2164 The Enablement Requirement [R-11.2013]
The enablement requirement refers to the requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph that the specification describe how to make and how to use the invention. The invention that one skilled in the art must be enabled to make and use is that defined by the claim(s) of the particular application or patent.
The purpose of the requirement that the specification describe the invention in such terms that one skilled in the art can make and use the claimed invention is to ensure that the invention is communicated to the interested public in a meaningful way. The information contained in the disclosure of an application must be sufficient to inform those skilled in the relevant art how to both make and use the claimed invention. However, to comply with 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, it is not necessary to “enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use a perfected, commercially viable embodiment absent a claim limitation to that effect.” CFMT, Inc. v. Yieldup Int’l Corp., 349 F.3d 1333, 1338, 68 USPQ2d 1940, 1944 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (an invention directed to a general system to improve the cleaning process for semiconductor wafers was enabled by a disclosure showing improvements in the overall system). Detailed procedures for making and using the invention may not be necessary if the description of the invention itself is sufficient to permit those skilled in the art to make and use the invention. A patent claim is invalid if it is not supported by an enabling disclosure.
The enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, is separate and distinct from the written description requirement. Vas-Cath,Inc. v. Mahurkar, 935 F.2d 1555, 1563, 19 USPQ2d 1111, 1116-17 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (“the purpose of the ‘written description’ requirement is broader than to merely explain how to ‘make and use’”). See also MPEP § 2161. Therefore, the fact that an additional limitation to a claim may lack descriptive support in the disclosure as originally filed does not necessarily mean that the limitation is also not enabled. In other words, even if a new limitation is not described in the original disclosure, the addition of a new limitation in and of itself may not create an enablement problem provided that one skilled in the art could make and use the claimed invention with the new limitation. Consequently, such limitations must be analyzed for both enablement and description using their separate and distinct criteria.
Furthermore, when the limitation is not described in the specification portion of the application as filed but is in the claims, the limitation in and of itself may enable one skilled in the art to make and use the claimed invention. When claimed subject matter is only presented in the claims and not in the specification portion of the application, the specification should be objected to for lacking the requisite support for the claimed subject matter using form paragraph 7.44. See MPEP § 2163.06. This is an objection to the specification only and enablement issues should be treated separately.
2164.01 Test of Enablement [R-08.2012]
Any analysis of whether a particular claim is supported by the disclosure in an application requires a determination of whether that disclosure, when filed, contained sufficient information regarding the subject matter of the claims as to enable one skilled in the pertinent art to make and use the claimed invention. The standard for determining whether the specification meets the enablement requirement was cast in the Supreme Court decision of Mineral Separation v. Hyde, 242 U.S. 261, 270 (1916) which postured the question: is the experimentation needed to practice the invention undue or unreasonable? That standard is still the one to be applied. In re Wands, 858 F.2d 731, 737, 8 USPQ2d 1400, 1404 (Fed. Cir. 1988). Accordingly, even though the statute does not use the term “undue experimentation,” it has been interpreted to require that the claimed invention be enabled so that any person skilled in the art can make and use the invention without undue experimentation. In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 737, 8 USPQ2d at 1404 (Fed. Cir. 1988). See also United States v. Telectronics, Inc., 857 F.2d 778, 785, 8 USPQ2d 1217, 1223 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (“The test of enablement is whether one reasonably skilled in the art could make or use the invention from the disclosures in the patent coupled with information known in the art without undue experimentation.”). A patent need not teach, and preferably omits, what is well known in the art. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991); Hybritech, Inc. v. Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc., 802 F.2d 1367, 1384, 231 USPQ 81, 94 (Fed. Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 947 (1987); and Lindemann Maschinenfabrik GMBH v. American Hoist & Derrick Co., 730 F.2d 1452, 1463, 221 USPQ 481, 489 (Fed. Cir. 1984). Any part of the specification can support an enabling disclosure, even a background section that discusses, or even disparages, the subject matter disclosed therein. Callicrate v. Wadsworth Mfg., Inc., 427 F.3d 1361, 77 USPQ2d 1041 (Fed. Cir. 2005)(discussion of problems with a prior art feature does not mean that one of ordinary skill in the art would not know how to make and use this feature). Determining enablement is a question of law based on underlying factual findings. In reVaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 495, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1991); Atlas Powder Co.v.E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 750 F.2d 1569, 1576, 224 USPQ 409, 413 (Fed. Cir. 1984).
The fact that experimentation may be complex does not necessarily make it undue, if the art typically engages in such experimentation. In re Certain Limited-Charge Cell Culture Microcarriers, 221 USPQ 1165, 1174 (Int’l Trade Comm'n 1983), aff’d. sub nom.,Massachusetts Institute of Technologyv.A.B. Fortia, 774 F.2d 1104, 227 USPQ 428 (Fed. Cir. 1985). See also In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 737, 8 USPQ2d at 1404. The test of enablement is not whether any experimentation is necessary, but whether, if experimentation is necessary, it is undue. In reAngstadt, 537 F.2d 498, 504, 190 USPQ 214, 219 (CCPA 1976).
2164.01(a) Undue Experimentation Factors
There are many factors to be considered when determining whether there is sufficient evidence to support a determination that a disclosure does not satisfy the enablement requirement and whether any necessary experimentation is “undue.” These factors include, but are not limited to:
- (A) The breadth of the claims;
- (B) The nature of the invention;
- (C) The state of the prior art;
- (D) The level of one of ordinary skill;
- (E) The level of predictability in the art;
- (F) The amount of direction provided by the inventor;
- (G) The existence of working examples; and
- (H) The quantity of experimentation needed to make or use the invention based on the content of the disclosure.
In re Wands, 858 F.2d 731, 737, 8 USPQ2d 1400, 1404 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (reversing the PTO’s determination that claims directed to methods for detection of hepatitis B surface antigens did not satisfy the enablement requirement). In Wands, the court noted that there was no disagreement as to the facts, but merely a disagreement as to the interpretation of the data and the conclusion to be made from the facts. In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 736-40, 8 USPQ2d at 1403-07. The Court held that the specification was enabling with respect to the claims at issue and found that “there was considerable direction and guidance” in the specification; there was “a high level of skill in the art at the time the application was filed;” and “all of the methods needed to practice the invention were well known.” 858 F.2d at 740, 8 USPQ2d at 1406. After considering all the factors related to the enablement issue, the court concluded that “it would not require undue experimentation to obtain antibodies needed to practice the claimed invention.” Id., 8 USPQ2d at 1407.
It is improper to conclude that a disclosure is not enabling based on an analysis of only one of the above factors while ignoring one or more of the others. The examiner’s analysis must consider all the evidence related to each of these factors, and any conclusion of nonenablement must be based on the evidence as a whole. 858 F.2d at 737, 740, 8 USPQ2d at 1404, 1407.
A conclusion of lack of enablement means that, based on the evidence regarding each of the above factors, the specification, at the time the application was filed, would not have taught one skilled in the art how to make and/or use the full scope of the claimed invention without undue experimentation. In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557,1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993).
The determination that “undue experimentation” would have been needed to make and use the claimed invention is not a single, simple factual determination. Rather, it is a conclusion reached by weighing all the above noted factual considerations. In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 737, 8 USPQ2d at 1404. These factual considerations are discussed more fully in MPEP § 2164.08 (scope or breadth of the claims), § 2164.05(a) (nature of the invention and state of the prior art), § 2164.05(b) (level of one of ordinary skill), § 2164.03 (level of predictability in the art and amount of direction provided by the inventor), § 2164.02 (the existence of working examples) and § 2164.06 (quantity of experimentation needed to make or use the invention based on the content of the disclosure).
2164.01(b) How to Make the Claimed Invention
As long as the specification discloses at least one method for making and using the claimed invention that bears a reasonable correlation to the entire scope of the claim, then the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112 is satisfied. In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970). Failure to disclose other methods by which the claimed invention may be made does not render a claim invalid under 35 U.S.C. 112. Spectra-Physics, Inc. v. Coherent, Inc., 827 F.2d 1524, 1533, 3 USPQ2d 1737, 1743 (Fed. Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 954 (1987).
Naturally, for unstable and transitory chemical intermediates, the “how to make” requirement does not require that the applicant teach how to make the claimed product in stable, permanent or isolatable form. In re Breslow, 616 F.2d 516, 521, 205 USPQ 221, 226 (CCPA 1980).
A key issue that can arise when determining whether the specification is enabling is whether the starting materials or apparatus necessary to make the invention are available. In the biotechnical area, this is often true when the product or process requires a particular strain of microorganism and when the microorganism is available only after extensive screening.
The Court in In re Ghiron, 442 F.2d 985, 991, 169 USPQ 723, 727 (CCPA 1971), made clear that if the practice of a method requires a particular apparatus, the application must provide a sufficient disclosure of the apparatus if the apparatus is not readily available. The same can be said if certain chemicals are required to make a compound or practice a chemical process. In re Howarth, 654 F.2d 103, 105, 210 USPQ 689, 691 (CCPA 1981).
