Test takers report a #17 from the October 2003 (AM) patent bar exam is in the current question pool.
17. Inventor files an application containing the following original Claim 1:
1. A widget comprising element A, and element B.
In a first Office action on the merits, a primary examiner rejects claim 1 under 35 USC 103 as being obvious over reference X. Reference X explicitly discloses a widget having element A, but it does not disclose element B. The examiner, however, takes official notice of the fact that element B is commonly associated with element A in the art and on that basis concludes that it would have been obvious to provide element B in the reference X widget. In reply to the Office action, the registered practitioner representing the applicant makes no amendments, but instead requests reconsideration of the rejection by demanding that examiner show proof that element B is commonly associated with element A in the art. Which of the following actions, if taken by the examiner in the next Office action would be in accord with the patent laws, rules and procedures as related in the MPEP?
I. Vacate the rejection and allow the claim.
II. Cite a reference that teaches element B is commonly associated with element A in the art and make the rejection final.
III. Deny entry of applicant’s request for reconsideration on the ground that it is not responsive to the rejection and allow applicant time to submit a responsive amendment.
(A) I and II only.
(B) II only.
(C) II and III only.
(D) I, II, and III.
(E) I and III only.
ANSWER: (A) is the most correct answer. MPEP § 2144.03 provides that when anapplicant seasonably traverses an officially noticed fact, the examiner may cite a reference teaching the noticed fact and make the next action final. Here, applicant did seasonably traverse the noticed fact by demanding proof in response to the rejection. II is therefore an appropriate action by the examiner. I is also an appropriate action because the examiner should vacate a rejection based on official notice if no support for the noticed fact can be found in response to a challenge by the applicant. See In re Ahlert, 424 F.2d 1088, 1091 (C.C.P.A. 1970) (“[a]ssertions of technical facts in areas of esoteric technology must always be supported by citation to some reference work” and “[a]llegations concerning specific “knowledge” of the prior art, which might be peculiar to a particular art should also be supported”). (B) is incorrect because (A) is correct. (C), (D), and (E) are incorrect because action III is improper. An applicant is entitled to respond to a rejection by requesting reconsideration, with or without amending the application.37 CFR § 1.111(a)(1). Applicant is also required to timely challenge a noticed fact in order to preserve the issue for appeal. MPEP § 2144.03.