Homework 3 - Analysis of Graham Patent for Obviousness - Due 2/4
The patent under analysis here is a spring clamp which allows plow shanks to move upwards when they encounter an impediment in the soil, such as a rock, without being damaged. With regards to two other patents, one by the same inventor, Graham, which discloses a vibrating plow shank that prepares the soil for seeding more effectively, and another by Pfeifer which discloses a bolt-like device for securely fastening sheet metal.
Argument for invalid patent
With regards to the two instances of prior art mentioned above, it can be clearly demonstrated the the patent in question here would be considered obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the related art and therefore the patent granted to Graham would be invalid. After thorough reading of the patents involved in this analysis, the differences between the two Graham patents are effectively summed up in the case Graham v. John Deere:
(1) the stirrup and the bolted connection of the shank to the hinge plate do not appear in '811; and (2) the position of the shank is reversed, being placed in patent '811 above the hinge plate, sandwiched between it and the upper plate.
However, neither of these features can be considered "inventive" under the stipulations of section 103. These two features mainly serve to solve the problem with Graham's early patent where the shank was vibrating against the hinge plate causing wear. Graham was aware of this potential issue with the first patent as he referred to the motion of shank in the patent document. The addition of the stirrup, as well as the more secure location of the shank between the hinge plates served to secure the shank in such a manner that it would not move as in the previous arrangement, and a spring system was added to recoil the shank in the presence of an obstruction. Neither of these features can be considered non-obvious because any person with basic mechanical knowledge would recognize that the most effective way to prevent one piece of machinery from causing wear to another would be to secure the movable piece better. This fact alone, however, does not render the invention obvious; although a solution may be obvious, it is possible that the process to achieve this solution require more than ordinary skill. However, that is not the case here because the bolt Graham used to secure the shank between the two hinge plates was based largely on the bolting method disclosed in the Pfeifer patent. The Graham patent must be ruled invalid because neither the improvement to the prior Graham patent nor the mechanics resulting in this improvement require more skill than possessed by a person ordinarily skilled in the related art.