Restriction Requirement for Patents

Restriction Requirement

What Our Company Did

We are a start-up existing on a shoe string budget.

An inventor not associated with our company invented a product.  Because our company expected the product would improve our bottom line, we opted to take a license from the inventor to make and sell the product.

Apparently, to save legal fees, the inventor opted to represent himself before the USPTO. Unfortunately, about two years after filing the Patent Application, the inventor received a Restriction Requirement from the USPTO.

What do we do now?

What is a Restriction Requirement?

Title 35 United States Code 121 – Restriction Requirement

35 U.S.C. 121 reads:

“If two or more independent and distinct inventions are claimed in one application, the Director may require the application to be restricted to one of the inventions. If the other invention is made the subject of a divisional application which complies with the requirements of section 120 it shall be entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the original application. A patent issuing on an application with respect to which a requirement for restriction under this section has been made, or on an application filed as a result of such a requirement, shall not be used as a reference either in the Patent and Trademark Office or in the courts against a divisional application or against the original application or any patent issued on either of them, if the divisional application is filed before the issuance of the patent on the other application. The validity of a patent shall not be questioned for failure of the Director to require the application to be restricted to one invention.”

35 U.S.C. 121 prevents a tribunal from using the first Application and/or first Patent from which the second Application was divided from being used to reject the claims of the second Application and/or subsequent second Patent.

Restriction Requirement – How The Inventor Can Respond

In the Restriction Requirement, the Examiner will argue something like, “The species are independent or distinct because as disclosed the different species have mutually exclusive characteristics for each identified species.  In addition, these species are not obvious variants of each other based on the current record.”  Generally, the Examiner will suggest groupings of claims from which the Applicant can select a single group of claims for first examination.

An Applicant has an opportunity to argue against the Restriction Requirement by stating that the species are patentably indistinct.  However, this can be a risky strategy.  Such an admission can be used to reject the second species of claims as obvious in view of the first species of claims and other prior art.  In other words, the claims can be rejected as obvious pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 103.

The Better Strategy When Responding to a Restriction Requirement

When the Examiner argues for a Restriction Requirement, the Applicant can elect an invention for first prosecution.

In most instances, the better strategy for the Applicant is to elect one of the Examiner’s groupings claims for first prosecution. During prosecution, the scope of the claims can be expanded by amendment. Frequently, after the examination of the first grouping of claims, Applicant’s will file a Divisional Application including additional claims related to the invention.

Responding to a Restriction Requirement can be tricky. If you need assistance responding to a Restriction Requirement, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

Ask Us Anything… about Intellectual Property!

If you or your business are located in the greater Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Lexington, or Louisville standard metropolitan statistical areas and have a topic or question you would like Business Patent Law, PLLC to address in the blog, please send us an email.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.  If you need assistance, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Intent to Use Application – Multiclass

What is an Intent to Use Application?

When the goods or services are yet to be used in commerce, clients may opt to file Intent to Use Applications.  The Intent to Use Trademark/Service Mark Application establishes a “constructive” date of first use with the grant of the Registration. Having this date formally established and recorded can benefit the Applicant/Owner of the Mark in situations where there are conflicts between competing Applications for Registration.

Filing a Multi-International Class Intent to Use Application

There are forty-five (45) International Classifications of goods and services. The USPTO requires a filing fee for each International class in which the Applicant intends to use the goods or services. International Classes 1-34 apply to goods and International Classes 35-45 apply to services. Applicants can file a Trademark/Service Mark Application for the same – MARK – in one or more International Classes.

The Scenario: A Case Study

Our company filed a multiclass Application for our – MARK – in International Classes 1 (chemicals), 6 (pharmaceuticals), 10 (medical apparatus), 29 (staple foods) and 44 (medical services).

In due course, the Examiner issued a Notice of Allowance for International Classes 1 (chemicals), 6 (pharmaceuticals), 10 (medical apparatus), 29 (staple foods) and 44 (medical services).

Within six months after the Notice of Allowance, the Applicant must file a Statement of Use for the – MARK – for each International Class before the Registration for that International Class will be granted.

