What is the enablement requirement in United States patent law?

What is the enablement requirement in United States patent law?

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted to an inventor for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention.   The detailed public disclosure is a key feature of the patent system.  A patented is granted to an inventor for a detailed public disclosure, if the disclosure is not detailed than a patent application can be denied, or a granted patent can be deemed invalid.  The justification for the detailed disclosure requirement is in exchange a monopoly on the invention, the inventor must teach the public about all the elements of an invention. The inventory must give the public enough details about the invention that they can practice the invention after the patent expires.  If the inventor keeps a key point of the invention secret, which makes it impossible for the public to make the invention on their own after the patent has expired, than the inventor is not entitled to a patent.

The enablement requirement in patent law is the requirement that the disclosure section of a patent application explain enough about the invention so that someone skilled in the art can both make and use the invention.

In the United States the enablement requirement can be found in 35 U.S.C Section 112(a) IN GENERAL.—The specification shall contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor or joint inventor of carrying out the invention.

Detailed procedures for making and using the invention may not be necessary if the description of the invention itself is sufficient to permit those skilled in the art to make and use the invention. A patent claim is invalid if it is not supported by an enabling disclosure and only the invention detailed in the claims of the patent must be enabled.   The enablement retirement does not require that the inventor enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use a perfected, commercially viable embodiment, unless the patent application claims a perfect version of the invention.  And the enablement requirement does not require the patent application to give a complete history of all prior art be included in the patent application.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office would probably prefer that the description in a patent application include only the information necessary to comply with the statute.

To meet the enablement requirement a patent application must describe the invention so a person reasonably skilled in the art could make or use the invention from the disclosures in the patent coupled with information known in the art without undue experimentation.  The test of enablement is not whether any experimentation is necessary, but whether necessary experimentation is undue.  Complex experimentation might even be acceptable if that is the normal procedure.  Undue experimentation is a complex subject which is best served by a post dedicated to just that topic.

The patent application must also describe how to make the claimed invention.  It is sufficient that a single method is disclosed in the patent application, not every method to make a claimed invention is necessary.

The patent application must also describe how to use the claimed invention.  A general statement about the utility of the invention is adequate to meet this requirement.  In the case of chemical compounds, the concentration or dosage of the chemical compound does not need to be included if one skilled in the art would be able to figure out the appropriate dosage without undue experimentation.

The enablement requirement is an important part of patent law that ensures that the public gets all the knowledge related to an invention when an inventor is granted a patent.  If you have more questions about the enablement requirement or patent law in general it is best to consult with an experienced patent attorney.

Please email the editors of this blog if you have any comments: admin@uspatentlaw.cn