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Patent Prosecution at the USPTO: Tips and Recent Developments PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Patent Prosecution at the USPTO: Tips and Recent Developments. Kathleen Kahler Fonda Legal Advisor, Office of Patent Legal Administration Loyola Law School Los Angeles March 10, 2009. Overview. Examiner's view of a patent application Tips for filing and prosecuting a patent application

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Patent Prosecution at the USPTO:Tips and Recent Developments

Kathleen Kahler Fonda

Legal Advisor, Office of Patent Legal Administration

Loyola Law School Los Angeles

March 10, 2009


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Overview

  • Examiner's view of a patent application

  • Tips for filing and prosecuting a patent application

  • Examination Guidelines in view of KSR


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Examining an Application

Published in the Federal Register

On October 10, 2007

At 72 FR 57526

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Preparing the Application

Forms

Do use USPTO forms without altering the language.

Do not use a combined declaration and power of attorney form.

USPTO forms can be found at: http://www.uspto.gov/web/forms/index.html

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Preparing the Application

Application Data Sheets

Do use an Application Data Sheet (ADS), although an ADS is not required. Customers using an ADScan expect two advantages when applying for a patent: 

1.     Improved accuracy of filing receipts.

2.     Accurately recorded application data.

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Preparing the Application

Application Data Sheets (Cont’d)

Use of a supplemental ADS is possible even though no original ADS was submitted on filing.

The following information can be supplied on an ADS:

Application Information

Applicant Information

Correspondence Information

Representative Information

Domestic Priority Information

Foreign Priority Information

Assignment Information

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Preparing the Application

Preliminary Amendments In New Applications

Avoid submitting Preliminary Amendments on filing

A substitute specification will be required if a preliminary amendment present on filing makes changes to the specification, except for:

Changes to title, abstract, claims or addition of benefit claim information to the specification

See the notice “Revised Procedure for Preliminary Amendments Presented on Filing of a Patent Application,” 1300 Off. Gaz. Pat. Office 69 (November 8, 2005), available at:

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/og/2005/week45/patrevs.htm

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Preparing the Application

Preliminary Amendments in

Continuations and Divisionals

Avoid submitting Preliminary Amendments on filing a Continuation or Divisional

Avoid Preliminary Amendments that cancel all the claims and add new ones

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Filing the Application

Select a method of filing the application

1. Accelerated Examination

2. EFS-Web

3. Traditional Mail Route

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Accelerated Examination

Change in practice effective August 25, 2006

Opportunity for final determination in 12 months

Participation requires:

Applicants provide greater information up front – pre-examination search and accelerated examination support document

file application using electronic fling system

agree to interviews

limited number of claims

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Accelerated Examination Statistics

As of July ’08:

293 applications allowed

On average, 182 days to complete prosecution

Minimum number of days to complete prosecution: 18

193 patents have issued (8/19/08)

293 applications allowed

Participants’ response & comments positive; not only faster, but high quality

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Accelerated Examination Issues

Accelerated Examination Common Failings

Failure to provide the text search logic. A mere listing of terms will not suffice.

Failure to search the claimed invention. The petition for accelerated examination may be dismissed if the search is not commensurate in scope with the claims.

Failure to show support in the specification and/or drawings for each limitation of each claim.

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Accelerated Examination Issues

Accelerated Examination Common Failings (Cont)

Failure to show support in the specification and/or drawings for each limitation of each claim for every document of which benefit is claimed.

Failure to specifically identify the limitations in each claim that are disclosed in each reference.

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EFS Web

New EFS-Web system launched March 2006

allows PDF-based submissions

replaced XML-based system

2005 result: 2.2% of applications filed electronically

2006 result: 14.3% of applications filed electronically

2007 result: nearly 50% of applications filed received through EFS-Web; over 1,000,000 (total) follow-on papers and new applications received

3rd Qtr 2008: 69.8% of applications filed electronically

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EFS Web

Safe, Simple, Secure

Many corporations, law firms, and independent inventors moving to 100% electronic filing for new applications and follow-on papers.

