Claim terms in Patent documents

Patent Application Words Meaning

The Broadest Reasonable Interpretation

The words (or terms) used to outline and describe the claims of your patent application may be interpreted differently by different people. How is this resolved by the USPTO?

During USPTO examination, the Patent Application words (meaning of the claims term) must be “given their broadest reasonable interpretation consistent with the specification,” as per Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1316, 75 USPQ2d 1321, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

The broadest reasonable construction of the claims is determined “in light of the specification as it would be interpreted by one of ordinary skill in the art.” In re Am. Acad. of Sci. Tech. Ctr., 367 F.3d 1359, 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2004).

According to the USPTO Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, “The broadest reasonable interpretation does not mean the broadest possible interpretation. Rather, the meaning given to a claim term must be consistent with the ordinary and customary meaning of the term (unless the term has been given a special definition in the specification), and must be consistent with the use of the claim term in the specification and drawings. Further, the broadest reasonable interpretation of the claims must be consistent with the interpretation that those skilled in the art would reach.”

The Patent Application in Plain Words

Under a broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI), words of the claim must be given their plain meaning, unless such meaning is inconsistent with the specification. The plain meaning of a term means the ordinary and customary meaning given to the term by those of ordinary skill in the art at the relevant time.

“The Greatest clarity is obtained when the specification serves as a glossary for the claim terms”

The ordinary and customary meaning of a term may be evidenced by a variety of sources, including the words of the claims themselves, the specification, drawings, and prior art. However, the best source for determining the meaning of a claim term is the specification – the greatest clarity is obtained when the specification serves as a glossary for the claim terms. The words of the claim must be given their plain meaning unless the plain meaning is inconsistent with the specification. In re Zletz, 893 F.2d 319, 321, 13 USPQ2d 1320, 1322 (Fed. Cir. 1989).

“[T]he ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term is the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application.” Phillips v. AWH Corp.

The USPTO Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, in part, reads, “The ordinary and customary meaning of a term may be evidenced by a variety of sources, including the words of the claims themselves, the specification, drawings, and prior art. However, the best source for determining the meaning of a claim term is the specification – the greatest clarity is obtained when the specification serves as a glossary for the claim terms.”

Patent Application Words Meaning – Explicit Definition

Where an explicit definition is provided by the applicant for a term, that definition will control interpretation of the term as it is used in the claim, as per Toro Co. v. White Consolidated Industries Inc., 199 F.3d 1295, 1301, 53 USPQ2d 1065, 1069 (Fed. Cir. 1999)

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Trademark Examiner's Amendment

Should You Accept a Trademark Examiner’s Amendment?

Trademark Examiner’s Amendment of Application

A Trademark Examiner’s amendment is sometimes suggested and/or required during examination a US Trademark Application*.

Some Examiner’s amendments will alter the scope of rights associated with a future Trademark Registration. Other Trademark Examiner’s amendments will not modify the scope of rights associated with a future Trademark Registration.

Whether or not to accept the Trademark Examiner’s amendment is a business decision.

Potential Consequences of an Amendment

Applicant’s acceptance of the Trademark Examiner’s amendment generally results in Trademark Registration for the Applicant.

Failure to agree to the Examiner’s amendment can result in:

  • Legal arguments that the Examiner’s suggested amendment is inappropriate
  • A refusal to register the Trademark and the loss of long-term federal rights associated with a US Registration
  • An appeal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board where the Applicant can lose the appeal
  • Filing a new Application to register the Trademark, where the new Application is modified from the previously filed Trademark Application

About Section 707 – TMEP – Examiner’s Amendment*

Examples of Section 707 relevant procedures for Trademark Examiners include:

