Takeaway: An Applicant argued on appeal that a reference was not prior art because the application on appeal "asserted" priority to a PCT application. The BPAI found that the priority claim was ineffective because it did not specify a relationship between the application on appeal and the PCT application. (Ex parte Gidwani, BPAI 2011.)
Ex parte Gidwani
Technology Center 1600
Decided June 28, 2011
The application involved claims to metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes. The Examiner rejected the independent claims as obvious over Matharu in view of Igari or Timmins.
During prosecution, the Applicant argued the merits of the primary Matharu reference. In a footnote, the Applicant also argued that Matharu was not prior art: "MATHARAU was filed 27 June 2002. In contrast, the instant application asserts priority from a PCT application Serial No. PCT/IB2000/01404, filed on 2 October 2000. MATHARU thus does not qualify as prior art."
The Examiner responded in an Office Acton by indicating that "a review of the application does not reveal any evidence of national stage filing other than the first sentence of the spec. It is not claimed in the oath." The Office Action then reproduced portions of the MPEP referencing a petition for a delayed benefit claim under § 1.78.
The Applicant appealed the obviousness rejection, and once again argued both the merits of Matharu and its status as prior art. In the Appeal Brief, the Applicant argued that the specification contains a "specific reference to the prior application" as required by § 120 and "accordingly asserts an October 2000 effective filing date." The Appeal Brief reproduced the first paragraph of the specification:
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
Serial No. 09/857,077, filed April 2, 2002, for SUSTAINED RELEASE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS CONTAINING METFORMIN AND METHOD OF THEIR PRODUCTION, now pending, which is a national phase entry under 35 U.S.C. § 371 of PCT/IB00/01404 filed October 2, 2000, now pending.
The Applicant also addressed the Examiner's comment that national stage filing was not claimed in the oath:
The Examiner, however, ignores applicant's priority assertion, arguing that the Applicant must include its priority assertion not the Specification, but in the Inventors' Oath. Applicant respectfully disagrees because the Office's own procedural manual merely requires the priority assertion be made in "the application" - that is, in the oath, or in the specification, or in an application data sheet. See 35 U.S.C. § 120; MAN. PAT. EXAM. PROC. § 201.11. Applicant did precisely what the statute and the Office's own procedural manual requires. Matharu is thus not eligible as prior art.
In the Answer, the Examiner responded to the issue of Matharu's prior art status by pointing out that the statement in the specification did not identify "the relationship between the instant application and the application over which the priority has been claimed."
The BPAI found that the Applicant's specification did not identify a relationship between the application under appeal and the application mentioned in the Cross Reference section, as required by § 1.78. "Contrary to Appellants' contention, without a relationship, the Specification does not 'assert' an effective filing date for the invention claimed other than the filing date of the Application on appeal." The Board concluded that the claim to priority was not perfected, so that Matharu was prior art.
The Board then found that the Examiner had presented a prima facie case of obviousness, and so affirmed the rejection.
My two cents: Not really a lesson about appeal, but about claiming priority. It appears that this Applicant simply didn't understand the rules for claiming priority. Didn't do it right in the specification as originally flied. Didn't do it in the application transmittal as originally filed. Didn't file an ADS at filing. Didn't file a petition for a delayed benefit claim, which is how you fix this error if you don't catch it right after filing.
It appears that the Applicant realized the mistake after filing the appeal, since an ADS with a priority claim was filed while the case was awaiting a Board decision. Unfortunately, it was way too late for correction via an ADS. The Applicant should have filed a § 1.78 petition to perfect the priority claim, then filed an RCE to pull from Appeal and to tell the Examiner about the perfected claim. I'll bet the Examiner would have removed the Matharu reference.