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2123 Rejection Over Prior Art’s Broad Disclosure Instead of Preferred Embodiments [R-07.2022]


“The use of patents as references is not limited to what the patentees describe as their own inventions or to the problems with which they are concerned. They are part of the literature of the art, relevant for all they contain.” In re Heck, 699 F.2d 1331, 1332-33, 216 USPQ 1038, 1039 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (quoting In re Lemelson, 397 F.2d 1006, 1009, 158 USPQ 275, 277 (CCPA 1968)).

A reference may be relied upon for all that it would have reasonably suggested to one having ordinary skill in the art, including nonpreferred embodiments. Merck & Co. v.Biocraft Labs., Inc. 874 F.2d 804, 10 USPQ2d 1843 (Fed. Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 975 (1989). See also Upsher-Smith Labs. v. Pamlab, LLC, 412 F.3d 1319, 1323, 75 USPQ2d 1213, 1215 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (reference disclosing optional inclusion of a particular component teaches compositions that both do and do not contain that component); Celeritas Technologies Ltd. v. Rockwell International Corp., 150 F.3d 1354, 1361, 47 USPQ2d 1516, 1522-23 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (The court held that the prior art anticipated the claims even though it taught away from the claimed invention. “The fact that a modem with a single carrier data signal is shown to be less than optimal does not vitiate the fact that it is disclosed.”).

See also MPEP § 2131.05 and § 2145, subsection X.D., which discuss prior art that teaches away from the claimed invention in the context of anticipation and obviousness, respectively.


Disclosed examples and preferred embodiments do not constitute a teaching away from a broader disclosure or nonpreferred embodiments. In re Susi, 440 F.2d 442, 169 USPQ 423 (CCPA 1971). “A known or obvious composition does not become patentable simply because it has been described as somewhat inferior to some other product for the same use.” In re Gurley, 27 F.3d 551, 554, 31 USPQ2d 1130, 1132 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (The invention was directed to an epoxy impregnated fiber-reinforced printed circuit material. The applied prior art reference taught a printed circuit material similar to that of the claims but impregnated with polyester-imide resin instead of epoxy. The reference, however, disclosed that epoxy was known for this use, but that epoxy impregnated circuit boards have “relatively acceptable dimensional stability” and “some degree of flexibility,” but are inferior to circuit boards impregnated with polyester-imide resins. The court upheld the rejection concluding that applicant’s argument that the reference teaches away from using epoxy was insufficient to overcome the rejection since “Gurley asserted no discovery beyond what was known in the art.” Id. at 554, 31 USPQ2d at 1132.). Furthermore, “[t]he prior art’s mere disclosure of more than one alternative does not constitute a teaching away from any of these alternatives because such disclosure does not criticize, discredit, or otherwise discourage the solution claimed….” In re Fulton, 391 F.3d 1195, 1201, 73 USPQ2d 1141, 1146 (Fed. Cir. 2004).



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Last Modified: 02/16/2023 12:58:20