Past The Six-Month Deadline?

For an International Class, if the Applicant has not used the – MARK – in interstate/international commerce before the expiration of the sixth month period, the Applicant can file a Request for an Extension of Time in Which to File a Statement of Use. The Request for an Extension of Time in Which to File a Statement of Use grants the Applicant an additional six-month period to file a Statement of Use for an International Class.

How Many Extensions?

Under Title 15 of the United States Code, an Applicant may file a maximum of five Requests for an Extension of Time in Which to File a Statement of Use.  If a Statement of Use is not filed for an International Class within the maximum statutory time limit, the Application for Registration will go abandoned for that International Class and the Applicant must file a new Application for Registration of the – MARK –.

NOTE: Some International Classes of goods/services require government agency approval before those goods and services can be used in interstate/international commerce.

For the company’s – MARK –, we were able to establish interstate/international use:

  • For International Class 29 (staple foods), the company filed a Statement of Use during the first Request for an Extension of Time to file a Statement of Use and received a Registration.
  • For International Class 44 (medical services), the company filed a Statement of use during the second Request for an Extension of Time and received a Registration.
  • For International Class 1 (chemicals), the company filed a Statement of use during the third Request for an Extension of Time and received a Registration.
  • Due to lack of FDA approval, the company could not establish intrastate/international use of the – MARK – for International Classes 6 (pharmaceuticals) and 10 (medical apparatus) and the Application went abandoned for International Classes 6 and 10.

BPL’s Observations

Although a multiclass Application can be divided after filing, it is usually more cost-efficient for a company to file an Application for each International Class 1 (chemicals), 6 (pharmaceuticals), 10 (medical apparatus), 29 (staple foods) and 44 (medical services), i.e., file five Applications for Registration rather than a single multi-class Application.

The time of filing an Intent to Use Application is critical for most businesses.

Trademark/Service Mark situations can become complicated. If your company needs cost-efficient assistance with filing for Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact BPL.

If you or your business are located in the greater Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Lexington, or Louisville standard metropolitan statistical areas and have a topic or question you would like Business Patent Law, PLLC to address in the blog, please send us an email.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.  If you need assistance, we are here to assist you.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Patent Assignments

What are Patent Assignments?

What is a patent assignment? In general, a Patent Assignment transfers ownership of the entire patent right, title, and interest owned by one party to a second party.

Patent Assignments are a type of contract between the Assignor (current holder) of Patent rights and the Assignee (new owner) of Patent rights. Recording an executed Assignment in the Patent Offices gives notice of the change in the Patent owner.

Recording ownership of a Patent is similar to recording a deed for real property — like your house. The recording of the deed to your house gives notice of your current ownership and specifies the location of that home in the State. Recording a Patent Assignment gives notice of ownership and the location of your intangible Patent rights.

National and Regional Patent Offices

The European Patent Office is a regional Patent Office and the Japanese and United States Patent Offices are national Patent Offices.

Each national or regional jurisdiction has specific formats and rules associated with recording the ownership of Patent rights. European, Japanese, and United States Patent Offices have required wording and procedures for recording an Assignment in the European, Japanese, or United States Patent Office.

  • For an English language Assignment of Patent Rights, the Japanese Patent Office will accept a Japanese/English bilingual Assignment to record.
  • The European Patent Office will accept an English, French, or German language Assignment. After the European Patent is granted, assignments of the Validations of the European Patent are required in most member states’ Patent Offices where the current owner asserts the European Patent’s rights.
  • The USPTO accepts English language Assignments. (Non-English Assignments must be translated/transliterated into English.)

Patent Applications

Assignments of Patent Applications can also be recorded in Patent Offices. Each jurisdiction will have different rules for recording ownership of Patent Applications. In the United States, when the US Patent Application issues as a US Patent, the ownership of the Patent Application applies to the US Patent until the ownership is assigned to another person/entity.

35 United States Code (U.S.C) 261 Ownership; assignment, reads:

“Subject to the provisions of this title, patents shall have the attributes of personal property. The Patent and Trademark Office shall maintain a register of interests in patents and applications for patents and shall record any document related thereto upon request, and may require a fee therefor.

