Under the First Action Interview Pilot Program, an applicant is entitled to a first action interview, upon request, prior to the first Office action on the merits. The examiner will conduct a prior art search and provide applicant with a condensed pre-interview communication citing relevant prior art and identifying proposed rejections or objections. Within 30 days of receipt, applicant schedules an interview and submits proposed amendments and/or arguments. At the interview, the relevant prior art, proposed rejections, amendments and arguments will be discussed. If agreement is not reached, the applicant will receive a first action interview Office action that includes an interview summary that constitutes a first Office action on the merits under 35 USC 132.
The application must contain nor more than 20 claims total and only 3 or less independent claims. The request must be filed at least one day before an office action on the merits issues. The USPTO has reportedly received over 2,100 requests to participate. Of the applications that have been taken up for examination since the expansion, the Office has allowed over 35% on first action. According to the USPTO, participants in the program have experienced several benefits including:
- Effectively advancing prosecution of an application before issuance of an Office action;
- Enhanced interaction between the applicant and the examiner before issuance of an Office action;
- Resolving patentability issues one-on-one with the examiner at the beginning of the prosecution process, rather than after a first Office action; and
- Expedited allowance of an application, relative to standard examination, due to the program’s enhanced communication and shorter time periods for response.