The Strategic Dilemma: Overcoming Double Patenting with Terminal Disclaimers

Navigating the labyrinthine world of patent law can be as complex as the innovations it protects. Among the myriad challenges faced by patent practitioners, double patenting rejections and the judicious use of terminal disclaimers stand out. These issues require not only legal acumen but also strategic foresight. This detailed exploration sheds light on the intricate dance between securing robust patent protection and maximizing the commercial lifespan of your intellectual assets.

Deciphering Double Patenting

Double patenting involves the risk of granting several patents for the same invention, potentially extending monopoly rights beyond the intended term. This scenario is particularly problematic as it can lead to a thicket of overlapping rights that are difficult to navigate for both the patent holder and potential competitors. Understanding the nuances of double patenting is essential for anyone looking to navigate the patent landscape successfully.

Terminal Disclaimers: A Strategic Tool

Filing a terminal disclaimer is a common tactic to overcome double patenting objections. This maneuver effectively synchronizes the expiry of the involved patents, thus aligning them within the legally permissible patent term. However, this resolution is not without its trade-offs:

  1. Integration of Patent Lifecycles: Terminal disclaimers bind the destinies of multiple patents, potentially complicating future adjustments to a portfolio.
  2. Reduction in Patent Term: They may unintentionally shorten the effective patent term, potentially undercutting the commercial advantage they provide.

Strategic Considerations for Managing Patent Portfolios

When facing a double patenting dilemma, thoughtful consideration is paramount:

  1. Evaluating Business Impact: Consider the broader business implications of linking patents. How might this influence your company’s strategy in terms of market presence or competitive edge?
  2. Analyzing Patent Family Relationships: Determine the relationship between the patent families involved and assess the potential long-term impacts of tying these families together through a terminal disclaimer.
  3. Exploring Claim Adjustments: Before resorting to a terminal disclaimer, exhaust all options to differentiate the claims of the current application from those of the related patent. Amending claims or arguing distinctiveness can sometimes circumvent the need for a disclaimer.
  4. Optimal Timing of Filing: Delay the decision to file a terminal disclaimer until it is absolutely necessary, which allows for a complete assessment of the prosecution landscape and might reveal alternative strategies.

The decision to file a terminal disclaimer in response to a double patenting rejection intertwines legal strategy with business foresight. A well-considered approach can not only navigate through the immediate legal hurdles but also set the stage for long-term innovation management and commercial success.

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Unlocking the Potential of AFCP 2.0: A Game-Changer in Patent Prosecution

In the intricate dance of patent prosecution, making the right moves after receiving a Final Office Action (FOA) from the USPTO is paramount. In this week’s The Precise  George Howarah sheds light on a strategic tool that is transforming the landscape for applicants and attorneys: the After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 (AFCP 2.0).

The Turning Point: Beyond Traditional Responses

Traditionally, the response to an FOA often leads down the path of filing a Request for Continued Examination (RCE). However, this route can be both time-consuming and costly, potentially slowing down the journey to patent issuance. George introduces AFCP 2.0 as a compelling alternative, aiming to streamline the prosecution process with a more nuanced approach.

Delving Into AFCP 2.0

AFCP 2.0 emerges as a beacon of efficiency, offering a pathway to advance prosecution without the need for an RCE. The program allows for the consideration of a response to an FOA that includes a non-broadening amendment to at least one independent claim. This key provision paves the way for a more dynamic interaction between applicants and the USPTO.

The USPTO allocates additional time under AFCP 2.0 for examiners to review applications, creating an environment conducive to thorough evaluation and discussion. The goal? To reach an allowance or to facilitate a productive dialogue through an interview with the applicant, addressing any hurdles that stand in the way.

Why AFCP 2.0 Matters

George emphasizes several advantages of AFCP 2.0 that make it an invaluable tool in the patent prosecution toolkit:

  1. Speed: By potentially bypassing the RCE cycle, AFCP 2.0 can significantly reduce the time to patent issuance.
  2. Cost Effectiveness: The program is free to use, offering a budget-friendly option for advancing prosecution.
  3. Enhanced Engagement: The opportunity for an examiner interview under AFCP 2.0 is a strategic advantage, allowing for direct negotiation and clarification, thereby enhancing the prospects of allowance.

