The USPTO has expanded its "First Full Action Interview" pilot program to include all areas of technology. Under the program, patent applicants may request (and must be granted) an interview with the patent examiner assigned to the case prior to the first Office action on the merits.
To be eligible, the pending application must not have more than three independent and twenty total claims all directed to a single invention (i.e., not subject to a restriction requirement). To participate, an applicant must electronically file a request for a first action interview at least one day before an Office action is entered into PAIR. An application that does not originally fit within the requirements can become eligible through a preliminary amendment.
Timing: Requests may be filed as of today, May 16, 2011. The pilot program will run for one year.
Prior to the interview, the examiner is required to prepare a "pre-interview communication" that indicates references to be cited and outlines any potential rejections/objections.
Since taking office as USPTO Director, David Kappos has pushed for more direct interaction between patent applicants and patent examiners. In the USPTO press release, Kappos is quoted saying
We're expanding this pilot program because we've seen that, by enhancing the interaction between the applicant and the examiner early in the examination process, it helps both applicants and the USPTO. We hope that by expanding the pilot to even more technology areas, we will see many more applicants take advantage of this program and realize its benefits.
In the prior pilot, the USPTO found that about 1/3 of applications were allowed in the first office action on the merits. (Outside the program, only about 11% of applications receive a first-action allowance.)
No additional fees are required to participate in the program. However, applicants must waive their right to request a pre-examination refund of fees.
- Description of the Pilot Program
- Examiner "Talking Points Memo" for the FAI
- Request for a First Action Interview (PTO/SB/413C)
- Questions on procedure should be directed to Joseph Weiss at (571) 272-7759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Restriction: Although I state this above, some comments assumed that the "not subject to restriction requirement" could not be cured. Rather, an application subject to a restriction requirement will still qualify for the program once the applicant elects one group of claims without traversing.