2164.01(c) How to Use the Claimed Invention
If a statement of utility in the specification contains within it a connotation of how to use, and/or the art recognizes that standard modes of administration are known and contemplated, 35 U.S.C. 112 is satisfied. In re Johnson, 282 F.2d 370, 373, 127 USPQ 216, 219 (CCPA 1960); In re Hitchings, 342 F.2d 80, 87, 144 USPQ 637, 643 (CCPA 1965). See also In re Brana, 51 F.2d 1560, 1566, 34 USPQ2d 1437, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1993).
For example, it is not necessary to specify the dosage or method of use if it is known to one skilled in the art that such information could be obtained without undue experimentation. If one skilled in the art, based on knowledge of compounds having similar physiological or biological activity, would be able to discern an appropriate dosage or method of use without undue experimentation, this would be sufficient to satisfy 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. The applicant need not demonstrate that the invention is completely safe. See also MPEP § 2107.01 and § 2107.03.
When a compound or composition claim is limited by a particular use, enablement of that claim should be evaluated based on that limitation. See In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 495, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (claiming a chimeric gene capable of being expressed in any cyanobacterium and thus defining the claimed gene by its use).
In contrast, when a compound or composition claim is not limited by a recited use, any enabled use that would reasonably correlate with the entire scope of that claim is sufficient to preclude a rejection for nonenablement based on how to use. If multiple uses for claimed compounds or compositions are disclosed in the application, then an enablement rejection must include an explanation, sufficiently supported by the evidence, why the specification fails to enable each disclosed use. In other words, if any use is enabled when multiple uses are disclosed, the application is enabling for the claimed invention.
2164.02 Working Example [R-11.2013]
Compliance with the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, does not turn on whether an example is disclosed. An example may be “working” or “prophetic.” A working example is based on work actually performed. A prophetic example describes an embodiment of the invention based on predicted results rather than work actually conducted or results actually achieved.
An applicant need not have actually reduced the invention to practice prior to filing. In Gouldv. Quigg, 822 F.2d 1074, 1078, 3 USPQ 2d 1302, 1304 (Fed. Cir. 1987), as of Gould’s filing date, no person had built a light amplifier or measured a population inversion in a gas discharge. The Court held that “The mere fact that something has not previously been done clearly is not, in itself, a sufficient basis for rejecting all applications purporting to disclose how to do it.” 822 F.2d at 1078, 3 USPQ2d at 1304 (quoting In re Chilowsky, 229 F.2d 457, 461, 108 USPQ 321, 325 (CCPA 1956)).
The specification need not contain an example if the invention is otherwise disclosed in such manner that one skilled in the art will be able to practice it without an undue amount of experimentation. In reBorkowski, 422 F.2d 904, 908, 164 USPQ 642, 645 (CCPA 1970).
Lack of a working example, however, is a factor to be considered, especially in a case involving an unpredictable and undeveloped art. But because only an enabling disclosure is required, applicant need not describe all actual embodiments.
I. NONE OR ONE WORKING EXAMPLE
When considering the factors relating to a determination of non-enablement, if all the other factors point toward enablement, then the absence of working examples will not by itself render the invention non-enabled. In other words, lack of working examples or lack of evidence that the claimed invention works as described should never be the sole reason for rejecting the claimed invention on the grounds of lack of enablement. A single working example in the specification for a claimed invention is enough to preclude a rejection which states that nothing is enabled since at least that embodiment would be enabled. However, a rejection stating that enablement is limited to a particular scope may be appropriate.
The presence of only one working example should never be the sole reason for rejecting claims as being broader than the enabling disclosure, even though it is a factor to be considered along with all the other factors. To make a valid rejection, one must evaluate all the facts and evidence and state why one would not expect to be able to extrapolate that one example across the entire scope of the claims.
II. CORRELATION: IN VITRO/IN VIVO
The issue of “correlation” is related to the issue of the presence or absence of working examples. “Correlation” as used herein refers to the relationship between in vitro or in vivo animal model assays and a disclosed or a claimed method of use. An in vitro or in vivo animal model example in the specification, in effect, constitutes a “working example” if that example “correlates” with a disclosed or claimed method invention. If there is no correlation, then the examples do not constitute “working examples.” In this regard, the issue of “correlation” is also dependent on the state of the prior art. In other words, if the art is such that a particular model is recognized as correlating to a specific condition, then it should be accepted as correlating unless the examiner has evidence that the model does not correlate. Even with such evidence, the examiner must weigh the evidence for and against correlation and decide whether one skilled in the art would accept the model as reasonably correlating to the condition. In re Brana, 51 F.3d 1560, 1566, 34 USPQ2d 1436, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (reversing the PTO decision based on finding that in vitro data did not support in vivo applications).
Since the initial burden is on the examiner to give reasons for the lack of enablement, the examiner must also give reasons for a conclusion of lack of correlation for an in vitro or in vivo animal model example. A rigorous or an invariable exact correlation is not required, as stated in Cross v. Iizuka, 753 F.2d 1040, 1050, 224 USPQ 739, 747 (Fed. Cir. 1985):
[B]ased upon the relevant evidence as a whole, there is a reasonable correlation between the disclosed in vitro utility and an in vivo activity, and therefore a rigorous correlation is not necessary where the disclosure of pharmacological activity is reasonable based upon the probative evidence. (Citations omitted.)
III. WORKING EXAMPLES AND A CLAIMED GENUS
For a claimed genus, representative examples together with a statement applicable to the genus as a whole will ordinarily be sufficient if one skilled in the art (in view of level of skill, state of the art and the information in the specification) would expect the claimed genus could be used in that manner without undue experimentation. Proof of enablement will be required for other members of the claimed genus only where adequate reasons are advanced by the examiner to establish that a person skilled in the art could not use the genus as a whole without undue experimentation.
2164.03 Relationship of Predictability of the Art and the Enablement Requirement [R-08.2012]
The amount of guidance or direction needed to enable the invention is inversely related to the amount of knowledge in the state of the art as well as the predictability in the art. In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970). The “amount of guidance or direction” refers to that information in the application, as originally filed, that teaches exactly how to make or use the invention. The more that is known in the prior art about the nature of the invention, how to make, and how to use the invention, and the more predictable the art is, the less information needs to be explicitly stated in the specification. In contrast, if little is known in the prior art about the nature of the invention and the art is unpredictable, the specification would need more detail as to how to make and use the invention in order to be enabling. See, e.g., Chiron Corp. v. Genentech Inc., 363 F.3d 1247, 1254, 70 USPQ2d 1321, 1326 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“Nascent technology, however, must be enabled with a ‘specific and useful teaching.’ The law requires an enabling disclosure for nascent technology because a person of ordinary skill in the art has little or no knowledge independent from the patentee’s instruction. Thus, the public’s end of the bargain struck by the patent system is a full enabling disclosure of the claimed technology.” (citations omitted)).
The “predictability or lack thereof” in the art refers to the ability of one skilled in the art to extrapolate the disclosed or known results to the claimed invention. If one skilled in the art can readily anticipate the effect of a change within the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains, then there is predictability in the art. On the other hand, if one skilled in the art cannot readily anticipate the effect of a change within the subject matter to which that claimed invention pertains, then there is lack of predictability in the art. Accordingly, what is known in the art provides evidence as to the question of predictability. In particular, the court in In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 223-24, 169 USPQ 367, 369-70 (CCPA 1971), stated:
[I]n the field of chemistry generally, there may be times when the well-known unpredictability of chemical reactions will alone be enough to create a reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of a particular broad statement put forward as enabling support for a claim. This will especially be the case where the statement is, on its face, contrary to generally accepted scientific principles. Most often, additional factors, such as the teachings in pertinent references, will be available to substantiate any doubts that the asserted scope of objective enablement is in fact commensurate with the scope of protection sought and to support any demands based thereon for proof. [Footnote omitted.]
The scope of the required enablement varies inversely with the degree of predictability involved, but even in unpredictable arts, a disclosure of every operable species is not required. A single embodiment may provide broad enablement in cases involving predictable factors, such as mechanical or electrical elements. In reVickers, 141 F.2d 522, 526-27, 61 USPQ 122, 127 (CCPA 1944); In reCook, 439 F.2d 730, 734, 169 USPQ 298, 301 (CCPA 1971). However, in applications directed to inventions in arts where the results are unpredictable, the disclosure of a single species usually does not provide an adequate basis to support generic claims. In reSoll, 97 F.2d 623, 624, 38 USPQ 189, 191 (CCPA 1938). In cases involving unpredictable factors, such as most chemical reactions and physiological activity, more may be required. In reFisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970) (contrasting mechanical and electrical elements with chemical reactions and physiological activity). See also In reWright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993); In reVaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 496, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1445 (Fed. Cir. 1991). This is because it is not reasonably predictable from the disclosure of one species, what other species will work.
