Martin v. Alliance Machine (Fed. Cir. 2010)
In considering secondary indicia of nonobviousness, Chief Judge Rader tends to focus on whether a nexus exists between the presented objective evidence and the invention as claimed. Here, Judge Rader applied a similar methodology in examining the differences between the prior art and the claimed invention. (Deere).
Martin's patent covers an improved machine for splitting cardboard bundles. The patented design uses top-down pneumatic pistons to hold the bundles in place. The prior art design uses bottom-up pneumatic pistons. In arguing non-obviousness, Martin's expert pointed-out that it would not work to simply flip the prior-art design on its head. Rather, any such conversion would require extensive engineering detail. Judge Rader rejected that argument — holding that the "engineering details" argument was irrelevant because the claims did not identify any of those details.
[Martin] relies on the testimony of Alliance’s own Director of Research and Development that, “from an engineering standpoint,” one cannot simply take the Pallmac design and flip it from bottom to top. That testimony, however, is irrelevant to the obviousness analysis. With one exception, discussed below, the claims themselves do not recite engineering details but merely require that the compliance structures be mounted to clamps that are “above” the conveyor belts.
After rejecting all of Martin's nonobviousness arguments, the appellate panel affirmed the lower court's invalidity holding.