HW3 (Fernando Rodriguez)

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HW3 Graham v John Deere

The purpose of this document is to examine the obviousness or non obviousness for a patent granted to William T. Graham for a clamp to be used on virating shank plows. In this document the case and patent will be examined from two different view points, one of an employee of Mr. Graham seeking to show that the patent should be held valid as the manner in which it was attached was not obvious therefore fulfilling that requirement of US 103. The other side of this argument will be taken by an employee of John Deere seeking to show that the patent was invalid as it in fact did not fulfill the requirement of non obviousness. In order to assert the validity of the patent, then it is necessary to determine if this was actuallly an invention worthy of patent protection. The manner in which this will be done will be by undertaking an engineering study of the complexity of the mechanism itself, and by examining the patents stated as references stated as the prior art. This patents are a patent filed by mister Graham himself (now know as the '811 patent) and a fastening device made by Pfiefer (now referred as the Pfiefer patent) .


In order to understand whether or not this was in fact an new product that required a degree of technical knowledge greater than that of a regular engineer. The mechanism in question is basically a way in which the shock of a plow hitting a rock or hard surface. The spring attached absorbs the impact force. This had been done before in Graham's previous patent. The invention then lies in the way the plow is attached, in this case its through the use of a hinge that allows the plow to pivot upward instead of downward.

Patent Invalid

It is true that at the time this patent was issued there where not any mechanisms that where attached in the same manner as the mechanism in question. However this is not enough to warrant the patent valid. The reasoning for this being that the inclusion of the pivot on the clamp is a natural progression in which the technology would have developed. Furthermore it is fairly obvious that in order to have more space for the flexing motion. The way in which the plow was made before the tendency of the motion. The normal progression of the art and something any engineer with average capacity would be to deflect the motion upward to gain more space for the motion, and the way in which this would be accomplished would be by inserting a rotating attachment to alter the direction.

Therefore any engineer would follow a similar path to this one:

  • Utilize the plow
  • Observe the tendency to deflect downward and away from the base plate
  • Determine the necesity to modify the motion of the mechanism
    • Hence the adition of a rotary joint is necessary
  • Determine what mechansim to use to alter the motion, in this case a hinge, which is well known to engineers, mechanics and people with diverse backgrounds

Hence a hinge would be one of the first ideas that an engineer would have to alter the direction of the plow. Therefore the patent is not valid under the concept of non obviousness outline by US 103. Furthermore there is certainly not enough distinction from Graham’s previous patent, nor is there anything new in the way it is attached to the structure as it is a certainly similar to Pfeifer patent. As an engineer of average knowledge in the area then, it is my opinion that I could have certainly thought of, and instituted the mechanism in question.

Patent Valid

It is certainly obvious that the addition of a hinge is extremely beneficial to the plow as it allows for better flexing of the mechanism, further improving and protecting the plow from being damaged. The addition of the hinge then in my opinion is a great improvement on the device. Furthermore it took a couple years for the patent in question to be filed after Mr. Grahams initial patent, space during which a patent of a similar mechanism with a hinge was not filed. While it is true that using a hinge would be something that a person of average knowledge and experience would have thought of, the exact way in which the hinge was instituted in the design is not. The prior art does not reveal anything similar to this, hence it was through experimentation and study that the arrangement, orientation and location of the hinge and the shank were developed. A person with average knowledge would not be able to come up with the arrangement itself that will provide a superior product, capable of handling more impact and making the plow last longer. Hence it is my opinion that the patent should be held valid as it does fulfill the requirement of non obviousness. Furthermore the way in which it is attached required taking the attaching mechanism outlined by Pfiefer and obtaining a new result from it, that meaning that the fastening device was used to hold corrugated sheet metal in place, and in this device it is used to further expand the movement range of the plow.