Not Schrodinger's cat ], one notes that the mandate of 122(c), which states:
(c) PROTEST AND PRE-ISSUANCE OPPOSITION.- The Director shall establish appropriate procedures to ensure that no protest or other form of pre-issuance opposition to the grant of a patent on an application may be initiated after publication of the application without the express written consent of the applicant.
is not exactly implemented in the rule on protests, 37 CFR 1.99, which states in pertinent part:
(a) A submission by a member of the public of patents or publications relevant to a pending published application may be entered in the application file if the submission complies with the requirements of this section and the application is still pending when the submission and application file are brought before the examiner.
(b) A submission under this section must identify the application to which it is directed by application number and include:
(1) The fee set forth in § 1.17(p);
(2) A list of the patents or publications submitted for consideration by the Office, including the date of publication of each patent or publication;
(3) A copy of each listed patent or publication in written form or at least the pertinent portions; and
(4) An English language translation of all the necessary and pertinent parts of any non-English language patent or publication in written form relied upon.
(c) The submission under this section must be served upon the applicant in accordance with § 1.248.
(d) A submission under this section shall not include any explanation of the patents or publications, or any other information. The Office will not enter such explanation or information if included in a submission under this section. A submission under this section is also limited to ten total patents or publications.
(e) A submission under this section must be filed within two months from the date of publication of the application (§ 1.215(a)) or prior to the mailing of a notice of allowance (§ 1.311), whichever is earlier. Any submission under this section not filed within this period is permitted only when the patents or publications could not have been submitted to the Office earlier, and must also be accompanied by the processing fee set forth in § 1.17(i). A submission by a member of the public to a pending published application that does not comply with the requirements of this section will not be entered.
(f) A member of the public may include a self-addressed postcard with a submission to receive an acknowledgment by the Office that the submission has been received. A member of the public filing a submission under this section will not receive any communications from the Office relating to the submission other than the return of a self-addressed postcard. In the absence of a request by the Office, an applicant has no duty to, and need not, reply to a submission under this section.
MPEP 1134.01 gets to the issue presented by 122(c):
To balance the mandate of 35 U.S.C. 122(c) and the Office's authority and responsibility under 35 U.S.C. 131 and 151 to issue a patent only if "it appears that the applicant is entitled to a patent under the law," the Office permits third parties to submit patents and publications (i.e., prior art documents that are public information and which the Office would discover on its own with an ideal prior art search) during a limited (2 month) period after publication of an application in compliance with 37 CFR 1.99. However, 37 CFR 1.99 prohibits third parties from submitting any explanation of the patents or publications, or submitting any other information.
Third parties may submit patents and publications relevant to the published application, with no further comment or explanation, pursuant to 37 CFR 1.99. The patents and publications may be entered in the application file if the submission complies with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.99 and the application is still pending when the submission and application file are brought before the examiner. For Image File Wrapper (IFW) processing, see IFW Manual, Section 2.1. The submission must be served upon the applicant in accordance with 37 CFR 1.248 prior to the filing of the submission in the Office.
To ensure that a third-party submission under 37 CFR 1.99 does not amount to a protest or pre-grant opposition without express consent of the applicant, the third party does not have the right to insist that the examiner consider any of the patents or publications submitted.