Strategic Application of AFCP 2.0

Despite its benefits, George notes the importance of meeting AFCP 2.0’s specific criteria to qualify for the program. Examiners have sole discretion in this regard, making it essential for applicants to craft their responses carefully.

In practice, George recommends always exploring the possibility of AFCP 2.0 when crafting a response to an FOA, especially when it involves a non-broadening amendment to an independent claim. This approach not only leverages the program’s benefits but also offers a proactive stance in navigating the prosecution process.

A Paradigm Shift in Prosecution Strategy

George’s insight into AFCP 2.0 heralds a shift towards a more efficient, cost-effective, and interactive patent prosecution process. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, embracing such innovative programs will be key to navigating the complexities of securing patent rights successfully.

In a world where time is of the essence, and every detail matters, AFCP 2.0 stands out as a pivotal tool, reshaping the strategy behind patent prosecution. George’s advocacy for its use underscores its potential to significantly impact how we approach the final stages of patent application.

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Decoding the Signature: The Influence of Patent Examiner Authority on Patent Outcomes

Navigating the patent application process can feel like a complex chess game, where understanding the moves of patent examiners plays a critical role in strategy. In this week’s ‘The Precise Prosecutor’, George Howarah provides a deep dive into a less discussed but highly impactful aspect of the patent examination process: the significance of a patent examiner’s ability to sign their own office actions and what it means for applicants.

The Significance of Examiner Levels

At the heart of the patent examination process is the General Schedule (GS) pay scale, which ranges from GS-5 for junior examiners to GS-15 for the most senior. This scale is not just a measure of experience but also a reflection of authority within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

A key transition occurs when examiners reach the GS-13 level, granting them partial signatory authority. This allows them to independently sign all non-final office actions, a significant marker of trust and responsibility within the USPTO. The journey from a junior GS-5 examiner to a GS-13 with this level of autonomy involves a rigorous evaluation of job performance, emphasizing the quality of work.

From Junior to Primary: The Path to Full Authority

Achieving primary examiner status, where one can sign all types of office actions including final ones, requires even more. Examiners must successfully complete a specialized program designed to evaluate their readiness for this level of independence. This designation as a primary examiner signifies a level of expertise and authority that directly impacts the patent application process.

Why It Matters to Patent Applicants

For patent applicants, the distinction between junior and primary examiners is crucial. An office action signed by a junior examiner who lacks the authority to issue final decisions might not have undergone the same level of scrutiny as those reviewed by a primary examiner. This is especially critical in complex technological areas or in nuanced legal scenarios, where experienced oversight is paramount.

George emphasizes the practical step of examining the examiner’s signature on office actions. This isn’t about undermining the capability of junior examiners but rather about understanding the depth of review and expertise your patent application is receiving. A signature from a primary examiner indicates a thorough vetting process, reflecting a higher degree of reliability and authority.

The level of authority a patent examiner holds can significantly influence the patent examination process. By understanding the implications of examiner signatures, applicants can gain insights into the level of scrutiny their application has undergone, informing their responses and strategies. George’s expert insights offer a critical lens through which applicants can navigate the patent process more effectively, especially in fields where the complexity of technology and law intersect.

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Unveiling the USPTO’s Examiner Production System: Strategic Insights for Patent Prosecutors

Navigating the patent examination process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requires more than just a deep understanding of law and technology—it demands insight into the operational metrics that drive examiner behaviors, notably the production system.

Understanding the Examiner Production System

At the core of the USPTO’s operational efficiency is a metric system known as “counts,” a performance evaluation tool that transcends traditional hour-based assessments. Examiners are evaluated based on their ability to meet specific count quotas within each bi-weekly period. These quotas are influenced by several factors: the examiner’s seniority, the technological complexity of the art unit assigned, and the total examining hours available in the pay period.

This system necessitates that senior examiners, due to their experience, are expected to meet higher count quotas. Meanwhile, examiners handling applications in technologically advanced or complex art units are allotted fewer counts, acknowledging the intricate nature of their examination tasks.

How Counts Are Earned

The allocation of counts is strategically set to ensure efficiency and productivity:

  • A first Office Action on the merits awards an examiner 1.25 counts.
  • Completing a final Office Action earns 0.5 counts.
  • If an application is abandoned or an RCE (Request for Continued Examination) is filed, the examiner receives 0.5 counts.
  • After an RCE is submitted, any subsequent Office Action, typically non-final, yields one count, with an additional 0.5 counts for a final Office Action, another RCE, or abandonment.

