716.02(d) Unexpected Results Commensurate in Scope With Claimed Invention [R-08.2012]

Whether the unexpected results are the result of unexpectedly improved results or a property not taught by the prior art, the “objective evidence of nonobviousness must be commensurate in scope with the claims which the evidence is offered to support.” In other words, the showing of unexpected results must be reviewed to see if the results occur over the entire claimed range. In re Clemens, 622 F.2d 1029, 1036, 206 USPQ 289, 296 (CCPA 1980) (Claims were directed to a process for removing corrosion at “elevated temperatures” using a certain ion exchange resin (with the exception of claim 8 which recited a temperature in excess of 100C). Appellant demonstrated unexpected results via comparative tests with the prior art ion exchange resin at 110C and 130C. The court affirmed the rejection of claims 1-7 and 9-10 because the term “elevated temperatures” encompassed temperatures as low as 60C where the prior art ion exchange resin was known to perform well. The rejection of claim 8, directed to a temperature in excess of 100C, was reversed.). See also In re Peterson, 315 F.3d 1325, 1329-31, 65 USPQ2d 1379, 1382-85 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (data showing improved alloy strength with the addition of 2% rhenium did not evidence unexpected results for the entire claimed range of about 1-3% rhenium); In re Grasselli, 713 F.2d 731, 741, 218 USPQ 769, 777 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (Claims were directed to certain catalysts containing an alkali metal. Evidence presented to rebut an obviousness rejection compared catalysts containing sodium with the prior art. The court held this evidence insufficient to rebut the prima facie case because experiments limited to sodium were not commensurate in scope with the claims.).


The nonobviousness of a broader claimed range can be supported by evidence based on unexpected results from testing a narrower range if one of ordinary skill in the art would be able to determine a trend in the exemplified data which would allow the artisan to reasonably extend the probative value thereof. In re Kollman, 595 F.2d 48, 201 USPQ 193 (CCPA 1979) (Claims directed to mixtures of an herbicide known as “FENAC” with a diphenyl ether herbicide in certain relative proportions were rejected as prima facie obvious. Applicant presented evidence alleging unexpected results testing three species of diphenyl ether herbicides over limited relative proportion ranges. The court held that the limited number of species exemplified did not provide an adequate basis for concluding that similar results would be obtained for the other diphenyl ether herbicides within the scope of the generic claims. Claims 6-8 recited a FENAC:diphenyl ether ratio of 1:1 to 4:1 for the three specific ethers tested. For two of the claimed ethers, unexpected results were demonstrated over a ratio of 16:1 to 2:1, and the effectiveness increased as the ratio approached the untested region of the claimed range. The court held these tests were commensurate in scope with the claims and supported the nonobviousness thereof. However, for a third ether, data was only provided over the range of 1:1 to 2:1 where the effectiveness decreased to the “expected level” as it approached the untested region. This evidence was not sufficient to overcome the obviousness rejection.); In re Lindner, 457 F.2d 506, 509, 173 USPQ 356, 359 (CCPA 1972) (Evidence of nonobviousness consisted of comparing a single composition within the broad scope of the claims with the prior art. The court did not find the evidence sufficient to rebut the prima facie case of obviousness because there was “no adequate basis for reasonably concluding that the great number and variety of compositions included in the claims would behave in the same manner as the tested composition.”).


To establish unexpected results over a claimed range, applicants should compare a sufficient number of tests both inside and outside the claimed range to show the criticality of the claimed range. In re Hill, 284 F.2d 955, 128 USPQ 197 (CCPA 1960).