MPEP Section 2161.01, Computer Programming and
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2161.01 Computer Programming and 35 U.S.C. 112, First Paragraph [R-5]
The requirements for sufficient disclosure of inventions involving computer programming are the same as for all inventions sought to be patented. Namely, there must be an adequate written description, the original disclosure should be sufficiently enabling to allow one to make and use the invention as claimed, and there must be presentation of a best mode for carrying out the invention.
The following guidelines, while applicable to a wide range of arts, are intended to provide a guide for analyzing 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, issues in applications involving computer programs, software, firmware, or block diagram cases wherein one or more of the "block diagram" elements are at least partially comprised of a computer software component. It should be recognized that sufficiency of disclosure issues in computer cases necessarily will require an inquiry into both the sufficiency of the disclosed hardware as well as the disclosed software due to the interrelationship and interdependence of computer hardware and software.
I. WRITTEN DESCRIPTION
The function of the written description requirement is to ensure that the inventor had possession of, as of the filing date of the application relied on, the specific subject matter later claimed by him or her; how the specification accomplishes this is not material. In re Herschler, 591 F.2d 693, 700-01, 200 USPQ 711, 717 (CCPA 1979) and further reiterated in In re Kaslow, 707 F.2d 1366, 707 F.2d 1366, 217 USPQ 1089 (Fed. Cir. 1983). See also MPEP § 2163 - § 2163.04.
II. BEST MODE
The purpose of the best mode requirement is to "restrain inventors from applying for patents while at the same time concealing from the public the preferred embodiments of their inventions which they have in fact conceived." In re Gay, 309 F.2d 769, 772, 135 USPQ 311, 315 (CCPA 1962). Only evidence of concealment, "whether accidental or intentional," is considered in judging the adequacy of the disclosure for compliance with the best mode requirement. Spectra-Physics, Inc. v. Coherent, Inc.,827 F.2d 1524, 1535, 3 USPQ 2d 1737, 1745 (Fed. Cir. 1987). That evidence, in order to result in affirmance of a best mode rejection, must tend to show that the quality of an applicant's best mode disclosure is so poor as to effectively result in concealment." In re Sherwood, 613 F.2d 809, 816-817, 204 USPQ 537, 544 (CCPA 1980). Also, see White Consol. Indus. v. Vega Servo-Control Inc., 214 USPQ 796, 824 (S.D. Mich. 1982), aff'd on related grounds, 713 F.2d 788, 218 USPQ 961 (Fed. Cir. 1983). See also MPEP § 2165 - § 2165.04.
There are two factual inquiries to be made in determining whether a specification satisfies the best mode requirement. First, there must be a subjective determination as to whether at the time the application was filed, the inventor knew of a best mode of practicing the invention. Second, if the inventor had a best mode of practicing the invention in mind, there must be an objective determination as to whether that best mode was disclosed in sufficient detail to allow one skilled in the art to practice it. Fonar Corp. v. General Electric Co., 107 F.3d 1543, 41 USPQ2d 1801, 1804 (Fed. Cir. 1997); Chemcast Corp. v. Arco Industries, 913 F.2d 923, 927-28, 16 USPQ2d 1033, 1036 (Fed. Cir. 1990). "As a general rule, where software constitutes part of a best mode of carrying out an invention, description of such a best mode is satisfied by a disclosure of the functions of the software. This is because, normally, writing code for such software is within the skill of the art, not requiring undue experimentation, once its functions have been disclosed.. .. [F]low charts or source code listings are not a requirement for adequately disclosing the functions of software." Fonar Corp., 107 F.3d at 1549, 41 USPQ2d at 1805 (citations omitted).
When basing a rejection on the failure of the applicant's disclosure to meet the enablement provisions of the first paragraph of 35 U.S.C. 112, USPTO personnel must establish on the record a reasonable basis for questioning the adequacy of the disclosure to enable a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the claimed invention without resorting to undue experimentation. See In re Brown, 477 F.2d 946, 177 USPQ 691 (CCPA 1973); In re Ghiron, 442 F.2d 985, 169 USPQ 723 (CCPA 1971). Once USPTO personnel have advanced a reasonable basis for questioning the adequacy of the disclosure, it becomes incumbent on the applicant to rebut that challenge and factually demonstrate that his or her application disclosure is in fact sufficient. See In re Doyle, 482 F.2d 1385, 1392, 179 USPQ 227, 232 (CCPA 1973); In re Scarbrough, 500 F.2d 560, 566, 182 USPQ 298, 302 (CCPA 1974); In re Ghiron, supra. See also MPEP § 2106, paragraph V.B.2 and § 2164 - § 2164.08(c).<