When "a" means one or more - patentese

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jan 18 15:28:50 UTC 2008

On Jan 18, 2008 1:58 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> As ruled by the Federal Court, "A" Means "One or More" Unless Clear
> Intent to Limit to One at http://ip-updates.blogspot.com/. This comes
> out of In Baldwin Graphic Systems v. Siebert
> (http://www.feedblitz.com/t.asp?/8145/867895/http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions/07-1262.pdf).
> This information courtesy Martin Cross. BB

Permalink to blog post:

The reading of "a(n)" = "one or more" has long been accepted in patent
law, but not in other legal spheres. For a case where the reading does
not apply, see this Language Log post about an NFL player unable to
collect benefits for "a football injury" since he had more than one:


(See the update for a note from Rob Pérez about the use of "a" in patent law.)

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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