Applications for patent, patents, or any interest therein, shall be assignable in law by an instrument in writing. The applicant, patentee, or his assigns or legal representatives may in like manner grant and convey an exclusive right under his application for patent, or patents, to the whole or any specified part of the United States.

A certificate of acknowledgment under the hand and official seal of a person authorized to administer oaths within the United States, or, in a foreign country, of a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States or an officer authorized to administer oaths whose authority is proved by a certificate of a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States, or apostille of an official designated by a foreign country which, by treaty or convention, accords like effect to apostilles of designated officials in the United States, shall be prima facie evidence of the execution of an assignment, grant, or conveyance of a patent or application for patent.

An interest that constitutes an assignment, grant, or conveyance shall be void as against any subsequent purchaser or mortgagee for valuable consideration, without notice, unless it is recorded in the Patent and Trademark Office within three months from its date or prior to the date of such subsequent purchase or mortgage.”

For Assignments of US Patents and US Patent Applications – because of 35 U.S.C. (U.S.C) 261, Business Patent Law, PLLC advises its clients:

  • In the United States to execute Assignments of Patents or Patent Applications before a notary public.
  • In a jurisdiction other than the United States, to execute the Assignments before the appropriate apostille.

Assignments can become complicated. If your company needs assistance with its Patent Assignments, please contact BPL.

Are you or your business located in the greater Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Lexington, or Louisville areas? Do you have a topic or question you would like us to address in the blog? Please send us an email!

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.  If you need assistance, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

If you want to stay up-to-date with the news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Questions About Contracts

Contracts Can Seem Contradictory

It’s pretty easy to understand why contracts are often confusing. After all, contracts can include clauses that allow opposing sides to make contrary assertions about the meaning of one or more of the clauses in the contract.

When a contract comes under fire, and the amount in controversy increases, so do opposing counsels’ arguments about such things as the meanings of “a,” “the” and the placement of colons, commas, semicolons and other punctuation.

Politicians and lawmakers (most of whom are lawyers) have argued over the meaning of the word “is.” In a civil trial, both sides have plausible arguments, and the jury decides who is more believable.

With this real-world reality in mind, most companies strive to provide their sales force with the best “boiler plate” contracts. However, those can pose their own challenges.

Boiler Plate Contracts

Although, our company’s “Boiler Plate” contracts have served us well – we now have a new situation…

The New Situation

Our Company’s Region 1 representative executed a contract with a new Lexington, Kentucky company for 1 MM Gizmos. We ordered 1 MM Gizmos from our supplier F.O.B. origin. The new company is refusing to pay an upfront deposit as required by our “boiler plate” contract. In addition, this new company indicated it considered all “boiler plate” contracts “null and void.”

We have an agreement signed by the new company and our Region 1 representative. We gave the Region 1 representative the authority to execute the “boiler plate” contracts for our company. Our attorneys inform us the agreement is “solid.” Our Region 1 representative tells us that he and the other signatory were in the signatory’s office on the premises of the new customer when they both signed the contract.

Is the Contract Enforceable?

For there to be a valid contract, each signatory must have the authority to bind their respective companies to the agreement. Whether the agent of a company has the authority to bind the company is factually dependent.

Corporations

  • As a general rule, the President, CEO or COO has the designated explicit authority to bind the corporation to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was a President, CEO or COO, then the contract is likely valid.
  • Agents such as the CFO and Vice Presidents can be granted actual authority to bind the corporation to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was one of these agents, the contract is likely valid.
  • Agents such as the chief of marketing or chief of engineering may have either actual authority or implicit authority to bind the corporation to a contract. If the customer’s signatory did not have actual authority, but a pattern of behaviors can prove that the customer’s agent had a history of executing contracts for the customer, the contract would likely be held valid at trial.
  • A midlevel marking manager would not likely have explicit or implicit authority to bind the corporation to a contract and the contract with the customer would be invalid.

