Friday, March 23, 2007

2006 Proposed Changes To Information Disclosure Statement Requirements and Other Related Matters

In the July 10, 2006 Federal Register, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published proposed changes to information disclosure statement (IDS) requirements and other related matters.

The proposed changes can be found here:
Luckily, these rule changes have not been adopted. However, forms on the USPTO web site have been formatted assuming that these rule changes will be implemented.

The stated purpose of the proposed changes was to improve the quality and efficiency of the examination process. The notice indicated that although Rule 1.56 clearly imposes a duty to disclose material information, the rule neither authorizes nor requires anyone to file unreviewed or irrelevant documents with the Office. Such documents more likely, negatively impact the quality of resulting Office determinations, according to the USPTO.

The Office proposed that before a first Office Action on the merits, additional disclosure would be required for English language documents over twenty-five pages. Additional disclosure would also be required for any foreign language documents, and would be required if more than twenty documents are submitted. The required explanation must identify information in each document that is relevant to the claimed invention. Examples of the additional disclosure included an identification of a portion of a document that caused it to be cited, and an explanation of how the specific feature of the document correlates with language in one or more claims. However, documents submitted to the Office in reply to a requirement for information or resulting from a foreign search or foreign examination report would not count towards the twenty document limit. The rule changes would also permit the filing of an IDS after a first Office Action on the merits only if additional disclosure requirements were met. After a first Office Action, an applicant would be required to provide a non-cumulative description as well as an explanation for each document (or a copy of a foreign search or examination report).

Patent practitioners were opposed to this change because of the risk of being accused of inequitable conduct by the courts if not all potentially relevant information is disclosed, and resulting patent invalidity. Unsympathetic court decisions have led practitioners to be ultra-cautious. Correlating a reference to a claim could result in damaging file wrapper estoppel.

Comments by the public on these proposed rule changes can be found here:

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