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When an Examiner Can Use a Dictionary: Guidance from In Re Smith International

In In Re Smith International, the Federal Circuit stated that the broadest reasonable interpretation of a claim term must be consistent with the specification, as discussed in a previous post.  So does that have any effect on the Examiner’s ability to use extrinsic evidence, such as a dictionary definition, to interpret a claim term?  The two ex parte PTAB appeals discussed below cite In Re Smith Internationaland provide some guidance. In Ex parte Boeke, Appeal 2016-002873 (decided May 2018), the claim included “at least one discharge slot having a first portion that includes an oval geometry.”  The specification distinguished “oval” from “racetrack shape” with reference to Figures 4 and 5, reproduced below.  Specifically, the specification defined “oval” as having “no straight portions, see Fig. 5,” and defined “racetrack shape” as “ “includes two flat sides 90, 92, see discharges slots 80B of FIGS. 3 and 4.” The rejection was based on a racetrack-shaped…

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