MPEP 2153.01(a)
Grace Period Inventor Disclosure Exception

This is the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 07.2015, Last Revised in November 2015

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2153.01(a)    Grace Period Inventor Disclosure Exception [R-11.2013]

[Editor Note: This MPEP section is only applicable to applications subject to examination under the first inventor to file (FITF) provisions of the AIA as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 100 (note). See MPEP § 2159 et seq. to determine whether an application is subject to examination under the FITF provisions, and MPEP § 2131-MPEP § 2138 for examination of applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102.]

AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b)(1)(A) first provides that a disclosure which would otherwise qualify as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) may be disqualified as prior art if the disclosure is made: (1) one year or less before the effective filing date of the claimed invention; and (2) by the inventor or a joint inventor. Thus, a disclosure that would otherwise qualify as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) will not be treated as prior art by Office personnel if the disclosure is made one year or less before the effective filing date of the claimed invention, and the evidence shows that the disclosure is by the inventor or a joint inventor. What evidence is necessary to show that the disclosure is by the inventor or a joint inventor requires case-by-case treatment, depending upon whether it is apparent from the disclosure itself or the patent application specification that the disclosure is by the inventor or a joint inventor.

Office personnel will not apply a disclosure as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) if it is apparent from the disclosure itself that it is by the inventor or a joint inventor. Specifically, Office personnel will not apply a disclosure as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) if the disclosure: (1) was made one year or less before the effective filing date of the claimed invention; (2) names the inventor or a joint inventor as an author or an inventor; and (3) does not name additional persons as authors on a printed publication or joint inventors on a patent. This means that in circumstances where an application names additional persons as joint inventors relative to the persons named as authors in the publication (e.g., the application names as joint inventors A, B, and C, and the publication names as authors A and B), and the publication is one year or less before the effective filing date, it is apparent that the disclosure is a grace period inventor disclosure, and the publication would not be treated as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1). If, however, the application names fewer joint inventors than a publication (e.g., the application names as joint inventors A and B, and the publication names as authors A, B and C), it would not be readily apparent from the publication that it is by the inventor (i.e., the inventive entity) or a joint inventor and the publication would be treated as prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1).

Applicants can include a statement designating any grace period inventor disclosures in the specification See 37 CFR 1.77(b)(6) and MPEP § 608.01(a). An applicant is not required to use the format specified in 37 CFR 1.77 or identify any prior disclosures by the inventor or a joint inventor (unless necessary to overcome a rejection), but identifying any prior disclosures by the inventor or a joint inventor may expedite examination of the application and save applicants (and the Office) the costs related to an Office action and reply. If the patent application specification contains a specific reference to a grace period inventor disclosure, the Office will consider it apparent from the specification that the prior disclosure is by the inventor or a joint inventor, provided that the prior disclosure does not name additional authors or joint inventors and there is no other evidence to the contrary. The applicant may also provide a copy of the grace period inventor disclosure (e.g., copy of a printed publication).

The Office has provided a mechanism for filing an affidavit or declaration (under 37 CFR 1.130 ) to establish that a disclosure is not prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a) due to an exception in AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b). See MPEP § 717. In the situations in which it is not apparent from the prior disclosure or the patent application specification that the prior disclosure is by the inventor or a joint inventor, the applicant may establish by way of an affidavit or declaration that a grace period disclosure is not prior art under AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1) because the prior disclosure was by the inventor or a joint inventor. MPEP § 2155.01 discusses the use of affidavits or declarations to show that the prior disclosure was made by the inventor or a joint inventor under the exception of AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b)(1)(A) for a grace period inventor disclosure.