Whether the specification would have been enabling as of the filing date involves consideration of the nature of the invention, the state of the prior art, and the level of skill in the art. The initial inquiry is into the nature of the invention, i.e., the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains. The nature of the invention becomes the backdrop to determine the state of the art and the level of skill possessed by one skilled in the art.
The state of the prior art is what one skilled in the art would have known, at the time the application was filed, about the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains. The relative skill of those in the art refers to the skill of those in the art in relation to the subject matter to which the claimed invention pertains at the time the application was filed. See MPEP § 2164.05(b).
The state of the prior art provides evidence for the degree of predictability in the art and is related to the amount of direction or guidance needed in the specification as filed to meet the enablement requirement. The state of the prior art is also related to the need for working examples in the specification.
The state of the art for a given technology is not static in time. It is entirely possible that a disclosure which would not have been enabled if filed on January 2, 1990 might be enabled if the same disclosure had been filed on January 2, 1996. Therefore, the state of the prior art must be evaluated for each application based on its filing date.
35 U.S.C. 112 requires the specification to be enabling only to a person “skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected.” In general, the pertinent art should be defined in terms of the problem to be solved rather than in terms of the technology area, industry, trade, etc. for which the invention is used.
The specification need not disclose what is well-known to those skilled in the art and preferably omits that which is well-known to those skilled and already available to the public. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991); Hybritech, Inc.v. Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc., 802 F.2d 1367, 1384, 231 USPQ 81, 94 (Fed. Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 947 (1987); and Lindemann Maschinenfabrik GMBHv. American Hoist & Derrick Co., 730 F.2d 1452, 1463, 221 USPQ 481, 489 (Fed. Cir. 1984).
The state of the art existing at the filing date of the application is used to determine whether a particular disclosure is enabling as of the filing date. Chiron Corp. v. Genentech Inc., 363 F.3d 1247, 1254, 70 USPQ2d 1321, 1325-26 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (Stating that “a patent document cannot enable technology that arises after the date of application.”). Information published for the first time after the filing date generally cannot be used to show what was known at the time of filing. In reGunn, 537 F.2d 1123, 1128, 190 USPQ 402,405-06 (CCPA 1976); In re Budnick, 537 F.2d 535, 538, 190 USPQ 422, 424 (CCPA 1976) (In general, if an applicant seeks to use a patent to prove the state of the art for the purpose of the enablement requirement, the patent must have an issue date earlier than the effective filing date of the application.). While a later dated publication cannot supplement an insufficient disclosure in a prior dated application to make it enabling, an applicant can offer the testimony of an expert based on the publication as evidence of the level of skill in the art at the time the application was filed. Gould v.Quigg, 822 F.2d 1074, 1077, 3 USPQ2d 1302, 1304 (Fed. Cir. 1987).
In general, the examiner should not use post-filing date references to demonstrate that a patent is not enabled. Exceptions to this rule could occur if a later-dated reference provides evidence of what one skilled in the art would have known on or before the effective filing date of the patent application. In re Hogan, 559 F.2d 595, 605, 194 USPQ 527, 537 (CCPA 1977). If a publication demonstrates that those of ordinary skill in the art would find that a particular invention was not enabled years after the filing date, the publication would be evidence that the claimed invention was not possible at the time of filing. See In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513-14 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (The court found that an article published 5 years after the filing date of the application adequately supported the examiner’s position that the physiological activity of certain viruses was sufficiently unpredictable so that a person skilled in the art would not have believed that the success with one virus and one animal could be extrapolated successfully to all viruses with all living organisms. Accordingly, the court held that the applicant’s earlier-filed claims not limited to the specific virus or the specific animal were nonenabled).