716.07 Inoperability of References [R-07.2022]

Since every patent is presumed valid (35 U.S.C. 282), and since that presumption includes the presumption of operability (Metropolitan Eng. Co. v. Coe, 78 F.2d 199, 25 USPQ 216 (D.C. Cir. 1935), examiners should not express any opinion on the operability of a patent. Affidavits or declarations attacking the operability of a patent cited as a reference must rebut the presumption of operability by a preponderance of the evidence. In re Sasse, 629 F.2d 675, 207 USPQ 107 (CCPA 1980).

Further, since in a patent it is presumed that a process if used by one skilled in the art will produce the product or result described therein, such presumption is not overcome by a mere showing that it is possible to operate within the disclosure without obtaining the alleged product. In re Weber, 405 F.2d 1403, 160 USPQ 549 (CCPA 1969). It is to be presumed also that skilled workers would as a matter of course, if they do not immediately obtain desired results, make certain experiments and adaptations, within the skill of the competent worker. The failures of experimenters who have no interest in succeeding should not be accorded great weight. In re Michalek, 162 F.2d 229, 74 USPQ 107 (CCPA 1947); In re Reid, 179 F.2d 998, 84 USPQ 478 (CCPA 1950).

Where the affidavit or declaration presented asserts inoperability in features of the reference which are not relied upon, the reference is still effective as to other features which are operative. In re Shepherd, 172 F.2d 560, 80 USPQ 495 (CCPA 1949).

Where the affidavit or declaration presented asserts that the reference relied upon is inoperative, the claims represented by applicant must distinguish from the alleged inoperative reference disclosure. In re Crosby, 157 F.2d 198, 71 USPQ 73 (CCPA 1946). See also In re Epstein, 32 F.3d 1559, 31 USPQ2d 1817 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (lack of diagrams, flow charts, and other details in the prior art references did not render them nonenabling in view of the fact that applicant’s own specification failed to provide such detailed information, and that one skilled in the art would have known how to implement the features of the references).

If a patent teaches or suggests the claimed invention, an affidavit or declaration by patentee that they did not intend the disclosed invention to be used as claimed by applicant is immaterial. In re Pio, 217 F.2d 956, 104 USPQ 177 (CCPA 1954). Compare In re Yale, 434 F.2d 666, 168 USPQ 46 (CCPA 1970) (Correspondence from a co-author of a literature article confirming that the article misidentified a compound through a typographical error that would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art was persuasive evidence that the erroneously typed compound was not put in the possession of the public.).