It’s critical to understand that the earning of counts is not directly correlated with the time spent on each Office Action, underscoring the USPTO’s emphasis on results over time spent.

Strategic Considerations for Patent Prosecutors

The examiner production system significantly impacts patent prosecution strategies. Examiners are under a structured time constraint to review applications, especially during final Office Actions. This makes it imperative for attorneys to submit clear, concise, and strategically focused amendments and arguments. Ensuring that your submissions are easily understandable can facilitate the examiner’s review process, potentially speeding up the examination process and improving the chances of patent grant.

A thorough comprehension of the USPTO’s examiner production system is invaluable for patent prosecutors. By aligning submission strategies with the nuances of the system, attorneys can navigate the patent application process more effectively, improving outcomes for their clients. Understanding how examiners are motivated and measured can transform a potentially opaque process into a more predictable and navigable path to patent approval.

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Navigating Allowable Subject Matter in Patent Applications: Strategies for Success

Navigating the patent process is a nuanced journey, especially when responding to first office actions that indicate allowable subject matter alongside dependent claims. In this week’s #ThePreciseProsecutor, George Howarah provides a strategic blueprint to approach this scenario, ensuring that patent applicants can make informed decisions that enhance the value of their applications.

The Foundation of Analysis
Upon receiving a first office action that identifies allowable subject matter, it’s critical not to rush into incorporating these suggestions or, conversely, dismissing them out of hand. George advocates for a deliberate approach that scrutinizes the office action with fresh eyes.

1. Unbiased Analysis: The First Step
Begin your evaluation as though the office action did not specify allowable subject matter. This involves a deep dive into the inventive concept of your application and its encapsulation within the claims, ensuring you fully grasp the innovation at hand without any preconceptions.

2. Assessing the Strategic Scope
How does the allowable subject matter’s scope compare to related applications or patents? A close similarity, especially with the independent claims of a parent application, might diminish its strategic value, suggesting that the new allowable matter may not substantially enhance your patent portfolio.

3. Business Value: A Key Consideration
The commercial impact of the allowable subject matter is paramount. If it fails to encompass a critical standard or product feature your business targets, its utility may be limited. This assessment helps prioritize modifications that align with your strategic business objectives.

4. Balancing Scope and Substance
Evaluate whether the allowable subject matter presents a reasonable scope and if it’s merely ancillary to your application’s core invention. Sometimes, what’s allowed is too narrow to warrant incorporation in its initial form. Instead, look for opportunities to negotiate or amend claims for a broader, more impactful scope.

Beyond the Initial Action: A Proactive Stance
Exploring broader subject matter than what is initially indicated as allowable can be a wise strategy. Engaging in a dialogue with the patent office or preparing amendments can often lead to securing more comprehensive protection, potentially at a more opportune time.

Addressing a first office action with a strategic mindset can transform a routine step in the patent process into a pivotal opportunity for enhancing your intellectual property portfolio. By adopting George Hawara’s methodical approach, applicants can not only navigate the complexities of office actions but also position their inventions for maximum impact and protection.

Navigating through the patent application process, particularly in responding to office actions, demands a strategic outlook that evaluates the invention’s core, its market relevance, and the tactical deployment of allowable subject matter. Following George’s strategic framework provides a pathway not just to patentability but to securing valuable, enforceable patent rights.

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Streamlining Patent Prosecution: A Proven Strategy for Navigating Office Actions

The journey toward patent approval is often complex, marked by the critical juncture of responding to an office action. George Howarah offers a strategic blueprint for addressing these challenges, providing a systematic approach to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of patent prosecution efforts.

Step One: Claim Analysis

The journey begins with a comprehensive analysis of the claims, particularly focusing on the independent claims. George underscores the importance of grasping the full scope of these claims as they encapsulate the essence of the inventive concept. This step is foundational, setting the stage for a targeted and informed response.

Step Two: Office Action Review

The next phase involves a meticulous review of the office action, paying close attention to the nature of the rejections and the specifics of the cited prior art. George points out the potential to challenge the relevance of prior art based on its date or ownership. This critical evaluation is pivotal for developing a strategic plan of attack.