  • An Examiner’s amendment should be used whenever appropriate to expedite prosecution of an Application
  • An Examiner’s amendment is a communication to the Applicant in which the examining attorney states that the Application has been amended in a specified way
  • Except in the situations listed in TMEP §707.02, the amendment must be specifically authorized by the individual Applicant, someone with legal authority to bind a juristic Applicant 700-20 October 2010 (e.g., an officer of a corporation or general partner of a partnership), or the applicant’s qualified practitioner
  • Except in the situations set forth in TMEP §707.02 in which an examiner’s amendment is permitted without prior authorization by the Applicant, an examining attorney may amend an application by examiner’s amendment only after securing approval of the amendment from the individual Applicant, someone with legal authority to bind a juristic Applicant, or the Applicant’s qualified practitioner by telephone, e-mail, or in person during an interview. Cf. 37 C.F.R. §§2.62(b) and 2.74(b)
  • If the Applicant has a qualified practitioner, the examining attorney must speak directly with the practitioner
  • If the Applicant is pro se, the examining attorney must speak directly with the individual Applicant or with someone with legal authority to bind a juristic Applicant (e.g., a corporate officer or general partner of a partnership)
  • For joint Applicants who are not represented by a qualified practitioner, each joint Applicant must authorize the examiner’s amendment

*Along with Trademarks, the USPTO Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TME) also applies to Service Mark Applications.

If your company needs assistance with its Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law.

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Christmas Patent Products

Patents for Christmas Inventions

Do Investors Get Patents for Christmas Inventions?

Yes, many inventors receive patents for Christmas inventions!

In 2023, US Christmas sales are anticipated to exceed 950 billion dollars. Christmas inventions are a portion of this market. Some inventors hope to seize a portion of those sales.

Examples of Christmas Themed Inventions

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Deadlines and timing of trademarks and service marks

Duration of a US Trademark Registration

The duration of a US Trademark or Service Mark is perpetual; provided the following conditions are met:

  • The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted a federal Registration of the Trademark or Service Mark
  • After registration, the Trademark/Service Mark is not canceled by the USPTO or court order
  • The required government fees are paid in timely manner
  • The required declarations of use are timely filed in USPTO
  • The required evidence of use in commerce regulated by Congress is timely filed in the USPTO

Timing Required to Maintain a Trademark

There is a specific timing of Required Fees, Declarations and Evidence needed to Maintain a US Trademark/Service Mark Registration in full force and effect:

15 U.S.C. §1058. Duration, affidavits and fees

(a) Time periods for required affidavits

Each registration shall remain in force for 10 years, except that the registration of any mark shall be canceled by the Director unless the owner of the registration files in the United States Patent and Trademark Office affidavits that meet the requirements of subsection (b), within the following time periods:

(1) Within the 1-year period immediately preceding the expiration of 6 years following the date of registration under this chapter or the date of the publication under section 1062(c) of this title.

(2) Within the 1-year period immediately preceding the expiration of 10 years following the date of registration, and each successive 10-year period following the date of registration.

(3) The owner may file the affidavit required under this section within the 6-month grace period immediately following the expiration of the periods established in paragraphs (1) and (2), together with the fee described in subsection (b) and the additional grace period surcharge prescribed by the Director.

Illustrations of Timely Filings

To preserve the duration of a US Trademark Registration you must do the following:

  • Between fifth and sixth year subsequent to registration, file required fees, declarations and evidence of use in USPTO
  • Between ninth and tenth year subsequent to registration, file required fees, declarations and evidence of use in USPTO
  • Between nineteenth and twentieth year subsequent to registration, file required fees, declarations and evidence of use in USPTO
  • ***Subsequent to the ninth year USPTO filings, every tenth year interval, i.e, 19, 29th, 39th, etc. from the registration date

If your company needs assistance with its Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

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Patent drawings for patent application and replacement drawings after notice of allowance

Replacement Drawings After a Notice of Allowance?

Can the USPTO Require Replacement Drawings?

YES.

Some Applicants for US Patents represent themselves and, on occasion, the pro se Applicant successfully argues to the Examiner that the Application’s claims are patentable.

Other Applicants are represented by patent professionals and (due to various national and international deadlines) a complete but not pristine Patent Application that obtains a filing date is filed in the USPTO.

For some Patent Applications, Examiners issue a Notice of Allowance where the Issue Fee must be paid by a specified date. After the Examiner’s issues the Notice of Allowance, the Application is transferred to the Publications Branch of the USPTO. It is here that a replacement drawing may be required.

Code of Federal Regulations for Utility Patent Application Drawings

37 Code Federal Regulations 1.84 (a) (1), in part, reads, “37 C.F.R. 1.84 Standards for drawings.  (1) Black ink.  Black and white drawings are normally required. India ink, or its equivalent that secures solid black lines, must be used for drawings”.

