2171 Two Separate Requirements for Claims Under 35 U.S.C. 112, Second Paragraph
The second paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112 is directed to requirements for the claims:
The specification shall conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention.
There are two separate requirements set forth in this paragraph:
- (A) the claims must set forth the subject matter that applicants regard as their invention; and
- (B) the claims must particularly point out and distinctly define the metes and bounds of the subject matter that will be protected by the patent grant.
The first requirement is a subjective one because it is dependent on what the applicants for a patent regard as their invention. The second requirement is an objective one because it is not dependent on the views of applicant or any particular individual, but is evaluated in the context of whether the claim is definite — i.e., whether the scope of the claim is clear to a hypothetical person possessing the ordinary level of skill in the pertinent art.
Although an essential purpose of the examination process is to determine whether or not the claims define an invention that is both novel and nonobvious over the prior art, another essential purpose of patent examination is to determine whether or not the claims are precise, clear, correct, and unambiguous. The uncertainties of claim scope should be removed, as much as possible, during the examination process.
The inquiry during examination is patentability of the invention as applicant regards it. If the claims do not particularly point out and distinctly claim that which applicants regard as their invention, the appropriate action by the examiner is to reject the claims under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph. In reZletz, 893 F.2d 319, 13 USPQ2d 1320 (Fed. Cir. 1989). If a rejection is based on 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, the examiner should further explain whether the rejection is based on indefiniteness or on the failure to claim what applicants regard as their invention. Ex parteIonescu, 222 USPQ 537, 539 (Bd. App. 1984).