Sufficiency of Disclosure in a Patent Document

An invention in patent document is considered patentable if it meets three prerequisites; novelty, non-obviousness and industrial applicability. The term ‘sufficiency of disclosure’ or enablement refers to a patent law requirement according to which a patent application must disclose a claimed invention in sufficient detail for the notional person skilled in the art to carry out that claimed invention, and, in a manner, understand its industrial applicability.

The patent law in the United States requires, among other things, that the patent specification “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.” The requirement “to enable a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention is colloquially referred to as the “enablement” requirement. It is a key part of the patent “bargain”–an inventor gets a monopoly in return for teaching the world about her invention. A patentee who claims more than she enables is not holding up her side of the bargain: he/she is taking advantage of patent law’s monopoly while keeping his/her invention secret.

Sometimes, inventors are of the opinion that in order to get a broader protection, one should include lesser details about the invention in the disclosure. This, however, could lead to insufficiency of disclosure. It may be understood that a patent claim is only invalid if it is supported by an enabling disclosure. The requirement is fundamental to patent law: a monopoly is granted for a given period of time in exchange for a disclosure to the public how to make or practice the invention.

As may be understood from above, one of the reasons for this rule is to circumvent patents applications for inventions that they have not been invented; and still some applicants may choose to file for the same in order to get priority over competitors. Without this requirement, an applicant might delay scientific and technical progress by blocking competitors from inventing something that the applicant has not yet invented. The enablement requirement thus forces the applicant to show that he/she possesses the invention, before they can claim a patent for the same.

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