Homework 2: Jan 28 Karch

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Validity of Patent #4596230: Filed Nov 5, 1984

The patent I chose was for the invention of a automated football throwing machine with the potential to load via a circular assembly of up to 8 footballs. There are three main steps to this device:

  1. Hold multiple footballs with the ability to feed one at a time into the system
  2. Automatically move the football into the correct orientation to be projected
  3. Project the football with the desired amount of spin

While no previous patented invention had accomplished all three of these goals, a combination of elements from the three patents referenced by patent #4596230 make the validity of the patent come into question.

Coacting wheels type football throwing device

Patent #4026261: Filed Mar 6, 1975
This is the earliest (and simplest) patent of a football throwing machine that I have been able to find. It consists of two oppositely rotating wheels powered by a motor, skewed to provide for the spin on the football when thrown. It is very similar to the "Jugs Football Machine which is in very common use today. The balls are loaded and pushed into the driving wheels by hand.

Automatic apparatus for positioning footballs for kicking

Patent #4460173: Filed Dec 6, 1983
This patent outlines an automated system for the positioning of the football in the correct orientation. The machine receives the ball from a chute and then moves it into the correct position for a kicker to kick from. While it does not project the ball or orient the ball in more than one way, it displays similar concepts to patent #4596230 in the orienting of the ball.

Target Throwing Apparatus

Patent #2310746: Filed Oct 20, 1941
This is the only patent referenced that does not involve footballs in the original intent of the design. This patent is designed to throw clay or wooden targets (for Skeet Shooting) successively. The targets are held in a wheel of cylinders, very similar to the way footballs are held in patent #4596230.

Validity of Patent #4596230 under Hotchkiss v. Greenwood and A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp.

In these two court rulings, it was determined that an invention that could be stated as combinations of previous inventions or known items is not patentable unless it is used for a completely new purpose. The football throwing machine (patent #4596230) falls into this category. The invention is essentially a combination of the original football throwing machine with the added features of automatic loading from a set of multiple footballs stored in a wheel of cylinder containers. Because of this, the patent would be deemed invalid under the rulings of Hotchkiss and A. & P.

Validity of Patent #4596230 under Lyon v. Bausch & Lomb

In the case of Lyon v. Bausch & Lomb, the topic of "non-obviousness" was addressed. This concept was introduced in Title 35 section 103 but had not been interpreted until the Lyon case. This concept made the standards for patentability more lenient. This provided for inventions that, although a natural improvement on previous inventions in a way that might seem obvious after the fact, were in fact difficult to come by. Often referred to is the question: has there been a need and/or failed attempts to solve the problem that the invention solved? The football throwing machine being addressed has hope of being valid under this system. The original football throwing machine had been around for nearly ten years at the time that patent #4596230 was filed, yet no invention had been made to be able to throw multiple footballs in a row.

This patent might not be valid in the sense that there is not really a "need" for this invention and there is not much evidence of previous attempts to make a similar invention. The minimal improvement from the original football throwing machine was not worth the amount of added complication and expense in patent #4596230. However, it is not the decision of the courts to determine whether or not the invention would be a success in the market, but to determine whether it is something new and non-obvious. The added leniency I think would make this patent valid.

User: Sam Karch