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Federal Circuit Won’t Rescue Parachute Patent

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision that claims to a ballistic parachute were obvious over the prior art based on knowledge attributable to artisans and denying the patentee’s motion to substitute proposed amended claims, finding that they lacked written description. Fleming v. Cirrus Design Corp., Case No. 21-1561 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 10, 2022) (Lourie, Hughes, Stoll, JJ.)

Cirrus Design filed a petition for inter partes review on certain claims of Fleming’s patent related to ballistic parachute systems on an aircraft. The challenged claims relate to an autopilot system that increases the aircraft’s pitch, reduces the aircraft’s roll or changes the aircraft’s altitude when a ballistic parachute deployment request is made. Fleming moved to amend some of the challenged claims, effectively cancelling those claims. In its final written decision, the Board found the remaining original claims obvious over the prior art and found that the amended claims lacked written description and were indefinite. Fleming appealed both the obviousness determination and the denial of the motion to amend.

Fleming argued that the Board’s obviousness determination was incorrect because the prior art did not disclose the commands to the autopilot to alter the aircraft’s pitch, roll or altitude. The Board acknowledged that neither of the primary prior references included the claimed commands upon the receipt of a deployment request, but nevertheless, concluded that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have had the motivation to combine the prior art disclosures to arrive at the claimed invention. The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board’s findings were supported by substantial evidence, citing to the Supreme Court’s 2007 KSR decision for the proposition that it is appropriate to consider a person of ordinary skill in the art’s knowledge, creativity and common sense, so long as they do not replace reasoned analysis and evidentiary support. Here the Court noted with approval the Board’s finding that aircraft autopilots are programmable and can perform flight maneuvers and deploy a parachute. The Court also noted that an artisan would have understood that certain maneuvers, such as stabilizing at an appropriate altitude, should be performed prior to deploying a whole-aircraft parachute. The Board concluded that a person of ordinary skill in the art would be motivated to reprogram the autopilot to take Fleming’s proposed actions prior to releasing the parachute to improve safety outcomes.

Fleming also appealed the Board’s rejection of his argument that the prior art taught away from claimed invention because a person of ordinary skill in the art would deem the combination unsafe. He argued that the prior art taught that autopilot systems should not be used in the sort of emergency situations that would lead to the deployment of a ballistic parachute. The Board rejected that argument, and the Federal Circuit found that the substantial evidence supported the Board’s determination that the prior art did not teach that a person of ordinary skill in the art would never use an autopilot system during [...]

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Apply That Formulation: Presumption of Obviousness Based on Overlapping Ranges

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found a method of treatment claims pertaining to topical formulations to be obvious, applying the presumption of obviousness of overlapping ranges theory. Almirall, LLC v. Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC & Amneal Pharmaceuticals of New York, LLC, Case No. 020-2331 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 14, 2022) (Lourie, Chen, Cunningham, JJ.)

Almirall’s patent generally claims methods of treating acne or rosacea with formulations containing certain concentrations or concentration ranges of dapsone and acryloyldimethyl taurate (a type of thickening agent known as A/SA). The claims also contain a negative claim limitation of “wherein the topical composition does not comprise adapalene.”

In a final written decision, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) relied on three main references in its finding that the challenged claims would have been obvious. One reference (Garrett) disclosed dapsone formulations with a different type of thickening agent (Carbopol®). Garrett did not disclose any formulations that contained adapalene. Another reference (Nadau-Fourcade) described formulations containing exemplary types of thickeners, including both Carbopol® and A/SA agents. The last reference (Bonacucina) disclosed dispersions containing sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate that can be used for topical administration. All three references disclosed formulations with thickening agents within the claimed ranges.

The Board applied a presumption of obviousness based on the overlapping ranges of the thickening agents and ultimately concluded that it would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art (POISTA) to substitute the A/SA agents taught in either Nadau-Fourcade or Bonacucina for the Carbopol® agent disclosed in Garrett. The Board found that the claimed range of thickening agents overlapped with Garrett, Nadau-Fourcade and Bonacucina. The Board also relied on an expert presented by Amneal who testified that a POSITA would have appreciated that the different gelling agents are interchangeable to find a reasonable expectation of success in terms of a rationale for combing the prior art.

