MPEP 2164.04
Burden on the Examiner Under the Enablement Requirement

Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 07.2022, Last Revised in February 2023

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2164.04    Burden on the Examiner Under the Enablement Requirement [R-08.2017]

Before any analysis of enablement can occur, it is necessary for the examiner to construe the claims. For terms that are not well-known in the art, or for terms that could have more than one meaning, it is necessary that the examiner select the definition that the examiner intends to use when examining the application, based on their understanding of what applicant intends it to mean, and explicitly set forth the meaning of the term and the scope of the claim when writing an Office action. See Genentech v. Wellcome Foundation, 29 F.3d 1555, 1563-64, 31 USPQ2d 1161, 1167-68 (Fed. Cir. 1994).

In order to make a rejection, the examiner has the initial burden to establish a reasonable basis to question the enablement provided for the claimed invention. In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (examiner must provide a reasonable explanation as to why the scope of protection provided by a claim is not adequately enabled by the disclosure). A specification disclosure which contains a teaching of the manner and process of making and using an invention in terms which correspond in scope to those used in describing and defining the subject matter sought to be patented must be taken as being in compliance with the enablement requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, unless there is a reason to doubt the objective truth of the statements contained therein which must be relied on for enabling support. Assuming that sufficient reason for such doubt exists, a rejection for failure to teach how to make and/or use will be proper on that basis. In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 224, 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971). As stated by the court, "it is incumbent upon the Patent Office, whenever a rejection on this basis is made, to explain why it doubts the truth or accuracy of any statement in a supporting disclosure and to back up assertions of its own with acceptable evidence or reasoning which is inconsistent with the contested statement. Otherwise, there would be no need for the applicant to go to the trouble and expense of supporting his presumptively accurate disclosure." 439 F.2d at 224, 169 USPQ at 370 (emphasis in original).

According to In re Bowen, 492 F.2d 859, 862-63, 181 USPQ 48, 51 (CCPA 1974), the minimal requirement is for the examiner to give reasons explaining the uncertainty of the enablement. This standard is applicable even when there is no evidence in the record of operability without undue experimentation beyond the disclosed embodiments. See also In re Brana, 51 F.3d 1560, 1566, 34 USPQ2d 1436, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (citing In re Bundy, 642 F.2d 430, 433, 209 USPQ 48, 51 (CCPA 1981)) (discussed in MPEP § 2164.07 regarding the relationship of the enablement requirement to the utility requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 ).

While the analysis and conclusion of a lack of enablement are based on the factors discussed in MPEP § 2164.01(a) and the evidence as a whole, it is not necessary to discuss each factor in the enablement rejection. However, it is improper to conclude that a disclosure is not enabling based on an analysis of only one of the above factors while ignoring one or more of the others. The examiner’s analysis must consider all the evidence related to each of these factors, and any conclusion of nonenablement must be based on the evidence as a whole. In re Wands, 858 F.2d 731, 737, 740, 8 USPQ2d 1400, 1404, 1407 (Fed. Cir. 1988). The explanation of the rejection should focus on those factors, reasons, and evidence that lead the examiner to conclude e.g., that the specification fails to teach how to make and use the claimed invention without undue experimentation, or that the scope of any enablement provided to one skilled in the art is not commensurate with the scope of protection sought by the claims. This can be done by making specific findings of fact, supported by the evidence, and then drawing conclusions based on these findings of fact. For example, doubt may arise about enablement because information is missing about one or more essential parts or relationships between parts which one skilled in the art could not develop without undue experimentation. In such a case, the examiner should specifically identify what information is missing and why one skilled in the art could not supply the information without undue experimentation. See MPEP § 2164.06(a). References should be supplied if possible to support a prima facie case of lack of enablement, but are not always required. In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 224, 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971). However, specific technical reasons are always required.

In accordance with the principles of compact prosecution, if an enablement rejection is appropriate, the first Office action on the merits should present the best case with all the relevant reasons, issues, and evidence so that all such rejections can be withdrawn if applicant provides appropriate convincing arguments and/or evidence in rebuttal. Providing the best rejection in the first Office action will also allow the second Office action to be made final should applicant fail to provide appropriate convincing arguments and/or evidence. Citing new references and/or expanding arguments in a second Office action could prevent that Office action from being made final. The principles of compact prosecution also dictate that if an enablement rejection is appropriate and the examiner recognizes limitations that would render the claims enabled, the examiner should note such limitations to applicant as early in the prosecution as possible.

In other words, the examiner should always look for enabled, allowable subject matter and communicate to applicant what that subject matter is at the earliest point possible in the prosecution of the application.