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Claims, Anticipation, and Obviousness. Kathleen Kahler Fonda Legal Advisor, Office of Patent Legal Administration July 30, 2010. Overview. $ Some Patent Process Basics $ Claims and Claim Interpretation $ Determining Anticipation $ Determining Obviousness. 2.

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claims anticipation and obviousness

Claims, Anticipation, and Obviousness

Kathleen Kahler Fonda

Legal Advisor, Office of Patent Legal Administration

July 30, 2010

overview
Overview

$ Some Patent Process Basics

$ Claims and Claim Interpretation

$ Determining Anticipation

$ Determining Obviousness

2

the united states constitution
The United States Constitution

Article I, Section 8

“The Congress shall have the power… to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

some fundamental patent legislation
Some Fundamental Patent Legislation
  • 1790 - first patent act – examination
  • 1793 - patent act revised – registration
  • 1836 – return to examination; creation of the "Patent Office"
  • 1952 – codified obviousness
  • 1999 - American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA); applications published at 18 months
the claim requirement
The Claim Requirement

35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph

The specification shall conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention.

what may be claimed
What May Be Claimed?

35 U.S.C. 101

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

claim interpretation
Claim Interpretation

During prosecution, patent examiners give claims the broadest reasonable interpretation that is consistent with the specification.

In contrast, courts will construe issued claims to preserve validity when possible.

An applicant may amend claims during prosecution as long as the amendment is supported by the specification as originally filed, but a patentee may not amend issued claims.

claim interpretation9
Claim Interpretation

"Plain Meaning" refers to the way a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand a claim term.

Claim terms are given their plain meaning unless the applicant has provided some other definition in the specification. An applicant may be his own lexicographer.

claim interpretation10
Claim Interpretation

Although claim terms should be interpreted in light of the specification, it is improper to read a claim as though it included a limitation that is mentioned only in the specification.

An examiner should not treat a broadly drafted claim as though it were limited to a single embodiment, even when that embodiment is the only one mentioned in the specification.

claim interpretation11
Claim Interpretation

Terms in the preamble of a claim may or may not limit the claimed invention.

When a preamble term provides a structural limitation on the claimed invention, it should be interpreted in light of the specification just as any other claim term.

However, when a preamble term merely points out benefits, inherent features, or intended uses of the claimed invention, it is not considered to limit the claimed invention.

anticipation 35 u s c 102
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102

An examiner rejects a claim as anticipated under 35 U.S.C. 102 when a single prior art reference discloses every element of the claim.

Anticipation may be either explicit or inherent.

anticipation 35 u s c 10213
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102

The most frequently cited subparagraphs of 35 U.S.C. 102 are (a), (b), and (e):

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless –

(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for a patent, or

(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of application for patent in the United States, or

(e) the invention was described in (1) an application for patent, published under section 122(b), by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent or (2) a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent, except that an international application filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) shall have the effects for the purposes of this subsection of an application filed in the United States only if the international application designated the United States and was published under Article 21(2) of such treaty in the English language.

anticipation 35 u s c 102 a
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(a)

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless –

(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for a patent

anticipation 35 u s c 102 a15
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(a)

In order for an item of information to be the basis for a rejection of an applicant's claim under 102(a), it must provide evidence that at least one of the following was true before the applicant invented the claimed subject matter:

$ invention known by others in the U.S.

$ invention used by others in the U.S.

$ invention patented in the U.S. or abroad

$ invention described in a printed publication in the U.S. or abroad

anticipation 35 u s c 102 a16
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(a)

Some notes on 102(a):

An applicant's own work may not be used against him under this subparagraph. If necessary, an applicant may file a declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 showing that the portion of the reference relied upon by the examiner is his own work.

Examiners initially presume that the date of invention is the filing date. Applicants can rebut this presumption by filing a declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 showing that the invention date is before the effective date of the reference.

anticipation 35 u s c 102 b
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(b)

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless –

(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of application for patent in the United States

anticipation 35 u s c 102 b18
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(b)

In order for an item of information to be the basis for a rejection of an applicant's claim under 102(b), it must provide evidence that at least one of the following was true more than one year before the applicant filed a patent application in the United States:

$ invention patented in the U.S. or abroad

$ invention described in a printed publication in the U.S. or abroad

$ invention in public use in the U.S.

