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Patent Monkey: US Supreme Court Makes Obvious Patent Ruling

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Brian Lam FIGHT!

. The court unanimously ruled that the federal appeals court that handles patent cases had given too much power to developers of trivial technological improvements.

“Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress,’’ Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court.

The court unanimously ruled that the federal appeals court that handles patent cases had given too much power to developers of trivial technological improvements. “Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress,’’ Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court.

Until this ruling, one seeking to invalidate a patent had to show that all parts of a claimed invention were known. Further, the challenger had to show that there was a prior “teaching, suggestion or motivation” to combine these prior technologies to produce the invention. Typically, the teaching had to be expressly stated in prior art.

The ruling is designed to help lower courts determine when an invention is too obvious to deserve patent protection. The court concluded that the former test used by the lower court was too rigid and that a case-by-case approach was more prudent.

The Supreme Court decision makes patents in general harder to obtain, patent owners more cautious before enforcing their rights and defendants more willing to challenge existing patents.

The Patent Hawk notes: “The presumption of patent validity is stripped bare. Facing a charge of obviousness, a patentee must demonstrate that the prior art taught away, or create a combination far afield from what might be expected. In hindsight, the crowd must applaud, ‘damn clever idea.'”

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