MPEP 2173.05(q)
“Use” Claims

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

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2173.05(q)    “Use” Claims [R-11.2013]

Attempts to claim a process without setting forth any steps involved in the process generally raises an issue of indefiniteness under 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph. For example, a claim which read: “[a] process for using monoclonal antibodies of claim 4 to isolate and purify human fibroblast interferon” was held to be indefinite because it merely recites a use without any active, positive steps delimiting how this use is actually practiced. Ex parte Erlich, 3 USPQ2d 1011 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1986).

Other decisions suggest that a more appropriate basis for this type of rejection is 35 U.S.C. 101. In Ex parte Dunki, 153 USPQ 678 (Bd. App. 1967), the Board held the following claim to be an improper definition of a process: “The use of a high carbon austenitic iron alloy having a proportion of free carbon as a vehicle brake part subject to stress by sliding friction.” In Clinical Products Ltd. v. Brenner, 255 F. Supp. 131, 149 USPQ 475 (D.D.C. 1966), the district court held the following claim was definite, but that it was not a proper process claim under 35 U.S.C. 101: “The use of a sustained release therapeutic agent in the body of ephedrine absorbed upon polystyrene sulfonic acid.”

Although a claim should be interpreted in light of the specification disclosure, it is generally considered improper to read limitations contained in the specification into the claims. See In re Prater, 415 F.2d 1393, 162 USPQ 541 (CCPA 1969) and In re Winkhaus, 527 F.2d 637, 188 USPQ 129 (CCPA 1975), which discuss the premise that one cannot rely on the specification to impart limitations to the claim that are not recited in the claim.

I. A “USE” CLAIM SHOULD BE REJECTED UNDER ALTERNATIVE GROUNDS BASED ON 35 U.S.C 101 AND 112

In view of the split of authority as discussed above, the most appropriate course of action would be to reject a “use” claim under alternative grounds based on 35 U.S.C. 101 and 112.

II. BOARD HELD STEP OF “UTILIZING” WAS NOT INDEFINITE

It is often difficult to draw a fine line between what is permissible, and what is objectionable from the perspective of whether a claim is definite. In the case of Ex parte Porter, 25 USPQ2d 1144 (Bd. Pat. App. & Inter. 1992), the Board held that a claim which clearly recited the step of “utilizing” was not indefinite under 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph. (Claim was to “A method for unloading nonpacked, nonbridging and packed, bridging flowable particle catalyst and bead material from the opened end of a reactor tube which comprises utilizing the nozzle of claim 7.”).