In a recent Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) Quarterly Meeting held on May 5, 2016, the USPTO provided an update on the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU). This update included the current composition of the CRU, the history of the CRU, the impact of America Invents Act (AIA) on the CRU, statistics on supplemental examination, ex parte reexamination and reissue applications, CRU operations, and the future of the CRU. Summarized below are some of the highlights of the CRU update.
The CRU currently has 10 Supervisory Patent Examiners, and 84 Primary Patent Examiners with an average of 15-20 years of examining experience. With the implementation of AIA, the CRU handles supplemental examination. As of May 5, 2016, the CRU received 111 compliant supplemental examination requests. The average time from the date of filing to conclusion of the supplemental examination proceeding is about 1 month.
The CRU also handles ex parte reexamination proceedings. It currently has about 435 pending ex parte reexaminations. The average time from filing to issuance of an order granting or denying ex parte reexamination is about 1.3 months. The average time from ex parte reexamination request filing to issuance of a Notice of Intent to Issue ex parte Reexamination Certificate (NIRC) with no prior patent owner appeal to the PTAB is about 11.4 months. The average time from ex parte reexamination request filing to issuance of an NIRC with appeal to the PTAB is about 21 months.
The CRU also handles reissue applications. In 2014, the CRU took over responsibility for examination of all newly filed reissue applications. In 2015, the majority of pending reissue applications were transferred from the technology centers to the CRU. Currently, the CRU handles about 2000 reissued applications, among which about 300 were filed this fiscal year. The oldest reissue applications are examined first.
The CRU closely monitors all pending and concluded PTAB post grant proceedings and reviews all PTAB determinations before taking any action in an ex parte reexamination or reissue application involving the same patent.
Currently, the CRU technical support staff (paralegals and legal instrument examiners) process all deposited ex parte Reexamination and Supplemental Examination Requests and determines compliance with filing date requirements. The Office Patent Application Processing (OPAP) and technology center legal instrument examiners process reissue applications and determine filing date requirements.
Each ex parte reexamination request, supplemental examination request, or reissue application is assigned to a single CRU examiner based on the technology. Before mailed, all substantive Office Actions are reviewed, conferenced and signed by a three person panel consisting of (1) the assigned examiner, (2) a conferee examiner working in the same technology, and (3) a CRU supervisor.
To view the USPTO’s information on the May 5, 2016, PPAC meeting, please click here.