For the first time since the Supreme Court handed down KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., No. 04-1350 (U.S. Apr. 30, 2007) (post with opinion link here), the Federal Circuit today considered a question of patent invalidity under the KSR test for "obviousness".  The district court rendered its decision without the benefit of KSR, but that didn’t deter the Federal Circuit from upholding the trial judge’s findings of fact and legal conclusion that prior art made the combination of electronics with the functions of an earlier mechanical device obvious and the patent claim therefore invalid.  Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc. v. Fisher-Price, Inc., No. 06-1402 (Fed. Cir. May 9, 2007).

Blawgletter offers two observations:

  1. Leapfrog begins the process of reconciling the Federal Circuit’s pre-KSR obviousness precedents with the less "rigid" test in KSR.  In KSR itself, the Court noted that the Federal Circuit already had relaxed its "teaching, suggestion, or motivation" methdology for determining obviousness and reserved the question of whether the relaxation accorded with the KSR test.  Leapfrog suggests that the Federal Circuit believes it solved the problem before KSR.
  2. Leapfrog makes only a short hop from KSR.  Both cases involved a patent that used electronics to perform functions that prior art executed mechanically.  Both also concerned a combination of prior art that existed in the same field — a gas pedal in KSR and a talking book in Leapfrog.

Barry Barnett

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