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EFS Web Issues

Avoid coding (identifying) a Request for Continued Examination (RCE) as an “Amendment” when filing an RCE

Avoid identifying papers after the initial filing as “new”

Avoid common PCT filing mistakes

Avoid filing color images or images that have a resolution higher than 300x300 dots per inch (dpi)

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General Prosecution Advice

Proofread claims for clarity and precision

Present all cogent arguments and evidence before final rejection

If the examiner is believed to be ignoring a claim limitation, a personal or telephonic interview may facilitate the prosecution to completion.

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General Prosecution Advice

Amendments to the claims and/or specification should be accompanied by a written statement indicating specific support for the change. If the support is implicit, an explanation is beneficial.

In response to restriction requirements, where inventions are indeed patentably indistinct, applicants should present arguments to that end.

Read the entire prior art reference cited by the examiner, not just the part relied upon by the examiner in the rejection.

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General Prosecution Advice

Don’t initiate a response on the absolute last day of the statutory period, if possible.

Don’t personally attack the Examiner in a response to Office Action.

Follow the chain of command for assistance:

First, call the Examiner.

If he or she is non-responsive or unavailable, contact the Supervisor.

If the issue is still not resolved, contact the Technology Center Director.

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Patent Prosecution Tips

Pre-Appeal Brief Conference

Avoid sending the request separate from the Notice of Appeal.

Avoid making a request when there is an outstanding after-final amendment.

Avoid attaching more than five pages to the cover form.

Avoid sending in a supplemental request.

Avoid paying a second Notice of Appeal fee in the application.

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Patent Prosecution Tips

Consider prosecuting an improved CIP invention independently of the prior invention:

File, if need be, a continuation only to the original invention, or take an appeal on the original invention, and

File a new application, rather than a CIP, for only the new invention:

without a benefit claim (35 U.S.C. §120, 37 CFR § 1.78) to the initial application, and

therefore without shortening the patent term of the initial invention if it were to be included in the CIP application, as

any benefit claim in a CIP cannot protect the new invention.

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§ 103 Examination Guidelinesin view of KSR

  • Guidelines were published in the Federal Register on October 10, 2007 at 72 FR 57526; now also available in MPEP 2141.

  • Guidelines do not constitute substantive rule making, so any failure by Office personnel to follow these guidelines is neither appealable nor petitionable.


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KSR Background

  • Technology

  • Procedural

    History

    KSR Int'l Co. v. Teleflex Inc.,

    550 U.S. —, 82 USPQ2d 1385

    (2007)


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KSR Reaffirms the Graham Analysis for Obviousness

"In Graham [], the Court set out a framework for applying the statutory language of § 103, . . . [T]he factors continue to define the inquiry that controls. If a court, or patent examiner, conducts this analysis and concludes the claimed subject matter was obvious, the claim is invalid under § 103." KSR at 1391.


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Federal Circuit’s Four Errors

The Supreme Court stated that the Federal Circuit erred when it applied the well-known teaching-suggestion-motivation (TSM) test in an overly rigid and formalistic way.

KSR at 1396-97.


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TSM Remains a Valid Approach to the Graham Inquiries under KSR

"When it first established the requirement of demonstrating a teaching, suggestion, or motivation to combine known elements in order to show that the combination is obvious, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals captured a helpful insight. . . . There is no necessary inconsistency between the idea underlying the TSM test and the Graham analysis."

KSR at 1396.


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The Basic Approach to Determining Obviousness Remains the Same

An examiner is still required to provide a reasoned statement of rejection grounded in the Graham inquiries. He or she must articulate a reason or rationale to support the obviousness rejection.

See KSR at 1396 (“To facilitate review, [the obviousness] analysis should be made explicit,”) (citing In re Kahn, 441 F.3d 977, 988 (Fed. Cir. 2006)).


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KSR Provides a More Expansive View of Prior Art

"The obviousness analysis cannot be confined . . . by overemphasis on the importance of published articles and the explicit content of issued patents. . . .


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KSR Provides a More Expansive View of Prior Art

. . . In many fields it may be that there is little discussion of obvious techniques or combinations, and it often may be the case that market demand, rather than scientific literature, will drive design trends."

KSR at 1396.


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Any Reasoned Argument Grounded in Graham May Form the Basis for a Prima Facie Case of Obviousness

  • The TSM test is just one of a number of valid rationales that may be employed when determining obviousness under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

  • The inapplicability of the TSM test does not necessarily result in a conclusion of non-obviousness.


