Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fed. Cir. appeal on use of provisional date as priority date (In re Giacomini)

Last year, the BPAI issued the precedential opinion Ex parte Yamaguchi, which held that a reference is available as 102(e) prior art as of the filing date of its provisional application, as long as the provisional "supports" the subject matter used in the rejection.

I didn't even blink when I read this decision, since I see Examiners do this all the time and the MPEP specifically allows for this (see MPEP 2163.03). My impression of Yamaguchi was that the Applicant didn't understand the burden of proof: the Applicant argued that the provisional "didn't exactly track" the reference patent publication, and the Board considered this to be a conclusory statement which wasn't enough to rebut the Examiner's finding that the "provisional application 'clearly shows the same subject matter as applied from the [reference]'."

Now this issue – reaching back to the provisional filing date – is coming before the Federal Circuit in the case In re Giacomini (Fed. Cir. docket no. 2009-1400). I was surprised to learn this is the first time the Federal Circuit has considered the issue. True, the relevant language in § 102(e) is relatively recent: the 1999 "American Inventors Protection Act". But no one in the last 10 years had an infringement case or a BPAI case that hinged on a reference's provisional date that was important enough to appeal?

In re Giacomini is scheduled for oral argument in January 2010, and the briefs are available through PatentlyO (here).

Though I glanced at the briefs, I'm not interested enough in statutory construction to form an opinion on which side has the better argument. I am interested in patent prosecution, though, and found a few things in the file history that I'll comment on in a later post.

Follow up / Related Posts:
  • I blogged about the eventual Federal Circuit decision In re Giacomini here
  • I blogged about why the Applicant didn't even argue that the reference didn't deserve the provisional's filing date here.
  • I blogged about Giacomini's indefiniteness issue at the BPAI here.

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