A battery invented by Bert N. Adams and patented on June 22, 1943 is called into question under 103 regarding the nonobviousness of the invention. To determine the patents validity under 103 we must examine the patent primarily with the following in mind: the scope and content of prior art; the differences between the prior art and claims at issue; and the level of ordinary skill in the art. Secondary considerations may include: a long-felt but unsatisfied need met by the invention; appreciation by those versed in the art that the need existed; substantial attempts to meet this need; commercial success of the invention; replacement in the industry by the claimed invention; acquiescence by the industry; teaching away by those skilled in the art; unexpectedness of the results; and disbelief or incredulity on the part of industry with respect to the new invention.
In determining the prior art we examine two patents. The first from 1928 by Robert T. Wood is for a magnesium primary cell battery. The main consistency between this patent and Adams patent is the use of magnesium as the negative electrode. Despite what Wood mentions as “teaching away” by those skilled in the art, he was able to fabricate a battery using a magnesium electrode to give improved results over the more common batteries of the day. The similarities between Wood’s invention and Adams end with this electrode. Wood does not exclusively use a wet battery design like Adams. Nor does he use a cuprous chloride metal for the electropositive electrode. His battery also fails to perform with several of the key advantages of Adams battery including linear potential, instantaneous activation with water, and light weight design.
The second patent was filed by Wensky in Great Britain in 1981. It relates to the use of cuprous chloride as a depolarizing agent. The specifications of his patent disclose a battery comprising zinc and copper electrodes with the cuprous chloride being added as a salt in an electrolyte solution containing zinc chloride as well. While Wensky recognized that cuprous chloride could be used in a constant-current cell, there is no indication that he taught a water-activated system or that magnesium could be incorporated in his battery. This patent in combination with Wood’s patent introduce the idea of using magnesium and cuprous chloride in a battery but do not serve to suggest in any way that the two could be used together to produce a battery with improved characteristics.
It is therefore straightforward to conclude that in light of the prior art Adams invention is nonobvious. It is also clear that a level beyond an ordinary skill was needed in creating the battery. Additional evidence concerning the commercial success of the invention based on its widespread use by the military and the teaching away by those skilled in the art and unexpectedness of the results point to the nonobviousness of the invention.
Adams patent was rightly upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1966.