Federal Circuit Overturns Jury Verdict: Finds Patent Obvious

Kouvato v. Stanley Works & Home Depot (Fed. Cir. 2005) (Unpublished)

Kouvato owns the patent and sued for infringement. In the defendant’s invalidity arguments, several pieces of prior art were introduced in an attempt to show that the patent was invalid.  Kouvato’s expert testified, however, that one reference taught away from the patented design because it included a 90 degree transition shaft.

The Jury then returned a verdict of validity.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit overturned the verdict, finding that Kouvato’s expert had applied a misconception concerning the law.

Simply because a piece of prior art contains a feature that is not present in the patent does not mean that the prior art teaches away from the patent. A reference teaches away only when a person of ordinary skill, upon examining the reference, would be discouraged from following the path set out in the reference, or would be led in a direction different from the path that was taken by the applicant.

Thus, the CAFC found that the patent was invalid. "[The Defendants] Jore showed by clear and convincing evidence that the ’575 patent would have been obvious, and that showing went unrebutted at trial."

About Dennis Crouch

Law Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. Co-director of the Center for Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship.