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Suppose a claim in a patent reads:

  1. A method of custom quotation for manufacture of a part, the method comprising:

...

using a processing device automatically generating a quotation for part manufacture based in part upon the cost-affecting parameters determined, the quotation proposing the two or more alternative methods of machining.

Does "propose" here take the standard definition, i.e. to offer or suggest for consideration? If so, does that mean a quotation even mentioning/indicating an alternative method of machining would infringe that claim? That is, does it mean that for a method to not infringe the patent it mustn't mention any alternative method? That seems rather broad.

Could a utility patent prohibit certain content from being presented?

Thanks in advance.

1

The claim language is ambiguous, and the patent examiner might object and ask the patent applicant to reword the claim language.

In a realistic case, the claim would involve multiple steps. Let's say it has step A-H, and step G involves multiple proposals. Most of the steps would be generic and non-inventive, while only one or a few steps would be inventive.

Suppose that, at the time of filing, the inclusion of multiple proposals is novel and non-obvious to a person skilled in the art, then it would be possible for the applicant to get a broad claim on any inclusion of multiple proposals.

Suppose that, at the time of filing, the inclusion of multiple proposal is already known, but the applicant made an improvement that is novel and non-obvious to a person skilled in the art (for example, an efficient way of presenting the proposals), then the claim will be limited to requiring the improvement.

Suppose that, at the time of filing, the inclusion of multiple proposal is very well known, and the applicant made no improvement to that, the applicant still can get a patent as long as s/he made improvement somewhere else, for example, a method of creating and processing a quotation with multiple variance in pricing and specification. In that case, the applicant may be able to claim the improvement + any inclusion of multiple proposals. In other words, if your implementation includes the improvement (i.e. the novel method) + more than one proposal, then you would be found infringing.

  • Thanks. The patent has actually been granted. But what is classified as a "proposal"? Is any form of presentation of an alternative method a "proposal"? For instance, their actual quotation is like a food menu, with alternative items and prices listed as well as the main selected item and its price. What if the names of alternatives items are listed without exact prices but with price ranges or no price at all? – Kar Apr 20 '16 at 4:19
  • This patent deals with a method of generating a quotation of manufacturing a mould using computer software. For a person skilled in the art, any alternative machining process should clearly qualify as an alternative method. You should read the first paragraph of the description section. Pat. '401 is just one member of a patent family. You need to read through all the patents to know what's exactly claimed. – daniel Apr 21 '16 at 6:49
  • @daniel Yes, '401 is a continuation of several other patents. My understanding is that, because it's a continuation, only the claims specified in 401 are valid claims. All claims in preceding patents are abandoned. Isn't that the basis of historical estoppel? – Kar Apr 23 '16 at 9:24

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