2164.04 Burden on the Examiner Under the Enablement Requirement [R-11.2013]
Before any analysis of enablement can occur, it is necessary for the examiner to construe the claims. For terms that are not well-known in the art, or for terms that could have more than one meaning, it is necessary that the examiner select the definition that he/she intends to use when examining the application, based on his/her understanding of what applicant intends it to mean, and explicitly set forth the meaning of the term and the scope of the claim when writing an Office action. See Genentech v. Wellcome Foundation, 29 F.3d 1555, 1563-64, 31 USPQ2d 1161, 1167-68 (Fed. Cir. 1994).
In order to make a rejection, the examiner has the initial burden to establish a reasonable basis to question the enablement provided for the claimed invention. In reWright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (examiner must provide a reasonable explanation as to why the scope of protection provided by a claim is not adequately enabled by the disclosure). A specification disclosure which contains a teaching of the manner and process of making and using an invention in terms which correspond in scope to those used in describing and defining the subject matter sought to be patented must be taken as being in compliance with the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, unless there is a reason to doubt the objective truth of the statements contained therein which must be relied on for enabling support. Assuming that sufficient reason for such doubt exists, a rejection for failure to teach how to make and/or use will be proper on that basis. In reMarzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 224, 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971). As stated by the court, “it is incumbent upon the Patent Office, whenever a rejection on this basis is made, to explain why it doubts the truth or accuracy of any statement in a supporting disclosure and to back up assertions of its own with acceptable evidence or reasoning which is inconsistent with the contested statement. Otherwise, there would be no need for the applicant to go to the trouble and expense of supporting his presumptively accurate disclosure.” 439 F.2d at 224, 169 USPQ at 370 (emphasis in original).
According to In reBowen, 492 F.2d 859, 862-63, 181 USPQ 48, 51 (CCPA 1974), the minimal requirement is for the examiner to give reasons explaining the uncertainty of the enablement. This standard is applicable even when there is no evidence in the record of operability without undue experimentation beyond the disclosed embodiments. See also In reBrana, 51 F.3d 1560, 1566, 34 USPQ2d 1436, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (citing In reBundy, 642 F.2d 430, 433, 209 USPQ 48, 51 (CCPA 1981)) (discussed in MPEP § 2164.07 regarding the relationship of the enablement requirement to the utility requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101).
While the analysis and conclusion of a lack of enablement are based on the factors discussed in MPEP § 2164.01(a) and the evidence as a whole, it is not necessary to discuss each factor in the enablement rejection. Instead, the explanation of the rejection should focus on those factors, reasons, and evidence that lead the examiner to conclude e.g., that the specification fails to teach how to make and use the claimed invention without undue experimentation, or that the scope of any enablement provided to one skilled in the art is not commensurate with the scope of protection sought by the claims. This can be done by making specific findings of fact, supported by the evidence, and then drawing conclusions based on these findings of fact. For example, doubt may arise about enablement because information is missing about one or more essential parts or relationships between parts which one skilled in the art could not develop without undue experimentation. In such a case, the examiner should specifically identify what information is missing and why one skilled in the art could not supply the information without undue experimentation. See MPEP § 2164.06(a). References should be supplied if possible to support a prima facie case of lack of enablement, but are not always required. In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 224, 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971). However, specific technical reasons are always required.
In accordance with the principles of compact prosecution, if an enablement rejection is appropriate, the first Office action on the merits should present the best case with all the relevant reasons, issues, and evidence so that all such rejections can be withdrawn if applicant provides appropriate convincing arguments and/or evidence in rebuttal. Providing the best rejection in the first Office action will also allow the second Office action to be made final should applicant fail to provide appropriate convincing arguments and/or evidence. Citing new references and/or expanding arguments in a second Office action could prevent that Office action from being made final. The principles of compact prosecution also dictate that if an enablement rejection is appropriate and the examiner recognizes limitations that would render the claims enabled, the examiner should note such limitations to applicant as early in the prosecution as possible.
In other words, the examiner should always look for enabled, allowable subject matter and communicate to applicant what that subject matter is at the earliest point possible in the prosecution of the application.
2164.05 Determination of Enablement Based on Evidence as a Whole [R-08.2012]
Once the examiner has weighed all the evidence and established a reasonable basis to question the enablement provided for the claimed invention, the burden falls on applicant to present persuasive arguments, supported by suitable proofs where necessary, that one skilled in the art would be able to make and use the claimed invention using the application as a guide. In reBrandstadter, 484 F.2d 1395, 1406-07, 179 USPQ 286, 294 (CCPA 1973). The evidence provided by applicant need not be conclusive but merely convincing to one skilled in the art.
Applicant may submit factual affidavits under 37 CFR 1.132 or cite references to show what one skilled in the art knew at the time of filing the application. A declaration or affidavit is, itself, evidence that must be considered. The weight to give a declaration or affidavit will depend upon the amount of factual evidence the declaration or affidavit contains to support the conclusion of enablement. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (“expert’s opinion on the ultimate legal conclusion must be supported by something more than a conclusory statement”); cf. In re Alton, 76 F.3d 1168, 1174, 37 USPQ2d 1578, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (declarations relating to the written description requirement should have been considered).
Applicant should be encouraged to provide any evidence to demonstrate that the disclosure enables the claimed invention. In chemical and biotechnical applications, evidence actually submitted to the FDA to obtain approval for clinical trials may be submitted. However, considerations made by the FDA for approving clinical trials are different from those made by the PTO in determining whether a claim is enabled. See Scott v. Finney, 34 F.3d 1058, 1063, 32 USPQ2d 1115, 1120 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (“Testing for full safety and effectiveness of a prosthetic device is more properly left to the [FDA].”). Once that evidence is submitted, it must be weighed with all other evidence according to the standards set forth above so as to reach a determination as to whether the disclosure enables the claimed invention.
To overcome a prima facie case of lack of enablement, applicant must demonstrate by argument and/or evidence that the disclosure, as filed, would have enabled the claimed invention for one skilled in the art at the time of filing. This does not preclude applicant from providing a declaration after the filing date which demonstrates that the claimed invention works. However, the examiner should carefully compare the steps, materials, and conditions used in the experiments of the declaration with those disclosed in the application to make sure that they are commensurate in scope; i.e., that the experiments used the guidance in the specification as filed and what was well known to one of skill in the art at the time of filing. Such a showing also must be commensurate with the scope of the claimed invention, i.e., must reasonably enable the full scope of the claimed invention.
The examiner must then weigh all the evidence before him or her, including the specification, any new evidence supplied by applicant, and any evidence and scientific reasoning previously presented in the rejection and then decide whether the claimed invention is enabled. The examiner should never make this determination based on personal opinion. The determination should always be based on the weight of all the evidence.
2164.05(a) Specification Must Be Enabling as of the Filing Date
Whether the specification would have been enabling as of the filing date involves consideration of the nature of the invention, the state of the prior art, and the level of skill in the art. The initial inquiry is into the nature of the invention, i.e., the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains. The nature of the invention becomes the backdrop to determine the state of the art and the level of skill possessed by one skilled in the art.
The state of the prior art is what one skilled in the art would have known, at the time the application was filed, about the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains. The relative skill of those in the art refers to the skill of those in the art in relation to the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains at the time the application was filed. See MPEP § 2164.05(b).
The state of the prior art provides evidence for the degree of predictability in the art and is related to the amount of direction or guidance needed in the specification as filed to meet the enablement requirement. The state of the prior art is also related to the need for working examples in the specification.
The state of the art for a given technology is not static in time. It is entirely possible that a disclosure which would not have been enabled if filed on January 2, 1990 might be enabled if the same disclosure had been filed on January 2, 1996. Therefore, the state of the prior art must be evaluated for each application based on its filing date.
35 U.S.C. 112 requires the specification to be enabling only to a person “skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected.” In general, the pertinent art should be defined in terms of the problem to be solved rather than in terms of the technology area, industry, trade, etc. for which the invention is used.
The specification need not disclose what is well-known to those skilled in the art and preferably omits that which is well-known to those skilled and already available to the public. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991); Hybritech, Inc.v. Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc., 802 F.2d 1367, 1384, 231 USPQ 81, 94 (Fed. Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 947 (1987); and Lindemann Maschinenfabrik GMBHv. American Hoist & Derrick Co., 730 F.2d 1452, 1463, 221 USPQ 481, 489 (Fed. Cir. 1984).
The state of the art existing at the filing date of the application is used to determine whether a particular disclosure is enabling as of the filing date. Chiron Corp. v. Genentech Inc., 363 F.3d 1247, 1254, 70 USPQ2d 1321, 1325-26 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (“a patent document cannot enable technology that arises after the date of application”). Publications dated after the filing date providing information publicly first disclosed after the filing date generally cannot be used to show what was known at the time of filing. In reGunn, 537 F.2d 1123, 1128, 190 USPQ 402,405-06 (CCPA 1976); In re Budnick, 537 F.2d 535, 538, 190 USPQ 422, 424 (CCPA 1976) (In general, if an applicant seeks to use a patent to prove the state of the art for the purpose of the enablement requirement, the patent must have an issue date earlier than the effective filing date of the application.). While a later dated publication cannot supplement an insufficient disclosure in a prior dated application to make it enabling, applicant can offer the testimony of an expert based on the publication as evidence of the level of skill in the art at the time the application was filed. Gould v.Quigg, 822 F.2d 1074, 1077, 3 USPQ2d 1302, 1304 (Fed. Cir. 1987).
