During the USPTO’s May 5th Quality Initiative Update, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations, Remy Yucel, announced a new proposed initiative to combine the AFCP 2.0 and Pre-Appeal Conference programs. The combined program will allow applicants to submit a pre-appeal brief conference request containing arguments and claim amendments within two months of receiving a final rejection. The submission will be considered by a panel that includes a neutral party, and the panel decision will be accompanied by comments regarding the grounds of rejection withdrawn or maintained. Thus, the proposed initiative will improve the current AFCP 2.0 program by affording applicants the opportunity to have amendments-after-final considered by a panel of examiners, rather than just the examiner of record. The proposed initiative will also improve the current Pre-Appeal Conference program by providing applicants with detailed comments regarding patentability, which are not provided under the current program. Thus, aside from the narrow two-month window for participating in the proposed combined program, the USPTO’s new initiative appears to be a win-win for patent applicants.
Additional information may be found in slides 14-17 of the USPTO’s May 5th Quality Update Presentation.