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Archived updates for Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Indefiniteness for Multiple Plausible Claim Constructions

In Ex parte Miyazaki, (Horner, APJ)(precedential), a five member expanded panel of the USPTO Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (including the chief APJ and Vice-Chief APJ) crafted a new standard to reject claims for indefiniteness under 35 USC § 112, ¶ 2, whenever a claim has plural, "plausible" constructionsAccording to Professor Wegner,

The Board stated that "we employ a lower threshold of ambiguity when reviewing a pending claim for indefiniteness than those used by post-issuance reviewing courts. In particular, rather than requiring that the claims are insolubly ambiguous, we hold that if a claim is amenable to two or more plausible claim constructions, the USPTO is justified in requiring the applicant to more precisely define the metes and bounds of the claimed invention by holding the claim unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 112, second paragraph, as indefinite. "   Miyazaki, slip op. at 11-12.  

The Board remarkably departs from more than a century of precedent that permits plural interpretations . . . A unique aspect of the Board's opinion is that it provides a ground for invalidity under 35 USC § 112, ¶ 2, that is applicable only in the case of a pending application and not a granted patent. Presumably, a perfectly valid claim in a granted patent that is put through a reissue proceeding to consider a different issue would now be subject to rejection under 35 USC § 112, ¶ 2.

The Board's rationale for its departure: "The USPTO, as the sole agency vested with the authority to grant exclusionary rights to inventors for patentable inventions, has a duty to guard the public against patents of ambiguous and vague scope. Such patents exact a cost on society due to their ambiguity that is not commensurate with the benefit that the public gains from disclosure of the invention. The USPTO is justified in using a lower threshold showing of ambiguity to support a finding of indefiniteness under 35 U.S.C. § 112, second paragraph, because the applicant has an opportunity and a duty to amend the claims during prosecution to more clearly and precisely define the metes and bounds of the claimed invention and to more clearly and precisely put the public on notice of the scope of the patent." Id., slip op. at 12.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Presumably, a perfectly valid claim in a granted patent that is put through a reissue proceeding to consider a different issue would now be subject to rejection under 35 USC § 112, ¶ 2."

Add the "new light" as to the question of patentability that this BPAI decision makes precedential and the in Re Swanson case and the weapon of re-exam and rejections under 35 USC § 112, ¶ 2 open floodgates of litigation/uncertainty and backlog to the USPTO.

December 09, 2008 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As noted on Patently-O:

Name the case:

"Because no distinction is made in [the Statute] between prosecution in the PTO and enforcement in the courts, or between validity and infringement, we hold that [the Statute] applies regardless of the context in which the interpretation of means-plus-function language arises, i.e., whether as part of a patentability determination in the PTO or as a part of a validity or infringement determination in a court."


Whether means-plus-function or not, we are talking about interpretations of claim language are we not?


Posted by: Noise above Law | Dec 11, 2008 at 05:08 PM

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