In general, the examiner should not use post-filing date references to demonstrate that a patent is not enabled. Exceptions to this rule could occur if a later-dated reference provides evidence of what one skilled in the art would have known on or before the effective filing date of the patent application. In re Hogan, 559 F.2d 595, 605, 194 USPQ 527, 537 (CCPA 1977). If individuals of skill in the art state that a particular invention is not possible years after the filing date, that would be evidence that the disclosed invention was not possible at the time of filing. In In reWright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513-14 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (an article published 5 years after the filing date of the application adequately supported the examiner’s position that the physiological activity of certain viruses was sufficiently unpredictable so that a person skilled in the art would not have believed that the success with one virus and one animal could be extrapolated successfully to all viruses with all living organisms. Claims not directed to the specific virus and the specific animal were held nonenabled).
2164.05(b) Specification Must Be Enabling to Persons Skilled in the Art
The relative skill of those in the art refers to the skill level of those in the art in the technological field to which the claimed invention pertains. Where different arts are involved in the invention, the specification is enabling if it enables persons skilled in each art to carry out the aspect of the invention applicable to their specialty. In reNaquin, 398 F.2d 863, 866, 158 USPQ 317, 319 (CCPA 1968).
When an invention, in its different aspects, involves distinct arts, the specification is enabling if it enables those skilled in each art, to carry out the aspect proper to their specialty. “If two distinct technologies are relevant to an invention, then the disclosure will be adequate if a person of ordinary skill in each of the two technologies could practice the invention from the disclosures.” Technicon Instruments Corp.v.Alpkem Corp., 664 F. Supp. 1558, 1578, 2 USPQ2d 1729, 1742 (D. Ore. 1986), aff’d in part, vacated in part, rev’d in part, 837 F. 2d 1097 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (unpublished opinion), appeal after remand, 866 F. 2d 417, 9 USPQ 2d 1540 (Fed. Cir. 1989). In Ex parteZechnall, 194 USPQ 461 (Bd. App. 1973), the Board stated “appellants’ disclosure must be held sufficient if it would enable a person skilled in the electronic computer art, in cooperation with a person skilled in the fuel injection art, to make and use appellants’ invention.” 194 USPQ at 461.
2164.06 Quantity of Experimentation [R-08.2012]
The quantity of experimentation needed to be performed by one skilled in the art is only one factor involved in determining whether “undue experimentation” is required to make and use the invention. “[A]n extended period of experimentation may not be undue if the skilled artisan is given sufficient direction or guidance.” In re Colianni, 561 F.2d 220, 224, 195 USPQ 150, 153 (CCPA 1977). " ‘The test is not merely quantitative, since a considerable amount of experimentation is permissible, if it is merely routine, or if the specification in question provides a reasonable amount of guidance with respect to the direction in which the experimentation should proceed.’" In re Wands, 858 F.2d 731, 737, 8 USPQ2d 1400, 1404 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (citing In re Angstadt, 537 F.2d 489, 502-04, 190 USPQ 214, 217-19 (CCPA 1976)). Time and expense are merely factors in this consideration and are not the controlling factors. United States v. Telectronics Inc., 857 F.2d 778, 785, 8 USPQ2d 1217, 1223 (Fed. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1046 (1989).
In the chemical arts, the guidance and ease in carrying out an assay to achieve the claimed objectives may be an issue to be considered in determining the quantity of experimentation needed. For example, if a very difficult and time consuming assay is needed to identify a compound within the scope of a claim, then this great quantity of experimentation should be considered in the overall analysis. Time and difficulty of experiments are not determinative if they are merely routine. Quantity of examples is only one factor that must be considered before reaching the final conclusion that undue experimentation would be required. In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 737, 8 USPQ2d at 1404.
I. EXAMPLE OF REASONABLE EXPERIMENTATION
In United States v. Telectronics, Inc., 857 F.2d 778, 8 USPQ2d 1217 (Fed. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1046 (1989), the court reversed the findings of the district court for lack of clear and convincing proof that undue experimentation was needed. The court ruled that since one embodiment (stainless steel electrodes) and the method to determine dose/response was set forth in the specification, the specification was enabling. The question of time and expense of such studies, approximately $50,000 and 6-12 months standing alone, failed to show undue experimentation.
II. EXAMPLE OF UNREASONABLE EXPERIMENTATION
In In re Ghiron, 442 F.2d 985, 991-92, 169 USPQ 723, 727-28 (CCPA 1971), functional “block diagrams” were insufficient to enable a person skilled in the art to practice the claimed invention with only a reasonable degree of experimentation because the claimed invention required a “modification to prior art overlap computers,” and because “many of the components which appellants illustrate as rectangles in their drawing necessarily are themselves complex assemblages . . . . It is common knowledge that many months or years elapse from the announcement of a new computer by a manufacturer before the first prototype is available. This does not bespeak of a routine operation but of extensive experimentation and development work. . . .”
2164.06(a) Examples of Enablement Issues-Missing Information
It is common that doubt arises about enablement because information is missing about one or more essential claim elements or relationships between elements which one skilled in the art could not develop without undue experimentation. In such a case, the examiner should specifically identify what information is missing and why the missing information is needed to provide enablement.
I. ELECTRICAL AND MECHANICAL DEVICES OR PROCESSES
For example, a disclosure of an electrical circuit apparatus, depicted in the drawings by block diagrams with functional labels, was held to be nonenabling in In reGunn, 537 F.2d 1123, 1129, 190 USPQ 402, 406 (CCPA 1976). There was no indication in the specification as to whether the parts represented by boxes were “off the shelf” or must be specifically constructed or modified for applicant’s system. Also there were no details in the specification of how the parts should be interconnected, timed and controlled so as to obtain the specific operations desired by the applicant. In In reDonohue, 550 F.2d 1269, 193 USPQ 136 (CCPA 1977), the lack of enablement was caused by lack of information in the specification about a single block labelled “LOGIC” in the drawings. See also Union Pacific Resources Co. v. Chesapeake Energy Corp., 236 F.3d 684, 57 USPQ2d 1293 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (Claims directed to a method of determining the location of a horizontal borehole in the earth failed to comply with enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112 because certain computer programming details used to perform claimed method were not disclosed in the specification, and the record showed that a person of skill in art would not understand how to “compare” or “rescale” data as recited in the claims in order to perform the claimed method.).
In reGhiron, 442 F.2d 985, 169 USPQ 723 (CCPA 1971), involved a method of facilitating transfers from one subset of program instructions to another which required modification of prior art “overlap mode” computers. The Board rejected the claims on the basis, inter alia, that the disclosure was insufficient to satisfy the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph and was affirmed. The Board focused on the fact that the drawings were “block diagrams, i.e., a group of rectangles representing the elements of the system, functionally labelled and interconnected by lines.” 442 F.2d at 991, 169 USPQ at 727. The specification did not particularly identify each of the elements represented by the blocks or the relationship therebetween, nor did it specify particular apparatus intended to carry out each function. The Board further questioned whether the selection and assembly of the required components could be carried out routinely by persons of ordinary skill in the art.
An adequate disclosure of a device may require details of how complex components are constructed and perform the desired function. The claim before the court in In reScarbrough, 500 F.2d 560, 182 USPQ 298 (CCPA 1974) was directed to a system which comprised several component parts (e.g., computer, timing and control mechanism, A/D converter, etc.) only by generic name and overall ultimate function. The court concluded that there was not an enabling disclosure because the specification did not describe how “complex elements known to perform broadly recited functions in different systems would be adaptable for use in Appellant’s particular system with only a reasonable amount of experimentation” and that “an unreasonable amount of work would be required to arrive at the detailed relationships appellant says that he has solved.” 500 F.2d at 566, 182 USPQ at 302.
Patent applications involving living biological products, such as microorganisms, as critical elements in the process of making the invention, present a unique question with regard to availability. The issue was raised in a case involving claims drawn to a fermentative method of producing two novel antibiotics using a specific microorganism and claims to the novel antibiotics so produced. In reArgoudelis, 434 F.2d 1390, 168 USPQ 99 (CCPA 1970). As stated by the court, “a unique aspect of using microorganisms as starting materials is that a sufficient description of how to obtain the microorganism from nature cannot be given.” 434 F.2d at 1392, 168 USPQ at 102. It was determined by the court that availability of the biological product via a public depository provided an acceptable means of meeting the written description and the enablement requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph.
To satisfy the enablement requirement a deposit must be made “prior to issue” but need not be made prior to filing the application. In reLundak, 773 F.2d 1216, 1223, 227 USPQ 90, 95 (Fed. Cir. 1985).
