Underwater Camera (Homework 2)

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Underwater single-use camera(4882600) cites patent 3412661, a case which a consumer can put a conventional camera into to take underwater pictures with their own camera. This case was made of any waterproof material. The major difference between this article and the chosen patent is that the Kodak camera (the single use underwater camera) is disposable, and combines the camera and the waterproof case. It is not detachable as this case is. However, the greater analysis comes from the combination of this waterproof design case and patent 4801957, a disposable camera with flash.

As A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp. proves, combinations of old inventions without improvement to their function does not represent a patentable item. The flash included single-use camera was already developed (4801957), the idea for a waterproof camera case was already patented (3412661), and the clear underwater lens cover had been patented(4714333). Therefore, it becomes necessary under A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp. to prove that the patent in question improved upon the combination of these things.

Another necessity is to prove that the underwater camera is non-obvious to someone of sufficient skill in the area. This requirement can be grounds for nullification of a patent as seen in Hotchkiss vs. Greenwood.

In this case, the first may be met by pointing out the improvement on the disposable single use underwater camera. The Camera is an adaptation of completely seperate inventions, but improves a problem which is even addressed in the waterproof case patent. The camera has problems with its viewfinder after being enclosed in the case. As the viewfinder of the camera is no longer visable, Soumar( inventor of the case), added a viewfinder to the top of the case and required the photographer to correctely align this feature. The Single use camera in question is built into the underwater case, meaing that the original viewfinder may be used. This represents a large improvment in quality and clearly shows that this new disposable camera was in improvement over earlier cases. Therefore, the combination of earlier known devices as unpatentable (as in the case of A. & P. Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp.) does not apply, due to the improvment in function. The invention is greater than the sum of its parts.

The next requirement is not so easily proved. It seems Kodak was worried that this camera would be unpatentable as they devote an entire section of the patent to the fact that it does NOT violate this requirement. The section gives specific examples where adeptness in the area of photography would not exlude this invention from patent. The first point they make is that the casing is applied by the manufacturer. This directly relates to the previous section where they claim an improvment in viewfinder performance, something they assume has been largely sought after since the introduction of underwater photography.

The next advantage of this method which is not clearly obvious, is that the waterproof outer layer and inner plastic case could be created in the same plastic injection. Thiis would help greatly in the cost of manufacturing the camera. The economic advantage is also considered an improvement.

These two points create a strong case for non-obviousness, in particular the second claim. Manufactuing in one step instead of two could reduce costs substantially. It is not easily proved that the alignment of the viewfinder would not have been obvious, however this point is useless as long as the economic improvement exists.


Conclusion

After examining the novelty and non-obviousness of the invention, it is clear to me that the patent would have been declared valid assuming no unforseen evidence. It is clear that this patent offers an advantage over similar models and shows signs of ingenuity. Although it is obvious that patent law has eveolved since the time of the compared cases, I believe that even under these more strict laws, this patent would have been obtainable and defensable.


Cited Patents

3412661- patent for a case allowing underwater photography. This airtight wooden case required previous ownership of a compatable camera to place in the water tight seal. It required considerable skill to use as the camera now lacked a viewfinder, as the case covered it.

4801957 - a disposable camera also patented by Kodak. This camera allowed for single use photography and featured many features we still see today on disposable cameras including flash and a wheel roll to physically move film. This camera was made with a plastic inner shell and carboard outer shell.

4714333- This patent for a clear lens case for the back of the waterprrof case allowed the original viewfinder of the camera to be used. However, this also required a large amount of skill to properly align the viewfinder and the clear case. Also, any slight movement in the camera's positioning in the case rendered the viewfinder inaccurate after initial configuration.