PCT International Search and Preliminary Examination Guidelines
PART III EXAMINER CONSIDERATIONS COMMON TO BOTH THE INTERNATIONAL SEARCHING AUTHORITY AND THE INTERNATIONAL PRELIMINARY EXAMINING AUTHORITY
Chapter 9 Exclusions from, and Limitations of, International Search and International Preliminary Examination
9.41 Rule 6.4(a) provides that any dependent claim which refers to more than one other claim (“multiple dependent claim”) shall refer to such claims in the alternative only and multiple dependent claims shall not serve as a basis for any other multiple dependent claim. Where an international application contains multiple dependent claims drafted in a different manner and the national law of the Office acting as International Searching Authority does not allow multiple dependent claims to be drafted in the said different manner, the International Searching Authority may make an indication under Article 17(2)(b). Such an indication, however, should only be made if and to the extent to which a meaningful search is not possible. Such a case is also noted in the written opinion, and it will of course only be possible to establish a written opinion or international preliminary examination report on novelty and inventive step to the extent that the claims have in fact been searched.
9.41A It should be noted that an independent claim may also contain a reference to another claim (see paragraph 5.19). Where an independent claim contains a reference to more than one other claim and serves as a basis for a multiple dependent claim, the International Searching Authority may also make an indication under Article 17(2)(b) if the national law of its Office does not allow multiple dependent claims to be drafted in this manner. Such an indication, however, should only be made if and to the extent to which a meaningful search is not possible. In such a case, it is also noted in the written opinion.
9.41B In deciding whether a claim is a multiple dependent claim or not, the examiner should consider not only the form of the claim itself, but also the claims referred to in the said claim. Any dependent claim which refers to either a multiple dependent claim or an independent claim containing a reference to more than one other claim shall be considered as a multiple dependent claim itself, and as such, shall not serve as a basis for any other multiple dependent claim.