Sunday, April 8, 2012

America Invents Act - New Inter Partes Reexamination Standard

As I noted on December 31, 2011, the America Invents Act (AIA) is implemented in a staggered way. Inter partes reexamination remains available until September 16, 2012, with a new standard for initiating an inter partes reexamination under 35 USC 312 that applies to all requests that are filed between September 16, 2011 and September 16, 2012.

The new standard is requests for inter partes reexamination must be based on "a reasonable likelihood that the requester would prevail with respect to at least 1 of the claims challenged in the request" (RLP) rather than a "substantial new question of patentability" (SNQ). The House Committee Report indicated this new standard RLP should be viewed as an elevated threshold over SNQ, which had resulted in the PTO granting 95% of all inter partes reexamination requests.

However, the PTO's decision in In re Flaherty to deny patent owner's petition to vacate an order granting an inter partes reexamination on April 4, 2012 suggests that the new standard for inter partes reexamination is not so much an elevated standard but a different one.  

Under SNQ, a request had to be based on a question of patentability that was substantially new with respect to the original prosecution which gave deference to  examiner for issues considered in the original prosecution. 

Now we get a surprise as the "new" of SNQ is removed. Now the basis for granting the inter partes reexamination request can be grounded on the same issues considered in the original prosecution as long as the PTO believes that the requester has a reasonable likelihood of prevailing with respect to at least one claim. I expect this removal of deference to the examiner to further open the door for requesting inter partes reexamination for an original examination that misinterpreted pertinent prior art. Thus, I view this new standard as a lowered threshold for this common case despite the House Committee Report.

Copyright © 2012 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.