2107.01 General Principles Governing Utility Rejections [R-10.2019]
35 U.S.C. 101 Inventions patentable
Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.
The Office must examine each application to ensure compliance with the "useful invention" or utility requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101. In discharging this obligation, however, Office personnel must keep in mind several general principles that control application of the utility requirement. 35 U.S.C. 101 has been interpreted as imposing four purposes. First, 35 U.S.C. 101 limits an inventor to ONE patent for a claimed invention. If more than one patent is sought, a patent applicant will receive a statutory double patenting rejection for claims included in more than one application that are directed to the same invention. See MPEP § 804. Second, the inventor(s) must be the applicant in an application filed before September 16, 2012, (except as otherwise provided in pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.41(b) ) and the inventor or each joint inventor must be identified in an application filed on or after September 16, 2012. See MPEP § 2109 for a detailed discussion of inventorship, MPEP § 602.01(c) et seq. for details regarding correction of inventorship, MPEP § 2157 for rejections under 35 U.S.C. 101 and 115 for failure to set forth the correct inventorship, and MPEP § 2137 for rejections under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(f) (for applications subject to pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102 ) for failure to set forth the correct inventorship. Third, 35 U.S.C. 101 defines which categories of inventions are eligible for patent protection. An invention that is not a machine, an article of manufacture, a composition or a process cannot be patented. See Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 206 USPQ 193 (1980); Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 209 USPQ 1 (1981); In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346, 1354, 84 USPQ2d 1495, 1500 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Fourth, 35 U.S.C. 101 serves to ensure that patents are granted on only those inventions that are "useful." This second purpose has a Constitutional footing — Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to provide exclusive rights to inventors to promote the "useful arts." See Carl Zeiss Stiftung v. Renishaw PLC, 945 F.2d 1173, 20 USPQ2d 1094 (Fed. Cir. 1991). Thus, to satisfy the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 101, an applicant must claim an invention that is statutory subject matter and must show that the claimed invention is "useful" for some purpose either explicitly or implicitly. Application of this latter element of 35 U.S.C. 101 is the focus of these guidelines.
Deficiencies under the "useful invention" requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 will arise in one of two forms. The first is where it is not apparent why the invention is "useful." This can occur when an applicant fails to identify any specific and substantial utility for the invention or fails to disclose enough information about the invention to make its usefulness immediately apparent to those familiar with the technological field of the invention. Brenner v. Manson, 383 U.S. 519, 148 USPQ 689 (1966); In re Fisher, 421 F.3d 1365, 76 USPQ2d 1225 (Fed. Cir. 2005); In re Ziegler, 992 F.2d 1197, 26 USPQ2d 1600 (Fed. Cir. 1993). The second type of deficiency arises in the rare instance where an assertion of specific and substantial utility for the invention made by an applicant is not credible.
I. SPECIFIC AND SUBSTANTIAL REQUIREMENTS
To satisfy 35 U.S.C. 101, an invention must be "useful." Courts have recognized that the term "useful" used with reference to the utility requirement can be a difficult term to define. Brenner v. Manson, 383 U.S. 519, 529, 148 USPQ 689, 693 (1966) (simple everyday word like "useful" can be "pregnant with ambiguity when applied to the facts of life."). Where an applicant has set forth a specific and substantial utility, courts have been reluctant to uphold a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 solely on the basis that the applicant’s opinion as to the nature of the specific and substantial utility was inaccurate. For example, in Nelson v. Bowler, 626 F.2d 853, 206 USPQ 881 (CCPA 1980), the court reversed a finding by the Office that the applicant had not set forth a "practical" utility under 35 U.S.C. 101. In this case the applicant asserted that the composition was "useful" in a particular pharmaceutical application and provided evidence to support that assertion. Courts have used the labels "practical utility," "substantial utility," or "specific utility" to refer to this aspect of the "useful invention" requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101. The Court of Customs and Patent Appeals has stated:
Practical utility is a shorthand way of attributing "real-world" value to claimed subject matter. In other words, one skilled in the art can use a claimed discovery in a manner which provides some immediate benefit to the public.
Nelson v. Bowler, 626 F.2d 853, 856, 206 USPQ 881, 883 (CCPA 1980).
