MPEP 2173.05(n)
Multiplicity

This is the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 07.2015, Last Revised in November 2015

Previous: §2173.05(m) | Next: §2173.05(o)

2173.05(n)    Multiplicity [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.75 Claim(s).

  • (a) The specification must conclude with a claim particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention or discovery.
  • (b) More than one claim may be presented provided they differ substantially from each other and are not unduly multiplied.

*****

Where, in view of the nature and scope of applicant’s invention, applicant presents an unreasonable number of claims which are repetitious and multiplied, the net result of which is to confuse rather than to clarify, a rejection on undue multiplicity based on 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, may be appropriate. As noted by the court in In re Chandler, 319 F.2d 211, 225, 138 USPQ 138, 148 (CCPA 1963), “applicants should be allowed reasonable latitude in stating their claims in regard to number and phraseology employed. The right of applicants to freedom of choice in selecting phraseology which truly points out and defines their inventions should not be abridged. Such latitude, however, should not be extended to sanction that degree of repetition and multiplicity which beclouds definition in a maze of confusion. The rule of reason should be practiced and applied on the basis of the relevant facts and circumstances in each individual case.” See also In re Flint, 411 F.2d 1353, 1357, 162 USPQ 228, 231 (CCPA 1969). Undue multiplicity rejections based on 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, should be applied judiciously and should be rare.

If an undue multiplicity rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, is appropriate, the examiner should contact applicant by telephone explaining that the claims are unduly multiplied and will be rejected under 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph. Note MPEP § 408. The examiner should also request that applicant select a specified number of claims for purpose of examination. If applicant is willing to select, by telephone, the claims for examination, an undue multiplicity rejection on all the claims based on 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, should be made in the next Office action along with an action on the merits on the selected claims. If applicant refuses to comply with the telephone request, an undue multiplicity rejection of all the claims based on 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, should be made in the next Office action. Applicant’s reply must include a selection of claims for purpose of examination, the number of which may not be greater than the number specified by the examiner. In response to applicant’s reply, if the examiner adheres to the undue multiplicity rejection, it should be repeated and the selected claims will be examined on the merits. This procedure preserves applicant’s right to have the rejection on undue multiplicity reviewed by the Patent Trail and Appeal Board.

Also, it is possible to reject one claim over an allowed claim if they differ only by subject matter old in the art. This ground of rejection is set forth in Ex parte Whitelaw, 1915 C.D. 18, 219 O.G. 1237 (Comm’r Pat. 1914). The Ex parte Whitelaw doctrine is restricted to cases where the claims are unduly multiplied or are substantial duplicates. Ex parte Kochan, 131 USPQ 204, 206 (Bd. App. 1961).