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The Examiner as Fact Finder

  • Examiners act as fact finders when resolving the Graham inquiries.

  • Examiners must articulate findings as to the scope and content of the prior art, as necessary, to support the obviousness rejection being made.


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The Examiner as Fact Finder

In formulating a rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 103, the examiner should focus on the state of the art and not impermissible hindsight, e.g. applicant's disclosure.

See KSR at 1397 ("A factfinder should be aware, of course, of the distortion caused by hindsight bias and must be cautious of arguments reliant upon ex post reasoning.") (citing Graham, 383 U.S. at 36).


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Key Points

  • Prior art is not limited to the four corners of the documentary prior art being applied.

    • Prior art includes both the specialized understanding of one of ordinary skill in the art, and the common understanding of the layman.

    • It includes "background knowledge possessed by a person having ordinary skill in the art. . . . [A] court can take account of the inferences and creative steps that a person of ordinary skill in the art would employ." KSR at 1396.

  • Examiners may rely on, for example, official notice, common sense, and design choice.


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Making a Prima Facie Case of Obviousness

Examiners must:

  • Resolve the Graham inquiries.

  • Articulate appropriate factual findings.

  • Explain the reasoning that provides a nexus between the factual findings and the legal conclusion of obviousness.


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Rationales

  • One or more of the rationales set forth in the following slides may be relied upon to support a conclusion of obviousness. The list of rationales provided herein is not intended to be an all-inclusive list.

  • The key to supporting any rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 103 is the clear articulation of the reasons why the claimed invention would have been obvious.


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Rationale A. Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

"The combination of familiar elements according to known methods is likely to be obvious when it does no more than yield predictable results. . . . [W]hen a patent 'simply arranges old elements with each performing the same function it had been known to perform' and yields no more than one would expect from such an arrangement, the combination is obvious."

KSR at 1395-66 (citing Sakraida v. AG Pro, Inc., 425 U.S. 273, 282 (1976)).


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Rationale A. Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art included each element claimed although not necessarily in a single reference;

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art could have combined the elements as claimed by known methods and that in combination, each element merely would have performed the same function as it did separately; and

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art would have recognized that the results of the combination were predictable.


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Rationale A. Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

Reasoning: All the claimed elements were known in the prior art and one skilled in the art could have combined the elements as claimed by known methods with no change in their respective functions, and the combination would have yielded predictable results to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.


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Rationale B. Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

"[W]hen a patent claims a structure already known in the prior art that is altered by the mere substitution of one element for another known in the field, the combination must do more than yield a predictable result."

KSR at 1395 (citing United States v. Adams, 383 US 39, 50-51 (1966)).


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Rationale B. Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art contained a device which differed from the claimed device by the substitution of some components with other components;

  • a finding that the substituted components and their functions were known in the art; and

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art could have substituted one known element for another and the results of the substitution would have been predictable.


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Rationale B. Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because the substitution of one known element for another would have yielded predictable results to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.


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Rationale C. Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

"[I]f a technique has been used to improve one device, and a person of ordinary skill in the art would recognize that it would improve similar devices in the same way, using the technique is obvious unless its actual application is beyond his or her skill. . . . [A] court must ask whether the improvement is more than the predictable use of prior art elements according to their established functions."

KSR at 1396.


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Rationale C. Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art contained a “base” device upon which the claimed invention is an improvement;

  • a finding that the prior art contained a “comparable” device that was improved in the same way as the claimed invention; and

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill could have applied the known “improvement” technique in the same way to the “base” device and the results would have been predictable.


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Rationale C. Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because the technique for improving a particular class of devices was part of the ordinary capabilities of a person of ordinary skill in the art, in view of the teaching of the technique for improvement in other situations.


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Rationale D. Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

"[T]he claimed subject matter may involve [] the mere application of a known technique to a piece of prior art ready for the improvement."

KSR at 1396.


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Rationale D. Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art contained a "base" device;

  • a finding that the prior art contained a known technique that is applicable to the base device; and

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art would have recognized that applying the known technique would have yielded predictable results.


