Claim Interpretation - T 1691/11


1. A recently published decision of the Technical Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office T1691/11 offers an interesting insight on the interpretation of patent claims.


Claim 1 of the opposed patent related to an apparatus for receiving parts travelling at a first speed through a receiving zone and applying the parts to a carrier travelling at a second speed through an application zone, the apparatus in particular including:

"at least two independent programmable motors" and

"at least one of the transferring devices being coupled to each of the programmable motors".

The specification of the patent did not include any embodiment in which at least one transferring device was coupled to each of the programmable motors.

In view of this discrepancy, the Opposition Division had decided, in the first instance, that the claim should be interpreted in view of the specification as meaning that each of the transferring devices is coupled to at least one of the programmable motors.

2. The technical Board of Appeal rescinded this decision based on the following arguments:


The features recited in claim 1 are clear and unambiguous. An interpretation of a claim is only possible for a claim whose wording lacks clarity. This is not the case here. Therefore, no need for interpretation arises. Moreover, a discrepancy between the claims and the description is not a valid reason to ignore the clear linguistic structure of a claim and thus to interpret the claim differently.


A perfectly clear wording of the claim, such as presented here as claim 1, is thus that which needs to be considered under Article 83 EPC, rather than another speculative interpretation of the claim.


Consequently, the Board considered that the claimed invention was insufficiently disclosed, since none of the disclosed embodiments fall under the wording of claim 1 and revoked the patent based on these grounds (Article 83 EPC).

3. This decision emphasizes the importance of avoiding discrepancies between the claims and the specification, since a discrepancy might have a fatal outcome.

If you have any questions concerning this newsletter, please contact Anne Francastel.

This IP Alert is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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