716.02(e) Comparison With Closest Prior Art [R-08.2012]
An affidavit or declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 must compare the claimed subject matter with the closest prior art to be effective to rebut a prima facie case of obviousness. In re Burckel, 592 F.2d 1175, 201 USPQ 67 (CCPA 1979). "A comparison of the claimed invention with the disclosure of each cited reference to determine the number of claim limitations in common with each reference, bearing in mind the relative importance of particular limitations, will usually yield the closest single prior art reference." In re Merchant, 575 F.2d 865, 868, 197 USPQ 785, 787 (CCPA 1978) (emphasis in original). Where the comparison is not identical with the reference disclosure, deviations therefrom should be explained, In re Finley, 174 F.2d 130, 81 USPQ 383 (CCPA 1949), and if not explained should be noted and evaluated, and if significant, explanation should be required. In re Armstrong, 280 F.2d 132, 126 USPQ 281 (CCPA 1960) (deviations from example were inconsequential).
I. THE CLAIMED INVENTION MAY BE COMPARED WITH PRIOR ART THAT IS CLOSER THAN THAT APPLIED BY THE EXAMINER
Applicants may compare the claimed invention with prior art that is more closely related to the invention than the prior art relied upon by the examiner. In re Holladay, 584 F.2d 384, 199 USPQ 516 (CCPA 1978); Ex parte Humber, 217 USPQ 265 (Bd. App. 1961) (Claims to a 13-chloro substituted compound were rejected as obvious over nonchlorinated analogs of the claimed compound. Evidence showing unexpected results for the claimed compound as compared with the 9-, 12-, and 14- chloro derivatives of the compound rebutted the prima facie case of obviousness because the compounds compared against were closer to the claimed invention than the prior art relied upon.).
II. COMPARISONS WHEN THERE ARE TWO EQUALLY CLOSE PRIOR ART REFERENCES
Showing unexpected results over one of two equally close prior art references will not rebut prima facie obviousness unless the teachings of the prior art references are sufficiently similar to each other that the testing of one showing unexpected results would provide the same information as to the other. In re Johnson, 747 F.2d 1456, 1461, 223 USPQ 1260, 1264 (Fed. Cir. 1984) (Claimed compounds differed from the prior art either by the presence of a trifluoromethyl group instead of a chloride radical, or by the presence of an unsaturated ester group instead of a saturated ester group. Although applicant compared the claimed invention with the prior art compound containing a chloride radical, the court found this evidence insufficient to rebut the prima facie case of obviousness because the evidence did not show relative effectiveness over all compounds of the closest prior art. An applicant does not have to test all the compounds taught by each reference, "[h]owever, where an applicant tests less than all cited compounds, the test must be sufficient to permit a conclusion respecting the relative effectiveness of applicant’s claimed compounds and the compounds of the closest prior art." Id. (quoting In re Payne, 606 F.2d 303, 316, 203 USPQ 245, 256 (CCPA 1979)) (emphasis in original).).
III. THE CLAIMED INVENTION MAY BE COMPARED WITH THE CLOSEST SUBJECT MATTER THAT EXISTS IN THE PRIOR ART
Although evidence of unexpected results must compare the claimed invention with the closest prior art, applicant is not required to compare the claimed invention with subject matter that does not exist in the prior art. In re Geiger, 815 F.2d 686, 689, 2 USPQ2d 1276, 1279 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (Newman, J., concurring) (Evidence rebutted prima facie case by comparing claimed invention with the most relevant prior art. Note that the majority held the Office failed to establish a prima facie case of obviousness.); In re Chapman, 357 F.2d 418, 148 USPQ 711 (CCPA 1966) (Requiring applicant to compare claimed invention with polymer suggested by the combination of references relied upon in the rejection of the claimed invention under 35 U.S.C. 103 "would be requiring comparison of the results of the invention with the results of the invention." 357 F.2d at 422, 148 USPQ at 714.).