Homework 3: Validity of Graham Patent (Ackroyd)
Litigated Patent: '798 (2627798) by Graham (1953)
Previous Patent: '811 (2493811) by Graham (1950)
Argument For Validity
The litigated patent ('798) ought to be considered valid and the patent upheld, due to the decisions set forth in similar instances concerning dubious obviousness issues. Mr. Graham redesigned his shank plow invention in the time between the '811 patent and the improved '798 patent. The new patent was necessary, based both on the success it won in public sales as well as the wear reduction required by the field. By altering his hinge positioning, Graham was able to improve the lifetime of shank plows through a reduction of wear due to the decreased forces. While the need for this invention may have been obvious, the manner for achieving the necessary results was not as obvious, since it took Graham years to improve on his old invention in a new and effective way. As seen in the case of Anderson's Black Rock, Inc. v. Pavement Co., 396 U.S. 57 (1969), an invention should be considered patentable if the combination of its parts produces a greater result than parts individually. In the case of Black Rock, the combination of parts did not achieve a better outcome than the parts were able to individually, and as such the patent was invalid. Returning to Graham's '798 patent, the combination of parts did indeed bring about a better result than they previously had (in the '811 patent). By creating a device with greater resilience and wear resistance, Graham's '798 shank plow patent maintains its validity. While the need for Graham's improved invention was clearly present, the shear fact that no one had been able to produce a viable device to reduce the wear on the shank plow, speaks magnitudes for its non-obvious nature. An obvious mechanism would not have warranted the amount of time that Graham took in finding a solution between his two patents. A person of average skill in the field was incapable of resolving the wear issues, despite having the same starting block as Graham did (in the '811 patent). Thus, relocating the hinge between the '811 and '798 patents was not an obvious adjustment, and the '798 patent ought to be upheld as valid despite arguments of obviousness.
Argument Against Validity
The patent under scrutiny ('798) should be considered invalid, because it represents an invention which is rather clearly obvious. The invention in the '798 patent was a basic improvement from the '811 patent. The position of a hinge was altered in the later patent, which is arguably an obvious adjustment to the prior art, and could have been achieved by anyone with average skill in the field. By inverting the position of the hinge plate and the shank, Mr. Graham's second "invention" mimed the distribution of forces achieved previously by the Glencoe shank plow mechanism. In simply adjusting a previous patent ('811) and producing the same result as another patent (Glencoe), Graham's '798 patent represents an obvious advancement in the art. Furthermore, by leaving the flexibility of the shank out of the patent application (for the '798) this feature, which later brought up as important, must have been deemed basic and so obvious in the consideration of the new design. It ought to be clearly obvious to an engineer, and those of average skill in the pertinent art, that by spreading out the forces the life of a shank plow would be increased. Consequently, it is obvious that the relocation of the hinge in the later patent was an obvious step forward from the earlier patent. The '798 patent represents a device obvious in nature as a logical adjustment in the manner of combination of older parts from similar patented inventions. Therefore, the '798 should be found as invalid on the grounds of obviousness.