Almirall appealed, contending that the Board erred in presuming obviousness based on the overlapping ranges found in the prior art references. Almirall argued that the presumption of obviousness only applies when a single reference discloses all the claimed ranges, whereas the Board relied on different references to create the presumption (Garrett with either Nadau-Fourcade or Bonacucina). Citing the evidence showing the interchangeability of the two different types of thickeners, the Federal Circuit found that the Board did not err in applying the presumption, citing to its 2018 case of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Synvina: “[t]he point of our overlapping range cases is that, in the absence of evidence indicating that there is something special or critical about the claimed range, an overlap suffices to show that the claimed range was disclosed in—and therefore obvious in light of—the prior art.” The Court also noted that this case did not turn on the presumption, since the combination of prior art was simply involved the substitution of one known thickening agent for another as there was no evidence to challenge the substitutability.

The Federal Circuit [...]

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Long-Felt Need Not Felt Long Enough to Overcome Obviousness

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a finding that patents covering Narcan, a naloxone-based intranasal opioid overdose treatment, were obvious despite evidence of long-felt need. Adapt Pharma Operations Ltd. v. Teva Pharms. USA, Inc., Case No. 20-2106 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 10, 2022) (Prost, Stoll, JJ.) (Newman, J., dissenting).

In 2012, during the growing opioid crisis, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) identified a need for an improved intranasal naloxone treatment that could be FDA-approved and deliver the same amount of naloxone to the blood as an injectable formulation. In 2015, Adapt filed a patent application for Narcan, a method of nasally administering naloxone using about 4 mg of naloxone, benzalkonium chloride (BZK) and three other excipients. After Teva submitted an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) to sell a generic version of Narcan, Adapt sued Teva for infringement. After a two-week bench trial, the district court determined that Adapt’s patents were obvious in view of prior art. Adapt appealed.

The Federal Circuit found no error in the district court’s conclusions that a skilled artisan would have been motivated to combine the prior art, that the prior art did not teach away from the claimed combination and that Adapt’s evidence regarding unexpected results, copying and industry skepticism was not probative of nonobviousness. The Court noted that a skilled artisan would have been motivated to improve on existing treatments because their shortcomings were well known, and the FDA had explicitly identified a need for an improved intranasal product. The claimed excipients also were separately taught in the prior art within the claimed concentration ranges. The Court agreed that a skilled artisan would have been motivated to combine these components to achieve the tonicity and pH required for a drug to be tolerable in the nose and to preserve and stabilize the formulation. While the prior art suggested that BZK causes naloxone degradation, the Court found that this did not teach away from its use because BZK was commonly used in intranasal formulations.

Turning to secondary considerations of nonobviousness, the Federal Circuit affirmed the following:

  • Narcan’s 56% increase in bioavailability was not “evidence of unexpected results” because BZK was a known permeation enhancer expected to increase bioavailability.
  • “[C]opying in the ANDA context is not probative of nonobviousness because . . . bioequivalence is required for FDA approval.”
  • The FDA’s recommendation to increase naloxone dosage in intranasal formulations negated any alleged industry skepticism regarding the higher dosage.

While the Federal Circuit found that the district court erred in finding there was no long-felt but unmet need for an effective intranasal naloxone product, the Court concluded that this error was harmless because the long-felt need began just three years before the patents’ priority date, which was not long enough to overcome the “strong case of obviousness . . . in view of the plethora of prior art.” The Court further agreed that competitors’ alleged failure to obtain FDA approval was not probative of nonobviousness and ultimately affirmed the district [...]

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Seeing Eye to Eye: Preliminary Injunction Affirmed for Patent Filed After Accused Product Was Sold

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of a preliminary injunction, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion, clearly err in its underlying factual findings or abuse its discretion in setting the scope of the preliminary injunction. BlephEx, LLC v. Myco Indus., Inc., Case Nos. 2021-1149; -1365 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 3, 2022) (Moore, Schall, O’Malley, JJ.)

