04:11 AM

Supreme Court cues restrictions in patent grants

The Supreme Court yesterday made it substantially harder to get a patent in its decision in KSR v Teleflex, says the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. That's got to be good news for the tech industry, where patents have become a game of mutually assured destruction, the most miniscule "inventions" getting patented, companies doing defensive patenting through reverse engineering of competitors products, and so on.

The Law Blog offers up a compendium of comments on the case, which centers on the definition of obviousness, one of the twin pillars of patent law (the other being novelty.) In this case, the Court threw out an automotive patent, saying it was an obvious application of prior art.

Michael Barclay, Wilson Sonsini, from SCOTUSblog: This decision makes it far easier to invalidate patents based on obviousness. Thus, this is the most important patent case of the last 20 years, and perhaps since the passage of the 1952 Patent Act.

James Dabney, Fried Frank, lawyer for KSR: The decision should greatly lower the cost and uncertainty of patent litigation. The Court held that the preemptive effect of prior art was a “legal determination” that could be resolved by way of a pretrial motion for summary judgment. The Court further held that United States courts have — and always have had — much greater authority to deem patent claims invalid than the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had acknowledged between 1983 and at least 2005.

Peter Sullivan, who filed amicus briefs for Cisco and others: Now, all knowledge in the relevant field — technical knowledge, changes in implementing technologies, consumer demand — will be available to show whether the invention was truly innovating or just the product of connecting the dots in the prior art. The Court’s opinion will allow the Federal Circuit to develop a more flexible framework in which to judge obviousness, and it should help stem the flow of patents of questionable value being issued by the PTO.