Understanding office action responses is non-negotiable for protecting your patent. With this insight begins the delicate task of responding, a process that requires both knowledge and strategy.

Within the walls of every office action are reasons that could range from prior art-based refusals to non-patentable subject matter cases, as well as other objections to your claim. In any case, the patent examiner must explain their reasoning.

In this article, we demystify the process of crafting a lawyer-worthy response to an office action: from taking apart the refusal reasons to submitting a bulletproof reply. We’ll guide you through organizing your evidence, articulating your arguments, and ensuring your intellectual property rights have a fair chance in the eyes of patent examiners.

Importance of Understanding Patent Office Actions

Understanding office actions is crucial for any business entity or independent inventor navigating the patent application process. An office action is an official letter from the regional office responsible for the grant of patents. For example, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) outlines legal issues with US claims. While IP Australia is the entity that administers intellectual property rights in Australia.

In general, the patent examiners will issue two different refusals: objections and rejections.

In the patent application process, a rejection indicates that the examiner will not approve the claimed invention due to substantive issues. These issues may include the invention being ineligible for patent protection, lacking novelty, being obvious, or the claims being indefinite. 

An objection, on the other hand, relates to procedural errors or formalities in the patent application that must be corrected before the application can proceed to a patent. Both rejections and objections need to be addressed for the invention to be granted a patent.

Why Did You Receive a Patent Office Action?

Several reasons can prompt the issuance of an office action, ranging from procedural errors to substantive issues with the patent application itself. 

For example, common types of US patent rejections include:

  • The invention is not eligible for patent protection (Section 101).
  • The invention is not new (Section 102).
  • The invention is obvious (Section 103).
  • The claimed invention is indefinite (Section 112).

Whereas, the reasoning behind patent objections usually concerns formal aspects of the application. These objections typically focus on:

  • The lack of a description for each of the drawing figures.
  • Non-sequential claims or having incorrect dependencies within your patent application.

Sometimes, the objection can be as simple as submitting the drawings with clear, solid black lines, etc.

The initial response deadline to a non-final office action is typically six months, leaving applicants ample time to construct legal arguments or submit additional materials. Failure to respond accurately can lead to abandonment of your application.

Breakdown of an Office Action Letter

An office action letter typically contains several essential components that outline the reasons your application has been halted. These components may be itemized in a table or listed explicitly within the text and generally include:

  • Identification of the Application: The official letter mentions the application number, and the Patent Owner’s name to eliminate any confusion about which application the office action pertains to.
  • Response Instructions: The letter will contain specific instructions on how to respond to the office action, including the response deadline and the manner in which an applicant can contest the refusal or fulfill the requirements.
  • Response Deadline: A clear indication of the response period, which is commonly six months from the mailing date of the office action, and the consequences of failing to respond in a timely manner.
  • Attachments to the Office Action: The examining expert provides notice of references, information disclosure citation, and other information when necessary.
  • Summary of Actions: This section addresses all the patent claims stating whether they are subject to reexamination, are confirmed, patentable, canceled, rejected, or objected to.

Here is an example from the USPTO:


Steps for Addressing an Office Action


When you receive an office action, consider it a critical opportunity to clarify and strengthen your case for patent registration. A well-prepared response can be the difference between success and an abandoned application. Follow these steps to construct a solid rebuttal to an office action:

Analyze the Reasons for Refusal

Start by dissecting the office action letter to understand the specific legal issues that need to be addressed. This involves a detailed review of each refusal or requirement cited by the examiner. Consider creating a checklist or table that breaks down the following:

  • Issue Identified: What are the precise reasons for the objection or rejection? 
  • Legal Basis: On what grounds, including statutes and precedents, has the office action been made?
  • Evidence Used: What previous registrations or applications has the attorney cited as conflicting or relevant to the decision? Go through your prior art search and fill any missing data.

Understanding these elements will help you formulate an appropriate office action response strategy.

Interview the Patent Examiner

You can schedule a discussion with the patent examiner, usually it happens over the telephone. Such discussions focus on the claim rejections and objections noted in the Office Action and any proposed amendments to address these issues.

To prepare for the interview, it’s crucial to thoroughly review the issues highlighted in the Office Action. Develop a response strategy and prepare a list of discussion points. 

You should then contact the examiner to schedule a discussion at a mutually convenient time, and send them an agenda including any proposed amendments before the meeting. During the interview, discuss the examiner’s objections and their interpretations, and take the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings or differences in interpretation.

Did you know? There are AI predictive analytics tools available with Dolcera Corporation to determine if your patent application would need an examiner review for faster grant or not, what keywords to use/avoid in order to fall under a certain patent art unit to be picked up by a certain set of examiners etc. 

