When is a Patent Obvious

What does it mean when a Patent Examiner or Adverse Party argues that the Claim is Obvious?

Since the United States’ legal system is adversarial, winning an obvious-type Patent case can be difficult. In view of shifting burdens of persuasion, American jurisprudence requires admissible evidence, testimony and arguments to prove a case before a court or an administrative agency such as the Patent Office.

Under the US legal system:

  • When a Patent Examiner argues that a Patent Application’s claim is obvious, the Examiner argues that the claim is not patentable.
  • When an adverse party argues that the Patent’s claim is invalid, the adverse party argues that the Patent’s claim is obvious and, therefore, invalid.

35 United States Code 103 – Statutory Obviousness

35 U.S.C. 103 reads:

“A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained, notwithstanding that the claimed invention is not identically disclosed as set forth in section 102, if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains. Patentability shall not be negated by the manner in which the invention was made.”

The US Supreme Court’s Standard for Determination of When a Claim is Obvious

“Obviousness is decided as a matter of law based on four basic factual inquiries, as set forth in Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1…(1966), and elaborated in KSR International, Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398…”  Those inquiries are:

  1. The scope and content of the prior art
  2. The level of ordinary skill in the field of the invention
  3. The differences between the claimed subject matter and the prior art, and
  4. Any objective indicia of unobviousness, such as commercial success or long-felt need, or failure of others.

In a Pharmaceutical Composition, is the Replacement of a Carbon Functional Group with a Sulfur Functional Group Obvious?

  • In the case of In re Rousuvastatin Calcium Patent Litigation, 703 F. 3d 511, (Fed. Cir. 2012), the defendants argued that replacement of the known simple hydrophobic carbon functional group with a lesser known simple hydrophilic sulfur functional group was obvious.
  • The Patentee argued that at the time the pharmaceutical compound was invented there was no reasonable expectation of success for use of the simple hydrophilic sulfur functional group in reducing cholesterol levels.

On page 518 of the Rousuvastatin Calcium Patent Litigation case, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the Patent appellate court) affirmed the District Court’s ruling that the Patentee’s claim was not obvious and that the Patent was valid and enforceable.

If you find the “obviousness” legal standard confusing and need assistance, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

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