The doctrine of equivalents took a beating over the last ten years as the courts began to pay homage to the notice function of claims.[FOOTNOTE 1] Judge Alan D. Lourie of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, one of the more vocal critics of a broad range of equivalents, first shared his concern in the 1991 case London v. Carson:[FOOTNOTE 2]
[I]f the public comes to believe (or fear) that the language of patent claims can never be relied on, and that the doctrine of equivalents is merely the second prong of every infringement charge, regularly available to extend protection beyond the scope of the claims, then claims will cease to serve their intended purpose. Competitors will never know whether their actions infringe a granted patent.
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