In my experience very few US patent documents have reference numbers in the claims or abstract, even though doing so would make the document easier to understand. Why is this?
MPEP 608.01(m) states:
Generally, the presence or absence of such reference characters does not affect the scope of a claim.
I understand that the MPEP is just USPTO policy during examination and not law, but it would seem odd to me for the claim scope to be treated dramatically differently during litigation. So for claims at least, why not include reference numbers? They seem common in other jurisdictions. Many practitioners seem paranoid about possibly accidentally narrowing the interpretation of claims, and in my view overreact in ways that make the document harder to understand. My guess is that not including reference numbers in claims is an example of this.
I haven't found anything in the MPEP about reference numbers in the abstract aside from that reference numbers are expected in the abstracts of PCT applications:
SUMMARY OF ABSTRACT REQUIREMENTS
(E) Reference numbers of the main technical features placed between parentheses.