The availability requirement of enablement must also be considered in light of the scope or breadth of the claim limitations. The Board of Appeals considered this issue in an application which claimed a fermentative method using microorganisms belonging to a species. Applicants had identified three novel individual strains of microorganisms that were related in such a way as to establish a new species of microorganism, a species being a broader classification than a strain. The three specific strains had been appropriately deposited. The issue focused on whether the specification enabled one skilled in the art to make any member of the species other than the three strains which had been deposited. The Board concluded that the verbal description of the species was inadequate to allow a skilled artisan to make any and all members of the claimed species. Ex parteJackson, 217 USPQ 804, 806 (Bd. App. 1982).
2164.06(b) Examples of Enablement Issues — Chemical Cases
The following summaries should not be relied on to support a case of lack of enablement without carefully reading the case.
SEVERAL DECISIONS RULING THAT THE DISCLOSURE WAS NONENABLING
- (A) In Enzo Biochem, Inc. v. Calgene, Inc., 188 F.3d 1362, 52 USPQ2d 1129 (Fed. Cir. 1999), the court held that claims in two patents directed to genetic antisense technology (which aims to control gene expression in a particular organism), were invalid because the breadth of enablement was not commensurate in scope with the claims. Both specifications disclosed applying antisense technology in regulating three genes in E. coli. Despite the limited disclosures, the specifications asserted that the “[t]he practices of this invention are generally applicable with respect to any organism containing genetic material which is capable of being expressed … such as bacteria, yeast, and other cellular organisms.” The claims of the patents encompassed application of antisense methodology in a broad range of organisms. Ultimately, the court relied on the fact that (1) the amount of direction presented and the number of working examples provided in the specification were very narrow compared to the wide breadth of the claims at issue, (2) antisense gene technology was highly unpredictable, and (3) the amount of experimentation required to adapt the practice of creating antisense DNA from E. coli to other types of cells was quite high, especially in light of the record, which included notable examples of the inventor’s own failures to control the expression of other genes in E. coli and other types of cells. Thus, the teachings set forth in the specification provided no more than a “plan” or “invitation” for those of skill in the art to experiment using the technology in other types of cells.
- (B) In In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 27 USPQ2d 1510 (Fed. Cir. 1993), the 1983 application disclosed a vaccine against the RNA tumor virus known as Prague Avian Sarcoma Virus, a member of the Rous Associated Virus family. Using functional language, Wright claimed a vaccine “comprising an immunologically effective amount” of a viral expression product. Id. at 1559, 27 USPQ2d at 1511. Rejected claims covered all RNA viruses as well as avian RNA viruses. The examiner provided a teaching that in 1988, a vaccine for another retrovirus (i.e., HIV) remained an intractable problem. This evidence, along with evidence that the RNA viruses were a diverse and complicated genus, convinced the Federal Circuit that the invention was not enabled for either all retroviruses or even for avian retroviruses.
- (C) In In re Goodman, 11 F.3d 1046, 29 USPQ2d 2010 (Fed. Cir. 1993), a 1985 application functionally claimed a method of producing protein in plant cells by expressing a foreign gene. The court stated: “[n]aturally, the specification must teach those of skill in the art ‘how to make and use the invention as broadly as it is claimed.’” Id. at 1050, 29 USPQ2d at 2013. Although protein expression in dicotyledonous plant cells was enabled, the claims covered any plant cell. The examiner provided evidence that even as late as 1987, use of the claimed method in monocot plant cells was not enabled. Id. at 1051, 29 USPQ2d at 2014.
- (D) In In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 495, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1991), the court found that several claims were not supported by an enabling disclosure “[t]aking into account the relatively incomplete understanding of the biology of cyanobacteria as of appellants’ filing date, as well as the limited disclosure by appellants of the particular cyanobacterial genera operative in the claimed invention....” The claims at issue were not limited to any particular genus or species of cyanobacteria and the specification mentioned nine genera and the working examples employed one species of cyanobacteria.
- (E) In In re Colianni, 561 F.2d 220, 222-23, 195 USPQ 150, 152 (CCPA 1977), the court affirmed a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, because the specification, which was directed to a method of mending a fractured bone by applying “sufficient” ultrasonic energy to the bone, did not define a “sufficient” dosage or teach one of ordinary skill how to select the appropriate intensity, frequency, or duration of the ultrasonic energy.
SEVERAL DECISIONS RULING THAT THE DISCLOSURE WAS ENABLING
- (A) In PPG Indus. v. Guardian Indus., 75 F.3d 1558, 1564, 37 USPQ2d 1618, 1623 (Fed. Cir. 1996), the court ruled that even though there was a software error in calculating the ultraviolet transmittance data for examples in the specification making it appear that the production of a cerium oxide-free glass that satisfied the transmittance limitation would be difficult, the specification indicated that such glass could be made. The specification was found to indicate how to minimize the cerium content while maintaining low ultraviolet transmittance.
- (B) In In re Wands, 858 F.2d 731, 8 USPQ2d 1400 (Fed. Cir. 1988), the court reversed the rejection for lack of enablement under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, concluding that undue experimentation would not be required to practice the invention. The nature of monoclonal antibody technology is such that experiments first involve the entire attempt to make monoclonal hybridomas to determine which ones secrete antibody with the desired characteristics. The court found that the specification provided considerable direction and guidance on how to practice the claimed invention and presented working examples, that all of the methods needed to practice the invention were well known, and that there was a high level of skill in the art at the time the application was filed. Furthermore, the applicant carried out the entire procedure for making a monoclonal antibody against HBsAg three times and each time was successful in producing at least one antibody which fell within the scope of the claims.
- (C) In In re Bundy, 642 F.2d 430, 434, 209 USPQ 48, 51-52 (CCPA 1981), the court ruled that appellant’s disclosure was sufficient to enable one skilled in the art to use the claimed analogs of naturally occurring prostaglandins even though the specification lacked any examples of specific dosages, because the specification taught that the novel prostaglandins had certain pharmacological properties and possessed activity similar to known E-type prostaglandins.
2164.06(c) Examples of Enablement Issues – Computer Programming Cases
To establish a reasonable basis for questioning the adequacy of a disclosure, the examiner must present a factual analysis of a disclosure to show that a person skilled in the art would not be able to make and use the claimed invention without resorting to undue experimentation.
In computer applications, it is not unusual for the claimed invention to involve two areas of prior art or more than one technology, e.g., an appropriately programmed computer and an area of application of said computer. White Consol. Indus. v. Vega Servo-Control, Inc., 214 USPQ 796, 821 (S.D.Mich. 1982). In regard to the “skilled in the art” standard, in cases involving both the art of computer programming, and another technology, the examiner must recognize that the knowledge of persons skilled in both technologies is the appropriate criteria for determining sufficiency. See In re Naquin, 398 F.2d 863, 158 USPQ 317 (CCPA 1968); In re Brown, 477 F.2d 946, 177 USPQ 691 (CCPA 1973); White Consol. Indus., 214 USPQ at 822, aff’d on related grounds, 713 F.2d 788, 218 USPQ 961 (Fed. Cir. 1983).
In a typical computer application, system components are often represented in a “block diagram” format, i.e., a group of hollow rectangles representing the elements of the system, functionally labeled, and interconnected by lines. Such block diagram computer cases may be categorized into (A) systems that include but are more comprehensive than a computer and (B) systems wherein the block elements are totally within the confines of a computer. For instances where a computer invention is claimed using functional language, that is not limited to a specific structure, see MPEP § 2161.01.
I. BLOCK ELEMENTS MORE COMPREHENSIVE THAN A COMPUTER
The first category of such block diagram cases involves systems which include a computer as well as other system hardware and/or software components. In order to meet his or her burden of establishing a reasonable basis for questioning the adequacy of such disclosure, the examiner should initiate a factual analysis of the system by focusing on each of the individual block element components. More specifically, such an inquiry should focus on the diverse functions attributed to each block element as well as the teachings in the specification as to how such a component could be implemented. If based on such an analysis, the examiner can reasonably contend that more than routine experimentation would be required by one of ordinary skill in the art to implement such a component or components, then enablement of the component or components should specifically be challenged by the examiner as part of a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph rejection. Additionally, the examiner should determine whether certain of the hardware or software components depicted as block elements are themselves complex assemblages which have widely differing characteristics and which must be precisely coordinated with other complex assemblages. Under such circumstances, a reasonable basis may exist for challenging such a functional block diagram form of disclosure. See In re Ghiron, 442 F.2d 985, 169 USPQ 723 (CCPA 1971) and In re Brown, supra. Even if the applicant has cited prior art patents or publications to demonstrate that particular block diagram hardware or software components are old, it should not always be considered as self-evident how such components are to be interconnected to function in a disclosed complex manner. See In re Scarbrough, 500 F.2d 560, 566, 182 USPQ 298, 301 (CCPA 1974) and In re Forman, 463 F.2d 1125, 1129, 175 USPQ 12, 16 (CCPA 1972).
