Amending Consisting to Comprising in Claims of An Issued Patent

spelling-is-hardTypographical and scribal errors may be corrected in already issued Israeli patents provided that the commissioner is convinced that the error is a genuine one and that the patentee is not using an alleged error to widen the coverage of the claims.

In the case of Israel Patent No. 194774 to Lantmann As-Faktor AB [no relation- MF], titled “ANTISECRETORY PROTEIN FOR USE IN THE TREATMENT OF COMPARTMENT SYNDROME”, after the patent issued, an Examiner refused to allow an error to be corrected. The patentee appealed this decision to the Commissioner, under Section 161 of the Israel Patent Law 1967.

wish you were her.jpgThe patentee claimed that a mistake had occurred in claims 1 and 21 as granted. The Examiner agreed that a mistake had indeed occurred but wasn’t prepared to consider the mistake as being a typographical / scribal error that could be corrected.

In general, Section 65 allows scribal errors to be corrected and Section 66 provides various conditions. Section 69 states that:

(a) the patentee is able to request a correction to a scribal error that occurred in the specification, and the Commissioner will allow this provided he is convinced that this is ONLY a correction of a scribal error

(b) the Commissioner is also allowed to initiate the correction of a scribal error found in the specification provided that the patentee agrees.  

erroristsThe allowance of the patent changes the rules regarding amending the specification. Once the patent is allowed there is less flexibility. Whereas section 22 allows applicants to amend anything and everything prior to  allowance under Section 26, The part three amendments of sections 65-69 that are allowable after allowance or grant are far more restrictive. See regulations 101 and 102.

Regulations 95-102 of the Patent Regulations 1968 regulate the post allowance amendments in accordance with Sections 65 and 66, and allow the patentee a hearing in this regard. These regulations do NOT apply to Section 69 and nor do their procedural aspects.

Correcting typographical errors is also related to in section 171 which states:

The Commissioner is allowed, if requested to do so, to correct any typographical errors in the patent register or in any document from the Patent Office.

It is noted that Section 170a grants the Commissioner wide discretion to amend documents if they do not correctly reflect the state of affairs.

(a) Following a request from an interested party, appropriately submitted in accordance with the guidelines, the Commissioner can amend the register or any document filed with or issued by the Patent Office, if he considers that the register or the document does not correctly reflect the facts and where this Law does not provide an alternative method for effecting the correction.

In contradistinction to amendments to register entries and documents that require publishing for public opposition, amending a scribal error does not necessary require its publication. However, with regard to amendments requested by the Commissioner, Section 172 requires the Commissioner to allow any parties that may be adversely affected to state their case.

In addition, Regulation 149 allows requesting the correction of any register entry or document that does not have specific regulations or laws elsewhere. In such cases, the Commissioner has the discretion whether or not to publish the amendment based on the rights of third-parties that may be adversely affected.

Prior to IL 194774 issuing, there were several rounds of interaction between the examiner and the applicant. with respect to the Office Action of 6 October 2014 the Examiner stated that the claims should be amended as follows:

2(a) As per Regulation 20(a)(3) with respect to claims 1 and 20, the phrase ‘which corresponds to’ should be amended to ‘consisting’ which is a well-known and clearly defined term.

2(b) Combining claim 7 with claim 2 does not overcome the problem referred to in section 3(a) of the Office Action from 4 December 2014 and it is therefore repeated: Claim 2 contravenes Regulation 20(a)(3) since it defines two separate dosage regimes rendering the scope of the claim unclear. The two regimes should be divided by the word ‘preferably’ as per Page 19 line 14, or alternatively, you could claim the narrower, preferred regime in a separate dependent claim.

2(c) At this stage I only have a marked-up claim-set (version 4). After correcting these issues, please submit full marked up and clean claim-sets.

3. If all the issues raised are addressed, I can accept the application (PK 27).

In the  response of 4 February 2015 a fifth amended claim-set was submitted showing the amendments. In an accompanying letter the Applicant noted that following the amendments he anticipated allowance, but noted that “in the appended pages claims 1 and 20 were amended such that the word comprising was replaced with consisting and claim 2 was divided into two claims.”

In practice, the Examiner’s requirements in 2(b) were fully met. the 2(a) requirements are the subject of the present decision.

In his letter of 17 May 2015, the Examiner noted that the examination was concluded and the application with claim version 5 was allowed. The Applicant was invited to check the allowed patent to ensure that there were no errors. On 12 July 2015 the Applicant paid the issue fees and requested publication of the allowed patent application without referring to any typographical errors.

The allowance published in the 30 July 2015 journal and in absence of any oppositions, a patent certificate issued.

Subsequently, on 2 December 2015, the patentee claimed that due to an error, claims 1 and 22 were not fully amended and requested that the claim 1 version 5 as follows 1. An antisecretory protein, which corresponds to an amino acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID NO:6, or a homologue, and/or fragment thereof comprisingconsisting of an amino acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID NO:4 and having antisecretory activity, and/or pharmaceutically acceptable salt thereof, for use in the treatment and/or prevention of compartment syndrome.” be amended to “1. An antisecretory protein, which corresponds consisting ofto an amino acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID NO:6, or a homologue, and/or fragment thereof consisting comprising of an amino acid sequence as shown in SEQ ID NO:4 and having antisecretory activity, and/or pharmaceutically acceptable salt thereof, for use in the treatment and/or prevention of compartment syndrome.” A similar amendment to claim 22 was requested. Both versions are supported by the specification and there is no problem of unity of invention.

