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Guidelines for Examination

 
 

3.4 Independent and dependent claims

All applications will contain one or more "independent" claims directed to the essential features of the invention. Any such claim may be followed by one or more claims concerning "particular embodiments" of that invention. It is evident that any claim relating to a particular embodiment must effectively include also the essential features of the invention, and hence must include all the features of at least one independent claim. The term "particular embodiment" should be construed broadly as meaning any more specific disclosure of the invention than that set out in the independent claim or claims.

Any claim which includes all the features of any other claim is termed a "dependent claim". Such a claim must contain, if possible at the beginning, a reference to the other claim, all features of which it includes (see, however, F‑IV, 3.8 for claims in different categories). Since a dependent claim does not by itself define all the characterising features of the subject-matter which it claims, expressions such as "characterised in that" or "characterised by" are not necessary in such a claim but are nevertheless permissible. A claim defining further particulars of an invention may include all the features of another dependent claim and should then refer back to that claim. Also, in some cases, a dependent claim may define a particular feature or features which may appropriately be added to more than one previous claim (independent or dependent). It follows that there are several possibilities: a dependent claim may refer back to one or more independent claims, to one or more dependent claims, or to both independent and dependent claims.

It sometimes occurs that an independent claim refers explicitly to alternative solutions and that these alternatives are also claimed separately in dependent claims. Such claims may seem redundant, but may be important for the applicant in some national procedures if he wishes to restrict his claims.

The examiner should object to such claims only if they detract from the clarity of the claims as a whole.

A dependent claim referring explicitly to independent claims in two categories as alternatives cannot be objected to on this ground alone. For example, if the invention relates to both a composition and a use of that composition, it is possible for a claim specifying further features of the composition to be made dependent on both the independent claim for the composition and the independent claim for its use.

Objections should, however, be raised to this type of claim dependency if it leads to a lack of clarity.