Comparison of Hotchkiss, A&P, and Lyon, homework for January 28,2011
The patent being examined is patent 4,535,953. It is a patent for a spinning-type fishing reel with an axially adjustable spool. In spinning type fishing reels, use of large or small gauge lines results in uneven wrapping of the line around the spool, with excessive line wrapping around the front or back end of the spool. The reel design being examined relieves this problem by employing a spool that can be adjusted relative to the spindle that carries it. Previous patents which it references are patent 2,734,693, patent 3,119,573, and patent 3,138,344. All three of these referenced patents are designs for "improved" spinning-type reels that are based upon a common basic design.
A&P would hold that the patent being examined would not be valid, since the design is a combination of old elements that perform no new or different function than they otherwise would have. The U.S. Supreme court commented in its decision on A&P that "This case is wanting in any unusual or surprising consequences from the unification of the elements here concerned." Spinning fishing reels were known and commonly used at the time of the patent. Adding a capability for axial adjustment to the spool would not have significant or novel enough consequences to warrant a new patent. Although the new reel design is useful, it performs essentially the same function that any spinning reel would. The design may employ mechanisms and numbers of parts different from other spinning-type reels, but the concept remains the same: (simplified) a crank shaft turns a rotor which can be engaged or disengaged to feed line onto the spool or allow line to leave the spool. Therefore, applying the Supreme Court's judgment in A&P, the improvements made to the spinning reel are useful, but this new combination of previously existing elements does not supply a sufficiently novel consequence to warrant a new patent.
The judgment given in Lyon would hold that since the modifications to existing spinning reels were useful not "obvious * * * to a person having ordinary skill in the art,” in accordance with section 103 of U.S. Code, the patents would be valid. Lyon's added step to the already existing coating process was enough to warrant a patent. Since the reel provides a useful improvement that is not obvious to a person having ordinary skills in the art, they are valid patents under the judgment delivered in Lyon. The judgment given in Hotchkiss would uphold the patents for similar reasons: application of the improvements to older designs required ingenuity beyond that possessed by someone skilled in the business.