Most patent applications are rejected, at least in part, on the first review by a patent examiner. The rejection is issued in a writing called an Office Action. The applicant has the option to file a written response. But the applicant also has the option to hold an interview with the patent examiner. The interview can be in-person, by phone, or by video conference. The applicant need only provide a proposed amendment or an agenda of topics to discuss with the Examiner during the interview.
An oral discussion can often be a very effective and dynamic way to advance and defend an argument. Plato recognized this in the extreme when he determined that certain knowledge should not be written down (i.e. Plato’s unwritten doctrines). He explained in Phaedrus: “He who has knowledge of the just and the good and beautiful … will not, when in earnest write them in ink, sowing them through a pen with words, which cannot defend themselves by argument and cannot teach the truth effectively.”
In other words, an oral discussion allows a party to dynamically respond to the opposition.
I think that Plato’s point can be modified for our purposes: an oral discussion with the patent examiner can be an important supplement to a written response. It can serve to quickly identify and resolve differences between the patent applicant and the examiner. It can quickly illustrate an agreeable path toward allowed patent claims.
An Examiner interview is not always needed, for example, if the path to overcoming the rejection is very clear and simple. However, an interview is often helpful to understand the Examiner’s position and advance a patent application to allowance.