Ex parte Bianchi
Appeal 200702938; Appl. No. 10/327,489; Tech. Center 3600
Decided January 28, 2008
The Examiner rejected as obvious over a combination of references. In response, the Applicant swore behind the secondary reference by filing a declaration under § 1.131. The Examiner did not withdraw the rejection, and the Applicant appealed. In the Appeal Brief, the Applicant made no substantive arguments but instead argued that the rejection was deficient because the swear-behind declaration removed the secondary reference as prior art.
The Board affirmed the rejections, finding that the Applicant had not submitted sufficient evidence of conception and/or diligence. The Board also noted that the declaration did not comply with formalities required by § 1.131. Specifically, the declaration named a single inventor as declarant but was signed by all four inventors.
The Board indicated that
If the Appellants pursue the removal of Goodman as prior art by submitting an affidavit or declaration that fully complies with the requirements of 37 C.F.R. § 1.131, they should observe that the existing declaration ambiguously states that only one of the inventors is making the declaration in the text, while all inventors are signatories (FF 03 & 04). All of the inventors of the subject matter claimed must make the declaration. The Appellants should resolve this ambiguity by stating which of the inventors are actually making the declaration in any subsequent affidavit or declaration.
My two cents: Like the declaration of inventorship filed with an application, a § 1.131 declaration must be signed by all the inventors (with a few specific exceptions). But where the declaration of inventorship usually takes the form of a single document that names all inventors and is signed by all inventors, all the § 1.131 declarations I see use a different format. Specifically, a § 1.131 declaration is typically submitted as multiple documents, each signed by one inventor. All the documents include the same facts being attested to, and the same "information and belief" language. They differ only in the identification of the declarant/signatory.
As far as I know, you could submit a single document for a § 1.131, like a declaration of inventorship, as long as each declarant was named separately. The problem here was that one declarant was named as making the statements yet all inventors signed.
In an upcoming post, I'll discuss the sufficiency of the evidence and the timing of the declaration.