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2171    Two Separate Requirements for Claims Under 35 U.S.C. 112 (b) or Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, Second Paragraph [R-11.2013]

35 U.S.C. 112  Specification

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  • (b) CONCLUSION.—The specification shall conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the inventor or a joint inventor regards as the invention.

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Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112  Specification

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  • 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.

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Two separate requirements are set forth in 35 U.S.C. 112(b) and pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, namely that:

  • (A) the claims must set forth the subject matter that the inventor or a joint inventor regards as the invention; and
  • (B) the claims must particularly point out and distinctly define the metes and bounds of the subject matter to be protected by the patent grant.

The first requirement is a subjective one because it is dependent on what the inventor or a joint inventor for a patent regards as his or her invention. Note that although pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, uses the phrase "which applicant regards as his invention," pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.41(a) provides that a patent is applied for in the name or names of the actual inventor or inventors.

The second requirement is an objective one because it is not dependent on the views of the inventor 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 the inventor or a joint inventor regards it. If the claims do not particularly point out and distinctly claim that which the inventor or a joint inventor regards as his or her invention, the appropriate action by the examiner is to reject the claims under 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 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(b) or pre-AIA 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 the inventor or a joint invention regards as the invention. Ex parteIonescu, 222 USPQ 537, 539 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1984).

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