(a) Within three months following the filing of a request for reexamination under the provisions of section 302 of this title, the Director will determine whether a substantial new question of patentability affecting any claim of the patent concerned is raised by the request, with or without consideration of other patents or printed publications. On his own initiative, and any time, the Director may determine whether a substantial new question of patentability is raised by patents and publications discovered by him or cited under the provisions of section 301 of this title.
(b) A record of the Director's determination under subsection (a) of this section will be placed in the official file of the patent, and a copy promptly will be given or mailed to the owner of record of the patent and to the person requesting reexamination, if any.
(c) A determination by the Director pursuant to subsection (a) of this section that no substantial new question of patentability has been raised will be final and nonappealable. Upon such a determination, the Director may refund a portion of the reexamination fee required under section 302 of this title.
(a) Within three months following the filing date of a request for an ex parte reexamination, an examiner will consider the request and determine whether or not a substantial new question of patentability affecting any claim of the patent is raised by the request and the prior art cited therein, with or without consideration of other patents or printed publications. The examiner's determination will be based on the claims in effect at the time of the determination, will become a part of the official file of the patent, and will be mailed to the patent owner at the address as provided for in § 1.33(c) and to the person requesting reexamination.
(b) Where no substantial new question of patentability has been found, a refund of a portion of the fee for requesting ex parte reexamination will be made to the requester in accordance with § 1.26(c).
(c) The requester may seek review by a petition to the Commissioner under § 1.181 within one month of the mailing date of the examiner's determination refusing ex parte reexamination. Any such petition must comply with § 1.181(b). If no petition is timely filed or if the decision on petition affirms that no substantial new question of patentability has been raised, the determination shall be final and nonappealable.
Before making a determination on the request for reexamination, the examiner must request a litigation computer search by the Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC) to check if the patent has been, or is, involved in litigation. The "Litigation Review" box on the reexamination file wrapper should be completed to indicate that the review was conducted and the results thereof. A copy of the STIC search should be hole-punched and placed on the right side of the reexamination file. In the rare instance where the record of the reexamination proceeding or the STIC search indicates that additional information is desirable, guidance as to making an additional litigation search may be obtained from the library of the Office of the Solicitor. If the patent is or was involved in litigation, and a paper referring to the court proceeding has been filed, reference to the paper by number should be made in the "Litigation Review" box as "litigation; see paper #1C". If a litigation records search is already noted on the file, the examiner need not repeat or update it.
If litigation has concluded or is taking place in the patent on which a request for reexamination has been filed, the request must be promptly brought to the attention of the Technology Center (TC) Director (or the TC Special Program Examiner, where the TC Director has delegated this review to him or her), who should review the decision on the request and any examiner's action to ensure that it conforms to the current Office litigation policy and guidelines. See MPEP § 2286.
35 U.S.C. 303 requires that within 3 months following the filing of a request for reexamination, the Commissioner will determine whether or not the request raises a "substantial new question of patentability" affecting any claim of the patent of which reexamination is desired. See also MPEP § 2241. Such a determination may be made with or without consideration of other patents or printed publications in addition to those cited in the request. No input from the patent owner is considered prior to the determination, unless the patent owner filed the request. See Patlex Corp. v. Mossinghoff, 771 F.2d 480, 226 USPQ 985 (Fed. Cir. 1985).
The patent claims in effect at the time of the determination will be the basis for deciding whether a substantial new question of patentability has been raised. 37 CFR 1.515(a). Amendments which (1) have been presented with the request if by the patent owner, (2) have been filed in a pending reexamination proceeding in which the certificate has not been issued, or (3) have been submitted in a reissue application on which no reissue patent has been issued, will not be considered or commented upon when deciding requests.
The decision on the request for reexamination has as its object either the granting or denial of an order for reexamination. This decision is based on whether or not "a substantial new question of patentability" is found. A final determination as to unpatentability of the claims is not made in the decision; this determination will be made during the examination stage of the reexamination proceedings. Accordingly, no prima facie case of unpatentability need be found to grant an order for reexamination. If a decision to deny an order for reexamination is made, the requester may seek review by a petition under CFR 1.181. See 37 CFR 1.515(c). Where there have been prior decisions relating to the patent, see MPEP § 2242.
It is only necessary to establish that a substantial new question of patentability exists as to any one of the patent claims in order to order reexamination. In the examination stage of the reexamination, normally all patent claims will be reexamined, even where the order has made a finding of a substantial new question for less than all of the patent claims. However, where there has been a prior Federal Court decision as to some claims, see MPEP § 2242. The decision on the request should discuss ALL patent claims in order to inform the patent owner of the examiner's position, so that a response thereto may be made in the patent owner's statement.
The examiner should indicate, insofar as possible, his or her initial position on all the issues identified in the request or by the requester so that comment thereon may be received in the patent owner's statement and in the requester's reply. However, the examiner SHOULD NOT make any rejection of the claims in the order for reexamination.
The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks has the authority to order reexamination only in those cases which raise a substantial new question of patentability. The substantial new question of patentability requirement protects patentees from having to respond to, or participate in unjustified reexaminations. Patlex Corp. v. Mossinghoff, 771 F.2d 480, 226 USPQ 985 (Fed. Cir. 1985).
If a second or subsequent request for reexamination is filed (by any party) while a reexamination is pending, the presence of a substantial new question of patentability depends on the prior art cited by the second or subsequent requester. If the requester includes in the second or subsequent request prior art which raised a substantial new question in the pending reexamination, reexamination should generally be ordered. This is because the prior art which raised a substantial new question of patentability resulting in an order for reexamination continues to raise a substantial new question of patentability until the pending reexamination is concluded. However, in aggravated situations, upon petition by the patent owner under 37 CFR 1.182, where it appears clear that the second or subsequent request was filed for purposes of harassment of the patent owner, the request should be denied. The grant of such a request would unduly prolong the conclusion of the pending reexamination and be inconsistent with the requirement that reexamination proceeding be conducted with special dispatch. If the second or subsequent requester does not include the prior art which raised a substantial new question of patentability in the pending reexamination, reexamination may or may not be ordered depending on whether the different prior art raises a substantial new question of patentability. The second or subsequent request should be determined on its own merits without reference to the pending reexamination.
For cases in which a reexamination is pending at the time a second or subsequent request for reexamination is to be decided, see MPEP § 2283.