At the end of May, the Solicitor General filed an invited amicus brief supporting KSR's petition that asks the Supreme Court to take a fresh look at the obviousness standard for patentability. The petition questions whether obviousness should require proof of some suggestion or motivation to combine prior art references.
Tom Goldstein, attorney for respondents (and SCOTUS Blog proprietor) has filed a response to the SG. In the response, Teleflex argues that CAFC precedent continues to evolve and extensively discusses the recent Kahn decision that detailed the full scope of CAFC obviousness treatment.
In Kahn, the court affirmed the PTO’s finding of obviousness, explaining at great length that a "teaching, suggestion, or motivation" can be found "implicitly" based on precisely the factors that the Solicitor General says are relevant: "what the combined teachings, knowledge of one of ordinary skill in the art, and the nature of the problem to be solved as a whole would have suggested to those of ordinary skill in the art." 441 F.3d 987. In Cross Medical, the court of appeals applied the "implicit" obviousness standard to reverse a district court ruling that a patent was not obvious, explaining that obviousness could be found on the basis of a "problem [that] was within the general knowledge of those of ordinary skill in the art," 424 F.3d 1322, even if the patent is not directed at "the identical problem addressed in [the] prior art," id. No fair distinction can be drawn between the rule proposed by the Solicitor General and the flexible standard articulated by the Federal Circuit in these more recent decisions and adhered to in this case.
Teleflex's arguments regarding "implicit" motivation is an attempt to show that the CAFC has softened its approach to nonobviousness. The "implicit" argument is also an attempt to subtly shift the conversation -- The question before the court is whether any "proof" of a motivation should be required. Of course, the proof could take the form of explicit or implicit evidence.
SG Support = Certiorari: A recent (unreleased) study by a patent law professor looked at all invited amici petition briefs filed by the solicitor general for the past five terms. The SG gave an unqualified recommendation for certiorari (as in KSR) in 15 cases. In all 15 cases, the Supreme Court then granted certiorari.
- Party Briefs
- Amicus Briefs