$ invention on sale in the U.S.

anticipation 35 u s c 102 b19
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(b)

Some notes on 102(b):

An applicant's own work may be used against him under this subparagraph if that work was more than one year before applicant filed for a patent in the United States.

Declarations under 37 CFR 1.131 or 1.132 are unavailing when a rejection is based on 35 U.S.C. 102(b).

anticipation 35 u s c 102 e
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(e)

A person shall be entitled to a patent unless –

(e) the invention was described in

(1) an application for patent, published under section 122(b), by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent or

(2) a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent,

except that an international application filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) shall have the effects for the purposes of this subsection of an application filed in the United States only if the international application designated the United States and was published under Article 21(2) of such treaty in the English language.

anticipation 35 u s c 102 e21
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(e)

The following documents are the only items of information that may be used as prior art under 102(e). They must not be applicant's own work, and they must have been filed before the applicant invented the claimed subject matter:

$ a published United States patent application

$ a United States patent

$ an international application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty on or after November 29, 2000 that designated the United States and was published under PCT Article 21(2) in English.

anticipation 35 u s c 102 e22
Anticipation – 35 U.S.C. 102(e)

Some notes on 102(e):

A patent or patent applicant publication is prior art as of its application date, taking into account any applicable domestic benefit claim. This is so even though the document was likely not available to the public on the application date.

An applicant may file a declaration under 37 CFR 1.132 to show that the portion of the reference relied upon by an examiner in a rejection is his own work.

An applicant may file a declaration under 37 CFR 1.131 showing that his invention date is before the effective date of the reference, provided that the reference does not claim the same patentable invention as applicant.

obviousness 35 u s c 103 a
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

"A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made."

obviousness 35 u s c 103 a24
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

The factual inquiries of Graham v. Deere, 383 U.S. 1 (1966) underlying the legal question of obviousness:

  • the scope and content of the prior art
  • the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art
  • the level of ordinary skill in the pertinent art
  • objective evidence relevant to the issue of obviousness, such as evidence of commercial success, long-felt but unsolved needs, failure of others, and unexpected results
obviousness 35 u s c 103 a25
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

Graham analysis for obviousness reaffirmed in KSR v. Teleflex, 550 U.S. 398 (2007):

"In Graham [], the Court set out a framework for applying the statutory language of § 103, . . . [T]he factors continue to define the inquiry that controls. If a court, or patent examiner, conducts this analysis and concludes the claimed subject matter was obvious, the claim is invalid under § 103."

KSR at 406.

obviousness 35 u s c 103 a26
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)
  • The examiner's basic approach to determining obviousness remains the same after KSR.
  • KSR provides a more expansive view of prior art.
  • KSR emphasizes that any reasoned argument grounded in the Graham inquiries may form the basis for a holding of obviousness.
obviousness 35 u s c 103 a27
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

An examiner is still required to provide a reasoned statement of rejection grounded in the Graham inquiries. He or she must articulate a reason or rationale to support the obviousness rejection.

See KSR at 418 (“To facilitate review, [the obviousness] analysis should be made explicit,”) (citing In re Kahn, 441 F.3d 977, 988 (Fed. Cir. 2006)).

obviousness 35 u s c 103 a28
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

KSR's More Expansive View of Prior Art:

"The obviousness analysis cannot be confined . . . by overemphasis on the importance of published articles and the explicit content of issued patents. . . . In many fields it may be that there is little discussion of obvious techniques or combinations, and it often may be the case that market demand, rather than scientific literature, will drive design trends."

KSR at 419.

obviousness 35 u s c 103 a29
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)
  • The teaching-suggestion-motivation (TSM) test is just one of a number of valid rationales that may be employed when determining obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103.
  • The inapplicability of the TSM test does not necessarily result in a conclusion of non-obviousness.
obviousness 35 u s c 103 a30
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

In formulating a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103, the examiner should focus on the state of the art and not impermissible hindsight, e.g. applicant's disclosure.