Limited Liability Companies, Professional Limited Liability Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships

  • As a general rule, the designated Manager or Managing Member has the explicit authority to bind the limited liability company to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was the Manager or Managing Member, then the contract is likely valid.
  • Agents can be granted actual authority to bind the limited liability company to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was one of these designated agents, the contract is likely valid.
  • It is possible to prove an agent’s implicit pattern of behaviors that the customer’s signatory had a history of executing contracts for the customer. With such proof, the contract would likely be held valid at trial.

General Partnerships

  • General partners are jointly and severally liable. Each general partner can bind the partnership to a contract.
  • Agents can be granted actual authority to bind the general partnership to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was one of these designated agents, the contract is likely valid.

Do you have questions about contracts? We can help. Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Design Patent Application Rejection: Now What?

Design Patent Applications have a single claim. Design Patents are for ornamentation. Utility Patent Applications generally have more than a single claim that concern the invention’s structure, function or both.

The Situation

Our company received an Office Action for our Lexington branch’s Design Patent Application A from the USPTO. The Examiner argued that the claim of our Lexington Design Patent Application was obvious in view of a Louisville competitor’s Design Patent B. The Examiner rejected our claim.

We think the Examiner is in error. How can we argue against the Examiner’s rejection of our claim?

The Statutory Law

35 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 103 reads:

A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained, notwithstanding that the claimed invention is not identically disclosed as set forth in section 102, if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains. Patentability shall not be negated by the manner in which the invention was made.

Challenging Design Patent Rejections

Possible avenues of argument to rebut a rejection for a Design Patent Application include:

1.) Design Patent B is not analogous art

With respect to non-analogous art, In re Glavas, 230 F.2d 447, 450 109 USPQ 50, 52 (CCPA 1956) provides guidance.  The Glavas court indicated:

The question in design cases is not whether the references sought to be combined are in analogous arts in the mechanical sense, but whether they are so related that the appearance of certain ornamental features in one would suggest the application of those features to the other.

Thus, if the problem is merely one of giving an attractive appearance to a surface, it is immaterial whether the surface in question is that of wall paper, an oven door, or a piece of crockery. . . .

On the other hand, when the proposed combination of references involves material modifications of the basic form of one article in view of another, the nature of the article involved is a definite factor in determining whether the proposed change involves [patentable] invention.

Therefore, where the differences between the claimed design and the prior art are limited to the application of ornamentation to the surface of an article, any prior art reference which discloses substantially the same surface ornamentation would be considered analogous art. Where the differences are in the shape or form of the article, the nature of the articles involved must also be considered.

2.) The Examiner failed to consider the design as a whole

Among other things, the USPTO Manual of Patent of Examining Procedure indicates that before Design Patent A can be obvious, it must be compared with something in existence. Thus it can be argued that the Examiner failed to make a prima facie case of obviousness if he/she failed to consider the design as a whole.

As a whole, a design must be compared with something in existence, and not something brought into existence by selecting and combining features from prior art references. See In re Jennings, 182 F.2d 207, 86 USPQ 68 (CCPA 1950). The “something in existence” referred to in Jennings has been defined as “…a reference… the design characteristics of which are basically the same as the claimed design….” See In re Rosen, 673 F.2d 388, 391, 213 USPQ 347, 350 (CCPA 1982) (the primary reference did “…not give the same visual impression…” as the design claimed but had a “…different overall appearance and aesthetic appeal…”.) Hence, it is clear that “design characteristics” means overall visual appearance. This definition of “design characteristics” is reinforced in the decision of In re Harvey, 12 F.3d 1061, 1063, 29 USPQ2d 1206, 1208 (Fed. Cir. 1993), and is supported by the earlier decisions of In re Yardley, 493 F.2d 1389, 181 USPQ 331, 334 (CCPA 1974) and In re Leslie, 547 F.2d 116, 192 USPQ 427, 431 (CCPA 1977). Specifically, in the Yardley decision, it was stated that “[t]he basic consideration in determining the patentability of designs over prior art is similarity of appearance.” 493 F.2d at 1392-93, 181 USPQ at 334. Therefore, in order to support a holding of obviousness, a primary reference must be more than a design concept; it must have an appearance substantially the same as the claimed design. See In re Harvey, 12 F.3d 1061, 29 USPQ2d 1206 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Absent such a reference, no holding of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103 can be made, whether based on a single reference alone or in view of modifications suggested by secondary prior art.

