MPEP 2136.05(b)
Showing The Reference Is Describing An Inventor's Or At Least One Joint Inventor's Own Work

Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 10.2019, Last Revised in June 2020

Previous: §2136.05(a) | Next: §2137

2136.05(b)    Showing The Reference Is Describing An Inventor's Or At Least One Joint Inventor's Own Work [R-10.2019]

A rejection based on pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) can be overcome by filing an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 showing that the reference invention is not by "another." "The fact that an application has named a different inventive entity than a patent does not necessarily make that patent prior art." Applied Materials Inc. v. Gemini Research Corp., 835 F.2d 279, 15 USPQ2d 1816 (Fed. Cir. 1988). The issue turns on what the evidence of record shows as to who invented the subject matter. In re Whittle, 454 F.2d 1193, 1195, 172 USPQ 535, 537 (CCPA 1972). In fact, even if an inventor's or at least one joint inventor's work was publicly disclosed prior to the patent application, the inventor's or at least one joint inventor's own work may not be used against the application subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 unless there is a time bar under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b). In re DeBaun, 687 F.2d 459, 214 USPQ 933 (CCPA 1982) (citing In re Katz, 687 F.2d 450, 215 USPQ 14 (CCPA 1982)). However, an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 that is only a naked assertion of inventorship and that fails to provide any context, explanation or evidence to support that assertion is insufficient to show that the relied-upon subject matter was the inventor’s own work. See EmeraChem Holdings, LLC v. Volkswagen Grp. of Am., Inc., 859 F.3d 1341, 123 USPQ2d 1146 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (finding that a declaration submitted by inventor Campbell insufficient to establish that he and Guth (now deceased) were inventors of the subject matter disclosed in a patent naming Campbell, Guth, Danziger, and Padron because "[n]othing in the declaration itself, or in addition to the declaration, provides any context, explanation, or evidence to lend credence to the inventor's bare assertion" and more than twenty years had passed since the alleged events occurred. Id. at 1345; 123 USPQ2d at 1149.). Therefore, when the unclaimed subject matter of a reference is an inventor's or at least one joint inventor's own invention, a prima facie case based on the patent, U.S. patent application publication, or international application publication, may be overcome by showing that the disclosure is a description of the inventor's or at least one joint inventor's own previous work. Such a showing can be made by proving that the inventor(s) of the U.S. patent, U.S. patent application publication, or the international application publication, was associated with applicant (e.g., same assignee) and learned of the inventor's or at least one joint inventor's invention from the inventor or at least one joint inventor directly or indirectly. In re Mathews, 408 F.2d 1393, 161 USPQ 276 (CCPA 1969).

In the situation where one application is first filed naming sole inventor X and then a later application is filed naming joint inventors X & Y, it must be proven that the joint invention was made first, was thereafter described in the sole inventor's patent, or was thereafter described in the sole inventor's U.S. patent application publication or international application publication, and then the joint application was filed. In re Land, 368 F.2d 866, 151 USPQ 621 (CCPA 1966).

In In re Land, separate U.S. patents to Rogers and to Land were used to reject a joint application to Rogers and Land under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) /103. The inventors worked for the same company (Polaroid) and in the same laboratory. All the patents flowed from the same research. In addition, the patent applications were prepared by the same attorneys, were interrelated and contained cross-references to each other. The court affirmed the rejection because (1) the inventive entities of the patents (one to Rogers and one to Land) were different from the inventive entity of the joint application (Rogers and Land) and (2) Land and Rogers brought their knowledge of their individual work with them when they made the joint invention. There was no indication that the portions of the references relied on disclosed anything they did jointly. Nor was there a showing that what they did jointly was done before the filing of the reference patent applications.

See also In re Carreira, 532 F.2d 1356, 189 USPQ 461 (CCPA 1976) (The examiner rejected claims to a joint application to Carreira, Kyrakakis, Solodar, and Labana under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) and 103 in view of a U.S. patent issued to Tulagin and Carreira or a patent issued to Clark. The applicants submitted declarations under 37 CFR 1.132 by Tulagin and Clark in which each declarant stated he was "not the inventor of the use of compounds having a hydroxyl group in a position ortho to an azo linkage." The court held that these statements were vague and inconclusive because the declarants did not disclose the use of this generic compound but rather species of this generic compound in their patents and it was the species which met the claims. The declaration that each did not invent the use of the generic compound does not establish that Tulagin and Clark did not invent the use of the species.)

