Arguments for inventive step based on the commercial success of the invention, or that the invention fulfilled a long-felt need, can theoretically be an indicator of inventive step. In Europe, these “secondary indicia” are argued regularly enough but usually to little effect. But when the time comes for the EPO to balance up the question of obviousness, the scales of obviousness are rarely troubled by the presence or absence of such insectile arguments, once the elephant of the problem-solution approach has settled its ponderous backside on one side or the other.
|A little-used metaphor for the |
inventive step analysis
"We concluded that the references “present a prima facie case of obviousness.” Transocean I thus establishes as law of the case that Horn and Lund [the two prior art documents] teach every limitation of the asserted claims and provide a motivation to combine their respective teachings."
"The establishment of a prima facie case, however, is not a conclusion on the ultimate issue of obviousness. The prima facie inquiry is based on the first three Graham factors—the scope and content of the prior art, the differences between the prior art and the claims, and the level of ordinary skill in the art. A party is also free to introduce evidence relevant to the fourth Graham factor, objective evidence of nonobviousness, which may be sufficient to disprove or rebut a prima facie case of obviousness.
Only in cases of doubt?
Yes says the EPO. No says the CAFC"As we have repeatedly held, “evidence rising out of the so-called ‘secondary considerations’ must always when present be considered en route to a determination of obviousness. … [E]vidence of secondary considerations may often be the most probative and cogent evidence in the record. It may often establish that an invention appearing to have been obvious in light of the prior art was not.”. This objective evidence must be “considered as part of all the evidence, not just when the decisionmaker remains in doubt after reviewing the art.”" [emphasis added]
It is rare to see a decision at the EPO where doubt is admitted and the secondary indicia are cited as the deciding factor. If the evidence offered is accepted as relevant, the Board will say either that the evidence cannot displace the (negative) inventive step finding, or that it strengthens and confirms the objective (positive) conclusion. But what you will never see in Europe is a decision like Transocean II where a prima facie finding of obviousness is reversed because of the persuasiveness of the secondary evidence."Secondary indicia of this kind are only of importance in cases of doubt, i.e. when objective evaluation of the prior art teachings has yet to provide a clear picture. Indicia are merely auxiliary considerations in the assessment of inventive step."
|Circuit Judge Moore, of whom the IPKat |
inexplicably used the pronouns "he"
and "his" in the initial release of this post
"Few cases present such extensive objective evidence of nonobviousness, and thus we have rarely held that objective evidence is sufficient to overcome a prima facie case of obviousness. This, however, is precisely the sort of case where the objective evidence “establishes that an invention appearing to have been obvious in light of the prior art was not.” The jury found that seven distinct objective factors support nonobviousness and, as discussed above, these findings are all supported by substantial evidence."
- Commercial success
- Industry praise
- Unexpected results
- Copying by the defendant
- Industry skepticism
- Licensing deals not attributable to fear of litigation
- Long-felt but unsolved need.