Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Meaning of BPAI precedential and informative opinions

Earlier this week I discussed Ex parte Rodriguez. I noted that the decision was precedential, and you can probably figure out what that means. But if you're not familiar BPAI nomenclature, the BPAI provides a Standard Operating Procedure document which explains the meaning of BPAI "routine", "precedential" and "informative" opinions.

As its name suggests, a precedential opinion is one that must be followed in future BPAI decisions. The BPAI typically issues only two or three precedential opinions each year.
Informative opinions are more common: eleven were issued in 2009 (two of which were interference cases). The SOP describes informative opinions as follows:
Informative opinions are not binding, but illustrate norms of Board decision-making for the public, the patent examining corps, and future Board panels. Informative opinions may explain best practices, address recurring problems, identify developing areas of the law, exemplify types of decisions under-represented in commercial case reporting services, or report cases of public interest.
The vast majority of BPAI opinions fall into the third category of routine opinions. The SOP says:
Routine opinions that are cited by a party or that are publicly available may be cited for whatever persuasive value they may have but, as a general matter, Routine opinions should be cited sparingly.

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