Earlier this week, a Texas jury determined that Forgent’s patent claims against EchoStar were all invalid as anticipated, obvious, and lacking proper written description. Although the one-sided decision probably did not receive a boost from the recent decision of KSR v. Teleflex, it is interesting to note that the jury instructions on obviousness-by-combination closely follow DyStar and other new CAFC obviousness cases.
One way to decide whether one of ordinary skill in the art would combine what is described in various items of prior art, is whether there is some teaching, suggestion, or motivation in the prior art for a skilled person to make the combination covered by the patent claims. Motivation can be implicit. In other words, motivation need not be explicit.
It is common sense that familiar items may have obvious uses beyond their primary purposes, and a person of ordinary skill often will be able to fit the teachings of multiple patents together like pieces of a puzzle. Multiple references in the prior art can be combined to show that a claim is obvious. Any need or problem known in the field and addressed by the patent can provide a reason for combining the elements in the manner claimed. To determine whether there was an apparent reason to combine the known elements in the way a patent claims, you can look to interrelated teachings of multiple patents, to the effects of demands known to the design community or present in the marketplace, and to the background knowledge possessed by a person of ordinary skill in the art. Neither the particular motivation nor the alleged purpose of the patentee controls. One of ordinary skill in the art is not confined only to prior art that attempts to solve the same problem as the patent claim.