Supreme court – the next patent case

The Supreme Court continues its review of patents. From Reuters.com – US high court to review patent “obviousness” case:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review an appeal of a key patent case that could set a standard for when an invention is too obvious to patent.
The high court said it would consider the appeal by KSR International Inc., a Canadian manufacturer of gasoline pedals for cars and light trucks, arguing that a patent held by a rival manufacturer is invalid because it is too obvious.
Patent lawyers have said the case could help clarify U.S. patent law, which requires inventions to be “non-obvious” in order to be patented.
At issue is what standard the courts should use to determine what inventions are obvious.

Patently-O: Patent Law Blog: Supreme Court: Time to Rethink Obviousness describes the case in more detail:

The Supreme Court has granted KSR’s writ of certiorari and now will address fundamental questions of patentability that have been raised. The doctrine of nonobviousness ensures that patent rights are not granted on inventions that are simply throw-away modifications of prior technology. Questions of obviousness are at play in virtually every patent case, in both proceedings before the USPTO and during infringement litigation.
Over the past twenty-five years, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has developed its nonobviousness doctrine using a motivation/suggestion/teaching test. According to the test, when various pieces of prior art each contain elements of an invention, the prior art can be combined together to invalidate a patent on the invention only when there is some motivation, suggestion, or teaching to combine the prior art.
KSR has asked the Supreme Court to rethink that approach and take a fresh look at the obviousness standard for patentability. The petition specifically questions whether obviousness should require any proof of some suggestion or motivation to combine prior art references.

For those interested, Patently-O has more on the case, including links to documents.
With patent reform legislation apparently bogged down in Congress, it looks like the Court has decided to take the lead on this critical issue.

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