After receiving the allowed Patent Application from the Examiner, the Publications Branch can require correction of a part of the Application, such as the Drawings. For instance, when Applicants have not filed the required black and white line drawings in the as-filed Application, but rather used photographs or non-line computer generated images to obtain a filing date.

Most of the time, the drawings are replaced before the Notice of Allowance is granted. However, occasionally, the black and white line drawings are required after the Notice of Allowance and before the grant of the Patent.

Patent drawings for replacement drawings after notice of allowance

Replacement Drawings for Utility Patent Applications

A part of the Notice for Corrected Application Papers looks something like the example below.

Notice to File Corrected Application Papers for Patent

In the Notice to File Correction Application Papers, the Publication Branch of the USPTO requires replacement black and white line drawings before the Patent Application will be granted. One or more as-filed figures need to be replaced by black and white line drawings.

To properly respond to the Notice to File Correction Application Papers – Drawings, the Applicant must file the required black and white line drawings within the allotted time identified on the Notice to File Correction Application Papers.

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Abandoned Patent Application

Is An Abandoned Patent Application Public?

How Does a Patent Application Become Abandoned?

An abandoned Patent Application occurs when the Applicant does not meet United States Patent Office’s (USPTO) requirements in responding to the USPTO.

Are They Public Record?

Does an abandoned US Patent become public record when it is abandoned?  It depends!  For national security reasons, some Patents are kept top secret.

With the exception of top secret Patents, when a US Patent is granted the contents of the granted Patent’s USPTO file wrapper become public record.

As a general rule:

  1. When a US Patent Application is abandoned, the USPTO file wrapper for the US Patent Application does not become public record.
  2. A US Provisional Patent Application does not become public record.

Existing Patent Applications Available to the Public Include:

  • Published Patent Applications
  • Reissue Patent Applications
  • Documents that were sealed as a condition of filing the Patent Application
  • Arbitration records associated with a Patent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board proceeding
  • All documents and evidence entered in a US Patent’s Reexamination Proceedings’ records

Abandoned Patent Applications Available to the Public

  • Unpublished abandoned applications (including provisional applications) that are identified or relied upon
  • Unpublished pending applications (including provisional applications) whose benefit is claimed
  • Unpublished pending applications (including provisional applications) that are incorporated by reference or otherwise identified

USPTO Legal Authority Regarding Public Records of Patent Applications

37 Code of Federal Regulations Section 1.11

37 Code of Federal Regulations Section 1.14

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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.

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Patent Offices are Different

Not All Patent Offices are the Same

Patent Offices around the world will likely have different rules of practice.  In other words, how you obtain your Patent can require different legal procedures and strategies.

Patent Office Characteristics

  • The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) allows an Applicant to file an Original Patent Application, a Continuation Application, a Continuation-in-Part Application and/or a Divisional Application.
  • The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) allows an Applicant to file an Original Patent Application or Divisional Application.
  • The European Patent Office (EPO) allows an Applicant to file an Original Patent Application or Divisional Application.

Types of Patent Applications

  • A Divisional Application is a Patent Application that is “divided out” from an Original Patent Application.
  • A Continuation Application is a Patent Application that claims priority to a prior pending Patent Application where the new Continuation Application is filed before the prior Pending Patent Application is patented. A Continuation Application is supported by the Specification and Drawings of the prior pending Patent Application.
  • A Continuation-in-Part Application is a Patent Application that claims priority to a prior pending Patent Application where the new Continuation-in-Part Patent Application is filed before the prior Pending Patent Application is patented. A Continuation-in-Part Application includes “new matter” that was in included with the Specification and/or Drawings of the prior pending Patent Application.
  • Divisional Patent Applications, Continuation Patent Application and Continuation-in-Part Patent Applications can be utilized by the owner to extend the scope of the Patent’s limited monopoly.

The Scenario

Our Louisville company filed original Patent Applications for the “gadget” in the USPTO, the CIPO, the EPO and other Patent Offices around the globe. After filing the Patent Applications, our engineering department invented our new and improved “gadget” that was similar to but slightly different than the original “gadget.”  Management decided to file additional Patent Applications claiming the improved “gadget.”

Potential Patent Offices’ Strategies

United States – USPTO

In the United States, your company could file any of the above Patent Applications for the improved “gadget.”