Myco sells AB Max, a mechanical device with an attached swab used for treating an eye condition known as blepharitis. Myco began marketing AB Max at a trade show in February 2019. One month later, BlephEx filed an application that later issued as a patent. The patent is directed toward cleaning debris from an eye during treatment of ocular disorders, including blepharitis. According to the patent, prior art treatment for blepharitis included at-home treatment where the patient would use a cotton swab, fingertip or scrubbing pad to scrub the eyelid margin in order to remove debris. Patients would often fail to adequately cleanse the eyelid margin, however. The patent’s solution is an electromechanical device with an attached swab for use by an eyecare professional to clean the patient’s eyelid margins.

The day the patent issued, BlephEx sued Myco and its chairman, John R. Choate, alleging that Myco’s AB Max infringed BlephEx’s newly issued patent. BlephEx moved the district court for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Myco from selling, distributing or offering the AB Max for sale. Myco opposed, arguing that a prior art reference (Nichamin) raised a substantial question of invalidity. The district court disagreed with Myco and granted the injunction. The district court noted that to anticipate, a prior art reference must disclose all elements of a claim arranged as in the claim, and Nichamin did not disclose combining the electromechanical applicator device depicted in one embodiment with a swab disclosed in another. The district court also rejected Myco’s argument that the patent examiner failed to consider Nichamin because he did not substantively discuss it during prosecution. The district court further rejected Myco’s obviousness argument as unsupported by expert evidence, finding Myco failed to overcome “the safety concerns of attaching a swab that is soaked in an abrasive to the Nichamin hand-held device.”

After the district court granted the preliminary injunction, Myco moved for reconsideration and argued that the preliminary injunction was overbroad because the AB Max had noninfringing uses. The district court rejected Myco’s argument, finding it was untimely and presented hypothetical noninfringing uses that were “outweighed by evidence that the only actual use of the AB Max was to treat anterior blepharitis,” which would likely infringe the asserted patent. Myco appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction grant. With respect to Myco’s anticipation argument, the Court found “Myco offers nothing other than attorney argument as to what the highly skilled artisan would do,” and this was insufficient to raise a substantial question of validity. The Court also noted that Myco had “put all of its eggs in the anticipation basket” and fatally failed [...]

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IPR Petition Cannot Be Based on Applicant Admitted Prior Art

Addressing the type of prior art that may form the basis of an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated an unpatentability finding based on “applicant admitted prior art” in the challenged patent. Qualcomm Inc. v. Apple Inc., Case Nos. 20-1558, -1559 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2022) (Taranto, Bryson, Chen, JJ.)

Qualcomm owns a patent directed to integrated circuit devices having power detection circuits for systems with multiple supply voltages. The patent seeks to solve problems associated with stray currents causing level shifters in integrated circuits to trigger input/output devices for transmission, which results in erroneous output signals from the circuit. The patent describes various prior art methods for solving the stray current problem.

Apple filed IPR petitions based on two grounds. The first was based on the combination of four prior art references. In its final written decision, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) found that the combination of these four references did not render the challenged claims invalid. The second ground relied on the applicant admitted prior art disclosed in the specification of the challenged patent in combination with another prior art reference (Majcherczak). During the IPR proceedings, Qualcomm admitted that the combination of the applicant admitted prior art and Majcherczak taught every element of the challenged claims but argued that Apple’s use of the applicant admitted prior art as the basis for an invalidity ground is barred in an IPR proceeding. The Board disagreed with Qualcomm and found the challenged claims unpatentable based on Apple’s second ground. Qualcomm appealed.

Qualcomm argued on appeal that IPR proceedings may only be based on “prior art patents or prior art printed publications” and that 35 U.S.C. § 311(b), which governs IPR proceedings, does not allow for the use of “a patent owner’s admissions” that is contained in non-prior art documents. Apple countered, arguing that any prior art that is contained in “any patent or printed publication, regardless of whether the document itself is prior art, can be used as a basis for [an invalidity] challenge.”