Gather Relevant Evidence and Arguments

Once you’ve understood the issues at hand, compile evidence and legal arguments to refute the examining attorney’s findings or to demonstrate compliance with the requirements. This may include:

  • Supportive Documents: Whether it’s a substitute specimen that more accurately represents your patent or data illustrating how your invention operates, having the right documentation is key.
  • Legal Precedents: Referencing case law that supports your position can be a persuasive component of your argument.
  • Expert Opinions: On occasion, declarations from industry experts can strengthen your case.

Craft a Strong Response

Tailor a comprehensive response that systematically confronts each point raised by the USPTO. A structured approach might look like this:

  1. Introduction: Recap the application details and acknowledge the issues raised in the office action.
  2. Point-by-Point Response: For every issue listed, provide a clear and concise response supported by legal arguments and evidence. This also includes any amendments or clarifications to the application that may rectify the issues.
  3. Conclusion: Summarize your arguments and request that the examining attorney advance your application towards registration.

Ensure each argument is clear, logical, and well-supported to maximize your chances of overcoming the refusal.

Meet the Office Action Deadline

Note that the response period typically given after the mailing date of the office action is six months. Adhering to this deadline is non-negotiable. Delays can result in the application being considered abandoned. Tools like calendar alerts and project management software can assist in monitoring this critical deadline.

Submit the Office Action Response

Once your response to the office action is prepared, it’s essential to follow the official submission process. The patent offices have electronic filing systems available such as the USPTO’s Patent Center

Ensure that all aspects of the response are included and that the submission complies with the patent office’s technical requirements. 

If a filing fee is required for your response, verify that the payment goes through successfully. Keep a record of the confirmation and any communication regarding the submission to safeguard against potential disputes about timeliness or completeness.

Properly Format Your Office Action Response

The presentation of your response can have a significant impact on its readability and effectiveness. Start by adhering to your local patent office formatting standards, which typically call for clear headings, subheadings, and consistent font usage. Organize the content logically, with a section dedicated to each issue raised in the office action.

Use tables or bullet points to neatly summarize points, as this can enhance clarity. Attachments should be clearly labeled and referenced in the main body where relevant. A well-structured response helps the examining attorney to easily navigate your legal arguments and supporting evidence.

Include Supporting Documents and Evidence

To bolster your response, it is critical to include all necessary supporting documents and evidence. Consent agreements, if applicable, should be included to address any likelihood of confusion with similar patents. 

Ensure that these documents are current, relevant, and directly support the points of contention. Refer to them clearly within your response to guide the examiner through your arguments.

Double-Check for Accuracy and Completeness

Before submitting your response, meticulously review the document for accuracy and completeness. Errors or omissions can delay processing or negatively affect the outcome. Verify that all legal arguments are backed by appropriate evidence and statutes, and cross-reference to ensure all issues from the office action are addressed. 

Check that all personal and business entity details are correct. Consider having a legal expert review the response to confirm that it meets all substantive and procedural requirements. 

After a comprehensive review, you can submit your response with confidence that you’ve done everything possible to further your case for trademark registration.

Respond to Office Actions with IP Author

Addressing office actions can be a time-consuming challenge for patent professionals. IP Author’s Office Action Response module tackles this by leveraging advanced AI to streamline the patent drafting process. It summarizes examiner objections, provides customizable prompts for quick response generation, and automatically alerts users when drafts are ready for review. 

IP Author not only saves time but also allows teams to focus on strategic aspects of patent prosecution, making the entire process more efficient and less burdensome.

Why can’t you use LLMs like ChatGPT / LLama / Gemini directly?

The LLMs offer great responses no doubt. However, here are some reasons why you should consider using proprietary tools developed specifically for this purpose.

  1. Data security and confidentiality – More often than not, the data you input into these LLMs directly will be used for their model training. This is a certain risk. IP Author has zero data retention and confidentiality agreements in place with the LLMs. 
  2. Prompt engineering – You can write prompts, I can write prompts. However, the field of prompt engineering is developing into an art. About 20 engineers at IP Author are working on prompt engineering, iterating, and optimizing to obtain optimized results for all the use cases of a patent department + patent practice. 
  3. User Interface – The LLMs are not just designed for patent professionals or independent inventors. So, the UI is not designed for the appropriate use cases. Whereas IP Author is designed specifically with the patent use cases in mind. The same engineers that developed IP Author were awarded by USPTO for their cancer moonshot challenge

Do you need help with your office action responses? Book a demo with one of our experts.

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