Lyon v. Bausch & Lomb (JWB Class)

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The Case

  • Debate over a process to make coating for lenses (to reduce reflection or scratches)
  • Plaintiff’s patent (Lyon) was infringed upon by defendant (Bausch & Lomb optical)
  • Defendants question validity of patent
    • process existed before patent (Cartwright), but was missing a step
    • Lyon’s process left the lenses heated during coating, something missing from the prior art
    • Cartwright experimented with the second heating step, but abandoned it
  • Court determined it was novel (U.S.C. 102)
  • To determine non-obviousness
    • Navy and others had been searching for a coating for ten years
    • there had been a need for a long time and no one had found a solution; therefore, his process was non-obvious

“The most competent workers in the field had for at least ten years been seeking a hardy, tenacious coating to prevent reflection; there had been a number of attempts, none satisfactory; meanwhile nothing in the implementary arts had been lacking to put the advance into operation; when it appeared, it supplanted the existing practice and occupied substantially the whole field. We do not see how any combination of evidence could more completely demonstrate that, simple as it was, the change had not been "obvious * * * to a person having ordinary skill in the art" — § 103”

    • the fact that his process became the standard in the field implies utility
  • Before the Act of 1952, it would have been invalid
    • Hotchkiss said you cannot just substitute materials
    • A. & P. said you cannot combination together old inventions unless it creates a new function
  • Patent was held valid


  • Should Act of 1952 be retroactively applied to old cases?
  • ex post facto laws have always been illegal
  • Section 103 – tried to codify principles that had been decided by the Courts up until that time
  • Without saying they were wrong in Hotchkiss/A. & P., they added words in the U.S.C. in 1955 that was a list of things to go along with non-obviousness