Practical considerations require the Office to rely on the inventor’s understanding of the invention in determining whether and in what regard an invention is believed to be "useful." Because of this, Office personnel should focus on and be receptive to assertions made by the applicant that an invention is "useful" for a particular reason.
A. Specific Utility
A "specific utility" is specific to the subject matter claimed and can "provide a well-defined and particular benefit to the public." In re Fisher, 421 F.3d 1365, 1371, 76 USPQ2d 1225, 1230 (Fed. Cir. 2005). This contrasts with a general utility that would be applicable to the broad class of the invention. Office personnel should distinguish between situations where an applicant has disclosed a specific use for or application of the invention and situations where the applicant merely indicates that the invention may prove useful without identifying with specificity why it is considered useful. For example, indicating that a compound may be useful in treating unspecified disorders, or that the compound has "useful biological" properties, would not be sufficient to define a specific utility for the compound. See, e.g., In re Kirk, 376 F.2d 936, 153 USPQ 48 (CCPA 1967); In re Joly, 376 F.2d 906, 153 USPQ 45 (CCPA 1967). Similarly, a claim to a polynucleotide whose use is disclosed simply as a "gene probe" or "chromosome marker" would not be considered to be specific in the absence of a disclosure of a specific DNA target. See In re Fisher, 421 F.3d at 1374, 76 USPQ2d at 1232 ("Any EST [expressed sequence tag] transcribed from any gene in the maize genome has the potential to perform any one of the alleged uses…. Nothing about [applicant’s] seven alleged uses set the five claimed ESTs apart from the more than 32,000 ESTs disclosed in the [ ] application or indeed from any EST derived from any organism. Accordingly, we conclude that [applicant] has only disclosed general uses for its claimed ESTs, not specific ones that satisfy § 101."). A general statement of diagnostic utility, such as diagnosing an unspecified disease, would ordinarily be insufficient absent a disclosure of what condition can be diagnosed. Contrast the situation where an applicant discloses a specific biological activity and reasonably correlates that activity to a disease condition. Assertions falling within the latter category are sufficient to identify a specific utility for the invention. Assertions that fall in the former category are insufficient to define a specific utility for the invention, especially if the assertion takes the form of a general statement that makes it clear that a "useful" invention may arise from what has been disclosed by the applicant. Knapp v. Anderson, 477 F.2d 588, 177 USPQ 688 (CCPA 1973).
B. Substantial Utility
"[A]n application must show that an invention is useful to the public as disclosed in its current form, not that it may prove useful at some future date after further research. Simply put, to satisfy the ‘substantial’ utility requirement, an asserted use must show that the claimed invention has a significant and presently available benefit to the public." Fisher, 421 F.3d at 1371, 76 USPQ2d at 1230. The claims at issue in Fisher were directed to expressed sequence tags (ESTs), which are short nucleotide sequences that can be used to discover what genes and downstream proteins are expressed in a cell. The court held that "the claimed ESTs can be used only to gain further information about the underlying genes and the proteins encoded for by those genes. The claimed ESTs themselves are not an end of [applicant’s] research effort, but only tools to be used along the way in the search for a practical utility…. [Applicant] does not identify the function for the underlying protein-encoding genes. Absent such identification, we hold that the claimed ESTs have not been researched and understood to the point of providing an immediate, well-defined, real world benefit to the public meriting the grant of a patent." Id. at 1376, 76 USPQ2d at 1233-34). Thus a "substantial utility" defines a "real world" use. Utilities that require or constitute carrying out further research to identify or reasonably confirm a "real world" context of use are not substantial utilities. For example, both a therapeutic method of treating a known or newly discovered disease and an assay method for identifying compounds that themselves have a "substantial utility" define a "real world" context of use. An assay that measures the presence of a material which has a stated correlation to a predisposition to the onset of a particular disease condition would also define a "real world" context of use in identifying potential candidates for preventive measures or further monitoring. On the other hand, the following are examples of situations that require or constitute carrying out further research to identify or reasonably confirm a "real world" context of use and, therefore, do not define "substantial utilities":
- (A) Basic research such as studying the properties of the claimed product itself or the mechanisms in which the material is involved;
- (B) A method of treating an unspecified disease or condition;
- (C) A method of assaying for or identifying a material that itself has no specific and/or substantial utility;
- (D) A method of making a material that itself has no specific, substantial, and credible utility; and
- (E) A claim to an intermediate product for use in making a final product that has no specific, substantial and credible utility.
