China: 浅谈马库什权利要求

Last Updated: 1 July 2019
Article by AFD China Intellectual Property

在科学领域,人们会以研究发现者的姓名为其定理理论命名,比如我们熟悉的牛顿定律、阿基米德原理、欧姆定理等等;在竞技体操领域,国际体操联合会会以第一个完成极高难度动作的运动员姓名来命名其动作组合,比如广为人知的刘璇单臂大回环、托马斯全旋、程菲跳 等等;其实在专利领域,也有这样以"人名"命名的权利要求,比如在化学案件中时常出现的"马库什"权利要求。

"马库什"权利要求是专用于化学领域的一种权利要求撰写方式,由发明人尤金·马库什于1920年首次在美国专利中成功使用,此后此类权利要求便以其姓氏命名。

按照《审查指南》的规定,"如果一项申请在一个权利要求中限定多个并列的可选择要素,则构成马库什权利要求"。有人肯定会问,这样的撰写方式,是否会导致权利要求保护范围的无序扩大?相当于在一个权项中保护了多套方案?要回答这个问题,必须要从设计马库什权利要求的初衷出发,马库什权利要求的存在旨在于解决化学领域中多个取代基基团没有共同上位概念可概括的问题。因此,虽然允许了多个可选要素的并列,但亦须符合专利法对于单一性的全部要求,才可获得认可和授权。具体来看,要满足单一性要求,马库什权利要求中的可选择要素(即马库什要素)必须符合下述条件:

  1. 具有相似的性质;
  2. 具有相同或相应的特定技术特征。

当马库什要素系化合物时,则需:

  1. 具有共同的性能或作用;和
  2. 具有共同的结构(构成与现有技术的区别特征,且对共同性能或作用是必不可少的);或
  3. 属于该发明所属领域中公认的同一化合物类别(可相互替代,达到相同的效果)。

对马库什权利要求是否具备单一性的解读,离不开说明书的支持,说明书中对相应可选择要素的描述是否符合上述必要条件,决定了此类权利要求是否具备单一性。由于此类权利要求较为特殊,实践中的具体案例较少,最高人民法院2016年作出的再41号判决,对马库什权利要求的诸多方面问题进行了深入的探讨,说明了目前司法领域对马库什权利要求认定的谨慎态度。

该案围绕名为"用于治疗或预防高血压症的药物组合物的制备方法"的发明专利提起的无效宣告请求展开。无效宣告阶段复审委作出了"维持专利权有效"的决定,无效请求人不服,提起行政诉讼,一审支持了复审委的决定;二审支持了无效请求人的观点,撤销了一审判决和复审委作出的无效宣告请求审查决定;再审后,最高人员法院维持了一审的判决,撤销了二审的行政判决。

该案的争议焦点集中在独立权利要求1,核心在于讨论以下三方面问题,我们借此具体了解一下马库什权利要求。

(一)以马库什方式撰写的化合物权利要求属于概括的技术方案还是众多化合物的集合?

讨论这一问题,其实是对马库什权利要求是否具有单一性的讨论。最高人民法院认为:马库什权利要求是化学发明专利申请中一种特殊的权利要求撰写方式,即一项申请在一个权利要求中限定多个并列的可选择要素概括的权利要求。马库什权利要求撰写方式的产生是为了解决化学领域中多个取代基基团没有共同上位概念可概括的问题,其本身一直被视为结构式的表达方式,而非功能性的表达方式。马库什权利要求限定的是并列的可选要素而非权利要求,其所有可选择化合物具有共同性能和作用,并且具有共同的结构或者所有可选择要素属于该发明所属领域公认的同一化合物。虽然马库什权利要求的撰写方式特殊,但是也应当符合专利法和专利法实施细则关于单一性的规定。

马库什权利要求具有极强的概括能力,一旦获得授权,专利权保护范围将涵盖所有具有相同结构、性能或作用的化合物,专利权人权益将得到最大化实现。而从本质而言,专利权是对某项权利的垄断,专利权人的所享有的权利范围越大,社会公众所受的限制也就越多,因此,从公平角度出发,对马库什权利要求的解释应当从严。马库什权利要求不管包含多少变量和组合,都应该视为一种概括性的组合方案。选择一个变量应该生成一种具有相同效果药物,即选择不同的分子式生成不同的药物,但是这些药物的药效不应该有太大差异,相互应当可以替代,而且可以预期所要达到的效果是相同的,这才符合当初创设马库什权利要求的目的。因此,马库什权利要求应当被视为马库什要素的集合,而不是众多化合物的集合,马库什要素只有在特定情况下才会表现为单个化合物,但通常而言,马库什要素应当理解为具有共同性能和作用的一类化合物。如果认定马库什权利要求所表述的化合物是众多化合物的集合,就明显与单一性要求不符。

(二)无效阶段,权利人可以采取什么方式修改马库什权利要求?

