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Request for Continued Examination: Definition, Requirements, and Advantages

By John DiGiacomo

When a patent applicant receives a “final determination” — a Final Office Action — from the US Patent Office, the applicant has several options. One option is to file a Request for Continued Examination (“RCE”). Here is a brief explanation of the definition of an RCE, the requirements and advantages.

What is an RCE?

Essentially, an RCE is a written request filed with the Patent Office for additional processing of a patent application. Generally, the applicant must submit additional arguments, additional adjustments/amendments to a claim or claims or present some other reason for the Patent Office to continue processing the application. Officially, the applicant is hoping that, with additional examination, the Final Office Action will be modified or changed. For example, when the Final Action is the equivalent of a denial, the Patent Examiner must provide reasons for the denial. Depending on the reasons, an RCE might be advisable if the Patent Examiner has, arguably, made a legal error or if a more detailed or extensive examination of some prior art would prompt a change in the Final Office Action.

Requirements for Filing an RCE

A request for an RCE can only be filed after issuance of a Final Office Action that is one of the following: a final rejection of a patent application, a Notice of Allowance or an action that otherwise closes prosecution in the application. An RCE must be filed within 4 months of the Final Office Action (although extensions can be obtained). The written request for an RCE must include:

  • The proper request form
  • The payment of the proper fees
  • An information disclosure statement and
  • An amendment to the written description, claims, or drawings, new arguments, or new evidence in support of patentability

Once properly filed, the Patent Office will withdraw the finality of any Office Action and the patent application will be continued and the RCE will be considered.

Advantages of filing an RCE

There are several advantages to filing an RCE. First, an RCE is generally faster and less expensive than the alternatives, particularly since an RCE is often required eventually. For example, one option is to just file a response to the Final Office Action. Often, that option is not sufficient to move the patent application into a state where approval can be granted. Thus, an RCE is eventually required. Skipping the response saves time and money.

Second, particularly with complicated patent applications, the “problem” is that the Patent Examiner just needs more time. Like all employees, Patent Examiners are given a limited time to complete their work. In simple terms, filing an RCE will “reset the clock” which gives the Patent Examiner another “block of time” to complete the examination.

Third, an RCE is a method of keeping the patent application “alive” which is important for many reasons including the fact that the process of patenting does not have to start over “from scratch.” For other applicants, there are strategic reasons that an applicant might want the patent application to remain “pending” for as long as possible. Filing an RCE is one method of accomplishing this. This is one reason that a request for an RCE might be filed even after a “good” Final Office Action like receipt of a Notice of Allowance.

Contact Revision Legal

For more information or if you have an invention or design that you want to patent, contact the patent lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100.

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