Listings of claims are required in most, but not all responses to Office actions. This post discusses when they are required and why it may be prudent to include them even when they are not.
The manner of making amendments in a patent application is governed by 37 CFR. 1.121 entitled “Manner of Making Amendments in Applications”. Sections (C) and (C) (1) of that rule addresses claim listings, and state:
- (c) Claims. … Each amendment document that includes a change to an existing claim, cancellation of an existing claim or addition of a new claim, must include a complete listing of all claims ever presented, including the text of all pending and withdrawn claims, in the application.
- (1) Claim listing. All of the claims presented in a claim listing shall be presented in ascending numerical order. Consecutive claims having the same status of “canceled” or “not entered” may be aggregated into one statement (e.g., Claims 1-5 (canceled)). The claim listing shall commence on a separate sheet of the amendment document and the sheet(s) that contain the text of any part of the claims shall not contain any other part of the amendment.
Thus, every filing that includes a change to a claim, a cancellation of an existing claim, or an addition of a new claim, must include a complete listing of all claims ever presented in that application.
A failure to include a listing of the claims when required renders a filing non-compliant.
What about filings in response to an Office action in which no claim changes are made and a listing of the claims is not required (e.g., a Response to a Restriction Requirement of a Request for Reconsideration)? I have seen such filings prepared both ways; with and without a listing of the claims and I suppose that a case could be made for either approach. I suggest, however, that it may be a better practice to include a listing of the claims in every response, regardless of whether or not it is required. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Including a Listing of Claims Makes Examination Easier. When a response does not include a listing of the claims, anyone reviewing the arguments presented will have to refer to at least one other document (e.g., a previous amendment or the original application) to find a listing of the claims. In other words, omitting a listing requires the reader to sift through the file wrapper to find a listing of the claims. At a minimum, this is inefficient and inconvenient. I prefer not putting an Examiner through this trouble. The Office’s current production quotas are difficult enough for an Examiner to meet.
The bottom line: making the Examiner’s job easier is in everyone’s best interests and can only help improve the quality of examination. Besides, every Applicant can benefit from some Examiner goodwill.
2. The USPTO Encourages Inclusion of a Claim Listing In Every Response.
The following is from a frequently asked questions page on the USPTO Website about current amendment practice:
- (A10)Q: May I submit a complete claim listing in a reply when I am not making any changes to the claims, such as responding to a restriction requirement or merely arguing a rejection?A: Yes. Although a complete claim listing is only required whenever changes are made to any claims, one may be submitted in a reply to an Office action where no changes are being made. It is beneficial to the examiner (and all viewers of the electronic file) to have the most up-to-date set of claims in the most recent paper submitted by the applicant. Note that the claim listing in this situation would not include any claims with markings or any claims with the status identifiers of (new) or (currently amended).
3. Including a Listing of Claims Promotes Accuracy.
The inclusion of a listing of the claims in every filing makes identifying the most current version of the claims easier for everyone who may pick up the file. This, in turn, tends to reduce: errors in drafts prepared by support staff; the time needed to review such drafts; and non-compliant amendments.
4. Including a Listing of Claims Promotes Faster (and Smoother) Review of Work Product.
Including a listing of the claims in every response makes review easier. And, an easier review tends to be a shorter review. Shortening the time required for review lessens the overall expense for preparing a filing, especially when the reviewer has a higher billing rate than the practitioner who prepared the filing. Besides, making review easier on the reviewer seems to make that review go a little smoother for the practitioner.
© 2008, Michael E. Kondoudis
The Law Office of Michael E. Kondoudis
DC Patent Attorney