The recent opinion in Sandbox Logistics, LLC et al. v. Proppant Express Investments LLC et al., 2019-1684 (Fed. Cir. May 18, 2020) is a good reminder about acquiescence during prosecution. Here is a quote from that opinion:

Sandbox did not challenge the Examiner’s understanding; instead, in response, SandBox amended the claims of the ’518 patent to recite a “bottom[,]” J.A. 575, with SandBox explaining that although the claims “were rejected on the basis [that] they lack essential elements[,]” the claims were “being amended to include a bottom, and that the hatch is positioned closely adjacent to the bottom[,]” J.A. 580. The Examiner allowed the ’518 patent, based at least in part on his understanding that the claims of the ’518 patent were amended to include a “bottom wall on which the hatch is mounted.” J.A. 1007; see J.A. 1025 (Notice of Allowability) (the Examiner explaining that the prior art “fails to teach or suggest . . . a bottom[] and a hatch closely adjacent to the bottom”). SandBox’s failure to challenge the Examiner’s understanding amounts to a disclaimer. See Biogen Idec, Inc. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, 713 F.3d 1090, 1096 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (“If an applicant chooses, she can challenge an examiner’s characterization in order to avoid any chance for disclaimer, but the applicants in this case did not directly challenge the examiner’s characterization.”); TorPharm, Inc. v. Ranbaxy Pharm., Inc., 336 F.3d 1322, 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (“[I]n ascertaining the scope of an issued patent, the public is entitled to equate an inventor’s acquiescence to the examiner’s narrow view of patentable subject matter with abandonment of the rest. Such acquiescence may be found where the patentee narrows his or her claims by amendment[.]” (internal citation omitted)). Thus, the prosecution history confirms that “bottom” refers to a “bottom wall.”

Sandbox Logistics, LLC et al. v. Proppant Express Investments LLC et al., 2019-1684 (Fed. Cir. May 18, 2020)(slip opinion at 11-12).

I think one area where many in-house patent programs could be improved is at the payment of the issue fee phase. Namely, a paper can be submitted, in conjunction with each issue fee payment, that indicates non-acquiescence in (at least) the examiner’s reasons for allowance and instead cites the scope of the claims as a whole as the applicant’s view as to why the claims are allowable. The time/cost to do so is not that significant.

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