Recently the United States Patent Office announced that it is extending and expanding the Full First Action Interview Pilot Program. The program provides for the Patent Applicant and the Examiner to conduct an interview prior to the issuance of the first Office Action on the merits. The program has been extended until May 16, 2012 and expanded to include all utility art areas (previously only the computers/digital processing systems and data processing art groups).
The Patent Applicant must request participation at the time of filing the application or prior to the first Office Action on the merits. The only significant requirement is that the application must contain three or fewer independent claims and twenty or fewer total claims. There is no fee for participation in the program.
Not unlike other interviews, the Full First Action Interview serves to assist the Examiner in obtaining a better understanding of the invention, help establish the relevant state of the art and discuss relevant prior art teachings with a focus on claimed features that establish patentability over the prior art and discuss proposed claimed amendments.
The Full First Action Interview may result in a Notice of Allowability or, if an agreement is not reached as to allowability, the Applicant can choose for the Examiner to (1) generate a first Office Action with a shortened thirty 30 response period or (2) convert the Pre-Interview correspondence from the Examiner and the amendments proposed during the Interview into the into, what is in effect, the first Office Action and the response to the First Office Action (i.e., the next Office Action issued may be a final Office Action).
Of note, 1145 applicants have participated in the program to date and 33.5% of the interviews have resulted in a first action allowance. With such a high allowance rate, Applicants may want to strongly consider participation in the program as a means of potentially acquiring rights in a more timely fashion. All Patent Applicants that apply to participate in the program prior to the May 16, 2012 will be afforded the opportunity for participate in the Full First Action Interview when the application is subsequently examined in the normal course of matters (i.e., participation in the program does not mean that examination is otherwise expedited).