Homework 2: Patentability Under Non-Obviousness (Ackroyd)

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Homework 2: 28 Jan. 2011

  • The patent for the electric appliance for making hot beverages 4889041 cites patent 4070956 which concerns a coffeemaker with brewing waterspreader. Essentially, this older patent is a basic home coffeemaker appliance where the water is distributed over the dry coffee grounds by the 'spreader'. The significant difference between this patent and the patent I chose is that the chosen patent incorporates a water softening apparatus. This water softening incorporation was previously seen in the referenced patent 4565019, where a steam iron comprises a water softener in conjunction with the pipes in the iron. While it is true that household electric coffeemakers existed and had been patented, and that water softeners had been combined with steam irons in an inventive and patentable manner, the combination of such waster softeners with such coffemakers had not yet been accomplished, and the patentability of such an invention must be examined.
  • Under analysis of A & P Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp., in order for a new invention to be patentable, it must improve upon any older patented items. In the A & P case, the new counter was essentially a newly dimensioned alteration on and old patent and moreover it did not achieve a new function by combining old inventions. By these standards the new invention was not patentable according to the case. In the case of the chosen patent, an electric coffeemaker (4070956) was already in existence, as was the method of incorporating a water softener within the piping of another electrical household appliance (the iron 4565019). In order for the newer invention, combining the electric coffeemaker with an internal water softener, to be considered patentable, the combination of the previous inventions must represent an improvement in functionality. In this case, it certainly appears that the chosen patent improves upon the earlier technology, and as such would be sufficiently patentable.
  • With regard to non-obviousness, one must examine the case of Lyon v. Bausch and Lomb to determine an invention's patentability. This case involves the examination of 35 USC 103, which requires that the invention not be obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art or field which encompasses said invention. In the Lyon v. Bausch and Lomb case, Bausch and Lomb challenged a patent obtained by Lyon for a scratch resistant lens by questioning whether the invention had been patented or publicly used before the Lyon patent. This case conveys the notion that a requirement for advancement in a field, no matter how obvious, permits patentability, especially in the case of significant time lapses between inventions. In accordance with this case, the incorporation of a water softener into a coffeemaker ought to be patentable, despite the fact that water softeners had been implemented in other electric household appliances involving the internal flow of water.
  • In conclusion, my chosen patent should still stand as valid, in light of the previously discussed cases regarding non-obviousness, novelty. The combination of known things serves to advance science and technology, as was emphasized in the A & P Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp., which permits patentability. By combining the electric coffeemaker with the water softener, the new appliance was able to achieve something new which neither of the two could accomplish alone. Under the case of Hotchkiss v. Greenwood, combining these items in a newly functional manner is sufficient for patentability. While it might seem obvious to implement a water softener within a coffemaker, since this had been done in an electric steam iron, the sizable gap in time between the water softening steam iron and the water softening coffeemaker permit the patentability of the latter under the analysis of the Lyon case.