Recently-announced changes to U.S. patent regulations will relax certain standards for acquiring and maintaining patents. The rule changes are designed to make U.S. patent procedures more consistent with the procedures of other patent offices worldwide.
The revisions include:
Changes to the requirements for revival of abandoned patent applications, and patents that lapsed for failure to pay maintenance fees:
Currently, abandoned patent applications and lapsed patents may be revived for a period of two years after the abandonment if the abandonment was unintentional. After the two-year period, patents and applications may only be revived if the applicant can show that the abandonment was “unavoidable,” which is a much more difficult standard to meet.
The new rules do away with the “unavoidable” standard and simply permit revival if the abandonment was unintentional.
Changes to the content requirement for utility patent applications:
Under the existing rules, U.S. utility patent applications must include at least one claim, a specification and drawings.
The new rules will allow applications to be filed without any claims. Instead, claims may be added after the filing date. However, this does not change the requirement that all material in the claims be supported by the specification. The new rules also allow an application to incorporate a previously-filed application by reference, instead of requiring a full specification. This option may be useful in continuation and divisional applications. This applicant will then have a limited period of time to file the complete specification and claims.
The new rule changes are scheduled to take effect December 18, 2013.