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  • Non-obviousness clarified
  • Argued October 14, 1965. Decided February 21, 1966

Petitioner: Graham - sues John Deere for patent infringement

Device: designed to absorb shock from plow shanks in rocky soil to prevent damage to the plow

  • 1955 - 5th circuit says valid - "old result in a cheaper and otherwise more advantageous way."
  • 1966 - 8th circuit says invalid - no new result in the combination

Held: The patents do not meet the test of the "nonobvious" nature of the "subject matter sought to be patented" to a person having ordinary skill in the pertinent art, set forth in 103 of the Patent Act of 1952, and are therefore invalid

Basically saying there isn't enough new here that wouldn't be obvious to ordinary-skilled worker in art to warrant patent.

1952 Act was intended to codify judicial precedents embracing the principle long ago [383 U.S. 1, 4] announced by this Court in Hotchkiss v. Greenwood

2 cases under consideration:

  • "Clamp for vibrating Shank Plows."
  • finger-operated sprayer with a "hold-down" cap

goes into history of patent law; Jefferson - no natural right to intellectual property, purpose of patent system is to encourage innovation, bring out new ideas, reward ppl for it. only for really new ideas, nothing trivial, obvious, etc.

  • "the things which are worth to the public the embarrassment [383 U.S. 1, 11] of an exclusive patent,"

  • 1851 in Hotchkiss v. Greenwood

"[U]nless more ingenuity and skill . . . were required . . . than were possessed by an ordinary mechanic acquainted with the business, there was an absence of that degree of skill and ingenuity which constitute essential elements of every invention. In other words, the improvement is the work of the skilful mechanic, not that of the inventor." At p. 267.

need to COMPARE patent app with prior skill in art

"Section 103, for the first time in our statute, provides a condition which exists in the law and has existed for more than 100 years, but only by reason of decisions of the courts. An invention which has been made, and which is new in the sense that the same thing has not been made before, may still not be patentable if the difference between the new thing and what was known before is not considered sufficiently great to warrant a patent. That has been expressed in a large variety of ways in decisions of [383 U.S. 1, 15] the courts and in writings. Section 103 states this requirement in the title. It refers to the difference between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art, meaning what was known before as described in section 102. If this difference is such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time to a person skilled in the art, then the subject matter cannot be patented.