The concept of invention is crucial to patent law. Inventions of patentable quality are what the patent system is trying to encourage. In order to provide this incentive to produce such inventions, the patent system must provide protection for the invention. The problem the patent system runs into is that inventions are dijjicult to define-the dijjiculty stemming in part from the intangible nature of inventions. As a result, patent law encounters an information cost problem. Everyone in the patent system needs information about the invention, but the invention's intangibleness makes this information costly to produce, collect, and comprehend. Patent law responds by e;iforcing certain information producing rules. These information producing rules do not completely rectify the information cost problem in defining the edges of patent protection. The patent claim, while meant to inform everyone about the boundaries of the grant of exclusivity, must be interpreted to be of any use. This Article first addresses the information cost issues presented by the process of interpreting the patent claim. It then takes a specific look at the information costs generated when using two different information tools during claim interpretation-the specification and external definitional sources such as dictionaries. This Article concludes that full use of the specification early in the claim interpretation process minimizes information costs. It further concludes that any interpretation methodology should consider the information costs it imposes on both the patentee and any patent observer, keeping in mind the invention-specific information patent law already requires to be produced.
Christopher A. Cotropia, Patent Claim Interpretation and Information Costs, 9 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 57 (2005).