1. With the circumstances as I have described them, do you think an interview is a waste of time, and shouldn't be done? Or is it a necessary evil prior to filing the appeal just to show you made the effort?
You've described my typical experience in prosecution. Personally, I find interviews to be a huge waste of time and effort, but I'm on the West Coast. If you're local, you might find it interesting. For example, you might learn that the SPE won't allow your case no matter what you do.
2. Is it helpful, etc in furthering prosecution to involve the SPE at this stage? In my experience, most SPEs cover for their Examiner - especially early in prosecution - pretty much regardless of the poor effort made by the Examiner.
It hasn't helped me in any way. In my last trip to Alexandria, I had 4 interviews and 3 resulted in agreement. All 3 agreements were reneged when I submitted papers. In one, the SPE was there and supported the reneging of the agreement. In the one in which no agreement was reached, I learned that the SPE would not allow the case no matter what I did. He believed that there was prior art "out there somewhere" and the examiner couldn't find it, so no allowance until the art was found -- i.e., never.
In all fairness, this was under Dudas. My general sense is that things are getting better under Kappos.
I've given up on interviews altogether. It's my understanding that examiners no longer have authority to allow cases. Until you can interview someone with authority to allow a case, interviews are useless.
My typical prosecution goes OA, response, fOA, NoA/PABR, OA (non-final), NoA/PABR, OA, call the group director. So much for "compact prosecution", huh?
Best of luck to you....