Recent test takers report that question #30 from the October 2003 (PM) test is in the patent bar exam database.
30. Co-inventors Smith and Jones filed an application for a patent on a cell phone, on May 15, 2002. They received a first Office action from a primary examiner rejecting the claims under 35 USC 102(a) over a publication by Bell and Watson, published on April 5, 2002, describing a cell phone having all the same features as is claimed in the patent application. In reply, the co-inventors each submitted a declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 stating that they had actually reduced the invention to practice no later than March 13, 2002. However, the declarations failed to include two claimed features. Neither the particular antenna needed to enable the cell phone could receive transmissions from the local cellular transmitting tower, nor a detachable carrying strap was included in the declarations. As evidence of their prior reduction to practice, Smith and Jones submitted their co-authored journal article. The journal article contained a figure of the cell phone as described in the declarations. That is, the cell phone shown in the figure of the article lacked an antenna and a detachable strap. The article was received by the journal on March 13, 2002, and was published on April 30, 2002. The cell phones shown in the figure in the Bell and Watson publication, and in the Smith and Jones patent application have the particular antenna and a detachable strap. Which of the following actions, if taken by the examiner, would be the most proper in accordance with the patent laws, rules and the procedures as related in the MPEP?
(A) The examiner should maintain the rejection of the claims under 35 USC 102(a) and make the rejection final.
(B) The examiner should withdraw the rejection and look for references which have a publication date prior to May 15, 2001.
(C) The examiner should withdraw the rejection and notify Smith and Jones that their application is in condition for allowance.
(D) The examiner should maintain the rejection, but indicate that the claims would be allowable if Smith and Jones provided an original copy of the figure published in their journal article as factual support for their declarations.
(E) The examiner should maintain the rejection and inform Smith and Jones that the declarations are insufficient because they cannot “swear behind” a reference which is a statutory bar.
ANSWER: (A) is the correct answer. MPEP (8th Ed.) § 715.07, under the heading “Facts and Documentary Evidence” states that “The essential thing to be shown under 37 CFR 1.131 is priority of invention and this may be done by any satisfactory evidence of the fact. FACTS, not conclusions, must be alleged. Evidence in the form of exhibits may accompany the affidavit or declaration. … The affidavit or declaration must state FACTS and produce such documentary evidence and exhibits in support thereof as are available to show conception and completion of invention in this country or in a NAFTA or WTO member country (MPEP § 715.07(c)) at least the conception being at a date prior to the effective date of the reference. … In general, proof of actual reduction to practice requires a showing that the apparatus actually existed and worked for its intended purpose.” Here, the co-inventors admit, and the documentary exhibits relied upon demonstrate that they failed to reduce the claimed invention to practice prior to the publication date of the Bell and Watson reference. It is also apparent that due to the lack of an antenna in the cell phone described in Smith’s and Jones’s declarations and journal article, that the cell phone which was reduced to practice prior to the publication date ofthe Bell and Watson article would not have worked for its intended purpose. Accordingly, the examiner should maintain the rejection and make it final. (B) and (C) are incorrect choices since the evidence of record shows that Smith and Jones are unable to overcome the prior art. (D) is wrong because an original copy of the published figure which shows that Smith and Jones were not in possession of the claimed invention prior to Bell and Watson publication cannot help their case. (E) is incorrect because prior art under 102(a) is not a statutory bar.