Monday, February 15, 2021

What is the legal effect of a backslash?

Here's a case from December 2020 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit.  Here's a map of the circuits.

This case is called BRACCO DIAGNOSTICS INC. v MAIA PHARMACEUTICALS, INC and is an appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

This is a patent infringement case that involves chemistry and is way too technical for me.  Blog readers who have a science or chemistry background will undoubtedly understand these arguments much more than I do.  But what I find interesting is that the court interpreted the meaning of a backslash /  [I always thought / was a forward slash and \ was a backslash, but that distinction doesn't appear relevant to the court's opinion.]

Maia stated the / meant "and."  Bracco stated it meant "and" or "or."  The court analyzed the use of the / in the patent application and various tables and charts within that application.  The court then concluded - We agree with Bracco that the district court correctly construed the backslash in surfactant/solubilizer to mean “and” or “or.”

In another case, a court analyzed the effect of the lack of an Oxford comma and determined that no Oxford comma meant one party owed $5 million!

Now we have the interpretation of / as a determining factor in a court's ruling.

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation matter!


  1. I had heard of the Oxford comma ruling before, but not the / case. I always thought / meant "and". I think the Oxford comma issue was a little easier to understand than this one!

    1. The Oxford comma case was definitely easier to understand than this case!