See KSR at 421 ("A factfinder should be aware, of course, of the distortion caused by hindsight bias and must be cautious of arguments reliant upon ex post reasoning.") (citing Graham, 383 U.S. at 36).

obviousness 35 u s c 103 a31
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)
  • Prior art is not limited to the four corners of the documentary prior art being applied.
    • Prior art includes both the specialized understanding of one of ordinary skill in the art, and the common understanding of the layman.
    • It includes "background knowledge possessed by a person having ordinary skill in the art. . . . [A] court can take account of the inferences and creative steps that a person of ordinary skill in the art would employ." KSR at 418.
  • Examiners may rely on, for example, official notice, common sense, and design choice.
obviousness 35 u s c 103 a32
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)

To establish a prima facie case of obviousness, an examiner must:

  • resolve the Grahaminquiries,
  • articulate appropriate factual findings, and
  • explain the reasoning that provides a nexus between the factual findings and the legal conclusion of obviousness.
obviousness 35 u s c 103 a33
Obviousness – 35 U.S.C. 103(a)
  • One or more of the following rationales may be relied upon to support a conclusion of obviousness. The list of rationales is drawn from the KSR decision, and is not intended to be an all-inclusive list.
  • The key to supporting any rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103 is the clear articulation of the reasons why the claimed invention would have been obvious.
rationales for obviousness
Rationales for Obviousness

Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

34

rationales for obviousness35
Rationales for Obviousness

E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

G. The teaching-suggestion-motivation test.

35

rationale a combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results
Rationale A. Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

"The combination of familiar elements according to known methods is likely to be obvious when it does no more than yield predictable results. . . . [W]hen a patent 'simply arranges old elements with each performing the same function it had been known to perform' and yields no more than one would expect from such an arrangement, the combination is obvious."

KSR at 417 (citing Sakraida v. AG Pro, Inc., 425 U.S. 273, 282 (1976)).

rationale a combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results37
Rationale A. Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art included each element claimed although not necessarily in a single reference;
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art could have combined the elements as claimed by known methods and that in combination, each element merely would have performed the same function as it did separately; and
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art would have recognized that the results of the combination were predictable.
rationale a combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results38
Rationale A. Combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results.

Reasoning: All the claimed elements were known in the prior art and one skilled in the art could have combined the elements as claimed by known methods with no change in their respective functions, and the combination would have yielded predictable results to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.

slide39
Rationale B. Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

"[W]hen a patent claims a structure already known in the prior art that is altered by the mere substitution of one element for another known in the field, the combination must do more than yield a predictable result."

KSR at 416 (citing United States v. Adams, 383 US 39, 50-51 (1966)).

slide40
Rationale B. Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art contained a device which differed from the claimed device by the substitution of some components with other components;
  • a finding that the substituted components and their functions were known in the art; and
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art could have substituted one known element for another and the results of the substitution would have been predictable.
slide41
Rationale B. Simple substitution of one known, equivalent element for another to obtain predictable results

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because the substitution of one known element for another would have yielded predictable results to one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.

rationale c use of known technique to improve similar devices methods or products in the same way
Rationale C. Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

"[I]f a technique has been used to improve one device, and a person of ordinary skill in the art would recognize that it would improve similar devices in the same way, using the technique is obvious unless its actual application is beyond his or her skill. . . . [A] court must ask whether the improvement is more than the predictable use of prior art elements according to their established functions."

KSR at 417.

rationale c use of known technique to improve similar devices methods or products in the same way43
Rationale C. Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art contained a “base” device upon which the claimed invention is an improvement;
  • a finding that the prior art contained a “comparable” device that was improved in the same way as the claimed invention; and
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill could have applied the known “improvement” technique in the same way to the “base” device and the results would have been predictable.
rationale c use of known technique to improve similar devices methods or products in the same way44
Rationale C. Use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because the technique for improving a particular class of devices was part of the ordinary capabilities of a person of ordinary skill in the art, in view of the teaching of the technique for improvement in other situations.

slide45
Rationale D. Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

"[T]he claimed subject matter may involve [] the mere application of a known technique to a piece of prior art ready for the improvement."

