Non-Obviousness of 4272947

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Chest Protector: March 1964, 3125762

My patent [1] describes “a number of horizontally and vertically spaced openings of substantial size formed therein, to permit circulation of air through the protector to the catcher’s body to minimize any discomfort in wearing the protector, and the openings also serving to lighten the weight of a chest protector.” This is the similarity drawn to this patent, from 16 years earlier. This prior art involved “a new and improved arrangement of the seams in a padded chest protector which, in addition to enabling the protector to conform closely to body contours without undesirable bulges, also contributes materially to better protection of vital body areas.” This patent improved upon a third design (patented in 1963, one year before this was patented), in which the central vertical seams were removed from the chest protector because it was thought they left the sternum and heart area too exposed. While my patent describes using vertical and horizontal seams, it doesn’t imply that the exact same configuration as this patent would be used. In fact, the drawings do not specify the seam configuration which would be used in this design. Even if the seam configuration was the same as the prior art, the novelty of my patent is the material which the chest protector is made out of. It is made of an “improved padding construction which provides effective protection against blows even when used in relatively thin sections…in which the decelerating action of resilient materials is effectively supplemented and enhanced by the pneumatic action of air-escaping from the pad under controlled conditions.” In other words, it is a thin foam material that absorbs blows, depresses, and slowly regains its original shape. This material was patented two years after this prior art. My patent is the first (or many) inventions to reference the foam patent, implying it was the first to implement this new foam in sporting equipment. Additionally, my patent boasts “a pliable polymerized vinyl or other suitable synthetic resins, which envelope is impervious to water” to prevent the chest protector from absorbing perspiration from the user, even over prolonged uses.


In the Hotchkiss v. Greenwood case, nothing was new about the design of neither the doorknob nor the shank/spindle used. Additionally, the clay/porcelain door knob had existed before, but it had not been attached via this same shank/spindle configuration. However, it was noted that the (would-be) invention might have had novelty had the knob been made out of a new composition. This appears to be the case for my patent: a pre-existing design made of an entirely new material (the new foam). My patent would be exactly like the Hotchkiss case if other sports equipment/protectors had used the new foam material. If that were the case, then the neither the design, nor the material would be new: only the combination of the design with the material (like the porcelain/clay knob used with the shank/spindle). However, it appears that my patent was the first to reference the foam material’s patent, and is therefore using it as a new material (unlike the porcelain/clay which had been used in knobs previously). My patent seems to have what the Hotchkiss doorknob lacked, and would likely be granted a patent.

A. & P. Tea Co.

In the A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp. case, the District Court and Court of Appeals found that the counter device constituted a “new and useful” combination. However, the Supreme Court found that the device was merely an extension of the counter, and that “invention never can reside in mere change of dimensions of an old device.” Additionally, even if the device was patentable, it would have been invalid because it included old inventions (and not a new patentable combination). This Court determined that ‘combination’ implies the presence of invention, and that the combination must perform additional or different function than the old elements. My patent appears to be a combination. It appears to combine this prior art and the patent of the foam material. However, this appears to meet the standards of a ‘new patentable combination’ as outlined by the A. & P. case. While all previous chest protector designs stressed protecting the user’s body while allowing for mobility, this patent stresses functionality. The main point of the invention is that baseballs will not bounce in unpredictable directions when they strike the chest protector, but will fall right in front of it (due to the foam material). Also, this material allows for better air circulation and a lighter weight. Therefore, the combination contained in my patent ‘perform[s] additional or different function than the old elements,’ and I believe the patent would be granted.


According to Lyon v. Bausch & Lomb: From 1793, when the second patent act was passed, until the Act of 1952, the only statutory standard for invention was that the discovery should be "new and useful.” Congress did not try to define it but left it to the courts to develop by precedent. Hotchkiss v. Greenwood (1850): “unless more ingenuity and skill in applying the old method" were necessary "than were possessed by an ordinary mechanic acquainted with the business, there was an absence of that degree of skill and ingenuity which constitute essential elements of every invention.” The Act of 1952 codified this sentiment into U.S.C. §103. The main purpose of my patent was the new foam material used in the chest protector design. The question becomes whether or not designing a chest protector out of this foam is nonobvious to “an ordinary mechanic acquainted with the business.” Because this invention is the first to reference the foam material patent, I believe my patent has nonobviousness. If there was a protector of some kind, for football, hockey, or another sport, which used the foam material in its design, then it would be obvious to use the material in a chest protector for baseball. However, this is not the case, therefore I believe my patent would remain nonobvious under the standards of the Lyon case as well.

Chest Protector: February 1963, 3076197

Chest protectors before 1963 were created “with inner and outer or back and front fabric layers sewed together by generally parallel horizontal seams in spaced relationship to one another…thereby affording vertical flexibility. Additionally, “it also has been customary to provide a vertical seam at the lateral center of the body protecting portion to divide the padded rows and afford some lateral flexibility.” This prior art, from February 1963, provides a chest protector where “the portion covering the lateral midportion or a wearer’s body is devoid of any vertical seam, but which does have means, such as vertical seams along opposite sides, affording flexibility between the midportion and opposite side protective portions.” Therefore, lateral flexibility is afforded, but protection of the heart and sternum area is not compromised by a vertical seam. Similar to the chest protector patent of 1964, my patent differs from this prior art. This patent included a vertical seam along either side, but not in the lateral center of the user’s body. This was the first patent to implement such a seam design, and the chest protector of 1964 improved on this design, using a new combination of vertical and horizontal seams. My patent describes using both vertical and horizontal seams to allow for flexibility, but it never specifies what design. The main point of my patent is the new foam material used to create the chest protector. Because the seam design is not what is being patented, it does not infringe on this prior art nor that of the 1964 design.


As in the 1964 chest protector patent, my patent utilizes new material for the design, which was missing in the Hotchkiss case. The combination that made the patent invalid in the Hotchkiss case was of two pre-existing inventions (the shank/spindle and the clay/porcelain doorknob). The combination in my patent is of an existing design (the chest protector) and a new material (the foam). Therefore, my patent would still be valid under the standards of the Hotchkiss case.


Just as before, my patent is a new patentable combination, because the combination allows new function (deadening the baseballs when they hit the chest protector, and being more lightweight) not offered by the prior art.


As in the case of the other chest protector patent of 1964, my patent still has nonobviousness in regards to this prior art. It was not obvious to make the chest protector out of the foam material.