根据目前《审查指南》对无效阶段修改的规定,发明和实用新型专利文件的修改应仅限于权利要求书,其遵循的基本原则是:1.不得改变原权利要求的主体名称;2.与授权的权利要求相比,不得扩大原专利的保护范围;3.不得超出原说明书和权利要求书记载的范围(技术特征);4.一般不得增加未包含在授权权利要求书中的技术特征。在修改方式上,"一般限于权利要求的删除、技术方案的删除、权利要求的进一步限定、明显错误的修正。权利要求的进一步限定是指在权利要求中补入其他权利要求中记载的一个或者多个技术特征,以缩小保护范围。" 可见,在无效程序中,专利文件修改方式更加多样化。

但是,化学领域发明专利申请审查存在诸多特殊问题,如化学发明是否能够实施需要借助于实验结果才能确认,有的化学产品需要借助于参数或者制备方法定义,已知化学产品新的性能和用途并不意味着结构或者组分的改变等。鉴于化学发明创造的特殊性,同时考虑到在马库什权利要求撰写之初,专利申请人为了获得最大的权利保护范围就有机会将所有结构方式尽可能写入一项权利要求,因此在无效阶段对马库什权利要求进行修改必须给予严格限制,允许对马库什权利要求进行修改的原则应当是不能因为修改而产生新性能和作用的一类或单个化合物,但是同时也要充分考量个案因素。如果允许专利申请人或专利权人删除任一变量的任一选项,即使该删除使得权利要求保护范围缩小,不会损伤社会公众的权益,但是由于是否因此会产生新的权利保护范围存在不确定性,不但无法给予社会公众稳定的预期,也不利于维护专利确权制度稳定。

因此,专利权人若想在无效阶段修改权利要求,务必要综合考量,除了符合修改的基本要求,还需注意不能使修改后的权利要求产生一类或单个具有新性能和作用的化合物。

(三)马库什权利要求如何判断创造性?

作为权利要求,马库什权利要求创造性的判断也需遵循"三步法",即:

  1. 确定最接近的现有技术,即与要求保护的发明最密切相关的技术方案,可从技术领域是否相同/相近,要解决的技术问题、实现的技术效果是否最接近,公开的本发明的技术特征是否最多,是否能也能实现本发明的功能等判断;
  2. 确定区别技术特征和实际解决的技术问题,首先将本发明与最接近的现有技术对比,找出区别技术特征(具备新颖性),然后根据这些区别技术特征所能达到的技术效果确定实际解决的技术问题;
  3. 判断是否显而易见:即确定最接近的现有技术整体上是否存在某种技术启示,使本领域技术人员在面对所述技术问题时有动机改进该最接近的现有技术并获得要求保护的发明。

而意料不到的技术效果是创造性判断的辅助因素,而且作为一种倒推的判断方法,具有特殊性,不具有普遍适用性。因此,只有在经过"三步法"审查和判断得不出是否是非显而易见时,才能根据具有意料不到的技术效果认定专利申请是否具有创造性,通常不宜跨过"三步法"直接适用具有意想不到的技术效果来判断专利申请是否具有创造性。

而在本案中,复审委和一审法院均遵循"三步法"对涉案化合物进行了比较,找出了区别技术特征,然后对非显而易见性进行了分析,最终认定了权利要求1的创造性。而二审法院认为涉案专利权利要求所涵盖的一个具体实施例的效果与现有技术的证据中某项实施例技术效果相当,涉案专利未取得预料不到的技术效果,不具备创造性。二审法院对无效程序中并未进行比对且作出认定的事实进行分析认定的行为明显超出了无效审查决定的审查范围,不符合行政诉讼法及相关司法解释的规定,最高院最终认同了一审法院和复审委的判决、决定。

从上文不难看出,马库什权利要求作为一类特殊的权利要求撰写方式,虽然形式上"放宽"了保护的范围,但实际上在解释、修改、单一性要求上均有着严格的限制,对于发明人来说,在撰写此类权利要求的时候需要注意:

  1. 从马库什权利要求产生的法理基础出发,理解此类权利要求被允许的初衷,合理设计、布局马库什要素,确保这些互相替代化合物产生相同或近似的技术效果;
  2. 在说明书中对马库什要素的性能、作用、结构、技术特征、产生的技术效果等进行记录,以支持对权利要求的审查和判断。
  3. 考虑到对马库什权利要求的审查、修改从严的态度,在撰写之初,尽量合理选择、控制保护范围,减少后续不必要的修改。

原编者按:本文已同步发布在北京安信方达微信公众号上https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/xoCyVkxP9uGinkcD5wjXdw

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