The Patent Office has continued the First Action Interview Pilot Program effective October 1, 2009 until April 1, 2010. During the examination process, the examiner assigned to a patent application typically does not hold an interview with the applicant until after the examiner renders an initial Office Action. An interview prior to the first Office Action is within the discretion of the examiner. Under the First Action Interview Pilot Program, the applicant can request an interview before the examiner renders the Office Action. The examiner is required to grant the interview. Not all patent applications are eligible for the First Action Interview Pilot Program. For mechanical devices, patent applications (1) assigned to art units 3736, 3737, 3768, 3739, 3762, 3766 and 3769 and (2) filed on or before a particular date are eligible. You can find the art unit for your particular patent application on the Filing Receipt.
Some of the benefits of the First Action Interview Pilot Program are the ability to resolve patentability issues one-on-one with the examiner at the beginning of the examination process and to facilitate early allowance of a patent, if one does issue. The reason is that during the interview, the examiner and applicant ask questions and provide answers immediately about the operation of the invention, the teachings of the prior art, and other patentability issues. Misunderstandings about the prior art, the invention, etc. can be resolved quicker.