Office personnel must be careful not to interpret the phrase "immediate benefit to the public" or similar formulations in other cases to mean that products or services based on the claimed invention must be "currently available" to the public in order to satisfy the utility requirement. See, e.g., Brenner v. Manson, 383 U.S. 519, 534-35, 148 USPQ 689, 695 (1966). Rather, any reasonable use that an applicant has identified for the invention that can be viewed as providing a public benefit should be accepted as sufficient, at least with regard to defining a "substantial" utility.
C. Research Tools
Some confusion can result when one attempts to label certain types of inventions as not being capable of having a specific and substantial utility based on the setting in which the invention is to be used. One example is inventions to be used in a research or laboratory setting. Many research tools such as gas chromatographs, screening assays, and nucleotide sequencing techniques have a clear, specific and unquestionable utility (e.g., they are useful in analyzing compounds). An assessment that focuses on whether an invention is useful only in a research setting thus does not address whether the invention is in fact "useful" in a patent sense. Instead, Office personnel must distinguish between inventions that have a specifically identified substantial utility and inventions whose asserted utility requires further research to identify or reasonably confirm. Labels such as "research tool," "intermediate" or "for research purposes" are not helpful in determining if an applicant has identified a specific and substantial utility for the invention.
II. WHOLLY INOPERATIVE INVENTIONS; "INCREDIBLE" UTILITY
An invention that is "inoperative" (i.e., it does not operate to produce the results claimed by the patent applicant) is not a "useful" invention in the meaning of the patent law. See, e.g., Newman v. Quigg, 877 F.2d 1575, 1581, 11 USPQ2d 1340, 1345 (Fed. Cir. 1989); In re Harwood, 390 F.2d 985, 989, 156 USPQ 673, 676 (CCPA 1968) ("An inoperative invention, of course, does not satisfy the requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 that an invention be useful."). However, as the Federal Circuit has stated, "[t]o violate [35 U.S.C.] 101 the claimed device must be totally incapable of achieving a useful result." Brooktree Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 977 F.2d 1555, 1571, 24 USPQ2d 1401, 1412 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (emphasis added). See also E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Berkley and Co., 620 F.2d 1247, 1260 n.17, 205 USPQ 1, 10 n.17 (8th Cir. 1980) ("A small degree of utility is sufficient... The claimed invention must only be capable of performing some beneficial function... An invention does not lack utility merely because the particular embodiment disclosed in the patent lacks perfection or performs crudely... A commercially successful product is not required... Nor is it essential that the invention accomplish all its intended functions... or operate under all conditions... partial success being sufficient to demonstrate patentable utility... In short, the defense of non-utility cannot be sustained without proof of total incapacity." If an invention is only partially successful in achieving a useful result, a rejection of the claimed invention as a whole based on a lack of utility is not appropriate. See In re Brana, 51 F.3d 1560, 34 USPQ2d 1436 (Fed. Cir. 1995); In re Gardner, 475 F.2d 1389, 177 USPQ 396 (CCPA), reh’g denied, 480 F.2d 879 (CCPA 1973); In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 169 USPQ 367 (CCPA 1971).