The patentee submitted a statement by Ms Sigal Dahan a patent attorney of the agent of record (Reinhold Cohn). Ms Dahan affirmed that she was requested to amend the claims in accordance with the Examiner’s request. she claimed that failure to do so was the result of a genuine scribal error and that there was no bad faith.

The Commissioner Asa Kling is prepared to accept Ms Dahan’s statement and that of the Applicant and to accept that there was a genuine mistake made without evidence of bad faith.

However, at this stage, following the issuance of the patent,  the examiner wants to amend the phrase ‘which corresponds to’ to ‘consisting of’ and ‘consisting of’ to ‘comprising’.  This is problematic since the term comprising is understood to be wider that the term consisting.

A requirement that a claim “comprises” certain elements does not mean that other elements may not be present: “comprising” does not mean “only consisting of”.(Terrel on the Law of Patents, 17th ed., pp. 288).

The amendment from ‘which corresponds to’ to consisting of is narrowing and is allowable. However, amending consisting of to comprising is a widening.

On 28 January 2016 the Examiner acknowledged that a mistake had occurred, but did not consider this to be a scribal error:

Although I was convinced from the statement filed that a mistake occurred in version 5 that was allowed, I have to examine this mistake as a ‘scribal error’ and cannot accept the amendment as it is not a ‘mere scribal error’ as required by Section 69 of the Law.

The Examiner did not find that version 5 included a clear and obvious typographical error that could be corrected.

Following the Examiner rejecting the amendment, the patentee appealed to the commissioner against the Examiner’s interpretation of Section 69 and alternatively requested that the Commissioner allow the amendment under Section 170 of the Law.

The Patentee argued that in the circumstances it was appropriate to allow the amendment in these circumstances.

The problem is that in the letter of 28 January 2016 the Examiner told the Applicant that subject to correcting the detailed problems with claims as filed, the application would be allowed, thereby saving an examination round. Both versions 5 and 6 overcome the Examiner’s issues and are allowable.

Creatively, the Patentee noted that the Examination guidelines were applicable to pending applications and not to issued patents. This is clear from the fact that the guidelines don’t relate to Section 69 that regulates amending allowed and issued patents.

In his ruling, the Commissioner noted that there is a difference between amending pending applications under Section 22 and amending issued patents under Part 3 of Chapter 4 of the Law that relates to issued patents. The types of amendments allowable are discussed in the Opposition to amend IL 121004 in Mutli-vision technologies vs. Avner Medar 4 May 2003 which defines scribal errors both objectively and subjectively.

comedy-of-errorsThe fact that an error occurred is not sufficient to classify it as a scribal error that may be amended. To classify the error as a scribal error it should be an error of the type that is self-evident on reading the specification and must be the result of a technicality. As defined in Medar, so long as the error is not self-evident, the evidentiary support that it was an error is required to be stronger. From this it is possible that the Examiner was overly formalistic. Nevertheless, following Medar the test is whether a person of the art reading the specification would note immediately that an error had occurred.

From the Office Action, the correspondence and the affidavit of the patentee it is not clear that the Applicant intended to narrow the scope of the patent and this occurred in error. When the Applicant pointed out the error, the Examiner accepted that it was indeed an error and the patent therefore issued in error. One the patent issued, for a scribal error to be corrected, it is necessary for it to be clearly a scribal error. That means to say that were the patentee not to have pointed out the error and requested rectification, the claims of version 5 could have remained the claims on record. Consequently this is not a ‘mere scribal error’.

However, one cannot ignore the fact that the patent issued by mistake. In the circumstances and with regards to the mistake one cannot conclude that section 3 of Chapter 4 applies. It does not appear appropriate to cancel the allowance since both versions 5 and 6 are acceptable claims. The appropriate legal basis for the amendment is section 170 since the document does not reflect the facts and there is no other way to allow the amendment.

The commissioner therefore allows the amendment of IL 194774 claim version 6 under section 170 subject to publication of the amendment in the forthcoming journal, thereby allowing third-party oppositions.

COMMENT

I agree that the commissioner has the authority to allow this amendment but think that allowing this error is wrong. It is a clear widening of the claimed invention and the agent of record is supposed to be well aware of the significance of the terms corresponding and comprising.

I do not agree with the Commissioner’s interpretation of section 170a, that relates to amendments ‘if he considers that the register or the document does not correctly reflect the facts‘. This should be limited to a case, for example, where despite a later amendment having been filed prior to allowance, the claim-set of the issued patent does not reflect this amendment. It should not be used where the fact is what the Agent of the Applicant meant to do, which is a matter of conjecture, but of what the Agent of the Applicant actually did. Here the Agent may have made a genuine mistake but who says that all mistakes may be fixed? The amended claims are wider than those that issued and the Agent had an opportunity to amend prior to paying the publication fee.

This scribal error is somewhat reminiscent of the alleged office error committed by the same firm in the wet-wipes case. I do not have an invested interest to oppose the amendment. If somebody does, I hope that they do and would like to see this amendment canceled.

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