The Federal Circuit agreed with Qualcomm, finding that applicant admitted prior art in a challenged patent may not form the “basis” for an invalidity claim in an IPR proceeding. The Court explained that invalidity grounds advanced in an IPR must be based on patents or printed publications that are themselves prior art to the challenged patent. In reaching this conclusion, the Court relied on the 2019 Supreme Court opinion in Return Mail, Inc. v. U.S. Postal Serv., which referred to “patents and printed publications” in the context of § 311(b) as “existing at the time of the patent application.” The Court also looked to its own interpretations of “prior art consisting of patents or printed publications” in the context of ex parte reexamination proceedings under 35 U.S.C. §§ 301 and 303, which “permits the Director to institute a reexamination after ‘consideration of other patents or printed publications.’” Accordingly, the Court vacated the unpatentability [...]

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Establishing Indefiniteness Requires More Than Identifying “Unanswered Questions”

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court finding of indefiniteness for focusing solely on the language of the claims and ignoring the specification and prosecution history. Nature Simulation Systems Inc. v. Autodesk, Inc., Case No. 20-2257 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 27, 2022) (Newman, Lourie JJ.) (Dyk, J., dissenting).

Nature Simulations Systems (NSS) asserted two patents against Autodesk that relate to packaging computer-aided data for three-dimensional objects. According to the patents, the claimed methods are improvements upon a “Watson” method known in the prior art. Following a Markman hearing that included technology tutorials from the named inventor and Autodesk’s expert, the district court considered whether two terms were indefinite: “searching neighboring triangles of the last triangle pair that holds the last intersection point” and “modified Watson method.”

The district court found both claim terms indefinite based on “unanswered questions” identified by Autodesk’s expert, who had raised three and four unanswered questions for the “searching” and “modified Watson” terms, respectively. NSS argued that all of the questions were answered in the specification, but the court held that “the claim language, standing alone” did not answer those questions. NSS appealed.

The Federal Circuit found flaws in the district court’s analysis because it adopted an incorrect “unanswered questions” analysis and analyzed the “claim language, standing alone.” The Court confirmed that the test for indefiniteness involves analyzing whether the claims provide reasonable certainty when viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history from the perspective of the person of ordinary skill in the art. Reviewing the specification, the Court observed that the text and figures of the specification of the asserted patents described the searching and intersection point process and the prior art Watson method and noted that the district court “declined to consider information in the specification that was not included in the claims.”

Reviewing the prosecution history, the Court further noted that both terms had been rejected during prosecution for indefiniteness, but that the examiner withdrew both rejections after amendments to the claims provided additional limitations. The Court faulted the district court for giving “no weight to the prosecution history showing the resolution of indefiniteness by adding the designated technologic limitations to the claims.” Instead, “PTO examiners are entitled to appropriate deference as official agency actions[.]” Ultimately, the Court observed that the claims were improvements to known methods, that it was undisputed the claims were described and enabled and that the examiner had held the claims to “define the scope of the patent subject matter.” For these reasons, indefiniteness was not established as a matter of law.

Judge Timothy B. Dyk dissented, stating that “[t]he fact that a patent examiner introduced the indefinite language does not absolve the claims from the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 112.” Far from adopting a flawed “unanswered questions” analysis, Judge Dyk instead believed the court’s analysis was detailed and thorough, and that it was performed in view of the specification. Judge Dyk found the majority’s definition of the disputed terms inconsistent [...]

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Shots Fired: Challenger Must Have Requisite Standing Before Appealing Unfavorable IPR Decisions

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found, in the context of an appeal from an inter partes review (IPR) decision, that the appellant had Article III standing and affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision, holding the challenged claims unpatentable as obvious. ModernaTX, Inc. v. Arbutus Biopharma Corporation, Case No. 20-2329 (Fed. Cir. Dec 2, 2021) (Lourie, J.)

Arbutus owns a patent pertaining to “stable nucleic acid-lipid particles (SNALP) comprising a nucleic acid (such as one or more interfering RNA), methods of making the SNALP, and methods of delivering and/or administering the SNALP.” Moderna petitioned for IPR of the patent, asserting three grounds:

  1. Moderna alleged that all claims of the challenged patent would have been anticipated and/or obvious in light of International Pat. Publ. WO 2005/007196 (‘196 PCT) or US Pat. Publ. 2006/0134189 (‘189 publication).
  2. Moderna alleged that all claims of the challenged patent would have been obvious over a combination of the ‘196 PCT, the ‘189 publication, Lin and Ahmad.
  3. Moderna alleged that all claims of the challenged patent were anticipated by US Pat. Publ. 2006/0240554 (‘554 publication), and alternatively that the claims would have been obvious over the ‘554 publication.

