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My U.S. Patent

  • Patent Number: 4605136
    • Date Issued: August 12, 1986
  • The patent is for a tamper resistant seal with a tear tab that fits under the cap of a bottle. The seal allows for the contents of the bottle to remain secured with no way of accessing the inside without tearing off the seal. The seal includes a tab that can be pulled to remove the seal once the product is purchased. This was developed in the fallout of new safety requirements after the Tylenol tampering issues of 1982.[1]

Citations of Conflicting Patents

  • Patch Top Closure Member Including a Monoaxially Oriented Film Layer [2]
    • This patent is of an invention similar to the safety seal described in my patent. The purpose of this invention is to seal a container with a plastic seal that is attached using heat. The seal is removed by pulling on a tab that removes part of the seal, using the remaining part to regulate the amount of contents poured.
    • This patent seems to conflict with my patent when it is analyzed using the ruling from Hotchkiss. The ruling from Hotchkiss is that an invention should not be awarded a patent if it is an adaptation that someone of ordinary skill in the craft could have come up with. The only differences between my patent and this one are that the seal can be completely torn off, it is used to prevent tampering instead of using it to preserve the contents, and the seal is made of foil in the tamper resistant seal. These are all innovations that could have been come up with easily by any engineer looking to apply a seal to ensure the safety of the contents, and the change of material is exactly what the ruling was about in Hotchkiss.
    • Also, this patent makes my patent obvious being invalid when looked at from the point of view A&P. The A&P case ruled that in order to be issued a patent, an invention can not be the combination of other inventions that simply leads to the sum of the parts. This patent shows a seal with a tab. This, combined with previous foil seals and completely removable seals should lead to my invention having a patent withheld. The sum of these parts leads to exactly what you would expect it to, with is what the A&P case rules as not patentable.
    • Also, the law of 35 USC 103 should make my invention un-patentable. According to the code, if someone of ordinary skill could have easily come up with this idea.
  • Tamper Evident Safety Seal [3]
    • This is a later patent of the safety seal in my patent. This is a seal that also fits under a screw cap that has a double reinforced tab that folds back onto the main seal and fits in place under the cap allowing for the seal to be completely removed when the tab is pulled, with less chance of tearing the tab off due to the extra strength of it.
    • Under the ruling from Hotchkiss, it seems as if this is another invention that would not have received a patent. It is obvious to any skilled mechanic to reinforce the seal with two layers to prevent it from tearing. It is better than my patent, but it in no way required a great investment of thought or ingenuity in coming up with the idea. Also, the way of storing the tab under the cap is also obvious and easy to see for any engineer.
    • With the A&P ruling in mind, it is also very evident that this is not patentable. The seal was already in common use, and everyone has experienced a case in which double ply was stronger and better than single ply. Therefore, the combination of these two ideas is obvious and adds nothing to the sum of the parts. Because of this, I believe it would not be patented if this ruling was applied to it.
    • As far as 35 USC 103, it seems as if any mechanic skilled in the craft (or even not skilled) could have come up with the decisions to add a second layer to the tab to prevent tearing. Everyone has experienced the tab ripping from the seal and felt how frustrating ti can be. So reinforcing the tab is definitely obvious.
  • These analyses show that the standards of nonobviousness have changed in recent times. With these inventions in mind, it seems like any invention that improves upon a previous product or combines previous products can be patented. The inventiveness of these new patents may be minimal, but the usefulness and novelty are great. They are important improvements that did take an investment of time and effort, so exclusive rights were granted to them. It shows that the patent office has become more relaxed with its standards, and the court has allowed this to happen. As we have seen in our lifetimes, this leads to very fast innovation in attempts to improve upon previous designs to try and achieve better products. The importance of nonobviousness of the patent has given way to the novelty and usefulness of it.