MPEP § 715.01(a), § 715.01(c), and § 716.10 set forth more information pertaining to the contents and uses of affidavits and declarations under 37 CFR 1.132 for antedating references. See MPEP § 2146for information pertaining to rejections under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) /103 and the applicability of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(c).

I.    APPLICANT NEED NOT SHOW DILIGENCE OR REDUCTION TO PRACTICE WHEN THE SUBJECT MATTER DISCLOSED IN THE REFERENCE IS APPLICANT’S OWN WORK

When the reference reflects an inventor's or at least one joint inventor's own work, evidence of diligence or reduction to practice does not need to be provided in order to establish that the inventor or at least one joint inventor invented the subject matter disclosed in the reference. A showing that the reference disclosure arose from an inventor's or at least one joint inventor's work coupled with a showing of conception by the inventor or at least one joint inventor before the filing date of the reference will overcome the pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) rejection. The showing can be made by submission of an affidavit under 37 CFR 1.132 by the inventor or at least one joint inventor who invented the subject matter. The other joint inventors, if applicable, need not submit an affidavit disclaiming inventorship, but, if submitted, a disclaimer by all other joint inventors should be considered by the examiner. In re DeBaun, 687 F.2d 459, 214 USPQ 933 (CCPA 1982) (Declaration submitted by DeBaun stated that he was the inventor of subject matter disclosed in the U.S. patent reference of DeBaun and Noll. Exhibits were attached to the declaration showing conception and included drawings DeBaun had prepared and given to counsel for purposes of preparing the application which issued as the reference patent. The court held that, even though the evidence was not sufficient to antedate the prior art patent under 37 CFR 1.131, diligence and/or reduction to practice was not required to show DeBaun invented the subject matter. Declarant’s exhibits and statement that he conceived the invention first was enough to overcome the pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) rejection.).

II.    CLAIMING OF INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS OR SUBCOMBINATIONS IN A COMBINATION CLAIM OF THE REFERENCE DOES NOT ITSELF ESTABLISH THAT THE INVENTOR OR AT LEAST ONE JOINT INVENTOR INVENTED THOSE ELEMENTS

The existence of combination claims in a reference is not evidence that the inventor or at least one joint inventor invented the individual elements or subcombinations included if the elements and subcombinations are not separately claimed apart from the combination. In re DeBaun, 687 F.2d 459, 214 USPQ 933 (CCPA 1982) (citing In re Facius, 408 F.2d 1396, 1406, 161 USPQ 294, 301 (CCPA 1969)).

See also In re Mathews, 408 F.2d 1393, 161 USPQ 276 (CCPA 1969) (On September 15, 1961, Dewey filed an application disclosing and claiming a time delay protective device for an electric circuit. In disclosing the invention, Dewey completely described, but did not claim, a "gating means 19" invented by Mathews which was usable in the protective device. Dewey and Mathews were coworkers at General Electric Company, the assignee. Mathews filed his application on March 7, 1963, before the Dewey patent issued but almost 18 months after its filing. The Mathews application disclosed that "one illustration of a circuit embodying the present invention is shown in copending patent application S.N. 138,476-Dewey." The examiner used Dewey to reject all the Mathews claims under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e). In response, Mathews submitted an affidavit by Dewey under 37 CFR 1.132. In the affidavit, Dewey stated that he did not invent the gating means 19 but had learned of the gating means through Mathews and that GE attorneys had advised that the gating means be disclosed in Dewey’s application to comply with 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. The examiner argued that the only way to overcome a pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(e) rejection was by submitting an affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 to antedate the filing date of the reference. The court reversed the rejection, holding that the totality of the evidence on record showed that Dewey derived his knowledge from Mathews who is "the original, first and sole inventor.").