Situations where an invention is found to be "inoperative" and therefore lacking in utility are rare, and rejections maintained solely on this ground by a federal court even rarer. In many of these cases, the utility asserted by the applicant was thought to be "incredible in the light of the knowledge of the art, or factually misleading" when initially considered by the Office. In re Citron, 325 F.2d 248, 253, 139 USPQ 516, 520 (CCPA 1963). Other cases suggest that on initial evaluation, the Office considered the asserted utility to be inconsistent with known scientific principles or "speculative at best" as to whether attributes of the invention necessary to impart the asserted utility were actually present in the invention. In re Sichert, 566 F.2d 1154, 196 USPQ 209 (CCPA 1977). However cast, the underlying finding by the court in these cases was that, based on the factual record of the case, it was clear that the invention could not and did not work as the inventor claimed it did. Indeed, the use of many labels to describe a single problem (e.g., a false assertion regarding utility) has led to some of the confusion that exists today with regard to a rejection based on the "utility" requirement. Examples of such cases include: an invention asserted to change the taste of food using a magnetic field (Fregeau v. Mossinghoff, 776 F.2d 1034, 227 USPQ 848 (Fed. Cir. 1985)), a perpetual motion machine (Newman v. Quigg, 877 F.2d 1575, 11 USPQ2d 1340 (Fed. Cir. 1989)), a flying machine operating on "flapping or flutter function" (In re Houghton, 433 F.2d 820, 167 USPQ 687 (CCPA 1970)), a "cold fusion" process for producing energy (In re Swartz, 232 F.3d 862, 56 USPQ2d 1703 (Fed. Cir. 2000)), a method for increasing the energy output of fossil fuels upon combustion through exposure to a magnetic field (In re Ruskin, 354 F.2d 395, 148 USPQ 221 (CCPA 1966)), uncharacterized compositions for curing a wide array of cancers (In re Citron, 325 F.2d 248, 139 USPQ 516 (CCPA 1963)), and a method of controlling the aging process (In re Eltgroth, 419 F.2d 918, 164 USPQ 221 (CCPA 1970)). These examples are fact specific and should not be applied as a per se rule. Thus, in view of the rare nature of such cases, Office personnel should not label an asserted utility "incredible," "speculative" or otherwise unless it is clear that a rejection based on "lack of utility" is proper.
III. THERAPEUTIC OR PHARMACOLOGICAL UTILITY
Inventions asserted to have utility in the treatment of human or animal disorders are subject to the same legal requirements for utility as inventions in any other field of technology. In re Chilowsky, 229 F.2d 457, 461-2, 108 USPQ 321, 325 (CCPA 1956) ("There appears to be no basis in the statutes or decisions for requiring any more conclusive evidence of operativeness in one type of case than another. The character and amount of evidence needed may vary, depending on whether the alleged operation described in the application appears to accord with or to contravene established scientific principles or to depend upon principles alleged but not generally recognized, but the degree of certainty as to the ultimate fact of operativeness or inoperativeness should be the same in all cases"); In re Gazave, 379 F.2d 973, 978, 154 USPQ 92, 96 (CCPA 1967) ("Thus, in the usual case where the mode of operation alleged can be readily understood and conforms to the known laws of physics and chemistry, operativeness is not questioned, and no further evidence is required."). As such, pharmacological or therapeutic inventions that provide any "immediate benefit to the public" satisfy 35 U.S.C. 101. The utility being asserted in Nelson related to a compound with pharmacological utility. Nelson v. Bowler, 626 F.2d 853, 856, 206 USPQ 881, 883 (CCPA 1980). Office personnel should rely on Nelson and other cases as providing general guidance when evaluating the utility of an invention that is based on any therapeutic, prophylactic, or pharmacological activities of that invention.
Courts have repeatedly found that the mere identification of a pharmacological activity of a compound that is relevant to an asserted pharmacological use provides an "immediate benefit to the public" and thus satisfies the utility requirement. As the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals held in Nelson v. Bowler:
Knowledge of the pharmacological activity of any compound is obviously beneficial to the public. It is inherently faster and easier to combat illnesses and alleviate symptoms when the medical profession is armed with an arsenal of chemicals having known pharmacological activities. Since it is crucial to provide researchers with an incentive to disclose pharmacological activities in as many compounds as possible, we conclude that adequate proof of any such activity constitutes a showing of practical utility.
Nelson v. Bowler, 626 F.2d 853, 856, 206 USPQ 881, 883 (CCPA 1980).
In Nelson v. Bowler, the court addressed the practical utility requirement in the context of an interference proceeding. Bowler challenged the patentability of the invention claimed by Nelson on the basis that Nelson had failed to sufficiently and persuasively disclose in his application a practical utility for the invention. Nelson had developed and claimed a class of synthetic prostaglandins modeled on naturally occurring prostaglandins. Naturally occurring prostaglandins are bioactive compounds that, at the time of Nelson’s application, had a recognized value in pharmacology (e.g., the stimulation of uterine smooth muscle which resulted in labor induction or abortion, the ability to raise or lower blood pressure, etc.). To support the utility he identified in his disclosure, Nelson included in his application the results of tests demonstrating the bioactivity of his new substituted prostaglandins relative to the bioactivity of naturally occurring prostaglandins. The court concluded that Nelson had satisfied the practical utility requirement in identifying the synthetic prostaglandins as pharmacologically active compounds. In reaching this conclusion, the court considered and rejected arguments advanced by Bowler that attacked the evidentiary basis for Nelson’s assertions that the compounds were pharmacologically active.
