Heightened Enablement in the Unpredictable Arts


A bedrock principle of patent law is that an applicant must sufficiently disclose the invention in exchange for the right to exclude. Essential to the disclosure requirement is enablement, which compels a patent applicant to enable a person having ordinary skill in the art (PHOSITA) to make and use the full scope of the claimed invention without undue experimentation. Enablement may be insufficient when the applicant claims an invention broadly with a dearth of supporting data or examples. This is problematic in unpredictable fields like chemistry because a PHOSITA often needs a specific and detailed teaching in order to practice the full scope of the claimed invention. Yet the current patent examination framework allows a patentee to obtain a broad claim encompassing millions of compounds enabled by a trivial amount of supporting disclosure. Such broad patent scope can have a chilling effect on other scientists who are seeking to make and use the claimed invention while the inventor does not know how to do so. In an effort to bridge the disconnect between patent law and the experimental sciences, I propose a new approach to establishing the prima facie case of nonenablement for patent applications in the unpredictable arts. After examining the PHOSITA’s role in the enablement analysis, I elucidate the problems with the current framework for the enablement inquiry, propose a new framework, and explain why it mitigates problems with the current framework. I conclude by discussing some of the concerns raised by the proposed framework and explain how the proposed approach mitigates these concerns.

About the Author

Assistant Professor, Washington and Lee University School of Law; J.D., University of Notre Dame, 2006; Ph.D. (Chemistry), University of Notre Dame, 2001; M.S. Chem., Georgia Institute of Technology, 1996; B.S., University of Tennessee, 1993.

By uclalaw