Supreme Court rules 'obvious' patents are useless

The US Supreme Court found that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles patent appeals, had not been using a stringent-enough standard to determine whether a patent was infringing. During a lawsuit between KSR v. Teleflex over a gas pedal manufactured by KSR, the Federal Circuit did not agree with a 1952 legislation mandating that an invention could not be patented if a "person having ordinary skill in the art" would consider it obvious but instead said that those challenging a patent had to show that there was a "teaching, suggestion, or motivation" tying the earlier inventions together. Teleflex claimed that KSR's products infringed on a patent it held but the Supreme Court agreed with KSR's arguments and ruled that the Federal Circuit had failed to apply the "obviousness test".

Teleflex's patent has been invalidated, but more importantly, the Federal Circuit will now have to pay closer attention to a patent's obviousness since the Supreme Court ruling doesn't seem happy with the current patent system. "The results of ordinary innovation are not the subject of exclusive rights under the patent laws. Were it otherwise, patents might stifle rather than promote the progress of useful arts. The Circuit first erred in holding that courts and patent examiners should look only to the problem the patentee was trying to solve. Second, the appeals court erred in assuming that a person of ordinary skill in the art attempting to solve a problem will be led only to those prior art elements designed to solve the same problem," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court.

News source: Ars Technica

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