Step Three: Specification Examination

Central to George’s approach is a thorough examination of the patent’s specification. This in-depth review ensures a profound understanding of how the invention is described and claimed, facilitating a more accurate alignment between the invention and the claims. This deep comprehension is vital for identifying the strongest possible position in response to the office action.

Step Four: Developing the Response Strategy

Finally, George focuses on crafting a tailored response strategy. This involves identifying the core inventive concept within the independent claims and evaluating the examiner’s cited references for their applicability and interpretation. Depending on the examiner’s rationale, George suggests either proposing strategic amendments to the claims or preparing cogent arguments to underscore the invention’s novelty and non-obviousness.

George’s structured approach demystifies the process of responding to office actions, offering patent practitioners a clear, step-by-step guide to navigating these waters. By adopting this methodical strategy, inventors and attorneys alike can improve their chances of advancing through the patent prosecution process successfully, ensuring their innovations receive the protection they deserve.

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Transforming Examiner Interviews into Opportunities: A Practical Guide

Navigating the patent prosecution landscape requires more than just legal expertise; it demands a nuanced understanding of the human elements that influence the process. Examiner interviews are a pivotal aspect of this journey, offering unique opportunities to directly influence the outcome of a patent application. George Howarah shares his refined approach to these interviews, combining technical acumen with strategic interpersonal engagement.

The Importance of Personal Connection

George begins by emphasizing the importance of establishing a personal connection with the examiner. Before diving into the technicalities, he spends a few minutes asking about the examiner’s wellbeing and any updates from the patent office. This approach is not just about pleasantries; it’s a strategic move to make the interview less contentious and foster a collaborative atmosphere. Such a rapport encourages the examiner to be more open to discussion, laying the groundwork for a productive conversation.

Presenting the Invention and Claims

Another crucial part of George’s strategy is how he presents the invention and the claims. He carefully selects drawings that directly support his arguments and articulates the essence of the invention in his own words, steering clear of the complex language often found in claims. This approach not only aids in mutual understanding but also allows the examiner to view the invention from the attorney’s perspective, facilitating a more meaningful discussion about the application’s merits.

The Path to Agreement

The goal of any examiner interview is to reach some form of agreement that advances the patent application towards allowance. George shares his structured method for negotiating claim amendments, starting with the ideal outcome and gradually addressing more specific concerns. This step-by-step negotiation is designed to find common ground, however small, which can be crucial for prosecution estoppel and avoiding future legal hurdles.

George’s approach to examiner interviews is a testament to the power of preparation, personal connection, and precise argumentation. By adopting these strategies, patent attorneys can enhance their chances of success, transforming a daunting process into a manageable and even rewarding experience.

So, How Do You Conduct Examiner Interviews?

George’s methods are a blend of art and science, offering a proven framework for engaging with patent examiners effectively. But the field is wide open for discussion: How do you approach examiner interviews?

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Enhancing Patent Prosecution Efficiency: A Strategic Approach to Examiner Interview Agendas

The path to securing a patent is intricate, with examiner interviews marking a critical juncture where direct dialogue can significantly influence the outcome. In this week’s The Precise Prosecutor, George Howarah leverages his extensive experience in patent law, unveiling a strategic method for preparing examiner interview agendas. This approach not only facilitates effective communication but also navigates the nuances of patent prosecution estoppel.


Crafting an Effective Agenda
The agenda for an examiner interview is more than a mere list; it’s a strategic tool that shapes the direction of the discussion. George emphasizes the importance of this document, which also becomes a part of the official record, potentially influencing future legal interpretations.


Key Elements of a Successful Agenda
George’s strategy for agenda preparation encompasses several critical steps:

Issue Prioritization: Identifying and ordering relevant issues and rejections according to their significance ensures comprehensive coverage without overwhelming the examiner.

Claim Amendments and Arguments: Proposing claim amendments and providing concise arguments or specification references in the agenda can preemptively address potential objections, setting the stage for a constructive conversation.

Flexibility in Discussion: The order of discussing issues might differ from their listing, allowing for tactical adjustments based on the complexity of issues and the time available.

Preparation of Backup Options: George advocates for the readiness of alternative amendments or arguments, offering flexibility in addressing examiner concerns and enhancing the likelihood of overcoming objections.

Clarity and Organization: A bullet-pointed, well-structured agenda respects the examiner’s limited preparation time, ensuring the discussion focuses on substantive issues rather than navigational confusion.


