Yesterday, the CAFC decided IN RE ARNOLD G. KLEIN 2010-1411, finding error in the USPTO’s rejection of patent claims based on obviousness, using non-analogous art. You may find the following useful in your prosecution efforts. (A link to the decision can be found at the end of this post.)
The law is …
“A reference qualifies as prior art for an obviousness determination under § 103 only when it is analogous to the claimed invention. Innovention Toys, LLC, v. MGA Entertainment, Inc., No. 2010-1290, slip op. at 12 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 21, 2011); In re Bigio, 381 F.3d 1320, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2004); In re Clay, 966 F.2d 656, 658 (Fed. Cir. 1992). “Two separate tests define the scope of analogous prior art: (1) whether the art is from the same field of endeavor, regardless of the problem addressed and, (2) if the reference is not within the field of the inventor’s endeavor, whether the reference still is reasonably pertinent to the particular problem with which the inventor is involved.” Bigio, at 1325. Here, the Board focused exclusively on the “reasonably pertinent to the particular problem” test. “A reference is reasonably pertinent if, even though it may be in a different field from that of the inventor’s endeavor, it is one which, because of the matter with which it deals, logically would have commended itself to an inventor’s attention in considering his problem.” Clay, 966 F.2d at 659. “If a reference disclosure has the same purpose as the claimed invention, the reference relates to the same problem, and that fact supports use of that reference in an obviousness rejection.” Id.
Mr. Klein did not challenge the Board’s factual finding of the problem he was addressing, namely “making a nectar feeder with a movable divider to prepare different ratios of sugar and water for different animals.”
The panel of judges concluded …
“We agree with Mr. Klein that the Board’s conclusory finding that Roberts, O’Connor, and Kirkman are analogous is not supported by substantial evidence. The purpose of each of Roberts, O’Connor, or Kirkman is to separate solid objects. An inventor considering the problem of “making a nectar feeder with a movable divider to prepare different ratios of sugar and water for different animals,” would not have been motivated to consider any of these references when making his invention, particularly since none of these three references shows a partitioned container that is adapted to receive water or contain it long enough to be able to prepare different ratios in the different compartments. See Clay, 966 F.2d at 659 (“If [a reference] is directed to a different purpose, the inventor would accordingly have had less motivation or occasion to consider it.”).”
“Greenspan and De Santo are not analogous, Mr. Klein argues, because they do not address multiple ratios or have a ‘movable divider.’ We agree. While Greenspan and De Santo are each directed to containers that facilitate the mixing of two separated substances together, an inventor considering the problem of “making a nectar feeder with a movable divider to prepare different ratios of sugar and water for different animals,” would not have been motivated to consider either of these references since neither of the references shows a movable divider …”
Contributed by Mark Muller, Shareholder at Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner.
The abstract is “Growth” by Chidi Okoye