In a recent ruling, the Federal Circuit clarified the scope of available Patent Term Adjustment (PTA) resulting from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (PTO) failure to issue a patent within three years from the date the application was filed, for applications in which a request for continued examination (RCE) was made. Novartis AG v. Lee, 2013-1160, 2013-1179 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 15, 2014). Under the decision, PTA is not available for the period of prosecuting the RCE to allowance, but is available for the period from allowance to issuance.
Background on PTA and Recent Challenges to the PTO's Interpretation of B Delay -
The term of a U.S. utility patent is 20 years measured from the filing date of the application. However, in practical terms, the patent application provides no benefit to the patentee until the day it issues as a patent from the PTO. Consequently, excessive delays at the PTO would significantly reduce the "effective" term of the patent. To avoid this result, Congress established a system of patent term adjustment that adds time to the end of a patent's life to offset certain kinds of delays encountered at the PTO.
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