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Guidelines for Examination

 
 

4.19 Reference signs

If the application contains drawings, and the comprehension of the claims would be improved by establishing the connection between the features mentioned in the claims and the corresponding reference signs in the drawings, then appropriate reference signs should be placed in parentheses after the features mentioned in the claims. If there is a large number of different embodiments, only the reference signs of the most important embodiments need be incorporated in the independent claim(s). Where claims are drafted in the two-part form set out in Rule 43(1), the reference signs should be inserted not only in the characterising part but also in the preamble of the claims. Reference signs should not however be seen as limiting the extent of the matter protected by the claims; their sole function is to make claims easier to understand. A comment to that effect in the description is acceptable (see T 237/84).

If text is added to reference signs in parentheses in the claims, lack of clarity can arise (Art. 84). Expressions such as "securing means (screw 13, nail 14)" or "valve assembly (valve seat 23, valve element 27, valve seat 28)" are not reference signs in the sense of Rule 43(7) but are special features, to which the last sentence of Rule 43(7) is not applicable. Consequently, it is unclear whether the features added to the reference signs are limiting or not. Accordingly, such bracketed features are generally not permissible. However, additional references to those figures where particular reference signs are to be found, such as "(13 - Figure 3; 14 - Figure 4)", are unobjectionable.

A lack of clarity can also arise with bracketed expressions that do not include reference signs, e.g. "(concrete) moulded brick". In contrast, bracketed expressions with a generally accepted meaning are allowable, e.g.-"(meth)acrylate" which is known as an abbreviation for "acrylate and methacrylate". The use of brackets in chemical or mathematical formulae is also unobjectionable.

References

Rule 43(7)