The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has launched an updated version of its After Final Consideration Pilot Program (AFCP 2.0). This program is designed to be more efficient and effective than the original AFCP program and is part of the USPTO’s efforts to reduce prosecution time and increase collaboration between applicants and examiners. One particular goal of the program is to reduce the numbers of requests for continued examination that are filed. Any original nonprovisional utility, plant or design application will be eligible for the program, but reissue applications and reexamination proceedings are not. No additional fees will be charged for participating in the program, but any costs associated with extensions of time of the final rejection due date must be paid (if applicable).
AFCP 2.0 authorizes additional time for examiners to search and/or consider responses after a final rejection and to conduct interviews if the response does not place the application in condition for allowance.
To be eligible to use AFCP 2.0 an application must have received a final rejection from the examiner, and the following documents must be filed within the response to final rejection deadline:
A transmittal form identifying the submission as an AFCP 2.0 submission and requesting consideration under AFCP 2.0;
a response under 37 C.F.R. § 1.116, including an amendment to at least one independent claim that does not broaden the scope of the independent claim in any aspect;
a statement that the applicant is willing and available to participate in any interview initiated by the examiner concerning the accompanying response; and
any necessary fees.
Once the examiner contacts the applicant, an interview must be scheduled within 10 calendar days, or the examiner will treat the response as a conventional response after final rejection under 37 C.F.R. § 1.116.
Any request under AFCP 2.0 must be filed by September 30, 2013, although the USPTO may extend the time period for filing, depending on participant feedback and the effectiveness of the program.
For more information, please see the Federal Register Notice and AFCP 2.0 guidelines: