PL Graham v. John Deere (1966)

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Graham got '811 patent in 1950. Modified it and got '798 patent in 1953. Then sued John Deere for infringement of the '798 patent. Patent '798 is now being looked at for validity.

Petitioner = Graham, Respondent = John Deere

-- First time Supreme Court had to interpret and use Sec. 103, Nonobviousness

-- Justice Clark explains that this case, along with its companion cases (Calmar v. Cook Chemical, Colgate-Palmolive v. Cook Chemical), exemplify the test of obviousness which has been practiced through judicial precedents over the years, but for the first time is being ruled based on code (Sec. 103). He adds that the "general level of innovation necessary to sustain patentability remains the same." (pg 2)

-- Justice Clark explains that the new obviousness test emphasizes the pertinent art existing at the time and the advancement of that art. <-- taking Jefferson's cues and treating patents as a reward to be given to those who advance the knowledge of society or a given art.


1955- Fifth Circuit Court declared patent valid

Reasoning: "A combination is patentable when it produces an 'old result in a cheaper and otherwise more advantageous way.'" Basically saying that although patent '798 is a combination of old features, it is an improvement which results in certain advantages which give it novelty, utility, and nonobviousness.


1964- Eighth Circuit Court declared patent invalid (affirmed by Supreme Court- however, say neither Circuit Court applied "correct test")

Reasoning: "since there was no new result the patent was invalid."

--Although they came to the same conclusion, the Supreme Court probably said the Eighth Circuit Court did not apply correct test because they did not make there decision based on the Nonobviousness statute. Instead, they only looked at the novelty and utility. (?)


Patent 2,493,811 "Vibrating Plow and Mounting" (original plow patent): claims that the plow has been made more effective by providing a pronounced pumping or vibratory action of the tools. Plow is more effective by (1) moving the fine soil to the bottom and coarse soil to the top which improves moisture collection, (2) creating small pools which can collect water, and (3) making the plow easier to pull. The plow also protects the work tool.


Graham received patent '811 (above) in 1950 for plow with pumping action. He altered the design and received patent '798 in 1953. Patent '798 is under debate for infringement. Supreme Court declared INVALID.


Patent 2,627,798 "Clamp for Vibrating Shank Plows" (Graham's altered plow patent): one difference: part 29 which transfers some of the force on the shank to the upper section of the I-beam. another difference: part 28 provides additional support, parts 31 and 32 do the same. also, part 41 is used to provide further clamping on the I-beam from the top.