According to 37 C.F.R. 1.53, “a continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part application, may be filed under the conditions specified in 35 U.S.C. 120, 121, 365(c) or 386(c).”

European Union – EPO

The only potential option in the EPO is to file a Divisional Patent Application.  However, your improved “gadget” claims would only be allowed by the EPO if you can meet the conditions of EPO Rule 3.1.

EPO Rule 3.1 – Replacement or Removal of Features from a Claim 

“The requirements of Art. 123(2) are only met if the replacement or removal of a feature lies within the limits of what a skilled person would derive directly and unambiguously, using common general knowledge and seen objectively and relative to the date of filing (or the date of priority according to Art. 89, from the whole of the application documents G 3/89, G 11/91 and G 2/10).

Art. 123(2)

If the amendment by replacing or removing a feature from a claim fails to pass the following test by at least one criterion, it necessarily contravenes the requirements of Art. 123(2):

(i)      the replaced or removed feature was not explained as essential in the originally filed disclosure;

(ii)     the skilled person would directly and unambiguously recognize that the feature is not, as such, indispensable for the function of the invention in the light of the technical problem the invention serves to solve (in this context special care needs to be taken in cases where the technical problem is reformulated during the proceedings, see H-V, 2.4 and G-VII, 11); and

(iii)    the skilled person would recognize that the replacement or removal requires no modification of one or more features to compensate for the change (it does not in itself alter the invention).”

Thus, in the EPO, it is unlikely than an Applicant can meet the strict conditions of Art. 123(2) for an allowable amendment to the claims of a European Divisional Patent Application.

Need Help With Your Patent Application?

If your company needs assistance with filing Patent Applications in United States and foreign jurisdictions, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

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

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Patent rights transfer around the world - Patent Rights

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.

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Post Trademark Registration Junk Mail

Post Trademark Registration: Beware Fraud, Scam & Junk Mail

What is a Post-Trademark Registration Junk Mail Barrage?

In part, the post-Trademark Registration junk mail barrage is a type of direct mail marketing. (In the US, the estimated response rate for direct mail campaigns is 3.5% to 4.24%. Thus, direct mail can be an inexpensive way to obtain a customer and/or make a sale.) Direct mail campaigns continue to creep into postal boxes, some of which are honest and aboveboard and others that are not.

Following your Trademark Registration, your company may receive legitimate-looking “bills” or “invoices” by mail that appear to be related to your trademark registration. Those may be a scam. Here’s what you need to know:

A Trademark Registration Scenario 

Trademark Registrations are part of the Public Record.

Our marketing department initially filed three US Trademark Applications. About a year after filing the US Trademark Applications for the “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe” Marks, our Louisville Company received three Trademark Registrations from the United States Trademark Office. Marketing and sales quickly added the ® to our labels and continued marketing and selling our products.

Our company’s protocol has been that the mailroom sorts the incoming mail and sends anything appearing to be an invoice to accounting for payment. Accounting was trained to look for suspicious invoices.

Within weeks of receiving our US Trademark Applications, unbeknownst to management, accounting paid several invoices that appeared to be related to United States Trademark Office business.

Those invoices appeared to be associated the US Trademark Office, but were not.

Types of Post Trademark Registration Solicitations

As a general rule, the US Trademark Office will not utilize the postal service to solicit payments from the Trademark Owner.

Under Title 15 of the United States Code, USPTO post Registration fees become due at five years, nine years, nineteen years, twenty nine years, etc. Any USPTO fee requested by a third party not associated with these dates is suspicious.

Solicitations attempting to induce the Trademark owner to pay fees may come in many ways. (Some third parties solicit the transfer of funds outside the United States, others solicit funds to roaming US postal box locations and some have apparent legitimate street addresses.)

  • Some solicitations are for actual services, albeit not those likely needed by the Trademark owner. (These are like the old yellow page ads for a regional rather than a local telephone book.)
  • Other direct mail campaigns induce the Trademark owner to actually pay for something in a country outside the United States while making the payment appear to be for something in the United States.
  • Still others encourage payment for some service in the United States, where the service is not actually needed to maintain the Trademark Registration in full force and effect.

If you have a question about the post-Trademark Registration barrage of mailed materials and junk mail, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC., for guidance.

If you 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.

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