Outdoor enthusiasts want to look good doing their outdoor activities. It is therefore not surprising to see innovation in the pony tail clip arts. An inventor in Texas came up with a way to make a pony tail look more full, and successfully obtained a patent (US 9,591,907) earlier this year.
However, the inventor's path was made unnecessarily difficult by the Patent Office issuing improper restriction requirements. A restriction requirement is when the Patent Office tells the inventor that they can only examine part of the patent application because the application contains multiple inventions. While many Examiner follow the rules and issue proper restriction requirements, some examiners use the practice to reduce their workload and/or make life difficult in an attempt to wear down the application - particularly pro se applicants.
And that is what happened here. The inventor was a pro se Applicant and the Examiner called the inventor on the phone to ask for an oral election between the allegedly restrictable parts of the invention. This is a sneaky move since most inventors do not understand the ramifications of making an election without a traverse. Fortunately, the inventor here retained effective counsel right away to help take over the case and push back against the Examiner's improper action. The Examiner maintained the irrational and clearly improper restriction, forcing the application to petition. The inventor's attorney explained the situation well in her petition:
The Office of Petitions agreed and forced the Examiner to act more reasonably, although this was not without significant cost (and delay) and expense on the part of the inventor. So, be very careful acting pro se with the Patent Office and know that while many Examiners are generally helpful, some Examiners are not necessarily looking out for your best interest.