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My Selected US Patent

  • Assignment for Monday January 24
  • Patent number: 4542903 Hand-held apparatus
  • Company: Nintendo Co.
  • Inventors: Gunpei Yokoi, Kyoto and Satoru Okada, Osaka
  • Filing date: Dec 22, 1982
  • Issue date: Sep 24, 1985
  • Source: Google Patents


  • I chose this patent because I (like every other kid) loved Nintendo growing up. It was interesting to discover that Nintendo's design for a hand-held gaming system was much more advanced than the original Game Boy, created in 1989.

Evaluating my selected patent's unobviousness

Patent number: 4542903

  • The Nintendo patent for a hand-held game apparatus is the first of its kind. It is a foldable, hand-held device with two LCD screens, and controller buttons, that allows the user to play games. The only things that relate to the system are a tv game system (Patent number: 4034990) and an electronic digital watch with a folding computer keyboard (Patent number: 4120039). Although the Ninendo system contains parts of these two previous patents, it is so different that the new product is not merely a substitution of the old product. The original requirements for patents required utility and novelty. The case of Hotchkiss vs. Greenwood in 1850 decided that although the new knobs were better than the old ones, the improvement was only because of the substitution of new material. Because this case used substitution as its basis for deciding the validity of the patent, it does not apply to the Nintendo patent.
  • The Nintendo system may be invalid for being a combination of the two existing patents because it contains some of the same features. The digital watch contains an LCD screen and a foldable computer keypad and the tv game system uses similar controls and game programming. A&P vs. Supermarket Corp reviewed the patentability of the combination of old items to form a new product. The court decided that if the combination performs a new function, then it is patentable. Although both game systems both allowed the user to play games, the portability of the hand-held device gave it a fairly different function. The court also required that the combination exceeds the sum of the parts. Althought the game system and the digital watch contained similar parts, the previous products could not play portable games. The court also decided that any combination or change of a current patent does not count as a new patent if the idea would naturally occur to any skilled mechanic. Because the Nintendo patent was filed seven years after patent for a tv game system, making the game hand-held was not easy or obvious to any skilled mechanic. Because the Nintendo system performs a different function, is not just a combination of existing parts and the idea did not naturally occur to a skilled mechanic, the court of A&P vs. Supermarket Corp would rule that the Nintendo patent is valid.
  • Lyon vs. Bausch & Lomb involved testing patentablility based on discolsure, abandonment, obviousness. Because detailed drawings and descriptions of both the body and programming of the Nintendo patent are included, it is assumed that full disclosure was given. Because Nintendo has made additional hand-held gaming systems, they have not abandoned their patent. It was also already shown that making a game portable was not obvious to the average mechanic.
  • Because the Nintendo patent was the first of its kind, there were no good prior patents to compare it to. Therefore, I will analyze to patents that occured after the selected patent. One patent was an invertible game by Atari (Patent number: 4969647) and another was another hand-held system by Nintendo (Application number: 10/837,650).