2173.03 Correspondence Between Specification and Claims [R-07.2022]
The specification should ideally serve as a glossary to the claim terms so that the examiner and the public can clearly ascertain the meaning of the claim terms. Correspondence between the specification and claims is required by 37 CFR 1.75(d)(1), which provides that claim terms must find clear support or antecedent basis in the specification so that the meaning of the terms may be ascertainable by reference to the specification. Glossaries of terms used in the claims are a helpful device for ensuring adequate definition of terms used in claims. If the specification does not provide the needed support or antecedent basis for the claim terms, the specification should be objected to under 37 CFR 1.75(d)(1). See MPEP § 608.01(o) and MPEP § 2181, subsection IV. Applicant will be required to make appropriate amendment to the description to provide clear support or antecedent basis for the claim terms provided no new matter is introduced, or amend the claim.
A claim, although clear on its face, may also be indefinite when a conflict or inconsistency between the claimed subject matter and the specification disclosure renders the scope of the claim uncertain as inconsistency with the specification disclosure or prior art teachings may make an otherwise definite claim take on an unreasonable degree of uncertainty. In re Moore, 439 F.2d 1232, 1235-36, 169 USPQ 236, 239 (CCPA 1971); In re Cohn, 438 F.2d 989, 169 USPQ 95 (CCPA 1971); In re Hammack, 427 F.2d 1378, 166 USPQ 204 (CCPA 1970). For example, a claim with a limitation of "the clamp means including a clamp body and first and second clamping members, the clamping members being supported by the clamp body" was determined to be indefinite because the terms "first and second clamping members" and "clamp body" were found to be vague in light of the specification which showed no "clamp member" structure being "supported by the clamp body." In re Anderson, 1997 U.S. App. Lexis 167 (Fed. Cir. January 6, 1997) (unpublished). In Cohn, a claim was directed to a process of treating an aluminum surface with an alkali silicate solution and included a further limitation that the surface has an "opaque" appearance. Id. The specification, meanwhile, associated the use of an alkali silicate with a glazed or porcelain-like finish, which the specification distinguished from an opaque finish. Cohn, 438 F.2d at 993, 169 USPQ at 98. Noting that no claim may be read apart from and independent of the supporting disclosure on which it is based, the court found that the claim was internally inconsistent based on the description, definitions and examples set forth in the specification relating to the appearance of the surface after treatment, and therefore indefinite. Id. In addition, inconsistencies in the meaning of terms or phrases between claims may render the scope of the claims to be uncertain. Tvngo Ltd. (BVI) v. LG Elecs. Inc., 861 Fed. Appx. 453, 459-60, 2021 USPQ2d 697 (Fed. Cir. 2021) ("The issue is not breadth of the dependent claims but their use of the disputed phrase in a way that contradicts the independent claims. The dependent claims state that 'said overlay activation criterion includes... a user command information,' which conflicts with the independent claim's use of this same phrase."). "When faced with this unknown and undefined phrase, a skilled artisan would look for clarification not only in the specification but also in '[o]ther claims of the patent in question,' which 'can also be valuable sources of enlightenment as to the meaning of a claim term.'" Id. at 460 (quoting Philips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314, 75 USPQ2d 1321, 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2005)).