MPEP 2164.08(b)
Inoperative Subject Matter

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

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2164.08(b)    Inoperative Subject Matter [R-08.2012]

The presence of inoperative embodiments within the scope of a claim does not necessarily render a claim nonenabled. The standard is whether a skilled person could determine which embodiments that were conceived, but not yet made, would be inoperative or operative with expenditure of no more effort than is normally required in the art. Atlas Powder Co. v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 750 F.2d 1569, 1577, 224 USPQ 409, 414 (Fed. Cir. 1984) (prophetic examples do not make the disclosure nonenabling).

Although, typically, inoperative embodiments are excluded by language in a claim (e.g., preamble), the scope of the claim may still not be enabled where undue experimentation is involved in determining those embodiments that are operable. A disclosure of a large number of operable embodiments and the identification of a single inoperative embodiment did not render a claim broader than the enabled scope because undue experimentation was not involved in determining those embodiments that were operable. In re Angstadt, 537 F.2d 498, 502-503, 190 USPQ 214, 218 (CCPA 1976). However, claims reading on significant numbers of inoperative embodiments would render claims nonenabled when the specification does not clearly identify the operative embodiments and undue experimentation is involved in determining those that are operative. Atlas Powder Co. v. E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., 750 F.2d 1569, 1577, 224 USPQ 409, 414 (Fed. Cir. 1984); In re Cook, 439 F.2d 730, 735, 169 USPQ 298, 302 (CCPA 1971).