Leveraging the Agenda for Success
The preparation of an examiner interview agenda, as outlined by George, is a meticulous process that requires insight into the legal and procedural nuances of patent prosecution. By emphasizing clarity, strategic issue presentation, and the anticipation of potential objections, patent practitioners can engage more effectively with examiners. This approach not only addresses the immediate challenges of a particular patent application but also fosters a collaborative environment conducive to achieving a favorable resolution.


The strategic preparation of examiner interview agendas is pivotal in the patent prosecution process, offering a pathway to clearer communication and more efficient resolution of issues. George’s guidelines provide a blueprint for patent attorneys and agents striving to optimize their engagement with USPTO examiners, enhancing the prospects for patent grant success.

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The Art of Examiner Interviews: A Strategic Approach for Success

In the complex and nuanced world of patent prosecution, examiner interviews stand out as a crucial element in navigating the approval process efficiently. George Howarah shares his invaluable insights on how to leverage examiner interviews to their full potential. This blog post delves into the strategic preparation necessary for conducting successful examiner interviews, highlighting George’s expert perspective.

Understanding the Client’s Goals

The first step in preparing for an examiner interview involves a clear understanding of the client’s objectives. Whether the aim is to expedite claim approval within a reasonable scope or ensure the claims align with a specific product or standard, identifying these goals upfront is critical. This initial clarity guides the strategy throughout the interview process, ensuring that the direction pursued aligns with the client’s expectations.

Analyzing the Prosecution History

A thorough examination of the application’s prosecution history is essential. This involves distinguishing whether the application is original, a continuation, or a divisional. Understanding the nuances between the current claims and those in previous applications helps tailor the approach to the interview. Additionally, recognizing the stage of prosecution is key. An aggressive stance might be more suitable at the beginning, whereas a more conciliatory approach could be beneficial in later stages, aiming for a middle ground that maintains the claims’ integrity.

Evaluating the Examiner’s Position

Assessing the examiner’s posture towards the application and the specifics of any rejections is another critical step. This includes reviewing past interactions for any precedents of overcoming objections and scrutinizing the current office action for potential misunderstandings or oversights by the examiner. Such an evaluation helps in anticipating the examiner’s concerns and preparing a more effective response.

Assessing the Strength of the Rejection

Finally, George emphasizes the importance of analyzing the strength of the rejection. Whether dealing with a 102 (novelty) or a 103 (non-obviousness) rejection, it’s vital to give the examiner the benefit of the doubt while also firmly advocating for the patent’s validity. This may involve deciding on the necessity of claim amendments to navigate around the rejection.

The preparation for an examiner interview is a multifaceted process that requires a deep understanding of the client’s goals, the application’s history, the examiner’s perspective, and the nature of the rejection. George’s approach showcases the importance of meticulous preparation and strategic planning in achieving successful outcomes in patent prosecution. By adopting these strategies, patent practitioners can enhance their effectiveness in examiner interviews, leading to more favorable results for their clients.

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The Underrated Key to Patent Prosecution Success: Examiner Interviews

In the realm of patent prosecution, there’s a tool that often goes underutilized, yet holds the potential to significantly streamline the patenting process, ensuring clarity, efficiency, and a stronger patent position. In this week’s Precise Prosecutor vlog, George Howarah brings to light the importance of examiner interviews, a strategy that can pivot the usual course of patent prosecution towards more favorable outcomes.

George points out a common pitfall in patent prosecution where practitioners might lean heavily on written responses to office actions. This method, while traditional, might not always capture the examiner’s perspective accurately, potentially leading to miscommunications, unaddressed rejections, or, in some cases, creating estoppel issues that could weaken the patent’s enforceability.

Examiner interviews stand out as a solution to these challenges. Engaging in a dialogue with the examiner post-office action not only clarifies the examiner’s stance but also opens the door for direct feedback on proposed arguments or amendments. This proactive approach can lead to more precise adjustments, avoiding the back-and-forth that often characterizes patent prosecution.

George advocates for scheduling an examiner interview after every office action, highlighting the benefits he has observed in his practice. These benefits include demonstrating a commitment to the patent application, reducing the time and cost associated with obtaining a patent, and minimizing the risk of prosecution estoppel.

George’s advice to fellow practitioners is clear: leverage examiner interviews as a standard step in your prosecution strategy to foster a more efficient, transparent, and successful patent prosecution process.

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