809 Linking Claims [R-08.2012]

There are a number of situations which arise in which an application has claims to two or more properly divisible inventions, so that a requirement to restrict the claims of the application to one would be proper, but presented in the same case are one or more claims (generally called “linking” claims) which, if allowable, would require rejoinder of the otherwise divisible inventions. See MPEP § 821.04 for information pertaining to rejoinder practice.

Linking claims and the inventions they link together are usually either all directed to products or all directed to processes (i.e., a product claim linking properly divisible product inventions, or a process claim linking properly divisible process inventions). The most common types of linking claims which, if allowable, act to prevent restriction between inventions that can otherwise be shown to be divisible, are

  • (A) genus claims linking species claims; and
  • (B) subcombination claims linking plural combinations.

Where an application includes claims to distinct inventions as well as linking claims, restriction can nevertheless be required.

The linking claims must be examined with, and thus are considered part of, the invention elected. When all claims directed to the elected invention are allowable, should any linking claim be allowable, the restriction requirement between the linked inventions must be withdrawn. Any claim(s) directed to the nonelected invention(s), previously withdrawn from consideration, which depends from or requires all the limitations of the allowable linking claim must be rejoined and will be fully examined for patentability. Where the requirement for restriction in an application is predicated upon the nonallowability of generic or other type of linking claims, applicant is entitled to retain in the application claims to the nonelected invention or inventions. Where such withdrawn claims have been canceled by applicant pursuant to the restriction requirement, upon the allowance of the linking claim(s), the examiner must notify applicant that any canceled, nonelected claim(s) which depends from or requires all the limitations of the allowable linking claim may be reinstated by submitting the claim(s) in an amendment. Upon entry of the amendment, the amended claim(s) will be fully examined for patentability. See MPEP § 821.04 for additional information regarding rejoinder.