Homework 6: Mar 23 Karch

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Prior Description in Printed Publication

MEHL/Biophile Intern. Corp. v. Milgraum

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

Sept. 30, 1999. Rehearing Denied Oct. 27, 1999.


Patentee brought action for infringement of patent claiming method of hair removal using laser. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Alfred M. Wolin, J., 8 F.Supp.2d 434, granted summary judgment of invalidity, and patentee appealed. The Court of Appeals, Rader, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) patent was not anticipated by instruction manual for laser used to remove tattoos, but (2) patent was anticipated by prior art article.

Under the principles of inherency, if the prior art necessarily functions in accordance with, or includes, the limitations claimed in a patent, it anticipates. Inherency of patent claim's limitations in a prior art reference, for anticipation purposes, is not necessarily coterminous with the knowledge of those of ordinary skill in the art; artisans of ordinary skill may not recognize the inherent characteristics or functioning of the prior art. Patented method of removing hair by using a laser was not anticipated by instruction manual for laser used to remove tattoos, since manual did not include limitation of aligning laser over a hair follicle opening, and such alignment was not inherent in manual's disclosure, notwithstanding possibility of such alignment. However, patented method of removing hair by using a laser was anticipated by prior art article documenting study of tissue damage induced by laser pulses on epilated backs of guinea pigs, which showed that natural result flowing from the operation as taught would result in alignment of the laser light over a hair follicle, as claimed in the patent, notwithstanding fact that study involved guinea pigs or that article failed to mention hair depilation as a goal.

Dr. Zaias recognized that the same principles that govern laser absorption in skin pigmented by a tattoo would also focus laser absorption on the natural skin pigment found in the papilla. More specifically, the papilla contains granules (called melanosomes) of a dark pigment (called melanin). A Q-switched ruby laser aimed at the hair follicle will penetrate the skin and reach the papillary melanin. At a particular wavelength, the laser will heat up and destroy the papilla without damaging surrounding tissue.