RESTRICTION / UNITY OF INVENTION
The claims of an application may properly be required to be restricted to one of two or more claimed inventions only if they are able to support separate patents and they are either independent (MPEP § 802.01, § 806.06, and § 808.01) or distinct (MPEP § 806.05 – § 806.05(j)).
If the search and examination of all the claims in an application can be made without serious burden, the examiner must examine them on the merits, even though they include claims to independent or distinct inventions.
I. CRITERIA FOR RESTRICTION BETWEEN PATENTABLY DISTINCT INVENTIONS
There are two criteria for a proper requirement for restriction between patentably distinct inventions:
- (A) The inventions must be independent (see MPEP § 802.01, § 806.06, § 808.01) or distinct as claimed (see MPEP § 806.05 – § 806.05(j)); and
- (B) There would be a serious burden on the examiner if restriction is not required (see MPEP § 803.02, § 808, and § 808.02).
Examiners must provide reasons and/or examples to support conclusions, but need not cite documents to support the restriction requirement in most cases.
Where plural inventions are capable of being viewed as related in two ways, both applicable criteria for distinctness must be demonstrated to support a restriction requirement.
If there is an express admission that the claimed inventions would have been obvious over each other within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 103, restriction should not be required. In re Lee, 199 USPQ 108 (Comm’r Pat. 1978).
For purposes of the initial requirement, a serious burden on the examiner may be prima facie shown by appropriate explanation of separate classification, or separate status in the art, or a different field of search as defined in MPEP § 808.02. That prima facie showing may be rebutted by appropriate showings or evidence by the applicant. Insofar as the criteria for restriction practice relating to Markush claims is concerned, the criteria is set forth in MPEP § 803.02. Insofar as the criteria for restriction or election practice relating to claims to genus-species, see MPEP § 806.04 – § 806.04(i) and § 808.01(a).
Unity of Invention
The analysis used to determine whether the Office may require restriction differs in national stage applications submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371 (unity of invention analysis) as compared to national applications filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) (independent and distinct analysis). See MPEP Chapter 1800, in particular MPEP § 1850, § 1875, and § 1893.03(d), for a detailed discussion of unity of invention under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). However, the guidance set forth in this chapter with regard to other substantive and procedural matters (e.g., double patenting rejections (MPEP § 804), election and reply by applicant (MPEP § 818), and rejoinder of nonelected inventions (MPEP § 821.04) generally applies to national stage applications submitted under 35 U.S.C. 371.