MPEP 2164.03
Relationship of Predictability of the Art and the Enablement Requirement

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

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2164.03    Relationship of Predictability of the Art and the Enablement Requirement [R-08.2012]

The amount of guidance or direction needed to enable the invention is inversely related to the amount of knowledge in the state of the art as well as the predictability in the art. In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970). The "amount of guidance or direction" refers to that information in the application, as originally filed, that teaches exactly how to make or use the invention. The more that is known in the prior art about the nature of the invention, how to make, and how to use the invention, and the more predictable the art is, the less information needs to be explicitly stated in the specification. In contrast, if little is known in the prior art about the nature of the invention and the art is unpredictable, the specification would need more detail as to how to make and use the invention in order to be enabling. See, e.g., Chiron Corp. v. Genentech Inc., 363 F.3d 1247, 1254, 70 USPQ2d 1321, 1326 (Fed. Cir. 2004) ("Nascent technology, however, must be enabled with a ‘specific and useful teaching.’ The law requires an enabling disclosure for nascent technology because a person of ordinary skill in the art has little or no knowledge independent from the patentee’s instruction. Thus, the public’s end of the bargain struck by the patent system is a full enabling disclosure of the claimed technology." (citations omitted)).

The "predictability or lack thereof" in the art refers to the ability of one skilled in the art to extrapolate the disclosed or known results to the claimed invention. If one skilled in the art can readily anticipate the effect of a change within the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains, then there is predictability in the art. On the other hand, if one skilled in the art cannot readily anticipate the effect of a change within the subject matter to which that claimed invention pertains, then there is lack of predictability in the art. Accordingly, what is known in the art provides evidence as to the question of predictability. In particular, the court in In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 223-24, 169 USPQ 367, 369-70 (CCPA 1971), stated:

[I]n the field of chemistry generally, there may be times when the well-known unpredictability of chemical reactions will alone be enough to create a reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of a particular broad statement put forward as enabling support for a claim. This will especially be the case where the statement is, on its face, contrary to generally accepted scientific principles. Most often, additional factors, such as the teachings in pertinent references, will be available to substantiate any doubts that the asserted scope of objective enablement is in fact commensurate with the scope of protection sought and to support any demands based thereon for proof. [Footnote omitted.]

The scope of the required enablement varies inversely with the degree of predictability involved, but even in unpredictable arts, a disclosure of every operable species is not required. A single embodiment may provide broad enablement in cases involving predictable factors, such as mechanical or electrical elements. In re Vickers, 141 F.2d 522, 526-27, 61 USPQ 122, 127 (CCPA 1944); In re Cook, 439 F.2d 730, 734, 169 USPQ 298, 301 (CCPA 1971). However, in applications directed to inventions in arts where the results are unpredictable, the disclosure of a single species usually does not provide an adequate basis to support generic claims. In re Soll, 97 F.2d 623, 624, 38 USPQ 189, 191 (CCPA 1938). In cases involving unpredictable factors, such as most chemical reactions and physiological activity, more may be required. In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970) (contrasting mechanical and electrical elements with chemical reactions and physiological activity). See also In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993); In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 496, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1445 (Fed. Cir. 1991). This is because it is not reasonably predictable from the disclosure of one species, what other species will work.