In Exelixis, Inc. v. Kappos in the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Ellis stated that the USPTO’s interpretation of the patent term extension for length of pendency is incorrect.
The rule that controls patent term adjustments for application pendency is 35 USC § 154(b), and section 35 USC §154(b)(1)(B)(i) states:
(B) GUARANTEE OF NO MORE THAN 3-YEAR APPLICATION PENDENCY.- Subject to the limitations under paragraph (2), if the issue of an original patent is delayed due to the failure of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to issue a patent within 3 years after the actual filing date of the application in the United States, not including-
(i) any time consumed by continued examination of the application requested by the applicant under section 132(b)
The Patent Office has interpreted this to mean that an RCE ends the term adjustment for delay by the Patent Office under Section B, regardless of when that RCE was filed.
Judge Ellis said this interpretation is contrary to the plain reading of the statute. The court stated that the statute was not ambiguous, and its interpretation was very strong. The court concluded:
The plain and unambiguous language of subparagraph (B) requires that the time devoted to an RCE tolls the running of the three year clock if the RCE is filed within the three year period. And, put simply, RCE’s have no impact on PTA if filed after the three year deadline has passed.
Though this decision may be appealed, it is significant. Exelixis got a 114 day additional term for its patent. Many other long-pending patents would likely receive equally large if not larger adjustments.
Patent owners can request a recalculation of the PTO’s Patent Term Extension for two months after a patent issues. The Request must be filed as described in MPEP 2735.
Therefore, my recommendation is that you review all patents that have issued in the last two months, and calculate the new patent term adjustment. For older patents, you have up to six months to appeal the determination to the District Court, so if you have a key patent that may get a few more years validity, this path may be an available option.
The new simple term extension calculation is as follows. First, determine whether your patent was pending for more than three years. If so, check whether an RCE was filed within the three years. If no RCE was filed in the first three years, then your patent term adjustment should be a day-for-day adjustment from the expiration of the three year period, until your patent actually issued.
I will update this post if an appeal is filed.