ILNews

SCOTUS rules on patent obviousness

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Supreme Court of the United States today ruled that an invention can be too obvious for a patent.

Taking up the patent issue and question of "How obvious is too obvious?" for the first time in 20 years, the court ruled unanimously in KSR International v. Teleflex that a gas pedal design was too obvious.

Engineering company Teleflex sued KSR International, a Canadian maker of gas pedals, for alleged infringement of a patent it owned on an adjustable gas pedal assembly (which includes an accelerator, brake or clutch) combined with an electronic control that can be adjusted by the driver to move the pedal closer to or farther from the driver – much like an adjustable seat in position to the steering wheel.

The case was dismissed at the District Court level on summary judgment based on obviousness, with a finding that anyone with an undergraduate degree or modest industry experience "would have found it obvious" to connect the two parts to provide the claimed assembly. But the Federal Circuit that hears all patent cases reversed that judgment.

"The Federal Circuit addressed the obviousness question in a narrow, rigid manner that is inconsistent with §103 and this Court ;s precedents," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for a unanimous court. "KSR provided convincing evidence that mounting an available sensor on a fixed pivot point of the Asano pedal was a design step well within the grasp of a person of ordinary skill in the relevant art and that the benefit of doing so would be obvious."

Further in the opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, "We build and create by bringing to the tangible and palpable reality around us new works based on instinct, simple logic, ordinary inferences, extraordinary ideas, and sometimes even genius. These advances, once part of our shared knowledge, define a new threshold from which innovation starts once more. And as progress beginning from higher levels of achievement is expected in the normal course, the results of ordinary innovation are not the subject of exclusive rights under the patent laws. Were it otherwise, patents might stifle rather than promote the progress of useful arts."

This was one of two patent rulings the nation ;s high court issued today. The other – Microsoft v. AT&T – held in favor of Microsoft in that Section 271(f) of the Patent Act does not extend to cover foreign duplication of software.
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  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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