When a claim is rejected under 35 U.S.C. 103 as being unpatentable over prior art, features of the design which are functional and/or hidden during end use may not be relied upon to support patentability. “[A] design claim to be patentable must also be ornamental; and functional features or forms cannot be relied upon to support its patentability.”

3.) Design Patent B taught in a divergent direction from Design Patent Application A

What does it mean to be “taught away” or “taught in a divergent direction” in relation to a patent application?

A prima facie case of obviousness can be rebutted if the applicant…can show that the art in any material respect ‘taught away’ from the claimed invention…A reference may be said to teach away when a person of ordinary skill, upon reading the reference…would be led in a direction divergent from the path that was taken by the applicant.

— In re Haruna, 249 F.3d 1327, 58USPQ2d 1517 (Fed. Cir. 2001)

As you can see, patent law can be confusing. If you need help to secure yours, call us. Business Patent Law, PLLC assists companies and individuals with the procurement and management of their Intellectual Property portfolios.

If you or your enterprise need legal assistance procuring/managing/enforcing your Patent Applications, Patents, Copyrights or Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC. We provide intellectual property and business counsel for individuals and businesses.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Lexington Trademarks/Service Marks

Will the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grant a federal Trademark/Service Mark Registration for the term “Lexington?” It depends on the goods or services with which the Trademark or Service Mark are associated.

The Statutory Law

15 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1052, in part, reads:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it—

(e) Consists of a mark which, (1) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them, (2) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically descriptive of them, except as indications of regional origin may be registrable under section 1054 of this title, (3) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of them, (4) is primarily merely a surname, or (5) comprises any matter that, as a whole, is functional.

When certain facts are in evidence, under 15 U.S.C. Section 1052(e), the Trademark Examiner can reject the Applicant’s Application as “primarily geographically descriptive.”

The USPTO Examiner’s Geographically Descriptive Marks – Test

The Examiner is to consider:

  • (1) the primary significance of the mark is a generally known geographic location
  • (2) the goods or services originate in the place identified in the mark; and
  • (3) purchasers would be likely to believe that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified in the mark. Note: If the mark is remote or obscure, the public is unlikely to make a goods/place or services/place association.

Illustration 1 – Refusal

The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky restaurant filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “The Lexington” for restaurant services

Pursuant to the USPTO test, the Examiner would argue that “The Lexington” for restaurant services is “primarily geographically descriptive” and refuse registration of the Service Mark.

Illustration 2 – Approval

The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky banana store filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “Lexington” for bananas

Pursuant to the USPTO test and the case law, the name of a geographic location that has no significant relation to commercial activities or the production of the relevant goods or services, such as Lexington for bananas, is treated as an arbitrary mark because it is unlikely that consumers would believe that the mark identifies the place from which the goods originate.  The Examiner would likely conclude that the Trademark “Lexington” for bananas sold by the Lexington banana store should be granted.

Illustration 3 – Refusal

The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky saddlery shop filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “Lexington” for saddles, bridles, and other equipment for horses

Pursuant to the USPTO test, the Examiner would argue that “Lexington” for saddles, bridles, and other equipment for horses is “primarily geographically descriptive” and refuse registration of the Trademark because Lexington, Kentucky is world renown for thoroughbred horses.

Conclusion

For Applicants, the federal registration process can be somewhat confusing.  By way of illustration, when a potentially “geographically descriptive” mark overcomes the 15 U.S.C. Section 1052(e) bar to registration, the applicant must still overcome the 15 U.S.C. § 1052 Sec. 2 (d) “likelihood of confusion” bar and other 15 U.S.C. § 1052 bars to registration.

Business Patent Law, PLLC assists companies and individuals with the procurement and management of their Intellectual Property portfolios.

If your enterprise needs legal assistance procuring/managing/enforcing your Patent Applications, Patents, Copyrights or Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Exit mobile version