In In re Jolles, 628 F.2d 1322, 206 USPQ 885 (CCPA 1980), an inventor claimed protection for pharmaceutical compositions for treating leukemia. The active ingredient in the compositions was a structural analog to a known anticancer agent. The applicant provided evidence showing that the claimed analogs had the same general pharmaceutical activity as the known anticancer agents. The court reversed the Board’s finding that the asserted pharmaceutical utility was "incredible," pointing to the evidence that showed the relevant pharmacological activity.
In Cross v. Iizuka, 753 F.2d 1040, 224 USPQ 739 (Fed. Cir. 1985), the Federal Circuit affirmed a finding by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences that a pharmacological utility had been disclosed in the application of one party to an interference proceeding. The invention that was the subject of the interference count was a chemical compound used for treating blood disorders. Cross had challenged the evidence in Iizuka’s specification that supported the claimed utility. However, the Federal Circuit relied extensively on Nelson v. Bowler in finding that Iizuka’s application had sufficiently disclosed a pharmacological utility for the compounds. It distinguished the case from cases where only a generalized "nebulous" expression, such as "biological properties," had been disclosed in a specification. Such statements, the court held, "convey little explicit indication regarding the utility of a compound." Cross, 753 F.2d at 1048, 224 USPQ at 745 (citing In re Kirk, 376 F.2d 936, 941, 153 USPQ 48, 52 (CCPA 1967)).
Similarly, courts have found utility for therapeutic inventions despite the fact that an applicant is at a very early stage in the development of a pharmaceutical product or therapeutic regimen based on a claimed pharmacological or bioactive compound or composition. The Federal Circuit, in Cross v. Iizuka, 753 F.2d 1040, 1051, 224 USPQ 739, 747-48 (Fed. Cir. 1985), commented on the significance of data from in vitro testing that showed pharmacological activity:
We perceive no insurmountable difficulty, under appropriate circumstances, in finding that the first link in the screening chain, in vitro testing, may establish a practical utility for the compound in question. Successful in vitro testing will marshal resources and direct the expenditure of effort to further in vivo testing of the most potent compounds, thereby providing an immediate benefit to the public, analogous to the benefit provided by the showing of an in vivo utility.
The Federal Circuit has reiterated that therapeutic utility sufficient under the patent laws is not to be confused with the requirements of the FDA with regard to safety and efficacy of drugs to marketed in the United States.
FDA approval, however, is not a prerequisite for finding a compound useful within the meaning of the patent laws. Scott v. Finney, 34 F.3d 1058, 1063, 32 USPQ2d 1115, 1120 [(Fed.Cir. 1994)]. Usefulness in patent law, and in particular in the context of pharmaceutical inventions, necessarily includes the expectation of further research and development. The stage at which an invention in this field becomes useful is well before it is ready to be administered to humans. Were we to require Phase II testing in order to prove utility, the associated costs would prevent many companies from obtaining patent protection on promising new inventions, thereby eliminating an incentive to pursue, through research and development, potential cures in many crucial areas such as the treatment of cancer.
In re Brana, 51 F.3d 1560, 34 USPQ2d 1436 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Accordingly, Office personnel should not construe 35 U.S.C. 101, under the logic of "practical" utility or otherwise, to require that an applicant demonstrate that a therapeutic agent based on a claimed invention is a safe or fully effective drug for humans. See, e.g., In re Sichert, 566 F.2d 1154, 196 USPQ 209 (CCPA 1977); In re Hartop, 311 F.2d 249, 135 USPQ 419 (CCPA 1962); In re Anthony, 414 F.2d 1383, 162 USPQ 594 (CCPA 1969); In re Watson, 517 F.2d 465, 186 USPQ 11 (CCPA 1975).
These general principles are equally applicable to situations where an applicant has claimed a process for treating a human or animal disorder. In such cases, the asserted utility is usually clear — the invention is asserted to be useful in treating the particular disorder. If the asserted utility is credible, there is no basis to challenge such a claim on the basis that it lacks utility under 35 U.S.C. 101.
See MPEP § 2107.03 for special considerations for asserted therapeutic or pharmacological utilities.
