandonment. In any utility or plant application filed before June 8, 1995, and in any design application, if applicant receives a notice of abandonment, any petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment that is not filed within two months of the mail date of the notice of abandonment will not (absent extraordinary circumstances) be treated on its merits unless accompanied by a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321(a), and the required fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.20(d). The period to be disclaimed is the terminal part of the term of any patent granted on the application, or of any patent granted on any utility or plant application that claims the benefit of the filing date of the application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c), equivalent to the period between:

  1. the date that is two months after the mail date of the notice of abandonment; and
  2. the filing date of a grantable petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment.

(B) Applicant Does Not Receive Notice of Abandonment. In any utility or plant application filed before June 8, 1995, and in any design application, if applicant never receives the notice of abandonment, any petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment that is not filed within twelve months from the date of applicant’s filing (or date of submission, if the correspondence was never received by the USPTO) of correspondence with the USPTO for which further action by the USPTO can reasonably be expected, will not (absent extraordinary circumstances) be treated on its merits unless accompanied by a terminal disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.321(a), and the required fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.20(d). The period to be disclaimed is the terminal part of the term of any patent granted thereon, or of any patent granted on any utility or plant application that claims the benefit of the filing date of the application under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, or 365(c), equivalent to the period between:

  1. the date that is twelve months from the date of applicant’s filing or submission of correspondence with the USPTO, for which further action by the USPTO can reasonably be expected; and
  2. the filing date of a grantable petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment.

Petitions to revive an abandoned application for unavoidable or unintentional delay under 37 CFR 1.137(a) or (b) are also subject to a terminal disclaimer requirement of 37 CFR 1.137(d). According to the USPTO, "Since practitioners and pro se applicants can monitor the status of their applications using the USPTO?s PAIR and IFW systems, the failure to receive a notice of abandonment (or any other USPTO notification) will not excuse an unreasonable delay in filing a petition to withdraw the holding of abandonment. A status inquiry is in order once six months have elapsed with no response from the USPTO."

Read the full document here.

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