The requirement that recipients of patents disclose information about their inventions is a fundamental attribute of patent systems. Yet, despite being a core element of patent law, the disclosure requirement is rarely thought of in those terms; rather, it is conventionally approached by first dissecting it in two ways: in terms of its doctrinal mechanisms (primarily enablement and written description) and in terms of its theoretical basis. While this dissection can be useful in understanding issues within the disclosure requirement, the resulting compartmentalization also imposes limits on this approach.

This Essay approaches patent law’s disclosure requirement from a more holistic perspective, treating it as a foundational component of patent law that can be studied and analyzed as a collective whole. In doing so, this Essay brings together different perspectives on the disclosure requirement, explaining how its seemingly independent purposes are actually closely intertwined and exploring the consequences for the patent law that flow from that relationship.

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