The Board rejected each of Moderna’s allegations, finding that the claims were not unpatentable as obvious. Moderna appealed.

Before addressing Moderna’s appeal on its merits, the Federal Circuit addressed whether Moderna had proper standing to challenge the Board’s decision. The Court stated that well-established precedent dictates that an appellant seeking review of a Board decision in an IPR must have suffered an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the appellee and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. The Court underscored that under IPR statute, there is no standing requirement for petitioners to request institution of IPR by the Board, meaning that a requester need not have a concrete stake in the outcome. Additionally, where the statue itself grants judicial review (such as in the case of an IPR), standing criteria of immediacy and redressability may be “relaxed.” Nonetheless, the Court explained that a party’s participation in the underlying IPR alone does not confer standing on that party to appeal the Board decision before an Article III court such as the Federal Circuit. The party seeking review (in this case Moderna) must show that it possesses requisite injury for standing to appeal.

Moderna asserted that substantial risk existed that Arbutus would bring an infringement suit against Moderna based on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine if the challenged patent was to remain valid. In support, Moderna submitted a declaration from its senior vice president and deputy general counsel that Moderna was working to harness proprietary mRNA technology and planned on releasing and applying for emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020. The declaration also described how Arbutus’s conduct created a substantial risk that it would bring subsequent infringement action against Moderna. An example of such conduct was a series of public statements [...]

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Design Patent Prior Art Must Be From Same or Analogous Field as Claimed Article of Manufacture

Finding that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) applied an erroneous interpretation of claim scope, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a Board decision upholding an examiner’s rejection of a lip implant design patent as anticipated by a non-analogous art tool. In re: SurgiSil, Case No. 20-1940 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 4, 2021) (Moore, C.J.)

SurgiSil filed a design application for a lip implant shaped like a generally cylindrical rod that tapered to a point at each end. The examiner rejected the patent as anticipated by a “stump,” an art tool of similar, almost identical, shape used for smoothing and blending areas of pastel or charcoal. SurgiSil appealed the rejection to the Board. The Board affirmed the rejection, finding that the differences in the shapes of SurgiSil’s lip implant and the art tool were minor. The Board rejected SurgiSil’s argument that the two articles of manufacture were “very different,” reasoning that it is irrelevant whether a prior art reference is analogous for anticipation purposes. SurgiSil appealed.

Reviewing the Board’s legal conclusions de novo, the Federal Circuit found that the Board erred as a matter of law. Citing 35 U.S.C. § 171(a) and the 1871 Supreme Court decision in Gorham Co. v. White, the Court explained that a design patent claim does not cover the design in the abstract, and that it is limited to the particular article of manufacture identified in the claim. The Court concluded that the claimed design was limited to a lip implant, did not cover other articles of manufacture and that the Board’s decision therefore rested on an erroneous interpretation of the claim’s scope.




The Application of “Authentication by Comparison” at the PTAB

Directly addressing the application and operation of the Federal Rules of Evidence in proceedings before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part and reversed-in-part two inter partes review (IPR) decisions, criticizing the Board’s refusal to consider a particular reference relied upon by the patent challenger on the basis of failure to authenticate. Valve Corp. v. Ironburg Inventions Ltd., U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Nos. 20-1315, -1316, -1379 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 17, 2021) (Dyk, J.)

The Board found that an IPR petitioner, Valve Corporation, failed to show that several challenged patents were unpatentable based on a non-authenticated copy of a critical prior art reference (the Burns article). The Burns article was a printed copy of a 2010 online review of an Xbox 360 controller. Simon Burgess, a co-inventor of the patents at issue, had facilitated the publication of the Burns article by providing a test controller to Dave Burns (who worked for an online gaming magazine) for promotional purposes. Valve appealed the Board’s decision.

