USPTO Proposes Streamlined Reexamination Procedures

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Earlier this week, the United States Patent Office (USPTO) proposed changes designed to streamline ex parte and inter partes reexamination procedures.1 The USPTO’s action coincides with Congress’s proposed patent reform legislation, the “America Invents Act.” The Act is currently on the House floor, and seeks to replace inter partes reexamination with post-grant review and inter partes review proceedings.2 The Act provides a transition period of several years when inter partes reexamination may still be requested, and preserves ex parte reexamination as an option. Thus, even if the America Invents Act becomes law, the USPTO’s proposed rules would still be relevant to reexamination for at least a few years.

The USPTO is seeking comments on the proposed changes and also poses several questions, in particular as to limiting the length of reexamination requests, setting time limits for responsive filings, and changing the standard for granting reexamination requests. While the proposed changes and questions are directly applicable to the present reexamination system, similar issues would likely arise for any post-grant review or inter partes review proceedings that would be implemented if the Act became law. The deadline for comment is June 29, 2011.

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