The USPTO is starting the pilot phase of the Access to Relevant Prior Art Initiative as of November 1, 2018. During the pilot phase, electronic files for a group of patent applications will automatically receive references previously cited in their immediate U.S. parent application. Examiners reviewing those applications will receive a list of the imported references using a new software tool. The pilot will be conducted in art unit 2131 (i.e. computer memory applications) starting November 1, 2018, and will expand to eight other art units on January 1, 2019. Applications included in the program will receive a Notice of Imported Citations listing all citations imported using the pilot system.
The USPTO will use feedback from the pilot phase to make any adjustments needed for implementing the system office-wide. However, there are no plans at this time to lift applicants’ duty of disclosure, and the USPTO’s internal cross-citing will need to be verified by applicants. Thus, at this point, Oliff will not be changing our practice or procedures. At some point, the USPTO may also implement a system for automatically retrieving relevant documents from counterpart foreign applications. If the USPTO continues to pursue the Access to Relevant Prior Art Initiative, it could significantly reduce the frequency of Information Disclosure Statement filings in the future.
Oliff PLC is closely monitoring this and other USPTO initiatives. We will update our clients with any important information and changes as these programs progress.
For more information, please visit the USPTO’s official release: https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/access-prior-art-project