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从EPO Board of Appeals判决书来看选择性特征的记载不清楚
美国律师 宋仁顺

 

在欧洲,降低了根据Rule 162 EPC的权利要求超过15项时产生的费用,同时在post-grant proceeding需对权利要求做修改的情况下,为便于以后修改,在权利要求中使用了如preferably、particularly、such as等选择性表述。但是,对这种选择性表述是否清楚有很多不同意见,最近有一判决书给出使用选择性表述的指引,下面对此做个介绍。

      关于该判决书,成为争论点的权利要求中使用了诸多如下选择性表述:

      “A mouth and tooth care and purification agent according to claim 1, characterized in that it contains 12 to 60 wt.-%, preferably 15 to 50 wt.-%, more preferably 17 to 40 wt.-% and particularly 20 to 35wt. -% of sorbitol and/or glycerol and/or 1,2 propylene glycol.”

      Examining Division做出了上述权利要求不仅违反了Article 84,还违反了Rules 43(3)及43(4)的最终驳回决定。申请人Henkel并未屈服于该驳回决定而是提出了上诉。其中,Article 84中规定:权利要求应明确地且简洁地定义请求保护的对象,并得到说明书的支持;Rules 43是关于权利要求的形式及内容的规则,尤其43(3)及43(4)规定了独立权利要求及从属权利要求的形式及内容。尤其,Article 84的内容与下述Guidelines for Examination, C-III, 4.9 (2010)的内容也一脉相通。

      “4.9 选择性特征 – 需要对如Preferably, for example, such as 或more particularly等表述留意使其不发生不明确(ambiguity)问题。如上表述对限定权利要求范围没有效力,即,该类表述随后的表述应被整体视为选择性的表述。”

      Board of Appeals接受了Henkel的上诉,并做出了存在缺陷的权利要求因违反Article 84或Rules 43(3) / 43(4)而不予授权的Examining Division的决定是违法的判决。尤其,Board of Appeals提到,通过判决书难以判断上述权利要求中使用的选择性表述包含违反Rules 43(3) / 43(4)的内容,虽然可能存在根据Article 84而违反清楚性(clarity)或简洁性(conciseness)的潜在问题,但并没有规定因使用了选择性表述而权利要求不予授权的规定。换言之,表明了如下立场:即使使用了选择性表述,若权利要求的清楚性或简洁性上没有其他问题,该权利要求应被授权。

      尤其,Board of Appeals提出如下意见:上述所争论的权利要求中并没有记载导致不清楚的内容,而对简洁性而言,使用选择性表述的权利要求比使用多个从属权利要求相比反而会更加容易理解。

      因此,综上所述,Board of Appeals率先作如下解释:EPC的法规或规则中不存在可驳回使用了选择性表述的权利要求的依据, 该判决书的内容终结了部分EPO审查员对使用选择性表述的权利要求以违背EPC的formal requirement为由做出驳回决定的惯行。

 


Rule 162 (1) If the application documents on which the European grant procedure is to be based comprise more than fifteen claims, claims fee shall be paid for the sixteenth and each subsequent claim as laid down in the Rules relating to Fees within the period under Rule 159, paragraph 1.
Article 84 The claims shall define the matter for which protection is sought. They shall be clear and concise and be supported by the description.
Rule 43(3) Any claim stating the essential features of an invention may be followed by one or more claims concerning particular embodiments of that invention.
Rule 43(4) Any claim which includes all the features of any other claim (dependent claim) shall contain, if possible at the beginning, a reference to the other claim and then state the additional features. A dependent claim directly referring to another dependent claim shall also be admissible. All dependent claims referring back to a single previous claim, and all dependent claims referring back to several previous claims, shall be grouped together to the extent and in the most appropriate way possible.