United States v. N Adams (901422128)

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Read for 1/31/11

Reading Notes

  • Companion case with the Graham case (also decided 1966)
  • US wants to review a a judgment of the Court of Claims holding a patent granted to Adams for a wet battery valid
    • Adams sued the government for infringement
  • USSC affirmed the finding of validity
  • Patent is for a non-rechargeable electrical battery
    • First "practical, water-activated, constant potential battery which could be fabricated and stored indefinitely without fluid in its cells"
  • Brought his invention to the Army and Navy who decided it wasn't workable
    • Eventually changed their mind and stated using such batteries but did not inform Adams
  • Government relied heavily upon six instances of prior art
    • Court basically discredits all of these as being very dissimilar to Adams'
  • Government challenged under both 102 and 103
  • Said his combination provided no significant change from prior designs even though it was an improvement
    • Several errors in this
      • Water-activated sets it apart and this was not an afterthought of a patent lawyer
  • If his battery was merely full of identically functioning substitutions it would not have been an improvement
  • Also conclude non-obviousness
    • Long accepted notions about batteries would have deterred an inventor from the combinations used by Adams
    • Noted experts expressed disbelief

Basic Patent Law

  • The claims limit the invention and specifications cannot expand the monopoly
  • An inoperable invention cannot negative novelty

Class Notes

  • Adams owned the patent and sued the government for infringement
    • Ultimately decided that the patent was valid and had been infringed
  • Technicality of patent
    • Wet battery powered by the addition of water after manufacturing (wet means electrolyte is a liquid)
    • Provided constant voltage potential without a volatile electrolyte
      • Independent of how much current flows through the voltage remains constant under a wide temperature range
    • Drawback was once the battery was in use it couldn’t be stopped
  • Section III delves into prior art
    • At the very basic level all instances were still vastly different from the present invention
    • Under section 102 it would have been invalid if the exact combination would have been used before
      • Different that 103 which decides if the new combination would have been obvious
      • Validity analysis is more based on 102 in this case
  • Determined certain elements made it non-obvious
    • Unexpected characteristics
    • Experts widely discredited his finding initially
    • Primary considerations for non-obviousness were applied and determined that on an engineering level Adams’ invention was a very unique combination