Omnibus Claims

The basic concept of U.S. patent law is that the inventor owes the public a duty to define the scope of the patent, by means of the claims, in words as precise as the circumstances allow for. 35 U.S.C. § 112 states that the specification of a patent document shall conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention. One of the fundamental rule of the patent application is that the applicant “shall also particularly specify and point out the part, improvement, or combination which he claims as his own invention or discovery.”

Omnibus claims are such claims that do not “particularly point out and distinctly claim” anything. Some examples of the omnibus claims include: “An apparatus substantially as shown and described,” or “the device as shown and described in the appended drawings,” or even something like, “Any and all features of novelty described, referred to, exemplified, or shown.”

In most jurisdictions, omnibus claims are not permitted in utility patents. For example, omnibus claims are not permitted in the United States. That said, such claims are allowed in some foreign countries, even in some European jurisdictions. In India, although the patent drafting guidelines provide, although not explicitly, that such claims shall not be permitted; but it has been seen that in the past some examiners have allowed such claims in some circumstances. Therefore, there is a need of clarity in this aspect. Generally, as a rule, such omnibus claims shall be avoided in order to make the patent application compatible to be filed in most of the jurisdictions, and further to avoid any hassles during prosecution of the patent application at a later stage.

Sometimes it is tempting to write such omnibus claim as it could provide protection over a wide range of elements or features of the invention with a simple statement. But, it is always advised that instead of writing such claim, a more specific claim shall be written which distinctly points out the feature(s) that needs to be protected.