IV. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or Pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, FIRST PARAGRAPH, AND 35 U.S.C. 101
A deficiency under the utility prong of 35 U.S.C. 101 also creates a deficiency under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. See In re Brana, 51 F.3d 1560, 34 USPQ2d 1436 (Fed. Cir. 1995); In re Jolles, 628 F.2d 1322, 1326 n.10, 206 USPQ 885, 889 n.11 (CCPA 1980); In re Fouche, 439 F.2d 1237, 1243, 169 USPQ 429, 434 (CCPA 1971) ("If such compositions are in fact useless, appellant’s specification cannot have taught how to use them."). Courts have also cast the 35 U.S.C. 101 /35 U.S.C. 112 relationship such that 35 U.S.C. 112 presupposes compliance with 35 U.S.C. 101. See In re Ziegler, 992 F.2d 1197, 1200-1201, 26 USPQ2d 1600, 1603 (Fed. Cir. 1993) ("The how to use prong of section 112 incorporates as a matter of law the requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 that the specification disclose as a matter of fact a practical utility for the invention.... If the application fails as a matter of fact to satisfy 35 U.S.C. § 101, then the application also fails as a matter of law to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to use the invention under 35 U.S.C. § 112."); In re Kirk, 376 F.2d 936, 942, 153 USPQ 48, 53 (CCPA 1967) ("Necessarily, compliance with § 112 requires a description of how to use presently useful inventions, otherwise an applicant would anomalously be required to teach how to use a useless invention."). For example, the Federal Circuit noted, "[o]bviously, if a claimed invention does not have utility, the specification cannot enable one to use it." In re Brana, 51 F.3d 1560, 34 USPQ2d 1436 (Fed. Cir. 1995). As such, a rejection properly imposed under 35 U.S.C. 101 for lack of utility should be accompanied with a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. It is equally clear that a rejection based on "lack of utility," whether grounded upon 35 U.S.C. 101 or 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rests on the same basis (i.e., the asserted utility is not credible). To avoid confusion, any lack of utility rejection that is imposed on the basis of 35 U.S.C. 101 should be accompanied by a rejection based on 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. The 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection should be set out as a separate rejection that incorporates by reference the factual basis and conclusions set forth in the 35 U.S.C. 101 rejection. The 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection should indicate that because the invention as claimed does not have utility, a person skilled in the art would not be able to use the invention as claimed, and as such, the claim is defective under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. A 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection based on lack of utility should not be imposed or maintained unless an appropriate basis exists for imposing a utility rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101. In other words, Office personnel should not impose a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, rejection grounded on a "lack of utility" basis unless a 35 U.S.C. 101 rejection is proper. In particular, the factual showing needed to impose a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 must be provided if a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, is to be imposed on "lack of utility" grounds.
It is important to recognize that 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, addresses matters other than those related to the question of whether or not an invention lacks utility. These matters include whether the claims are fully supported by the disclosure (In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 495, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1991)), whether the applicant has provided an enabling disclosure of the claimed subject matter (In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1561-1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993)), whether the applicant has provided an adequate written description of the invention and whether the applicant has disclosed the best mode of practicing the claimed invention (Chemcast Corp. v. Arco Indus. Corp., 913 F.2d 923, 927-928, 16 USPQ2d 1033, 1036-1037 (Fed. Cir. 1990)). See also Transco Products Inc. v. Performance Contracting Inc., 38 F.3d 551, 32 USPQ2d 1077 (Fed. Cir. 1994); Glaxo Inc. v. Novopharm Ltd., 52 F.3d 1043, 34 USPQ2d 1565 (Fed. Cir. 1995). The fact that an applicant has disclosed a specific utility for an invention and provided a credible basis supporting that specific utility does not provide a basis for concluding that the claims comply with all the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. For example, if an applicant has claimed a process of treating a certain disease condition with a certain compound and provided a credible basis for asserting that the compound is useful in that regard, but to actually practice the invention as claimed a person skilled in the relevant art would have to engage in an undue amount of experimentation, the claim may be defective under 35 U.S.C. 112, but not 35 U.S.C. 101. To avoid confusion during examination, any rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, based on grounds other than "lack of utility" should be imposed separately from any rejection imposed due to "lack of utility" under 35 U.S.C. 101 and 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph.