Single General Inventive Concept

Date Published

For there to be unity of invention, claimed inventions need to be linked by a single general inventive concept.  This requirement means that more than simply some link is needed between a group of inventions claimed.  There must be either a common technical problem or at least, if there is more than one technical problem, there must be one single technical concept behind the solutions of these different problems (see eg. EPO decision case W0009/93). [Rule 13.1]

Thus in considering whether unity exists, the technical features of the inventions need to be assessed as to the contribution they provide.  The possible effects of the various inventions need to be considered to determine whether they are technically connected and thus form a single general inventive concept.  Reference to the description in the application will assist in determining the problem to be solved or the effect to be achieved and thus aid in the determination of the inventive concept and whether each invention is directed thereto.  Any acknowledged prior art in the description may aid in determining the problem.  (See eg. Fibre Fleece  OJ EPO 4/1993, 225;  [1993] EPOR 515 and Cervical Punch/WISAP  OJ EPO 4/1994, 239;  IIC Vol 25 No.6/1994, 906 and Cervical Punch/WISAP  OJ EPO 4/1994, 239;  IIC Vol 25 No.6/1994, 906).

A single inventive concept may be revealed in features common to different teachings expounded individually in the same application.  A teaching may encompass not only the immediate subject-matter representing the solution to the problem as defined in the relevant claim, but also its technical consequences which are expressed as effects.  Any subject-matter is defined by structural features and the relationship between them.  The relevant effects, i.e. the outcome or results achieved by the invention as claimed, will usually be apparent from the problem as stated.

A single general concept may therefore be said to be present only if, at least, a partial identity exists among the teachings in an application deriving from the structural features of the subject-matters claimed and/or the outcome or results associated with those subject-matters.

The subject matters referred to in Combinations of Different Categories of Claims, are examples embodying a single general inventive concept.  In one respect the partial identity between the product and its use derives from the structural features of the product, and in another respect the partial identity shared by the product and the process specially adapted for its manufacture derives also from the product which is to be considered as the effect or result of this process.

(See Artificial Hip Joint/DRAENERT  OJ EPO 8/1991, 438;  [1991] EPOR 516 at point 3.2).

A group of features common to claimed inventions may form a single general concept, but if this group is known from the prior art then on its own it does not form a single general inventive concept as required by Rule 13.1. (See eg. Cervical Punch/WISAP (supra)). [PCT/GL/ISPE/10 at para 10.04]