Earlier today, while working on revamping the PLI Patent Bar Review Course, I needed a citation to the MPEP and an associated Code of Federal Regulations cite. It was as this time I noticed there has been a change to how the MPEP is presented on the USPTO website. Perhaps others have noticed and this is not news, but it is the first time I’ve encountered an issue finding information in the MPEP from the USPTO for a very long time.
One of my responsibilities is to write exam level difficult questions for the newly testable material, which will be tested starting October 2, 2012. This means questions relative to the changes in the rules of practice effective September 16, 2012. This requires me to not only write the questions, but also create model answers. We strive not only to explain generally what the right answer is, but to also provide a greater opportunity for learning, which requires detailed explanations.
It was at this time that I realized that the USPTO has reclassified the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, changing the URLs where sections were located previously, making them unfindable if you use a search engine. In some instances my search even leads to “Page Not Found” errors when searching on the USPTO website itself.
To put this into some kind of context let me explain what I was looking for. As you may know, at the conclusion of a supplemental examination the Patent Office may order a reexamination of the patent in question. The resulting ex parte reexamination, which will address each and every substantial new question identified, will substantially be conducted according to the rules and procedures associated with ex parte reexamination. Notwithstanding, the ex parte reexamination is not limited to patents and printed publications. Additionally, a less consequential procedural distinction is that the patent owner will not have the right to file a statement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 304.
Because PLI always likes to provide citations so students who are interested can read for themselves and dig deeper, I needed a citation for the fact that reexamination ordinarily only proceeds with patents and printed publications. So I did what I always do. I typed in what I was looking for into Google followed by “mpep.”
So my search query was: “reexamination patents printed publications mpep”. The first result returned was for MPEP 2256 and the third was for MPEP 2258. I clicked on the first and then I clicked on the third. In both instances I was surprised to see the following notice, telling me that the page was not found at USPTO.gov.
Not only can’t you find the relevant MPEP sections you are looking for through a Google search, but you also cannot find the relevant statutes or CFR sections using Google. For example, I typed in “35 usc 304” into Google. The first link was to the USPTO.gov website, like it almost always is. Unfortunately, however, upon clicking the link I was taken to another “Page Not Found” screen. Ultimately you can get to it by clicking on the new MPEP link provided, scrolling down to the L Appendix, clicking on the L Appendix link and then scrolling down to Section 304. Not a lot more time, but hardly as easy to find information as it was just a few days ago.
Perhaps this will get sorted out quickly, Google will figure out where the information is located or the USPTO will institute some kind of 301 permanent redirect. For the time being, however, it seems that Google is not going to be a useful way to find information from the USPTO.