Almost a decade has elapsed since the Supreme Court’s decision in KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc. altered the law of patent obviousness. In reversing the judgment of the Federal Circuit, the Court in KSR limited the “teaching, suggestion, motivation” test and loosened the standards that both courts and the USPTO use to assess validity under 35 U.S.C. § 103. In particular, the Court expressly rejected the application of any inflexible obviousness rule that excluded consideration of, among other things, common sense.
The Federal Circuit, however, recently confirmed that common sense alone cannot suffice to establish obviousness. In Arendi S.A.R.L. v. Apple, Inc., the court held that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the PTAB) erred when it used common sense to supply a missing limitation in the prior art to arrive at the claimed invention. Not only is this case surprising in that factual findings of the PTAB are rarely overturned on appeal, but it also marks some constraints on the broad obviousness standard articulated in KSR.
In another decision applying the two-step framework for determining patent eligible subject matter laid out in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit addressed the patent eligibility of claims to an Internet content filtering system. In BASCOM Global Internet Services, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, the Federal Circuit held that BASCOM’s U.S. Patent 5,987,606 (“the ‘606 patent) was not invalid as a matter of law, vacated a district court’s order to dismiss, and remanded for further proceedings.
An old adage states that an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite amount of time will surely produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In a similar vein, the web site All Prior Art seeks to use computers and algorithms to create prior art. All Prior Art uses the existing U.S. patent database as source materials to create new “prior art.” The web site then publishes these new ideas under the Create Commons License, meaning the ideas are effectively dedicated to the public. While the algorithm is able to generate approximately 36,000 ideas a minute, the overwhelming majority are pure gibberish.
In the recent Federal Circuit decision in Circuit Check v. QXQ Inc., the Court discusses the bounds of analogous art when considering the scope and content of the prior art in an obviousness determination. In making the determination whether a claim is obvious, the fact finder is required to decide, among other things, the scope and content of the prior art. This is because not every potential disclosure that pre-dates the invention can be considered prior art; the disclosure must be analogous to the claimed invention. It is well-established that the test for whether prior art is analogous is “if it is from the same field of endeavor or if it is reasonably pertinent to the particular problem the inventor is trying to solve.” The Federal Circuit used the Circuit Check decision to iterate that there are indeed limits to determining what is “reasonably pertinent” to the particular problem the inventor is trying to solve.
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