User:Sean O'Brien

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Homework 1 (1/24/11)

Patent 4,697,285: Ballistic Vest

Date Issued: October 6, 1987

This patent describes a ballistic vest as a worn garment designed to protect the wearer from bullets and/or explosive shrapnel. Awarded in 1987 to William Sylvester of Safariland Ballistics, Inc., it is for a vest that is comprised of a front panel that will protect the front end of the user as well as a rear panel. These panels are held by front and rear carriers, respectively, and are connected to the carriers by elastic straps which are rigidly fixed to the edges of the panels. The panels are composed of multiple layers of flexible impact-resistant material, such as Kevlar, that are contained within a flexible jacket. The layers are free-floating across the area of the panel, making the vest light and comfortable to wear. The rigid fixing of only the edges of the layers to the fasteners ensures that they will remain intact after multiple bullet impacts from different angles as tested.

The patent can be found here.

Homework 2 (1/28/11)

The patent for a ballistic vest described above cites two earlier patents, 4,079,464, by Sam Roggin, and 4,483,020 by Anthony G. Dunn.

The earlier patent by Roggin dates to 1978 and is for a "Protective Garment" that incorporates a folded segment of Kevlar sealed together by a thermosetting resin into the front and back plates, which are connected by shoulder straps. This design is similar to Sylvester's 1987 vest patent but there are also many innovations. The newer vest offers greater protection due to new developments in how the ballistic material in each panel is connected layer to layer and held in place, as well as improvements on its connection with the vest. These innovations are novel and provide greater utility in the form of protection. The innovations came about through many prototype designs invented to specifically address the drawbacks of the earlier vest, namely heightened penetration from angled projectiles. This reflects invested development over time, and does not constitute they type of "obvious" innovation or combination necessary to invalidate the patent.

The latter by Dunn from 1984 reflects a development in the protection offered by the vest wherein multiple layers of hard and soft bullet resistant material act together to stop a bullet. This solved a problem with earlier vests in which wearers suffered blunt trauma type injuries from the kinetic energy impacted by a slug hitting the vest. This new innovation provides markedly better protection and is a new combination of materials before unused in ballistic vests, making it a nonobvious progression in vest technology and warranting a new patent. Sylvester's vest is newer still, and beats Dunn's vest in protection offered. It reverts back to a vest composed completely of soft ballistic material, yet does not lack Dunn's energy dispersion. It also adds protection from angled projectiles as mentioned above. This new method of fixating the ballistic material is novel and would not be obvious to someone familiar with bullet proof vests.

Both patents follow shortly after patent 3,829,899, which was awarded in 1974 to Second Chance Body Armor Company as the first bullet resistant article of soft clothing and there are many similarities between the ballistic vest patent of 1987 and the earlier patents. A basic design of a vest that contains two plates of bullet resistant material is common, and also that each has layers of material composing their respective plates. However in each succeeding patent, there is evident that a significant improvement has been made in offering superior protection to the wearer. Sylvester's patent represents the progress of vest technology through research and development likely funded heavily by the Department of Defense.

Homework 3 (2/4/11)

For non-obviousness:

The question at hand is whether William T. Graham's 1953 patent (referred to as '798) fulfilled the non-obviousness requirement of § 103 of the U.S. Code. This patent improved upon an earlier patent ('811) of his for a vibrating farm plow. Looking at the Supreme Court ruling in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., the court maintained the standard of proving that new innovations must be beyond someone skilled in the field to satisfy non-obviousness. The innovations in patent '798 involve placing the hinge plate below the shank to keep the outward motion to a minimum. This new alignment is not something that would be obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art, and thus fulfills the requirement for non-obviousness.

Against non-obviousness:

Graham's second patent was for, in essence, a redesigned plow that alters the alignment of a few elements, but does not offer new functionality. The difference between Graham's '798 patent and the earlier '811 is the placement of the hinge plate with respect to the shank, which can be seen simply as a new combination of prior art, where each part accomplishes the same purpose as it did previously. Such a new combination was rejected as grounds for a new patent in Anderson's-Black Rock, Inc. v. Pavement Salvage Co., and should be rejected here as well. In the prior case, the court stated that when examining the obviousness of an innovation, the court must ask "whether the improvement is more than the predictable use of prior art elements according to their established functions." The new plow design is merely a reorganization of the old design, and does not warrant a new patent.

Homework 4 (2/9/11)

My page on Nonobviousness: Nonobvouisness by Sean

Homework 5 (2/14/11)

Brief of Franklin Pierce Law Center as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners

Homework 6 (2/28/11)

See paper here: The Nonobvious Requirement by Sean.

Homework 7 (3/11/11)

See midterm paper here: Process Patentability by Sean

Homework 8 (3/23/11)

American Standard Inc. v. Pfizer Inc.

U.S. District Court (1989)

This case concerns U.S. Patent 3,605,123, which is for a bone implant. Specifically, it is for an implant in which a dense metal implant is covered in a thin, porous metal covering on the area that it is attached to the bone, allowing the bone tissue to grow into the pores. The effective date to invention for this product was granted by the court as May 24, 1968, almost year before the patent filing date of April 29, 1969. The defendants of the case argue that the same work was available to the public before this in the form of the Reynolds Thesis, a master's thesis written by John T. Reynolds and approved on June 14, 1968. In the end, the court ruled that the patent, if valid, was infringed upon unwillingly. However it ruled that the patent was invalid for obviousness under 35 U.S.C. § 103. It determined that the one key concept of the patent not before known, the porous metal coating, was indeed a part of the Reynolds Thesis.

Homework 9 (4/4/11)

Homework 10 (4/6/11)

Honeywell Intern., Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.

Brief for Honeywell

The decision of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to extend prosecution history estoppel to cover the inlet guide vanes used in the APU is a mistake. They concluded erroneously that the limit of surrendered subject matter due to amendment extended to include the original dependant claims that were not in fact ever amended. Since these claims were not amended, they have no business being included in the area of surrendered material. In the absence of a limiting argument during the prosecution of dependant Honeywell claims, the court presumed surrender of all imaginable equivalents in light of cancellation of an independent claim. This is neither logical nor does it have precedent. It is entirely unreasonable to assume that since a claim has been amended, presumably to correct and accurately limit the reach on an invention, that the new definition will perfectly describe the invention claimed.

The Court also presumed that the solution of Sunstrand in question was foreseeable to Honeywell engineers and thus cannot be considered an equivalent. This is a break from the traditional method of considering foreseeable only that which is a readily known equivalent. Somehow the Court was able to determine the extent of the Honeywell engineers’ knowledge to be beyond that which is documented and claimed, which is preposterous.

This ruling sets a dangerous precedent as it might invite future patent holders to refrain from amending claims in their patents to more accurately depict their invention for fear of surrendering all equivalent subject matter without limit. The underlying purpose of a patent is to protect owners of intellectual property, and this purpose fails if an amended, more accurate description than that which was originally made results in a loss of protection. The doctrine of equivalents does indeed require limiting, yet should not be limited to such a broad extent as seen in this case when the reasoning for such limitation lies in amended independent claims of which the specific subject matter in question is not included.