The USPTO and access to experts

I thought it was interesting that during the recent en banc oral argument of NantKwest v. Iancu that the PTO acknowledged that it has access to experts for purposes of a §145 action in US district court.  That raises the question of whether an examiner at the USPTO similarly has access to experts for purposes of determining whether a prior art reference that the examiner is relying upon is enabling.

In In re Antor Media Corp., 689 F.3d 1282 (Fed. Cir. 2012) the Federal Circuit said that the burden is shifted to the Applicant to show that a reference is not enabling because an examiner does not have access to experts (or laboratories):

In discussing the theory of the rejection, the prior art basis for the rejection, and where each limitation of the rejected claims is shown in the prior art reference, an examiner has met his initial burden. Id. at 1363 (“[A]ll that is required of the office to meet its prima facie burden of production is to set forth the statutory basis of the rejection and the reference or references relied upon in a sufficiently articulate and informative manner as to meet the notice requirement of § 132.”). Indeed, as indicated with regard to unclaimed patent prior art, an examiner, who has no access to experts or laboratories, is not in a position to test each piece of prior art for enablement in citing it, and requiring him to do so would be onerous, if not impossible. An examiner, therefore, is not required to anticipate every possible response to a rejection, including showing that a cited reference is enabling.

Consistent with the statutory framework and our precedent, we therefore hold that, during patent prosecution, an examiner is entitled to reject claims as anticipated by a prior art publication or patent without conducting an inquiry into whether or not that prior art reference is enabling. As long as an examiner makes a proper prima facie case of anticipation by giving adequate notice under § 132, the burden shifts to the applicant to submit rebuttal evidence of nonenablement.


In re Antor Media Corp., 689 F.3d 1282, 1289 (Fed. Cir. 2012)(Judge Lourie writing for the court).

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