One of the primary objectives of the America Invents Act (AIA) was to streamline the filing and prosecution of patent applications. Under the AIA, the oath or declaration requirements for applicants have been substantially modified, with assignees now being permitted to apply for patents effective September 16, 2012. Provisions of the AIA (35 USC § 118) allow an assignee, or one to which the inventor is obligated to assign the invention, to make an application for patent. Additionally, a party who has a “sufficient proprietary interest” in the invention may make an application for patent as an agent of the inventor upon “proof of pertinent facts” of such interest.
35 USC § 115(d) permits the “applicant” to make a substitute statement in lieu of an oath/declaration under certain permitted circumstances, such as the death or incapacity of an inventor or an inventor’s refusal to sign an oath/declaration when the inventor is under obligation to assign the invention to the applicant. Also, an “individual” under obligation to assign can now, in an assignment document, make the required oath/declaration and other requirements as instituted by the Director under §§ 115(b) and 115(c).
The USPTO final rules implementing this aspect of the AIA require an assignee or other party having a sufficient proprietary interest in the invention to record documentary evidence of ownership no later than the date the issue fee is paid. Such party must file a petition providing a showing of their “sufficient proprietary interest” and a statement that permitting the party to proceed with the application is “appropriate to preserve the rights of the parties.” The rules permit such party to execute a power of attorney designating a registered practitioner to act on its behalf.
An oath or declaration from each inventor is still required, except under circumstances where an inventor is deceased, legally incapacitated, refuses to sign an oath or declaration, or cannot be located despite diligent efforts. However, the USPTO is discontinuing the practice of routinely requiring proof of facts when an oath or declaration is not executed by each inventor. In lieu of an inventor-executed oath or declaration, an applicant (such as an assignee) may now execute a “substitute statement” with identifying information regarding the inventor (including their last known address) and the person executing the statement as well as the particular permitted circumstances involved (e.g., the inventor cannot be reached). Additionally, the rules significantly relax the current stringent requirements regarding the content of an inventor’s oath or declaration.
Another key departure from past requirements is that the executed oath/declaration need not be submitted until the application is otherwise in condition for allowance, provided the necessary inventor information (legal name, mailing address and residence address of each inventor) is provided in the form of an application data sheet filed with the application or within the response time established by a Notice of Missing Parts/Missing Requirements. Thus, if an application data sheet is timely submitted, examination of the application can proceed without fulfillment of the oath/declaration requirement. Such postponement may, however, affect the term adjustment that a patent issuing from a national phase application might otherwise qualify for in the event the USPTO fails to act on the application in a timely manner.
If you have not taken the time to become familiar with the new oath/declaration rules you should do so soon. These rules represent a substantial departure from current practice and are quite different from the original proposed rules first promulgated by the USPTO and sent out for public comment.