Reference Numerals in Claims

Date Published

Reference numerals included in the claims and referring to what is depicted in the drawings, graphics or photographs are generally not objectionable. They do not place any limitation on the claims, unless this intention is clearly expressed. It is immaterial whether or not the numerals appear in brackets.  In general, if the numerals follow a generic term it is taken as an exemplification of the matter claimed, with reference to the specific example which is illustrated in the drawing, graphic or photograph. Thus, the object of such numerals is to facilitate the understanding of the claim, without affecting the breadth of its scope. Therefore, the broad construction of the claim is not dependent upon the references and consequently examiners are not required to check or report on the accuracy of those references.

Where a claim is drafted such that the reference numeral is used to identify an express feature of the claim in a limiting manner, the claim must be construed in the light of the references.

Note: Where a reference numeral does not place any limitation on a claim, i.e. the claim does not rely upon the reference to define the invention, then the claim will meet the requirements of sec 40(3A) (see Omnibus Claims, noting that the requirements of sec 40(3A) only apply in certain cases).

See also Rodi and Wienenbergen A.G. v Henry Showell Ltd. (1969) RPC 367 at page 378; and

Philips Electronic and Associated Industries Ltd Patent (1987) RPC 244.