restricted

Restriction to Permissible Claim Amendments after Final Rejection

Q. We understand that permissible claim amendments are restricted after the issuance of a final rejection.  Please explain about the restriction.

A.  Permissible claim amendments are restricted after the issuance of not only the Final Notice of Rejection, but also after the Decision for Rejection.  Further, this restriction applies to a divisional application filed from a parent application filed on or after April 1, 2007 and containing claims which can be rejected on the same ground as the parent application. 

The permissible amendments are (i) deletion of a claim(s), (ii) amendment for limiting the scope of the invention without increasing the number of claims, (iii) amendments for removing clerical errors, and (iv) amendments for clarifying an unclear expression.  Other claim amendments are not permissible at this stage.  For example, the following amendments are not permissible even when the claims are fully supported by the specification as filed:

   (a) Addition of a new claim directed to a subject matter not described in the claims;

   (b)  Addition of a new subclaim for limiting the scope of an independent claim; and

   (c)  Amendment for changing the category of a claim (such as, changing a product-by-process claim into a process claim).

Addition of a new subclaim is permissible when the amendment is made for clarifying an unclear expression.  For example, when there is a claim reading “A composition containing X, preferably Y”, amending this claim to “A composition containing X” and adding a subclaim reading “Composition according to claim N, wherein said X is Y” will be permissible.

Divisional Application

Q1. Is it possible to file a divisional application from a pending Japanese patent application?

A1.  A divisional application can be filed from a pending Japanese patent application, but periods for filing a divisional application depends on the filing date of the parent application.

 Divisional application from a parent application filed on or before March 31, 2007 can be filed: 

  (1) any time until the 1st Office Action is issued by the Patent Office,

  (2) within a period for filing a response to an Office Action, and

  (3) simultaneously with the filing of a Notice of Appeal.

 Divisional application from a parent application filed on or after April 1, 2007 can be filed: 

  (1) any time until the 1st Office Action is issued by the Patent Office,

  (2) within a period for filing a response to an Office Action,

  (3) within a period when a Notice of Appeal can be filed against the Decision for Rejection (*note that a divisional application can be filed within this period even without the actual filing of a Notice of Appeal or even after the filing of the Notice of Appeal), and

  (4) within 30 days from the issuance of a Decision to Grant.

Q2. Our patent application in Japan was granted as a result of an Appeal against the Decision for Rejection.  Is it possible to file a new divisional application from the granted patent application?

A2.  No.  Regardless of the filing date of the parent application, when an Appeal is filed, a divisional application cannot be filed any longer after the final decision.

Q3. Is the filing of only claims sufficient for filing a divisional application?

A3.  Not only claims, but the whole specification including drawings and sequence listing (if any) is required.  Further, filing of an explanatory Written Statement on the divisional application for explaining (1) supports for the claims, and (2) differences between the parent application and the present divisional application is required by the Japan Patent Office. 

Q4. Is it acceptable to first file a divisional application with the same claims as the patent application and then later amend the claims? 

A4.  Yes, it is acceptable as long as the claims are to be amended later during the prosecution of the divisional so as not to overlap with those of the parent because no double patenting is permitted. 

The Applicant is requested to file a Written Statement for explaining how the divisional differs from the parent, etc.   The Statement should be filed earlier than or simultaneously with the filing of a request for examination.

Further, in the case of a divisional application from a parent application filed on or after April 1, 2007, the claims of such a divisional application (which may be submitted as amendment after filing of the divisional) should be drafted so as to remove all of the reasons for rejection issued against the parent.  When the examiner finds that the claims of the divisional can be rejected on the same ground as the parent, the first Notice of Rejection is made final, and permissible claim amendments are restricted as in the case of the "amendment after final Rejection".  Please see item “Restriction to Permissible Claim Amendments After Final Rejection” for more details.

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