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PTO narrows the fairway

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a final rule last week that limits the number of continuations and claims allowed for patent applications. Although PTO's goal is to make the patent examination process more efficient and effective, IP specialists say the rule will cost more in time and money for developers of early-stage platform technologies - typically small biotech companies and universities that have the least resources to spare - and increase the chances that an invention will be eclipsed by prior art.

Ron Eisenstein, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, noted it can take years to flesh out a proper description of an early-stage platform technology in a patent application. The applicant often needs a few rounds of discussion with the PTO before an examiner starts to understand the invention.

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