The Doctrinal Structure of Patent Law's Enablement Requirement
37 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016 Last revised: 21 Jan 2017
Date Written: December 1, 2016
This Essay examines the formal law of enablement, focusing on a perceived split in the enablement doctrine: whether disclosure of a single mode of an invention is necessarily sufficient to satisfy the requirement of enablement or whether the full scope of the claim must be enabled. In examining this split, this Essay articulates the enablement inquiry in conceptual terms, identifying two elements of the courts’ analyses that are implicit in every enablement determination: the nature of enablement disputes as challenges and the articulation of a target or targets that must be enabled. With this understanding in mind, the “full scope” and “any mode” language are easily reconciled: for any given target, one mode suffices. But each and every target must be enabled. More broadly, recognizing the process of target articulation implicit in every enablement inquiry leads to a conceptually simpler, and more generalizeable, understanding of how the requirement operates in practice.
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