Homework 1 - description of U.S. Patent 4,555,539 (1985)
Homework 2 - nonobvious issues in patent from homework 1 and court cases
Homework 3 - nonobvious issues in magnesium cell battery patent
Homework 4 - printed publication patent invalidity 102(b) Bruckelmeyer v. Ground Heaters (2006)
Homework 1 Andrew Chipouras Intellectual Property for Engineers 1/24/2011
U.S. Patent 4,555,539 describes a fireproof polymer material. The patent was completed on November 26, 1985. The fireproof polymer material is described as a polymer material which contains ethylene groups and is made fireproof by an organic brominated additive, antimony oxide, and optionally a phosphate or pyrophosphate containing titanate.
Homework 2 Andrew Chipouras Intellectual Property for Engineers 1/28/2011
The author cites prior art in the form of two patents for fireproof poylmers. First is U.S. Patent No. 4,247,446 which describes a fireproof polymer substance based on a reticulated polyolefin containing polyethlyene and a copolymer of ethylene and several other compounds. The other is British patent No. 2,041,960 which describes a fireproof polymer containing the same polyethylene and also a hydrated metal oxide powder. The author claims that these polymers hardened by reticulation are very much less elastic and insufficiently flexible. They are also more expensive and more difficult to put into use, in particular when manufacturing sheaths for electric cables.
The case of Hotchkiss v. Greenwood from 1850 details the case of an invalid patent for a doorknob and accompanying mechanical device. A patent was granted for the doorknob system which claimed to be an improvement of existing technology. The court eventually ruled the patent to be invalid since the patent was a combination of existing technologies and did not represent a scientific advancement worthy of protection by a patent. Although the invention was novel as no one had used that exact combination of materials and had utility as it made doorknobs less expensive the court still determined the patent invalid. This is a precursor to the future concept of nonobviousness required for patents to be granted. The fireproof polymer material similarly uses some similar ideas as past inventions to achieve a similar goal. In this case however the technology represents a significant scientific achievement. While the ideas of using ceramic door handles and using the dovetail screw had already been around and were simply combined in the Hotchkiss case, several of the techniques and materials used in this fireproof polymer are original. The use of the polyethylene and copolymer is similar to the other patents but the use of a non-reticulated polymer is original. Also the use of antimony oxide is unique to this patent. Additionally, where as the doorknob only provided no real improvement in performance, this fireproof material boasts a clearly higher flame resistance than previously patented materials.
The case of A & P Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp from 1950 concerns a patent given for a system for faster grocery store checkout. The idea involved a three sided frame which pushed or pulled to move groceries to the cashier by the customer. The patent was intially granted since the concept of a counter with a bottomless self unloading tray was a decidedly novel idea and presented a new and useful combinationi of prior art. The court eventually decided that the patent was invalid since the invention was really an extension of the checkout counter which represented a business decision more than an invention. This is another case of nonobviousness contributing to the determination of a patents validity. In the case of the fireproof polymer, the invention represents a legitimate scientific advance and is has nothing to do with a business decision.
Lyon v. Bausch & Lomb from 1955 discussed whether the invention of a nonreflective film and accompanying methods for its fabrication had been disclosed in any earlier patent or had been publicly used before the application on November 17, 1942. Cartwright had worked on a similar coating but had eventually abandoned it and Judge Burke concluded that Cartwright neither put the process to public use nor was he its prior inventor. The court ruled the patent to be valid but that the patentee may not recover damages from infringement from before 1953. The fireproof polymer patent is different in that it did not serve an entirely new purpose since previous patents for fireproof polymers existed. This coating patent was questioned in its validity only because it had come so close to being put into public use. The court affirmed its nonobviousness to “an ordinary mechanic skilled in the field” since the material had been attempted with failure for several years. The fireproof polymer represents an improvement to an existing technology with significant scientific advancement due to its superior performance.
Homework 3 Andrew Chipouras Intellectual Property for Engineers 2/4/2011
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.