What Are the Most Common Reasons That Patent Applications Get Rejected?

Title 35 of the United States Code forms the basis for each specific rejection. Over the years, I’ve noticed two are more prevalent than the others:

  • The claim lacks novelty (also referred to as a “35 U.S.C. 102 rejection”). A parent examiner will make this determination if prior art already exists (previous patents / applications / publications) that is relevant to your claimed invention. In other words, your claim will be rejected if your invention fails to bring anything new to the table.
  • The claim is too obvious (“35 U.S.C. 103 rejection”). An obviousness finding will be made if the examiner can combine one or more references (in order words – already-existing patents) together in order to create your claimed invention.

You’ll also run into claims that are objected to but not rejected. An examiner will make this finding when faced with an incomplete or shoddy claim. There are just so many technicalities to satisfy in a patent application that it’s easy to make a small mistake, such as including the wrong heading or misnumbering headings. That’s why it’s so difficult for inventors applying on their own to get it right the first time. Unlike a patent attorney who regularly completes applications, an inventor simply hasn’t gained the same exposure to know that what they’re submitting is complete.

It’s worth noting that even if your application is initially approved, damage from doing it yourself can appear many years later when other companies’ attorneys notice the loops in your weak application. If you feel that you cannot afford an attorney, you can minimize high-rate billable hours by doing as much research as possible on your own to verify the eligibility of your patent, and assemble all relevant documentation and material to reduce a lawyer’s billable hours down the road.

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