MPEP 2164.01(a)
Undue Experimentation Factors

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

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2164.01(a)    Undue Experimentation Factors [R-08.2012]

There are many factors to be considered when determining whether there is sufficient evidence to support a determination that a disclosure does not satisfy the enablement requirement and whether any necessary experimentation is "undue." These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • (A) The breadth of the claims;
  • (B) The nature of the invention;
  • (C) The state of the prior art;
  • (D) The level of one of ordinary skill;
  • (E) The level of predictability in the art;
  • (F) The amount of direction provided by the inventor;
  • (G) The existence of working examples; and
  • (H) The quantity of experimentation needed to make or use the invention based on the content of the disclosure.

In re Wands, 858 F.2d 731, 737, 8 USPQ2d 1400, 1404 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (reversing the PTO’s determination that claims directed to methods for detection of hepatitis B surface antigens did not satisfy the enablement requirement). In Wands, the court noted that there was no disagreement as to the facts, but merely a disagreement as to the interpretation of the data and the conclusion to be made from the facts. In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 736-40, 8 USPQ2d at 1403-07. The court held that the specification was enabling with respect to the claims at issue and found that "there was considerable direction and guidance" in the specification; there was "a high level of skill in the art at the time the application was filed;" and "all of the methods needed to practice the invention were well known." 858 F.2d at 740, 8 USPQ2d at 1406. After considering all the factors related to the enablement issue, the court concluded that "it would not require undue experimentation to obtain antibodies needed to practice the claimed invention." Id., 8 USPQ2d at 1407.

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. 858 F.2d at 737, 740, 8 USPQ2d at 1404, 1407.

A conclusion of lack of enablement means that, based on the evidence regarding each of the above factors, the specification, at the time the application was filed, would not have taught one skilled in the art how to make and/or use the full scope of the claimed invention without undue experimentation. In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557,1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993).

The determination that "undue experimentation" would have been needed to make and use the claimed invention is not a single, simple factual determination. Rather, it is a conclusion reached by weighing all the above noted factual considerations. In re Wands, 858 F.2d at 737, 8 USPQ2d at 1404. These factual considerations are discussed more fully in MPEP § 2164.08 (scope or breadth of the claims), § 2164.05(a) (nature of the invention and state of the prior art), § 2164.05(b) (level of one of ordinary skill), § 2164.03 (level of predictability in the art and amount of direction provided by the inventor), § 2164.02 (the existence of working examples) and § 2164.06 (quantity of experimentation needed to make or use the invention based on the content of the disclosure).