Ex parte Yamaguchi (BPAI 2008)(Precedential Opinion)
In prosecution, the Examiner cited the Narayanan reference against a Texas Instruments patent application filed by Yamaguchi. The rejection identified Narayanan as prior art under 35 U.S.C. § 102(e). The issue on appeal to the BPAI was whether the Narayanan reference can be considered 102(e) prior art as of the filing date of its provisional application.
Section 102(e) allows for submarine prior art – these are typically pending US patent applications that, when published or patented, suddenly become prior art as of their filing date. The statute allows that "[a] person shall be entitled to a patent unless . . .the invention was described in . . .a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent.. . ." 35 U.S.C. § 102(e).
102(e) Provisional: The issue here is whether Narayanan's provisional application can be used in 102(e) analysis. The expanded BPAI panel agreed with the examiner that the 102(e) prior art date does reach-back to the date of provisional filing. This result is based on their analysis of 35 U.S.C. § 111(b). Section 111(b) requires that "provisions of this title relating to applications for patent shall apply to provisional applications for patent."
"Based on this express intent to apply the provisions of Title 35 relating to "applications for patent" to provisional applications (except for four enumerated sections noted in §111(b)(8)), a provisional application can therefore be reasonably considered an "application for patent" within the meaning of §102(e). The plain meaning of these provisions of Title 35 as noted above is outlined in MPEP 2136.03(111) for establishing the critical reference date under §102(e) of a U.S. patent or U.S. application publication that is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of a provisional application under §119(e). Based on the statutory scheme of Title 35, we hold that Appellants have not shown harmful error in the rejections on appeal."
This holding is in tension with the controlling precedent of In re Wertheim, 646 F.2d 527 (CCPA 1981). In Wertheim, the CCPA held that for a continuation-in-part application, the parent's filing date may serve as a §102(e) date, but only if the parent contains full §§120 and 112 support for the disclosure.
In this case the Examiner found that the Narayanan provisional application fully supported the eventual publication – and thus that the 102(e) date for narayanan was the filing date of the provisional. The applicant was unable to disprove these findings and the BPAI affirmed the rejection.