Introduction: Although not a poultry expert, Prof Crunch recently designed and built his own back-yard chicken coop (Coop) (started and completed in August 2016). Among its special features, the coop includes a translucent roof to allow additional winter light, a hinged trap-door in the floor for removing waste, and a vertically sliding door opening to the chicken-run. The vertically sliding door is operated by a pulley system and can be controlled while standing next-to the nesting box door. Thus, a user can provide access to the chicken-run at the same time as collecting eggs. The coop is also designed to be long-and-narrow in order to fit through a 40-inch wide gate while also providing at least 21 square feet of floor area. While Crunch expects that many of these features are not unique, he believes that the combination is unique. Crunch is an idea-man. Rather than production is looking to sell plans and instructions for making his Coop.
Crunch drafts the following two patent claims in his patent application filed December 5, 2016:
1. A poultry coop having a length, width, and height, said poultry coop comprising:
a roof made of a translucent material with at least 50% light transmission;
a floor having a hinged trap door and having an area of at least 21 square feet;
a first side wall that includes a nesting box with an externally hinged door; and
a second side wall that includes a vertically sliding door operated via a pulley system; wherein said pulley system is operable by a user standing near said nesting box and wherein said coop is configured with a width of less than 40-inches.
2. A set of instructions comprising: instructions for making the poultry coop of claim 1.
Question 1. (120 words). Crunch had considered adding an additional limitation that precisely defines the configuration of the pulley system and its components. What are major pros and cons of adding these additional limitations to claim 1 (considering primarily the doctrines of patentability and infringement)?
Question 2. (200 words) Are these claims patent eligible subject matter?
Question 3. (60 words) Provide a concise argument that claim 1 fails for lack of definiteness.
Question 4. (80 words) Should Crunch be concerned that his back-yard prototype constitutes prior art that could be used against his own patent application?
Question 5. (240 words) Assume the following for this question: (a) the back-yard prototype is not prior art; and (b) Crunch’s expectations are correct that while many of the patented elements are known in the prior art, the combination as a whole is unique. What can we say about the novelty/nonobviousness of the claims.
Question 6. (25 words) Assuming claim 1 is patented but not claim 2. Does Crunch have an infringement claim against a third party who begins teaching others how to make the coop?