BWC --- Brief for Honeywell
In Honeywell Intern., Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., the primary issue at hand is the doctrine of equivalents and how to define it. It is my opinion that the principle of foreseeability, stemming from the doctrine of equivalents, should not be used as one of the criteria in determining cases wrapped around the doctrine of equivalents as it goes against the purpose of having claims in the patent document.
The doctrine of equivalents is best defined as such: if something performs substantially the same function in substantially the same way, then it is to be considered an equivalent and thus infringing. It is important to keep in mind that this concept emerged to help minimize piracy in the market place. More specifically, it was developed to keep the skilled artisan from making slight changes to an item protected by a patent in order to land it outside of the patent claim’s scope and thus allowing the skilled artisan to elude the patent system. There is nothing in the origination of the doctrine that mentions that inventors should be able to predict the future and claim every possible deviation that could stem from their invention. This is just what the principle of foreseeability advocates. As every concept is, the doctrine of equivalents was expanded to include an attempt to make the idea as objective as possible. This is where the principle of foreseeability surfaced.
Foreseeability, however, is not in line with the goals of patent law and therefore should not be considered in this case. The concept of foreseeability is defined as whether or not something related to the invention being claimed was foreseeable to one skilled in the art at the time of prosecution. If so, then it should be claimed in the patent. However, patent claims are not meant to have any futuristic element to them. Rather, they are meant to provide inventors a way to legally claim what they have, not will, invented as their own. In the case of an invention that is currently in progress, the inventor can claim his progress already, thus putting it on record that he/she is working towards a certain end product. The experimentation issue is far enough removed from the current issue that it will not be discussed further. It is understandable, however, to give the patent claims some wiggle room with regards to protection if something is created within the lifetime of the patent that involves nothing but a trivial change, i.e. the piracy described in terms of the doctrine of equivalents. This wiggle room saves the patent office a large amount of time as it certainly results in less claims, however perhaps with broader language that may need addressed. If the principle of foreseeability was the law, then a patent application would include hundreds, if not thousands, of unnecessary claims as inventors and attorneys alike would try to hypothesize what the future may hold. Instead, the patent attorney and inventor alike must take care in writing concise, efficient, well-thought out, and well-worded invention claims that allow for some wiggle room so that they do not have to explicitly state all of the possibilities that the future may hold.
In the current case, Sundstrand is proposing the Honeywell should have done what even the best gypsies would have had trouble with, and that is predicting the future. Seeing that the Sundstrand technology was not developed for more than a decade after the Honeywell patent passed, it is completely unreasonable to expect Honeywell to have expected or anticipated it. Rather, the doctrine of equivalents should be applied here in it’s truest sense. Are they changes from the Honeywell technology to the Sundstrand technology trivial? Yes. Does the Sundstrand technology teach much the same thing that does substantially the same function in substantially the same way? Yes. Therefore, the Sundstrand technology should be found to have infringed on the Honeywell technology.