Rare request for rehearing granted to reverse obviousness rejection

It may be discouraging to an applicant to appeal all the way to a final decision only to see the rejection(s) be affirmed. The process can take years. Fortunately, there is a procedure that allows for such a decision to be reviewed by the same panel: request for rehearing. This procedure is at times successful, perhaps counter-intuitively.

In ex parte Clendenen (PTAB March 7, 2018), counsel from Faegre Baker Daniels LLP filed a request for rehearing, arguing that the Section 103(a) obviousness rejection was improperly affirmed. Specifically, they argued that the Board misapprehended the disclosure of a reference and that the reference did not teach the claimed features.

In the rehearing decision, the panel, which consisted of the exact same members as the original decision, acknowledged that the reference in fact did not disclose the claimed features. At best, the reference was ambiguous. While the modification was possible and potentially useful, the Board concluded it was unclear on the record that such correlation is required in the reference. Thus, the rehearing was granted.

As we have reported about a Section 101 rehearing getting granted, because of the makeup of the panel being the same as the original decision, intuition would suggest that these requests never get granted. However, they do happen. Plus there are no government fees to file a request for rehearing. So it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to add on a few more months to pursue this procedure, especially after going all the way to the final decision.