|← MPEP 2184||↑ MPEP 2100||MPEP 2186 →|
Interpretation of claims as set forth in MPEP § 2181 may create some uncertainty as to what applicant regards as the invention. If this issue arises, it should be addressed in a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph. While 35 U.S.C. 112, sixth paragraph, permits a particular form of claim limitation, it cannot be read as creating an exception either to the description, enablement or best mode requirements of the first paragraph or the definiteness requirement of the second paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112. In re Knowlton, 481 F.2d 1357, 178 USPQ 486 (CCPA 1973).
If a “means or step plus function” limitation recited in a claim is not supported by corresponding structure, material or acts in the specification disclosure, the following rejections should be considered:
(A)under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, as not being supported by an enabling disclosure because the person skilled in the art would not know how to make and use the invention without a description of elements to perform the function. The description of an apparatus with block diagrams describing the function, but not the structure, of the apparatus is not fatal under the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, as long as the structure is conventional and can be determined without an undue amount of experimentation. In re Ghiron, 442 F.2d 985, 991, 169 USPQ 723, 727 (CCPA 1971);
(B)under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, as being indefinite. See In re Dossel, 115 F.3d 942, 946, 42 USPQ2d 1881, 1884 (Fed. Cir. 1997) and MPEP § 2181; and
(C)under 35 U.S.C. 102 or 103 where the prior art anticipates or renders obvious the claimed subject matter including the means or step that performs the function specified in the claim, the theory being that since there is no corresponding structure, etc., in the specification to limit the means or step plus function limitation, an equivalent is any element that performs the specified function.