KSR at 417.

slide46
Rationale D. Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the prior art contained a "base" device;
  • a finding that the prior art contained a known technique that is applicable to the base device; and
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art would have recognized that applying the known technique would have yielded predictable results.
slide47
Rationale D. Applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because a particular known technique was recognized as part of the ordinary capabilities of one skilled in the art.

rationale e obvious to try choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions
Rationale E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

"When there is a design need or market pressure to solve a problem and there are a finite number of identified, predictable solutions, a person of ordinary skill has good reason to pursue the known options within his or her technical grasp. If this leads to the anticipated success, it is likely the product not of innovation but of ordinary skill and common sense."

KSR at 421.

rationale e obvious to try choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions49
Rationale E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that there had been a recognized problem or need in the art including a design need or market pressure to solve a problem;
  • a finding that there had been a finite number of identified predictable potential solutions;
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art could have pursued the known potential options with a reasonable expectation of success.
rationale e obvious to try choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions50
Rationale E. "Obvious to try" – choosing from a finite number of predictable solutions.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because "a person of ordinary skill has good reason to pursue the known options within his or her technical grasp. If this leads to the anticipated success, it is likely the product not of innovation but of ordinary skill and common sense."

slide51

Rationale F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

"When a work is available in one field of endeavor, design incentives and other market forces can prompt variations of it, either in the same field or a different one. If a person of ordinary skill can implement a predictable variation, § 103 likely bars its patentability."

KSR at 401.

slide52

Rationale F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that the scope and content of the prior art, whether in the same or different field of endeavor, included a similar or analogous device.
  • a finding that there were design incentives or market forces which would have prompted adaptation of the known device.
  • a finding that the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art were encompassed in known variations or in a principle known in the prior art; and
  • a finding that one of ordinary skill in the art, in view of the design incentives or market forces, could have implemented the claimed variation of the prior art, and the claimed variation would have been predictable.
slide53

Rationale F. Known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations would have been predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because the design incentives or market forces provided a reason to make an adaptation, and the invention resulted from application of the prior knowledge in a predictable manner.

rationale g teaching suggestion motivation test
Rationale G. Teaching-Suggestion-Motivation Test

Findings to support obviousness:

  • a finding that there was some teaching, suggestion, or motivation, either in the references themselves or in the knowledge generally available to one of ordinary skill in the art, to modify the reference or to combine reference teachings; and
  • a finding that there was reasonable expectation of success.
rationale g teaching suggestion motivation test55
Rationale G. Teaching-Suggestion-Motivation Test

Reasoning: The claim would have been obvious because a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine the prior art to achieve the claimed invention and that there would have been a reasonable expectation of success.

applicant s response to an obviousness rejection
Applicant's Response to an Obviousness Rejection

If an applicant traverses an obviousness rejection under § 103, a reasoned statement must be included explaining why the applicant believes the Office has erred substantively as to the factual findings or the conclusion of obviousness. 37 CFR 1.111(b).

applicant s rebuttal evidence
Applicant's Rebuttal Evidence
  • Applicant may submit evidence, in a timely manner, to rebut a prima facie showing of obviousness.
  • Rebuttal evidence may include evidence of secondary considerations such as commercial success, long felt but unsolved needs, failure of others, and unexpected results.
  • Rebuttal evidence may address the particular findings of fact or line of reasoning provided by the examiner in support of obviousness.
applicant s rebuttal evidence58
Applicant's Rebuttal Evidence
  • An mere argument that an examiner has not provided an argument based on TSM, or that no motivation is explicitly stated in the applied reference(s), is not sufficient to overcome a prima facie case of obviousness.
  • If an examiner maintains a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 103 after receiving applicant's response and reweighing all of the evidence, he or she must clearly explain the reasons for doing so.
questions
Questions?

Contact

Kathleen Kahler Fonda, Legal Advisor

Office of Patent Legal Administration

kathleen.fonda@uspto.gov