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Rationale D. Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because a particular known technique was recognized as part of the ordinary capabilities of one skilled in the art.


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Rationale E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

"When there is a design need or market pressure to solve a problem and there are a finite number of identified, predictable solutions, a person of ordinary skill has good reason to pursue the known options within his or her technical grasp. If this leads to the anticipated success, it is likely the product not of innovation but of ordinary skill and common sense."

KSR at 1397.


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Rationale E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that there had been a recognized problem or need in the art including a design need or market pressure to solve a problem;

  • a finding that there had been a finite number of identified predictable potential solutions;

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art could have pursued the known potential options with a reasonable expectation of success.


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Rationale E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because "a person of ordinary skill has good reason to pursue the known options within his or her technical grasp. If this leads to the anticipated success, it is likely the product not of innovation but of ordinary skill and common sense."


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Rationale F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

"When a work is available in one field of endeavor, design incentives and other market forces can prompt variations of it, either in the same field or a different one. If a person of ordinary skill can implement a predictable variation, § 103 likely bars its patentability."

KSR at 1396.


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Rationale F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the scope and content of the prior art, whether in the same or different field of endeavor, included a similar or analogous device.

  • a finding that there were design incentives or market forces which would have prompted adaptation of the known device.

  • a finding that the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art were encompassed in known variations or in a principle known in the prior art; and

  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art, in view of the design incentives or market forces, could have implemented the claimed variation of the prior art, and the claimed variation would have been predictable.


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Rationale F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because the design incentives or market forces provided a reason to make an adaptation, and the invention resulted from application of the prior knowledge in a predictable manner.


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Rationale G. TSM Test

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that there was some teaching, suggestion, or motivation, either in the references themselves or in the knowledge generally available to one of ordinary skill in the art, to modify the reference or to combine reference teachings; and

  • a finding that there was reasonable expectation of success.


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Rationale G. TSM Test

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine the prior art to achieve the claimed invention and that there would have been a reasonable expectation of success.


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Applicant's Response

If an applicant traverses an obviousness rejection under § 103, a reasoned statement must be included explaining why the applicant believes the Office has erred substantively as to the factual findings or the conclusion of obviousness. 37 CFR 1.111(b).


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Rebuttal Evidence

  • Applicant may submit evidence, in a timely manner, to rebut a prima facie showing of obviousness.

  • Rebuttal evidence may include evidence of secondary considerations such as commercial success, long felt but unsolved needs, failure of others, and unexpected results.

  • Rebuttal evidence may address the particular findings of fact or line of reasoning provided by the examiner in support of obviousness.


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Rebuttal Evidence

  • An mere argument that an examiner has not provided an argument based on TSM, or that no motivation is explicitly stated in the applied reference(s), is not sufficient to overcome a prima facie case of obviousness.

  • If an examiner maintains a rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 103 after receiving applicant's response and reweighing all of the evidence, he or she must clearly explain the reasons for doing so.


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KSR Summary

  • reaffirmed the four-prong analysis for obviousness set forth in Graham;

  • stressed that a reasoned analysis must be provided to support any conclusion of obviousness;

  • recognized the continued viability of the "teaching, suggestion, or motivation" (TSM) approach when properly applied;


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KSR Summary

  • explained that TSM is not to be employed in a rigid or formalistic manner;

  • clarified that TSM is not the exclusive test whereby obviousness may be determined; and

  • explained that a broader range of rationales may be employed to support an obviousness rejection.


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Useful Web Links - http://www.uspto.gov

Notices, Recent Patent-Related – a very current list of all Federal Register, Official Gazette and pre-Official Gazette notices, and certain Office memoranda: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/dapp/ogsheet.html

Forms Page – current USPTO forms available for use by the Public: http://www.uspto.gov/web/forms/index.html

Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP): http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/mpep.htm

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Useful Web Links - http://www.uspto.gov

Mailing Addresses and Mail Stops: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/og/patboxs.htm

Facsimile Numbers: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/og/2005/week42/patcorr.htm

USPTO Glossary: http://www.uspto.gov/main/glossary/index.html

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Contact Information

Thank You!

For help with patent prosecution questions, contact the Office of Patent Legal Administration.

e-mail: [email protected]

phone: (571) 272-7701

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