Tennant Homework 2: Supplementary Patents and a Discussion of Patentability

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The patent described in Homework 1 references the following two patents: Patent 4,569,424 describing the construction of a brake shoe and Patent 4,154,900 describing a ferrous cladding material and its construction. The patent from Homework 1, describing a clutch and brake friction assembly, utilizes aspects of each of these patents. The brake shoe construction patent describes a method of using burrs, or metallic protrusions, to create a surface onto which a friction material could be cast. The ferrous cladding material described in the second supplementary patent was utilized to assist in the bonding process.

The Hotchkiss and A. & P. decisions are discussed here and here, respectively. In my opinion, this patent would not be patentable under the stipulations of Hotchkiss. The patent does not describe anything new in and of itself: it utilizes a method for creating a friction material described in Patent 4,154,900 and a bonding surface described by Patent 4,569,424. It could be argued that to combine the two in a new configuration would require nothing more than a mechanical skill in the art. An inventive spirit or mind is not necessary to combine these two ideas if one is familiar with the basic principles of the other two patents.

In the case of A. & P., a combination of old inventions may be considered new if the new assembly has some function or feature greater than the sum of its parts. In this sense, I would argue that the patent I selected is patentable. The combination of the ferrous cladding material and the protrusions of the brake shoe, among other things, produces a new brake which is more resistant to wear due to friction and overheating. The patent calls for a unique combination of metal fibers and other features which create a new use and application of the previous patents. In this case, neither previous patent was designed or intended to alleviate this overheating issue.

Finally, in light of the findings of Lyon v. Bausch & Lomb (summarized here), I would say again that the patent is perfectly legitimate. The unique combination of fibers, materials, and geometry is not an obvious one to conceptualize. This is the primary finding of this case: a combination of previous of inventions is patentable if the combination is not obvious to someone well versed in the art. That is, if a person with an average knowledge of a science could conceive of a certain combination of inventions, then the combination is not a patentable invention. In the case of the patent I chose, the combination is a nonobvious application of the previous two patents, as well as the others cited. Thus, I think patent holds.