2015年3月13日 星期五

裝置特徵在結構,並非功能 - In Re Schreiber, 128 F.3d 1473 (Fed. Cir. 1997)案例討論

案例:In Re Schreiber, 128 F.3d 1473 (Fed. Cir. 1997)


審查單位的態度是:"new intended use for an old product does not make a claim to that old product patentable"

相關規範可參考MPEP 2114

MPEP 2114 Apparatus and Article Claims — Functional Language

While features of an apparatus may be recited either structurally or functionally, claims directed to an apparatus must be distinguished from the prior art in terms of structure rather than function. In re Schreiber, 128 F.3d 1473, 1477-78, 44 USPQ2d 1429, 1431-32 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (The absence of a disclosure in a prior art reference relating to function did not defeat the Board’s finding of anticipation of claimed apparatus because the limitations at issue were found to be inherent in the prior art reference); see also In re Swinehart, 439 F.2d 210, 212-13, 169 USPQ 226, 228-29 (CCPA 1971);In re Danly, 263 F.2d 844, 847, 120 USPQ 528, 531 (CCPA 1959). “[A]pparatus claims cover what a device is, not what a device does.” Hewlett-Packard Co. v.Bausch & Lomb Inc., 909 F.2d 1464, 1469, 15 USPQ2d 1525, 1528 (Fed. Cir. 1990) (emphasis in original).

(從google patents找到US6431415(申請號:08/996,842,發明人:STEPHEN B. SCHREIBER),但時間顯示並非本案系爭專利,可能是因為最終駁回後撤銷)


系爭專利揭露一種配發爆米花的裝置,常見裝爆米花的容器(看電影就知道),而此裝置就是對照這個容器設計的配發爆米花的裝置。事實上,USPTO審查委員已經作出多項範圍可核准的決定,但是對其中claims 1, 2, 14, 15提出核駁理由。

Claim 1:
A dispensing top for passing only several kernels of a popped popcorn at a time from an open-ended container filled with popped popcorn, having a generally conical shape and an opening at each end, the opening at the reduced end allows several kernels of popped popcorn to pass through at the same time, and means at the enlarged end of the top to embrace the open end of the container, the taper of the top being uniform and such as to by itself jam up the popped popcorn before the end of the cone and permit the dispensing of only a few kernels at a shake of a package when the top is mounted on the container.
(本圖截自另一案:US6431415,申請號:08/996,842,發明人:STEPHEN B. SCHREIBER

原claim 1生動地描述了如何將爆米花置入圓錐容器中,對照相同發明人的核准專利US6431415(不曉得與本次討論案件關係?)公告的claim 1,其中差異大約在界定了裝置開口的尺寸「a diameter greater than one inch」,顯然後案是作出妥協的範圍,而且是「結構特徵」(updated on March 13, 2015)。上圖中16為爆米花容器,14為配發裝置。


申請人答辯自然是認為引證案的機構不能如本案配發爆米花,不過一些誤差,審查委員並未考量這個答辯意見,案件被核駁(部分),申請人於是上訴訴願委員會(當時還是BPAI),訴願委員會作出引證案已經揭露本案claim 1等範圍的所有元件,包括認為申請人並未揭示足夠的細節證明引證案並不能達到系爭專利的技術目的。

其實,分"油"與分"爆米花"的機構設計應有不同,當系爭專利申請人爭辯時,一直討論分油與分爆米花的手段,包括是否要「shake of a package」、「allows several kernels of popped popcorn to pass through at the same time」等,但這都是「功能性」或是技術效果的討論,在結構上的差異並未明確差異,在訴願委員會的態度是被核駁範圍中的結構特徵都已經被引證案所揭露,同樣都有配送的結構、圓錐開口、放大的部分等,因此一路被核駁下來。

"There is no dispute that the structural limitations recited in Schreiber's application are all found in the Harz reference upon which the examiner and the Board relied."

"Although Schreiber is correct that Harz does not address the use of the disclosed structure to dispense popcorn, the absence of a disclosure relating to function does not defeat the Board's finding of anticipation."

"It is well settled that the recitation of a new intended use for an old product does not make a claim to that old product patentable."


意見如:"the Board found as a factual matter that the top disclosed in figure 5 of the Harz patent "is capable of functioning to dispense kernels of popped popcorn in the manner set forth in claim 1." Starting with Schreiber's assumption that Harz should be limited to use as an attachment to an oil can, the Board scaled figure 5 to the proportions necessary to fit the Harz container on top of a standard one-quart oil can, as Schreiber suggested in his request for reconsideration. After scaling the Harz figure in that manner, the Board found that the Harz dispenser would be capable of dispensing popcorn in the manner set forth in claim 1 of Schreiber's application."

"Accordingly, we agree with the Board that Schreiber has failed to rebut the prima facie case of anticipation identified by the examiner. The Board's factual finding on the issue of anticipation is therefore affirmed."

Stephen B. Schreiber appeals the decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences sustaining a final rejection of four claims of Schreiber's patent application. We affirm.