Valve argued that the Burns article copy submitted in connection with the IPR (the Exhibit) was merely a printout of the same online article cited and enclosed in the prosecution histories of the challenged patents, as well as another of Ironburg’s patents directed toward similar subject matter. The Board concluded that Valve failed to show that the Exhibit was the same version of the Burns article that appeared in the prosecution history and that it was not obligated to compare the documents in the absence of testimony from Valve that the two were identical. Valve appealed.

In reviewing the Board’s decision, the Federal Circuit first referred to the principles of authentication by comparison under Fed. R. Evid. 901(b)(3), which permits authentication of a document by a comparison with an authenticated specimen “by an expert witness or the trier of fact.” While the Court did note a discrepancy in the dates shown in the Exhibit and in the Burns article in one of the prosecution histories, the Court found that the difference in dates did not bear on the subject matter being disclosed, which was “virtually identical” between the two, as well as identical to the version of the same article in the other two relevant file histories. The Court held that the Board was obligated to perform this comparison and erred by failing to do so.

After determining that the Exhibit was “substantively the same” as the versions of the Burns article from the relevant prosecution file histories, the Court addressed the question of whether the Exhibit was a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. § 102(a)(1). The Board found “overwhelming evidence” that the Burns article was accessible prior to the critical date of the patents at issue, based in significant part on the fact that Mr. Burgess had provided a controller to Mr. Burns with the purpose of a “dialogue with the intended audience,” an indicia of public accessibility. The Board also noted its agreement with [...]

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If You Can’t Build it, They Won’t Come: No Obviousness Based on Fanciful Engine Design

Reaffirming that a person of ordinary skill in the art must have been able to actually create a disclosure at the time of invention in order for it to serve as an obviousness reference, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a decision by the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (the Board) in an inter partes review (IPR), concluding that a patent covering certain turbofan engine technology was not rendered obvious by a prior art publication that could not be realized into practice. Raytheon Techs. Corp. v. General Electric Co., Case No. 20-1755 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 16, 2021) (Chen, J.)

The issue on appeal was relatively straightforward. In an IPR, GE challenged as obvious a Raytheon patent that covered a specific design of geared gas turbine engine that provided for a “power density” higher than previously invented turbine engines. The patent defined “power density” as a “sea-level-takeoff thrust” divided by the engine turbine volume. During the IPR, GE relied on a 1987 NASA technical memorandum as art and argued that the reference, which envisioned superior performance characteristics based on an advanced engine that was made entirely of composite materials, rendered the challenged claims obvious. The parties did not dispute that this engine was unattainable in 1987, and may still be impossible today, because the envisioned composite materials do not yet (and may never) exist. The memorandum disclosed several performance factors, but not power density, sea-level-takeoff thrust or turbine volume. Nonetheless, GE argued, and the Board agreed, that the memorandum disclosed performance parameters that would have permitted an ordinarily skilled artisan to derive power densities that would have fallen within the range claimed in Raytheon’s patent.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed with Raytheon, concluding that the imaginary engine of the NASA memorandum could not serve as an invalidating reference. In reversing the Board, the Federal Circuit reiterated two bedrock principles of obviousness law:

  • An obviousness reference must be enabled by the knowledge of an ordinarily skilled artisan at the time of the invention (but need not be self-enabling).
  • An invention cannot be rendered obvious by a non-self-enabling reference if no other prior art evidence or reference enables the non-self-enabling reference.

In addition, when a reference’s enablement is challenged, the party offering the reference bears a burden to establish that the reference, itself or in combination with other contemporaneous knowledge, was enabled.

Applying these principles here, the Federal Circuit determined that GE had not met its burden to show that the memorandum was indeed enabled. The Board, wrongly in the Court’s view, focused solely on whether an ordinarily skilled artisan was taught the parameters to ascertain a power density, rather than whether the prior art disclosed a turbofan engine possessing the requisite power density. Finding no evidence in the record to conclude that “a skilled artisan could have made the claimed turbofan engine with the recited power density,” the Court reversed.

Practice Note: Although this case does not break new obviousness ground, it reinforces the general [...]

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