Requesting Withdrawal Of The Finality Of An Office Action

January 25, 2009

in After Final Practice,Examples of Responses,Practice Suggestions,Prosecution Strategy,The MPEP,Useful Information

This post discusses requests to withdraw finality.  Under the USPTO’s policy of compact prosecution discussed here, a second office action may properly be made final under most circumstances.  The circumstances are set forth in §706.07(a) of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), entitled Final Rejection, When Proper on Second Action, which states:

Under present practice, second or any subsequent actions on the merits shall be final, except where the examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is neither necessitated by applicant’s amendment of the claims, nor based on information submitted in an information disclosure statement filed during the period set forth in 37 CFR 1.97(c) with the fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(p).

The MPEP, in §706.07(d), also provides a remedy when a final Office Action is issued and the conditions of §706.07(a) have not been satisfied.  That section, entitled Final Rejection, Withdrawal of, Premature, provides:

If, on request by applicant for reconsideration, the primary examiner finds the final rejection to have been premature, he or she should withdraw the finality of the rejection. The finality of the Office action must be withdrawn while the application is still pending. The examiner cannot withdraw the final rejection once the application is abandoned.

The following are a few examples of successful Requests to Withdraw Finality.

—- EXAMPLES —-

This first example was submitted in response to a final Office action that mischaracterized a claim.

REQUEST FOR WITHDRAWAL OF FINALITY

Applicants are in receipt of a final Office Action mailed March 13, 2007, in this application. Applicants respectfully request that the finality of the subject Office Action should be withdrawn because the Office has expressly and erroneously misinterpreted claims and, as a result, has failed to consider the patentability arguments presented in the most recently filed Amendment. Further, the Office’s express, incorrect claim characterization precludes the Office Action from addressing the merits of the argument presented concerning one of the presented independent claims.

In support of this request, Applicants state the following:

1. On December 20, 2006, Applicants filed an Amendment that presented independent claim 15 with the following claim recitation:

a disk protector disposed at an outer edge of the disk damper….

2. In response to the Amendment filed December 20, 2006, the Office mailed a final Office Action on March 13, 2007, which explained that all rejections were maintained because:

Applicant argues the limitations which are not in the claim language” because Applicants only claim “…arranged/disposed along an outer edge of the disk damper…Applicant does not claim “… at an outer edge of the disk damper.”

(Office Action, page 3).

3. The aforementioned statement of paragraph 2 is manifestly incorrect and without basis in fact. Indeed, Applicants’ independent claim 15 expressly recites “at.”

4. Section 707.07(f) of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) instructs that:

Where the applicant traverses any rejection, the examiner should, if he or she repeats the rejection, take note of the applicant’s argument and answer the substance of it.

5. The Office repeated the rejections of all of the claims. The Office, however, neither “took note” of Applicants’ argument nor “answered the substance” of Applicants’ argument. Thus, the final Office Action is deficient because the Office failed to satisfy the requirements of MPEP § 707.07(f).

6. Also, it is submitted that the outstanding Office Action has taken an improper and unreasonable interpretation of claim terms. And, for this additional reason, Applicants respectfully submit that the outstanding Office Action is improper.

In view of the foregoing, Applicants respectfully request withdrawal of the finality of the outstanding Office Action and further request a new non-final Office Action that addresses the merits of claim 15.

This second example was submitted in response to a final Office action that first rejected features that were previously presented for examination.

REQUEST FOR WITHDRAWAL OF FINALITY

Applicant is in receipt of a final Office Action mailed December 25, 2007, in this application.  Applicant respectfully submits that the finality of the subject Office Action is premature and therefore requests withdrawal of that finality, pursuant to Section 706.07(d) of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP).

Grounds
As grounds for this Request, Applicant states as follows:

1.  The final Office Action rejects independent claim 1 on new grounds.  As the Office itself states, “Applicant’s amendment necessitated the new ground(s) of rejection presented in this Office action.”  (Final Office Action, page 6).

2.  The sole amendment to independent claim 1 was made in an Amendment filed October 25, 2008.  In that Amendment, Applicant cancelled original claim 2 and amended independent claim 1 to recite the features of cancelled claim 2.

3.  The features of claim 2 that were added to independent claim 1 were previously presented for examination.  Thus, the added features could have been rejected in an earlier Office action but were not.

4.  Section 706.07(a) of the MPEP specifies the conditions under which the finality of a second or subsequent Office action is proper, providing that:
Under present practice, second or any subsequent actions on the merits shall be final, except where the examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is neither necessitated by applicant’s amendment of the claims nor based on information submitted in an information disclosure statement….

5.  Applicant submits that because the features added to independent claim 1 were presented for examination in the preceding Office Action, the new ground of rejection of claim 1 made in the final Office Action cannot reasonably be said to be either necessitated by a claim amendment or an Information Disclosure Statement.

Conclusion
The conditions set forth in § 706.07(a) of the MPEP have not been satisfied.  Accordingly, for that reason alone, as well as the interests of fairness, the finality of the final Office Action should be withdrawn.

This final example was submitted in response to a final Office action that rejected a claim for the first time.

REQUEST FOR WITHDRAWAL OF FINALITY <

Applicant is in receipt of a final Office Action mailed December 25, 2007, in this application.  Applicant respectfully submits that the finality of the subject Office Action is premature and therefore requests withdrawal of that finality, pursuant to Section 706.07(d) of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP).

Grounds For Request
As grounds for this Request, Applicant states as follows:

1.  The final Office Action rejected independent claim 20.

2.  The non-final Office Action that immediately preceded the final Office Action did not reject independent claim 20.

3.  Section 706.07(a) of the MPEP specifies the conditions under which the finality of a second or subsequent Office action is proper, providing that:

Under present practice, second or any subsequent actions on the merits shall be final, except where the examiner introduces a new ground of rejection that is neither necessitated by applicant’s amendment of the claims nor based on information submitted in an information disclosure statement….

4.  Applicant submits that the rejection of independent claim 20 is a new ground of rejection.  Also, because Applicant neither amended claim 20 nor filed an IDS between the subject non-final and final Office actions, the conditions required by MPEP § 706.07(a) cannot yet be satisfied.

Conclusion
The conditions set forth in § 706.07(a) of the MPEP have not been satisfied.  Accordingly, for that reason alone, as well as the Office’s policy of compact prosecution, the finality of the final Office Action should be withdrawn.

Two last comments.  First, I prefer to file these Requests as separate, stand alone documents.  Second, each of the examples in this post is based on successful Request.  They are by no means appropriate for every final Office action.  But, when finality is premature, this type of Request can be an effective remedy.

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© 2009, Michael E. Kondoudis

The Law Office of Michael E. Kondoudis
DC Patent Attorney
www.mekiplaw.com