Monday, February 12, 2018

Appellant Kenneth Hodges prevails at CAFC

The appellant Hodges got some traction at the CAFC:

Appellant Kenneth Andrew Hodges appeals from examination
of U.S. Patent Application No. 12/906,222
(“’222 application”), in which the Patent Trial and Appeal
Board (“Board”) affirmed the examiner’s rejection of all
claims as anticipated and/or obvious. See Ex Parte Kenneth
Andrew Hodges, No. 2014-009710, 2016 WL 6441834
(P.T.A.B. Oct. 28, 2016). For the following reasons, we
reverse the Board’s anticipation determinations, vacate
its obviousness determinations, and remand for further

There was an "inherent" argument in the Examiner's
anticipation rejection:

Thus, as the Board noted, the propriety of the examiner’s
rejection turns on whether Rasmussen’s unlabeled
valve containing the inlet seat is “define[d]” by Rasmussen’s
valve body—i.e., whether it “can properly be consid-
ered to be a part of Rasmussen’s drain valve body.”
Hodges, 2016 WL 6441834, at *2. The Board found that it
could. In particular, the Board found that Rasmussen’s
unlabeled valve is “connected to, and therefore allow[s] or
prevent[s] flow into, inlet port 17A,” and that the seat of
the unlabeled valve would therefore “be ‘an internal part’
of and contained within the ‘outer casing’ of drain valve
10.” Id. That finding is unsupported by substantial


The Board neither supported its assertion of
similarity, however, nor explained how the positioning of
the unlabeled valve in Rasmussen’s Figure 7 would enable
a skilled artisan to “practice the invention without
undue experimentation.” Spansion, 629 F.3d at 1356
(internal quotation marks omitted). And, even if Rasmussen’s
unlabeled valve is ostensibly “similar to” the ’222
application’s second member 16 in some respects, it is
different in the only respect that is relevant to the claims
at issue—i.e., it is not an internal part of or contained
within the valve body. We therefore conclude that substantial
evidence does not support the Board’s anticipation

Of note:

The Patent Office shoulders the burden during initial
examination of establishing that the examined claims are
anticipated. See 35 U.S.C. § 102 (“A person shall be
entitled to a patent unless[] . . . .”); cf. In re Oetiker, 977
F.2d 1443, 1445 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (“If examination at the
initial stage does not produce a prima facie case of unpatentability,
then without more the applicant is entitled
to grant of the patent.”). Because the Board failed to meet
that burden here, and because the only permissible finding
that can be drawn from Rasmussen is that it does not
disclose the claim limitation at issue, we reverse the
Board’s anticipation determination with respect to Rasmussen
as to appealed claims 1–3 and 5–8.

Footnote 7:

The dissent asserts that we may reverse the
Board’s patentability determinations in only two circumstances—i.e.,
when the Board (1) “committed legal error
and no further factual findings are required,” or (2) “made
erroneous factual findings and only one permissible
factual finding exists.” Dissent at 2–3 (internal quotation
marks omitted). Whether or not the dissent is correct
that these are the only two circumstances in which reversal
is permitted, its conclusion that this case does not fit
within the second circumstance is incorrect. As described
above, the Board’s finding that the inlet seat within
Rasmussen’s unlabeled valve is contained in Rasmussen’s
housing is plainly contrary to the only permissible factual
finding that can be drawn from Rasmussen itself. This
case therefore fits squarely within the second circumstance
identified by the dissent.


We therefore reverse the Board’s anticipation determination
based on Frantz as to appealed claims 1–2 and
21. See Smith, 871 F.3d at 1382–84 (reversing the
Board’s anticipation finding predicated on an unreasonably
broad claim construction); In re Skvorecz, 580 F.3d
1262, 1267–68 (Fed. Cir. 2009) (reversing the Board’s
rejection of reissue claims predicated on an incorrect
construction, and noting that “[a]nticipation cannot be
found, as a matter of law, if any claimed element or
limitation is not present in the reference”).

Of obviousness:

The Board concluded in a single paragraph that the
claims would have been obvious over Rasmussen in view
of Frantz because the unlabeled valve depicted in Rasmussen’s
Figure 7 could be made part of Rasmussen’s
drain valve body such that the seat of the unlabeled valve
would be “‘an internal part’ of and contained within the
‘outer casing’ of drain valve 10.” Hodges, 2016 WL
6441834, at *5. But the Board did not explain how Rasmussen’s
drain valve assembly could be so modified. In
another paragraph, the Board agreed with the examiner
that it also “would have been obvious to a skilled artisan
to include Rasmussen’s sensor in Frantz’s valve body for
the purposes of generating a control signal that purges a
high condensate level from Frantz’ [sic] [main] chamber.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). But the Board did
not explain how such a sensor would be downstream of
the inlet seat and generate a signal reflective of a pressure
downstream of said inlet seat, as required by the
claims. Instead, the Board merely determined that the
claims would have been obvious over Frantz in view of
Rasmussen “[f]or the same reasons as presented above.”
Id. The Board made no findings, moreover, regarding the
obviousness factors laid out in Graham v. John Deere Co.
of Kan. City, 383 U.S. 1 (1966).
Our review of the Board’s decision “is rooted not just
in the law of obviousness but in basic principles of administrative
law.” Personal Web Techs., LLC v. Apple, Inc.,
848 F.3d 987, 992 (Fed. Cir. 2017). The Board must
therefore “explicate its factual conclusions, enabling us to
verify readily whether those conclusions are indeed supported
by ‘substantial evidence’ contained within the
record.” Gartside, 203 F.3d at 1314; see also Power Integrations,
Inc. v. Lee, 797 F.3d 1318, 1326–27 (Fed. Cir.
2015) (holding that the Board’s reasoning must be set out
“in sufficient detail to permit meaningful appellate review”).
The Board did not do so here. Unlike the Board’s
anticipation determinations, which contravene the only
permissible findings that can be drawn from the prior art
under the proper constructions of the relevant claim
terms, the Board’s obviousness determinations involve
“potentially lawful but insufficiently or inappropriately
explained” factual findings, In re Van Os, 844 F.3d 1359,
1362 (Fed. Cir. 2017)

When faced with similarly deficient factual findings,
“we have consistently vacated and remanded for further
proceedings.” Id. (collecting cases); Icon Health & Fitness,
Inc. v. Strava, Inc., 849 F.3d 1034, 1046 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
(“Although the [Board] made a factual finding, this finding
did not have an adequate basis in the record, and the
[Board] did not adequately explain its reasoning. Thus,
we vacate and remand for additional [Board] findings and
explanation.”); Personal Web Techs., 848 F.3d at 994
(vacating and remanding “for the Board to reconsider the
merits of the obviousness challenge, within proper procedural
constraints”); see also Fla. Power & Light Co. v.
Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744 (1985) (explaining that, when
an agency’s fact-findings and explanation are deficient,
“the proper course, except in rare circumstances, is to
remand to the agency for additional investigation or
We therefore vacate the Board’s obviousness rejections
with respect to appealed claims 1–3, 5–8, and 21,
and remand for further factual findings and explanation
on this score.


Post a Comment

<< Home