MPEP 2112.01
Composition, Product, and  Apparatus Claims

This is the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 08.2017, Last Revised in January 2018

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2112.01    Composition, Product, and  Apparatus Claims [R-07.2015]

I.    PRODUCT AND APPARATUS CLAIMS — WHEN THE STRUCTURE RECITED IN THE REFERENCE IS SUBSTANTIALLY IDENTICAL TO THAT OF THE CLAIMS, CLAIMED PROPERTIES OR FUNCTIONS ARE PRESUMED TO BE INHERENT

Where the claimed and prior art products are identical or substantially identical in structure or composition, or are produced by identical or substantially identical processes, a prima facie case of either anticipation or obviousness has been established. In re Best, 562 F.2d 1252, 1255, 195 USPQ 430, 433 (CCPA 1977). "When the PTO shows a sound basis for believing that the products of the applicant and the prior art are the same, the applicant has the burden of showing that they are not." In re Spada, 911 F.2d 705, 709, 15 USPQ2d 1655, 1658 (Fed. Cir. 1990). Therefore, the prima facie case can be rebutted by evidence showing that the prior art products do not necessarily possess the characteristics of the claimed product. In re Best, 562 F.2d at 1255, 195 USPQ at 433. See also Titanium Metals Corp. v. Banner, 778 F.2d 775, 227 USPQ 773 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (Claims were directed to a titanium alloy containing 0.2-0.4% Mo and 0.6-0.9% Ni having corrosion resistance. A Russian article disclosed a titanium alloy containing 0.25% Mo and 0.75% Ni but was silent as to corrosion resistance. The Federal Circuit held that the claim was anticipated because the percentages of Mo and Ni were squarely within the claimed ranges. The court went on to say that it was immaterial what properties the alloys had or who discovered the properties because the composition is the same and thus must necessarily exhibit the properties.).

See also In re Ludtke, 441 F.2d 660, 169 USPQ 563 (CCPA 1971) (Claim 1 was directed to a parachute canopy having concentric circumferential panels radially separated from each other by radially extending tie lines. The panels were separated "such that the critical velocity of each successively larger panel will be less than the critical velocity of the previous panel, whereby said parachute will sequentially open and thus gradually decelerate." The court found that the claim was anticipated by Menget. Menget taught a parachute having three circumferential panels separated by tie lines. The court upheld the rejection finding that applicant had failed to show that Menget did not possess the functional characteristics of the claims.); Northam Warren Corp. v. D. F. Newfield Co., 7 F. Supp. 773, 22 USPQ 313 (E.D.N.Y. 1934) (A patent to a pencil for cleaning fingernails was held invalid because a pencil of the same structure for writing was found in the prior art.).

II.    COMPOSITION CLAIMS — IF THE COMPOSITION IS PHYSICALLY THE SAME, IT MUST HAVE THE SAME PROPERTIES

"Products of identical chemical composition can not have mutually exclusive properties." In re Spada, 911 F.2d 705, 709, 15 USPQ2d 1655, 1658 (Fed. Cir. 1990). A chemical composition and its properties are inseparable. Therefore, if the prior art teaches the identical chemical structure, the properties applicant discloses and/or claims are necessarily present. Id. (Applicant argued that the claimed composition was a pressure sensitive adhesive containing a tacky polymer while the product of the reference was hard and abrasion resistant. "The Board correctly found that the virtual identity of monomers and procedures sufficed to support a prima facie case of unpatentability of Spada’s polymer latexes for lack of novelty.").

III.    PRODUCT CLAIMS – NONFUNCTIONAL PRINTED MATTER DOES NOT DISTINGUISH CLAIMED PRODUCT FROM OTHERWISE IDENTICAL PRIOR ART PRODUCT

Where the only difference between a prior art product and a claimed product is printed matter that is not functionally related to the product, the content of the printed matter will not distinguish the claimed product from the prior art. In re Ngai, 367 F.3d 1336, 1339, 70 USPQ2d 1862, 1864 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (Claim at issue was a kit requiring instructions and a buffer agent. The Federal Circuit held that the claim was anticipated by a prior art reference that taught a kit that included instructions and a buffer agent, even though the content of the instructions differed, explaining "[i]f we were to adopt [applicant’s] position, anyone could continue patenting a product indefinitely provided that they add a new instruction sheet to the product."). See also In re Gulack, 703 F.2d 1381, 1385-86, 217 USPQ 401, 404 (Fed. Cir. 1983) ( "Where the printed matter is not functionally related to the substrate, the printed matter will not distinguish the invention from the prior art in terms of patentability….[T]he critical question is whether there exists any new and unobvious functional relationship between the printed matter and the substrate." ); In re Miller, 418 F.2d 1392, 1396 (CCPA 1969) (finding a new and unobvious relationship between a measuring cup and writing showing how to "half" a recipe); In re Seid, 161 F.2d 229, 73 USPQ 431 (CCPA 1947) (matters relating to ornamentation only which have no mechanical function cannot be relied upon to patentably distinguish the claimed invention from the prior art); In re Xiao, 462 Fed. App'x 947, 950-51 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (non-precedential) (affirming an obviousness rejection of claims directed to a tumbler lock that used letters instead of numbers and had a wild-card label instead of one of the letters); In re Bryan, 323 Fed. App'x 898, 901 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (non-precedential) (printed matter on game cards bears no new and unobvious functional relationship to game board).

The court has extended the rationale in the printed matter cases, in which, for example, written instructions are added to a known product, to method claims in which "an instruction limitation" (i.e., a limitation "informing" someone about the existence of an inherent property of that method) is added to a method known in the art. King Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Eon Labs, Inc., 616 F.3d 1267, 1279, 95 USPQ2d 1833, 1842 (2010). Similar to the inquiry for products with printed matter thereon, for such method cases the relevant inquiry is whether a new and unobvious functional relationship with the known method exists. In King Pharma, the court found that the relevant determination is whether the "instruction limitation" has a "new and unobvious functional relationship" with the known method of administering the drug with food. Id.. The court held that the relationship was non-functional because "[i]nforming a patient about the benefits of a drug in no way transforms the process of taking the drug with food." Id. That is, the actual method of taking a drug with food is the same regardless of whether the patient is informed of the benefits. Id. "In other words, the ‘informing’ limitation ‘in no way depends on the method, and the method does not depend on the ‘informing’ limitation.’" Id. (citing In re Ngai, 367 F.3d 1336, 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2004)); see also In re Kao, 639 F.3d 1057, 1072-73, 98 USPQ2d 1799, 1811-12 (Fed. Cir. 2011).