For example, where the specification provides in a block diagram disclosure of a complex system that includes a microprocessor and other system components controlled by the microprocessor, a mere reference to a commercially available microprocessor, without any description of the precise operations to be performed by the microprocessor, fails to disclose how such a microprocessor would be properly programmed to (1) either perform any required calculations or (2) coordinate the other system components in the proper timed sequence to perform the functions disclosed and claimed. If a particular program is disclosed in such a system, the program should be carefully reviewed to ensure that its scope is commensurate with the scope of the functions attributed to such a program in the claims. In re Brown, 477 F.2d at 951, 177 USPQ at 695. If (1) the disclosure fails to disclose any program and (2) more than routine experimentation would be required of one skilled in the art to generate such a program, the examiner clearly would have a reasonable basis for challenging the sufficiency of such a disclosure. The amount of experimentation that is considered routine will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of individual cases and should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. No exact numerical standard has been fixed by the courts, but the “amount of required experimentation must, however, be reasonable.” White Consol. Indus., 713 F.2d at 791, 218 USPQ at 963. One court apparently found that the amount of experimentation involved was reasonable where a skilled programmer was able to write a general computer program, implementing an embodiment form, within 4 hours. Hirschfield v. Banner, 462 F. Supp. 135, 142, 200 USPQ 276, 279 (D.D.C. 1978), aff’d, 615 F.2d 1368 (D.C. Cir. 1986), cert.denied, 450 U.S. 994 (1981). Another court found that, where the required period of experimentation for skilled programmers to develop a particular program would run to 1 to 2 man years, this would be “a clearly unreasonable requirement” (White Consol. Indus., 713 F.2d at 791, 218 USPQ at 963).
II. BLOCK ELEMENTS WITHIN A COMPUTER
The second category of block diagram cases occurs most frequently in pure data processing applications where the combination of block elements is totally within the confines of a computer, where there is no interfacing with external apparatus other than normal input/output devices. In some instances, it has been found that particular kinds of block diagram disclosures were sufficient to meet the enabling requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. See In re Knowlton, 481 F.2d 1357, 178 USPQ 486 (CCPA 1973), In re Comstock, 481 F.2d 905, 178 USPQ 616 (CCPA 1973). The Comstock and Knowlton decisions turned on the appellants’ disclosure of (1) a reference to and reliance on an identified prior art computer system and (2) an operative computer program for the referenced prior art computer system. In Knowlton, the disclosure was presented in such a detailed fashion that the individual program's steps were specifically interrelated with the operative structural elements in the referenced prior art computer system. The court in Knowlton indicated that the disclosure did not merely consist of a cursory explanation of flow diagrams or a bare group of program listings together with a reference to a proprietary computer in which they might be run. The disclosure was characterized as going into considerable detail in explaining the interrelationships between the disclosed hardware and software elements. Under such circumstances, the Court considered the disclosure to be concise as well as full, clear, and exact to a sufficient degree to satisfy the literal language of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. It must be emphasized that because of the significance of the program listing and the reference to and reliance on an identified prior art computer system, absent either of these items, a block element disclosure within the confines of a computer should be scrutinized in precisely the same manner as the first category of block diagram cases discussed above.
Regardless of whether a disclosure involves block elements more comprehensive than a computer or block elements totally within the confines of a computer, USPTO personnel, when analyzing method claims, must recognize that the specification must be adequate to teach how to practice the claimed method. If such practice requires a particular apparatus, then the application must provide a sufficient disclosure of that apparatus if such is not already available. See In re Ghiron, 442 F.2d 985, 991, 169 USPQ 723, 727 (CCPA 1971) and In re Gunn, 537 F.2d 1123, 1128, 190 USPQ 402, 406 (CCPA 1976). When USPTO personnel question the adequacy of computer system or computer programming disclosures, the reasons for finding the specification to be nonenabling should be supported by the record as a whole. In this regard, it is also essential for USPTO personnel to reasonably challenge evidence submitted by the applicant. For example, in In re Naquin, supra, an affiant’s statement that the average computer programmer was familiar with the subroutine necessary for performing the claimed process, was held to be a statement of fact as it was unchallenged by USPTO personnel. In other words, unless USPTO personnel present a reasonable basis for challenging the disclosure in view of the record as a whole, a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph rejection in a computer system or computer programming application may not be sustained on appeal. See In re Naquin, supra, and In re Morehouse, 545 F.2d 162, 165-66, 192 USPQ 29, 32 (CCPA 1976).
While no specific universally applicable rule exists for recognizing an insufficiently disclosed application involving computer programs, an examining guideline to generally follow is to challenge the sufficiency of such disclosures which fail to include either the computer program itself or a reasonably detailed flowchart which delineates the sequence of operations the program must perform. In programming applications where the software disclosure only includes a flowchart, as the complexity of functions and the generality of the individual components of the flowchart increase, the basis for challenging the sufficiency of such a flowchart becomes more reasonable because the likelihood of more than routine experimentation being required to generate a working program from such a flowchart also increases.
As stated earlier, once USPTO personnel have advanced a reasonable basis or presented evidence to question the adequacy of a computer system or computer programming disclosure, the applicant must show that his or her specification would enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the claimed invention without resorting to undue experimentation. In most cases, efforts to meet this burden involve submitting affidavits, referencing prior art patents or technical publications, presenting arguments of counsel, or combinations of these approaches.
III. AFFIDAVIT PRACTICE (37 CFR 1.132)
In computer cases, affidavits must be critically analyzed. Affidavit practice at the outset usually involves analyzing the skill level and/or qualifications of the affiant, which should be of the person of ordinary skill in the art. When an affiant’s skill level is higher than that required by the person of ordinary skill in the art for a particular application, an examiner may challenge the affidavit as insufficient should the affiant not submit evidence demonstrating the amount of experimentation required by a person of ordinary skill in the art to implement the invention. An affiant having a skill level or qualifications above that of the person of ordinary skill in the art would require less experimentation to implement the claimed invention than that for the person of ordinary skill. Similarly, an affiant having a skill level or qualifications below that of the person of ordinary skill in the art would require more experimentation to implement the claimed invention than that for the person of ordinary skill in the art. In either situation, the standard of the person of ordinary skill in the art would not have been met.
In computer systems or programming cases, the problems with a given affidavit, which relate to the sufficiency of disclosure issue, generally involve affiants submitting few facts to support their conclusions or opinions. Some affidavits may go so far as to present conclusions on the ultimate legal question of sufficiency. In re Brandstadter, 484 F.2d 1395, 179 USPQ 286 (CCPA 1973), illustrates the extent of the inquiry into the factual basis underlying an affiant’s conclusions or opinions. In Brandstadter, the invention concerned a stored program controller (computer) programmed to control the storing, retrieving, and forwarding of messages in a communications system. The disclosure consisted of broadly defined block diagrams of the structure of the invention and no flowcharts or program listings of the programs of the controller. The Court quoted extensively from the examiner’s Office actions and examiner’s answer in its opinion where it was apparent that the examiner consistently argued that the disclosure was merely a broad system diagram in the form of labeled block diagrams along with statements of a myriad of desired results. Various affidavits were presented in which the affiants stated that all or some of the system circuit elements in the block diagrams were either well-known in the art or “could be constructed” by the skilled design engineer, that the controller was “capable of being programmed” to perform the stated functions or results desired, and that the person having ordinary skill in the art “could design or construct or was able to program” the system. The Court did consider the affiants’ statements as being some evidence on the ultimate legal question of enablement but concluded that the statements failed in their purpose since they recited conclusions or opinions with few facts to support or buttress these conclusions. With reference to the lack of a disclosed computer program or even a flowchart of the program to control the message switching system, the record contained no evidence as to the number of programmers needed, the number of man-hours and the level of skill of the programmers to produce the program required to practice the invention.
Factual evidence directed to the amount of time and effort and level of knowledge required for the practice of the invention from the disclosure, and knowledge in the art can be expected to rebut a prima facie case of nonenablement, but not opinion evidence directed to the ultimate legal question of enablement. See Hirschfield, 462 F. Supp. at 143, 200 USPQ at 281. Where an affidavit shows that an inventor described the problem to be solved to an affiant, which then enabled the affiant to generate a computer program to solve the problem, such an affidavit will fail to demonstrate that the application alone would have taught a person of ordinary skill in the art how to make and use the claimed invention. See In re Brown, 477 F.2d at 951, 177 USPQ at 695. In Brown, the court indicated that it had not been factually established that the applicant had not conveyed to the affiant vital and additional information in their several meetings in addition to that set out in the application. For an affidavit to be relevant to the determination of enablement, it must be probative of the level of skill of the personal of ordinary skill in the art as of the time the applicant filed his application. See In re Gunn, 537 F.2d 1123, 1128, 190 USPQ 402, 406 (CCPA 1976). In that case, each of the affiants stated what was known at the time he executed the affidavit, and not what was known at the time the applicant filed his application.
IV. REFERENCING PRIOR ART DOCUMENTS
The commercial availability of an identified prior art computer system is very pertinent to the issue of enablement. But in some cases, this approach may not be sufficient to meet the applicant’s burden. Merely citing excerpts from technical publications in an affidavit in order to satisfy the enablement requirement is not sufficient if it is not made clear that a person skilled in the art would know which, or what parts, of the cited circuits could be used to construct the claimed device or how they could be interconnected to act in combination to produce the required results. See In re Forman, 463 F.2d 1125, 1129, 175 USPQ 12, 16 (CCPA 1972). This analysis would appear to be less critical where the circuits comprising applicant’s system are essentially standard components of an identified prior art computer system and a standard device attached thereto.
Prior art patents are often relied on by applicants to show the state of the art for purposes of enablement. However, these patents must have an issue date earlier than the effective filing date of the application under consideration. See In re Budnick, 537 F.2d 535, 538, 190 USPQ 422, 424 (CCPA 1976). An analogous point was made in In re Gunn, supra, where the court indicated that patents issued after the filing date of the application under examination are not evidence of subject matter known to any person skilled in the art since their subject matter may have been known only to the patentees and the Patent and Trademark Office.
Merely citing prior art patents to demonstrate that the challenged components are old may not be sufficient proof since, even if each of the enumerated devices or labelled blocks in a block diagram disclosure were old, per se, this would not make it self-evident how each would be interconnected to function in a disclosed complex combination manner. Therefore, the specification in effect must set forth the integration of the prior art; otherwise, it is likely that undue experimentation, or more than routine experimentation would be required to implement the claimed invention. See In re Scarbrough, 500 F.2d 560, 565, 182 USPQ 298, 301 (CCPA 1974). The court also noted that any cited patents which are used by the applicant to demonstrate that particular box diagram hardware or software components are old must be analyzed as to whether such patents are germane to the instant invention and as to whether such patents provide better detail of disclosure as to such components than an applicant’s own disclosure. Also, any patent or publication cited to provide evidence that a particular programming technique is well-known in the programming art does not demonstrate that one of ordinary skill in the art could make and use correspondingly disclosed programming techniques unless both programming techniques are of approximately the same degree of complexity. See In re Knowlton, 500 F.2d 566, 572, 183 USPQ 33, 37 (CCPA 1974).
V. ARGUMENTS OF COUNSEL
Arguments of counsel may be effective in establishing that an examiner has not properly met his or her burden or has otherwise erred in his or her position. However, it must be emphasized that arguments of counsel alone cannot take the place of evidence in the record once an examiner has advanced a reasonable basis for questioning the disclosure. See In re Budnick, 537 F.2d at 538, 190 USPQ at 424; In re Schulze, 346 F.2d 600, 145 USPQ 716 (CCPA 1965); In re Cole, 326 F.2d 769, 140 USPQ 230 (CCPA 1964). For example, in a case where the record consisted substantially of arguments and opinions of applicant’s attorney, the court indicated that factual affidavits could have provided important evidence on the issue of enablement. See In re Knowlton, 500 F.2d at 572, 183 USPQ at 37; In re Wiseman, 596 F.2d 1019, 201 USPQ 658 (CCPA 1979).
2164.07 Relationship of Enablement Requirement to Utility Requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 [R-11.2013]
The requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph as to how to use the invention is different from the utility requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101. The requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 is that some specific, substantial, and credible use be set forth for the invention. On the other hand, 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph requires an indication of how the use (required by 35 U.S.C. 101) can be carried out, i.e., how the invention can be used.
If an applicant has disclosed a specific and substantial utility for an invention and provided a credible basis supporting that utility, that fact alone does not provide a basis for concluding that the claims comply with all the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. For example, if an applicant has claimed a process of treating a certain disease condition with a certain compound and provided a credible basis for asserting that the compound is useful in that regard, but to actually practice the invention as claimed a person skilled in the relevant art would have to engage in an undue amount of experimentation, the claim may be defective under 35 U.S.C. 112, but not 35 U.S.C. 101. To avoid confusion during examination, any rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, based on grounds other than “lack of utility” should be imposed separately from any rejection imposed due to “lack of utility” under 35 U.S.C. 101 and 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph.
I. WHEN UTILITY REQUIREMENT IS NOT SATISFIED
A. Not Useful or Operative
If a claim fails to meet the utility requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 because it is shown to be nonuseful or inoperative, then it necessarily fails to meet the how-to-use aspect of the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. As noted in In re Fouche, 439 F.2d 1237, 169 USPQ 429 (CCPA 1971), if “compositions are in fact useless, appellant’s specification cannot have taught how to use them.” 439 F.2d at 1243, 169 USPQ at 434. The examiner should make both rejections (i.e., a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph and a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101) where the subject matter of a claim has been shown to be nonuseful or inoperative.
The 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection should indicate that because the invention as claimed does not have utility, a person skilled in the art would not be able to use the invention as claimed, and as such, the claim is defective under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. A 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection should not be imposed or maintained unless an appropriate basis exists for imposing a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101. In other words, Office personnel should not impose a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection grounded on a “lack of utility” basis unless a 35 U.S.C. 101 rejection is proper. In particular, the factual showing needed to impose a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 must be provided if a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection is to be imposed on “lack of utility” grounds. See MPEP § 2107 - § 2107.03 for a more detailed discussion of the utility requirements of 35 U.S.C. 101 and 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 112, first paragraph.
B. Burden on the Examiner
When the examiner concludes that an application claims an invention that is nonuseful, inoperative, or contradicts known scientific principles, the burden is on the examiner to provide a reasonable basis to support this conclusion. Rejections based on 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, and 35 U.S.C. 101 should be made.
Examiner Has Initial Burden To Show That One of Ordinary Skill in the Art Would Reasonably Doubt the Asserted Utility
The examiner has the initial burden of challenging an asserted utility. Only after the examiner has provided evidence showing that one of ordinary skill in the art would reasonably doubt the asserted utility does the burden shift to the applicant to provide rebuttal evidence sufficient to convince one of ordinary skill in the art of the invention’s asserted utility. In re Fisher, 421 F.3d 1365, 76 USPQ2d 1225 (Fed. Cir. 2005); In re Swartz, 232 F.3d 862, 863, 56 USPQ2d 1703, 1704 (Fed. Cir. 2000); In reBrana, 51 F.3d 1560, 1566, 34 USPQ2d 1436, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (citing In reBundy, 642 F.2d 430, 433, 209 USPQ 48, 51 (CCPA 1981)).
C. Rebuttal by Applicant
If a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 has been properly imposed, along with a corresponding rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, the burden shifts to the applicant to rebut the prima facie showing. In re Oetiker, 977 F.2d 1443, 1445, 24 USPQ2d 1443, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1992). There is no predetermined amount or character of evidence that must be provided by an applicant to support an asserted utility. Rather, the character and amount of evidence needed to support an asserted utility will vary depending on what is claimed (Ex parte Ferguson, 117 USPQ 229, 231 (Bd. App. 1957)), and whether the asserted utility appears to contravene established scientific principles and beliefs. In re Gazave, 379 F.2d 973, 978, 154 USPQ 92, 96 (CCPA 1967); In re Chilowsky, 229 F.2d 457, 462, 108 USPQ 321, 325 (CCPA 1956). Furthermore, the applicant does not have to provide evidence sufficient to establish that an asserted utility is true “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In re Irons, 340 F.2d 974, 978, 144 USPQ 351, 354 (CCPA 1965). Instead, evidence will be sufficient if, considered as a whole, it leads a person of ordinary skill in the art to conclude that the asserted utility is more likely than not true. See MPEP § 2107.02 for a more detailed discussion of consideration of a reply to a prima facie rejection for lack of utility and evaluation of evidence related to utility.
II. WHEN UTILITY REQUIREMENT IS SATISFIED
In some instances, the utility of the claimed invention will be provided, but the skilled artisan will not know how to effect that use. In such a case, no rejection will be made under 35 U.S.C. 101, but a rejection will be made under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. As pointed out in Mowryv.Whitney, 81 U.S. (14 Wall.) 620 (1871), an invention may in fact have great utility, i.e., may be “a highly useful invention,” but the specification may still fail to “enable any person skilled in the art or science” to use the invention. 81 U.S. (14 Wall.) at 644.
2164.08 Enablement Commensurate in Scope With the Claims [R-11.2013]
All questions of enablement are evaluated against the claimed subject matter. The focus of the examination inquiry is whether everything within the scope of the claim is enabled. Accordingly, the first analytical step requires that the examiner determine exactly what subject matter is encompassed by the claims. See, e.g., AK Steel Corp. v. Sollac, 344 F.3d 1234, 1244, 68 USPQ2d 1280, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (When a range is claimed, there must be reasonable enablement of the scope of the range. Here, the claims at issue encompassed amounts of silicon as high as 10% by weight, however the specification included statements clearly and strongly warning that a silicon content above 0.5% by weight in an aluminum coating causes coating problems. Such statements indicate that higher amounts will not work in the claimed invention.). The examiner should determine what each claim recites and what the subject matter is when the claim is considered as a whole, not when its parts are analyzed individually. No claim should be overlooked. With respect to dependent claims, 35 U.S.C. 112(d) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, fourth paragraph, should be followed. These paragraphs state “a claim in a dependent form shall be construed to incorporate by reference all the limitations of the claim to which it refers” and requires the dependent claim to further limit the subject matter claimed.
