KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc. (JWB Class)

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The Case

  • Teleflex sues KSR over infringing patent on adjustable car pedal with electronic sensor
  • District Court – Teleflex’s patent was obvious
    • Only one claim of patent (Claim 4) in question

“A vehicle control pedal apparatus comprising:

a support adapted to be mounted to a vehicle structure; an adjustable pedal assembly having a pedal arm moveable in for[e] and aft directions with respect to said support; a pivot for pivotally supporting said adjustable pedal assembly with respect to said support and defining a pivot axis; and an electronic control attached to said support for controlling a vehicle system;

said apparatus characterized by said electronic control being responsive to said pivot for providing a signal that corresponds to pedal arm position as said pedal arm pivots about said pivot axis between rest and applied positions wherein the position of said pivot remains constant while said pedal arm moves in fore and aft directions with respect to said pivot.”

    • History of Claim 4
      • Claim 4 originally stated that the sensor didn’t have to be on the pivot point of the sensor
      • Rejected because it was obvious (too broad)
      • Putting a sensor on an adjustable pedal is not an invention – but putting it at the pivot was new and useful enough
    • Summary Judgment:
      • Prosecutors try to prove case, but Defense claims they didn’t prove anything relevant
      • Give a judgment before Defense gives case because there’s no point
  • Court of Appeals – Teleflex’s patent was non-obvious
    • TSM test
      • “teaching, suggestion, motivation” – if there is a suggestion/motivation of a possible combination in the prior art (or in ordinary skill), it is an obvious combination
      • Prior Art or ‘ordinary skill’ – teach, suggest, or motivate a combination – it is obvious
      • CAFC (Patent Appeals Court) and PTO both desire simple, clear rules
        • Example: speed limits (simple, but sometimes not well-thought out or reasonable)
      • Problem: A implies B, but ~A does not imply ~B (lack of TSM does not imply non-obviousness)
  • Supreme Court – Teleflex’s patent was obvious
    • Combinations:
      • in the battery case, the combination yielded an unpredictable result and was thus non-obvious
      • putting a heater on a cement mixer was obvious
    • Other cases involve more than simple substitutions, which would make them more complicated rulings, but not here. It is clearly obvious.
  • There are more relevant patents then just the ones cited on an application
  • The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with said opinion
    • goes back to trial in District Court, but without Claim 4, not much of a case exists anymore

Further Discussion (2/16)

  • "When a work is available in one field of endeavor, design incentives and other market forces can prompt variations of it, either in the same field or a different one"
  • "Often, it will be necessary for a court to look to interrelated teachings of multiple patents"

2011 Bill

  • Infringing minor patents would not lead to huge damages
  • The patent goes to the first to file, rather than the first to invent
    • The rest of the world has always done it in this way
    • Encourages scientific advancement