The Federal Circuit has repeatedly held that “the specification must teach those skilled in the art how to make and use the full scope of the claimed invention without ‘undue experimentation’.” In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1561, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Nevertheless, not everything necessary to practice the invention need be disclosed. In fact, what is well-known is best omitted. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991). All that is necessary is that one skilled in the art be able to practice the claimed invention, given the level of knowledge and skill in the art. Further the scope of enablement must only bear a “reasonable correlation” to the scope of the claims. See, e.g., In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970).
With respect to the breadth of a claim, the relevant concern is whether the scope of enablement provided to one skilled in the art by the disclosure is commensurate with the scope of protection sought by the claims. AK Steel Corp. v. Sollac, 344 F.3d 1234, 1244, 68 USPQ2d 1280, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2003);In reMoore, 439 F.2d 1232, 1236, 169 USPQ 236, 239 (CCPA 1971). See also Plant Genetic Sys., N.V. v. DeKalb Genetics Corp., 315 F.3d 1335, 1339, 65 USPQ2d 1452, 1455 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (alleged “pioneer status” of invention irrelevant to enablement determination).
The propriety of a rejection based upon the scope of a claim relative to the scope of the enablement concerns (1) how broad the claim is with respect to the disclosure and (2) whether one skilled in the art could make and use the entire scope of the claimed invention without undue experimentation.
An enabling disclosure may be set forth by specific example or broad terminology; the exact form of disclosure is not dispositive. In reMarzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 223-24 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971). A rejection of a claim under 35 U.S.C. 112 as broader than the enabling disclosure is a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, enablement rejection and not a 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, definiteness rejection. Claims are not rejected as broader than the enabling disclosure under 35 U.S.C. 112 for noninclusion of limitations dealing with factors which must be presumed to be within the level of ordinary skill in the art; the claims need not recite such factors where one of ordinary skill in the art to whom the specification and claims are directed would consider them obvious. In reSkrivan, 427 F.2d 801, 806, 166 USPQ 85, 88 (CCPA 1970). One does not look to the claims but to the specification to find out how to practice the claimed invention. W.L. Gore & Assoc., Inc. v. Garlock, Inc., 721 F.2d 1540, 1558, 220 USPQ 303, 316-17 (Fed. Cir. 1983); In re Johnson, 558 F.2d 1008, 1017, 194 USPQ 187, 195 (CCPA 1977). In In re Goffe, 542 F.2d 564, 567, 191 USPQ 429, 431 (CCPA 1976), the court stated:
[T]o provide effective incentives, claims must adequately protect inventors. To demand that the first to disclose shall limit his claims to what he has found will work or to materials which meet the guidelines specified for “preferred” materials in a process such as the one herein involved would not serve the constitutional purpose of promoting progress in the useful arts.
When analyzing the enabled scope of a claim, the teachings of the specification must not be ignored because claims are to be given their broadest reasonable interpretation that is consistent with the specification. “That claims are interpreted in light of the specification does not mean that everything in the specification must be read into the claims.” Raytheon Co. v. Roper Corp., 724 F.2d 951, 957, 220 USPQ 592, 597 (Fed. Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 835 (1984).
The record must be clear so that the public will have notice as to the patentee’s scope of protection when the patent issues. If a reasonable interpretation of the claim is broader than the description in the specification, it is necessary for the examiner to make sure the full scope of the claim is enabled. Limitations and examples in the specification do not generally limit what is covered by the claims.
The breadth of the claims was a factor considered in Amgen v. Chugai Pharm. Co., 927 F.2d 1200, 18 USPQ2d 1016 (Fed. Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 856 (1991). In Amgen, the patent claims were directed to a purified DNA sequence encoding polypeptide analogs of the protein erythropoietin (EPO). The Court stated that:
Amgen has not enabled preparation of DNA sequences sufficient to support its all-encompassing claims. . . . [D]espite extensive statements in the specification concerning all the analogs of the EPO gene that can be made, there is little enabling disclosure of particular analogs and how to make them. Details for preparing only a few EPO analog genes are disclosed. . . . This disclosure might well justify a generic claim encompassing these and similar analogs, but it represents inadequate support for Amgen’s desire to claim all EPO gene analogs. There may be many other genetic sequences that code for EPO-type products. Amgen has told how to make and use only a few of them and is therefore not entitled to claim all of them.
927 F.2d at 1213-14, 18 USPQ2d at 1027. However, when claims are directed to any purified and isolated DNA sequence encoding a specifically named protein where the protein has a specifically identified sequence, a rejection of the claims as broader than the enabling disclosure is generally not appropriate because one skilled in the art could readily determine any one of the claimed embodiments.
See also In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (The evidence did not show that a skilled artisan would have been able to carry out the steps required to practice the full scope of claims which encompass “any and all live, non-pathogenic vaccines, and processes for making such vaccines, which elicit immunoprotective activity in any animal toward any RNA virus.” (original emphasis)); In re Goodman, 11 F.3d 1046, 1052, 29 USPQ2d 2010, 2015 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (The specification did not enable the broad scope of the claims for producing mammalian peptides in plant cells because the specification contained only an example of producing gamma-interferon in a dicot species, and there was evidence that extensive experimentation would have been required for encoding mammalian peptide into a monocot plant at the time of filing); In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970) (Where applicant claimed a composition suitable for the treatment of arthritis having a potency of “at least” a particular value, the court held that the claim was not commensurate in scope with the enabling disclosure because the disclosure was not enabling for compositions having a slightly higher potency. Simply because applicant was the first to achieve a composition beyond a particular threshold potency did not justify or support a claim that would dominate every composition that exceeded that threshold value.); In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 495, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (Given the relatively incomplete understanding in the biotechnological field involved, and the lack of a reasonable correlation between the narrow disclosure in the specification and the broad scope of protection sought in the claims, a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph for lack of enablement was appropriate.).
If a rejection is made based on the view that the enablement is not commensurate in scope with the claim, the examiner should identify the subject matter that is considered to be enabled.
2164.08(a) Single Means Claim
A single means claim, i.e., where a means recitation does not appear in combination with another recited element of means, is subject to an enablement rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. In re Hyatt, 708 F.2d 712, 714-715, 218 USPQ 195, 197 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (A single means claim which covered every conceivable means for achieving the stated purpose was held nonenabling for the scope of the claim because the specification disclosed at most only those means known to the inventor.). When claims depend on a recited property, a fact situation comparable to Hyatt is possible, where the claim covers every conceivable structure (means) for achieving the stated property (result) while the specification discloses at most only those known to the inventor.
2164.08(b) Inoperative Subject Matter
The presence of inoperative embodiments within the scope of a claim does not necessarily render a claim nonenabled. The standard is whether a skilled person could determine which embodiments that were conceived, but not yet made, would be inoperative or operative with expenditure of no more effort than is normally required in the art. Atlas Powder Co. v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 750 F.2d 1569, 1577, 224 USPQ 409, 414 (Fed. Cir. 1984) (prophetic examples do not make the disclosure nonenabling).
Although, typically, inoperative embodiments are excluded by language in a claim (e.g., preamble), the scope of the claim may still not be enabled where undue experimentation is involved in determining those embodiments that are operable. A disclosure of a large number of operable embodiments and the identification of a single inoperative embodiment did not render a claim broader than the enabled scope because undue experimentation was not involved in determining those embodiments that were operable. In reAngstadt, 537 F.2d 498, 502-503, 190 USPQ 214, 218 (CCPA 1976). However, claims reading on significant numbers of inoperative embodiments would render claims nonenabled when the specification does not clearly identify the operative embodiments and undue experimentation is involved in determining those that are operative. Atlas Powder Co. v. E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., 750 F.2d 1569, 1577, 224 USPQ 409, 414 (Fed. Cir. 1984); In reCook, 439 F.2d 730, 735, 169 USPQ 298, 302 (CCPA 1971).
2164.08(c) Critical Feature Not Claimed
A feature which is taught as critical in a specification and is not recited in the claims should result in a rejection of such claim under the enablement provision section of 35 U.S.C. 112. See In reMayhew, 527 F.2d 1229, 1233, 188 USPQ 356, 358 (CCPA 1976). In determining whether an unclaimed feature is critical, the entire disclosure must be considered. Features which are merely preferred are not to be considered critical. In reGoffe, 542 F.2d 564, 567, 191 USPQ 429, 431 (CCPA 1976).
Limiting an applicant to the preferred materials in the absence of limiting prior art would not serve the constitutional purpose of promoting the progress in the useful arts. Therefore, an enablement rejection based on the grounds that a disclosed critical limitation is missing from a claim should be made only when the language of the specification makes it clear that the limitation is critical for the invention to function as intended. Broad language in the disclosure, including the abstract, omitting an allegedly critical feature, tends to rebut the argument of criticality.