710 F.3d 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2013), 2012-1261, In re Owens
|Citation:||710 F.3d 1362, 106 U.S.P.Q.2d 1248|
|Opinion Judge:||PROST, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||In re Timothy S. OWENS, Sheila M. Kelly, Robert M. Lynch, IV, Jason C. Campbell, and Philip E. Hague.|
|Attorney:||Perry J. Saidman, Saidman DesignLaw Group, LLC, of Silver Spring, Maryland, argued for appellants. Of counsel on the brief was David M. Weirich, The Procter & Gamble Company, of Cincinnati, OH. William Lamarca, Associate Solicitor, United States Patent and Trademark Office, of Alexandria, Virgini...|
|Judge Panel:||Before PROST, MOORE, and WALLACH, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||March 26, 2013|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit|
Timothy S. Owens, et al. (" Owens" ) appeal a decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (" PTO" ) Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (" Board" ), Ex parte Owens, No. 2010-5622 (B.P.A.I. Dec. 1, 2011) (" Board Op." ), affirming a rejection of his design patent application, U.S. Design Patent Application No. 29/253,172 (filed Feb. 2, 2006) (" '172 application" ). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
The '172 application, which is the subject of this appeal, is a continuation of U.S. Design Patent Application No. 29/219,709 (filed Dec. 21, 2004) (" '709 application" ). The '709 application claimed a design for a bottle with boundaries set forth in the figures below:
'709 application Figs. 1-3. The '709 application ultimately issued as U.S. Design Patent No. D531,515 (issued Nov. 7, 2006) (" '515 patent" ), and that issuance is not contested here.
Owens then filed the '172 application in 2006, seeking the benefit of the '709 application's 2004 priority date under 35 U.S.C. § 120. Owens conceded during prosecution that, if denied the earlier effective filing date, the '172 application would be unpatentable because he had sold bottles embodying his design more than one year before filing his continuation. Board Op. at 3-4.
The '172 application claimed certain design elements found on the top and side portions of the original bottle, as depicted in Figures 1 through 3:
'172 application Figs. 1-3 (as amended Oct. 29, 2008). In particular, the '172 application claimed three design elements: (1) the small crescent-shaped area on the front and back of the bottle near the cap; (2) the narrow triangular areas along the bottle's " shoulders; " and (3) an upper portion of the bottle's pentagonal center panel. To indicate what portion of the center area was claimed, Owens bisected the top of his pentagonal panel with a broken line.
The examiner rejected the '172 application. The basis for the rejection was the addition of the broken line, which the examiner understood as defining an entirely new " trapezoidal" -shaped surface that was considered new matter:
J.A. 162. The examiner found no evidence that Owens originally possessed such a trapezoidal region in the '709 application. As such, the examiner rejected the '172 application for lack of written description under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 1, and furthermore rejected the application as unpatentably obvious in view of the earlier-sold bottles under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a).
Owens appealed to the Board, which noted at the outset that the correctness of the examiner's § 103(a) rejection depended on whether the '172 application was entitled to the benefit of the '709 application's filing date. Board Op. at 3-4. That issue, in turn, hinged on whether the '709 application contained a written description sufficient to convey to an ordinary designer
that Owens possessed the subject matter of the '172 application as of the earlier filing date. Id. at 4.
Addressing the latter question, the Board focused upon the difference between the parent and the continuation's front panels— namely, the continuation's introduction of a broken line bisecting the parent's pentagonal front panel. Board Op. at 11. Like the examiner, the Board understood this to indicate that Owens had claimed previously undisclosed " trapezoidal sections occupying part, but not all, of the surface area of the front and back panels." Id. Accordingly, the Board affirmed the examiner's rejections.
The statutory provision governing the effective filing date of the subject matter of continuing applications, 35 U.S.C. § 120, applies generally to design patents as well as utility patents. See 35 U.S.C. § 171 (" The provisions of this title relating to patents for inventions shall apply to patents for designs, except as otherwise provided." ). Entitlement to priority under § 120 is a matter of law which we review de novo. In re Daniels, 144 F.3d 1452, 1455 (Fed.Cir.1998) (citing Racing Strollers, Inc. v. TRI Indus., Inc., 878 F.2d 1418, 1419 (Fed.Cir.1989) (en banc)).
To be entitled to a parent's effective filing date, a continuation must comply with the written description requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 1. 35 U.S.C. § 120; Daniels, 144 F.3d at 1456. Whether a claimed invention is supported by an adequate written description under § 112, ¶ 1, is a question of fact that we review for substantial evidence. Ariad Pharm., Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 598 F.3d 1336, 1351 (Fed.Cir.2010) (en banc).
The test for sufficiency of the written description, which is the same for either a design or a utility patent, has been expressed as " whether the disclosure of the application relied upon reasonably conveys to those skilled in the art that the inventor had possession of the claimed subject matter as of the filing date." Id. In the context of design patents, the drawings provide the written description of the invention. Daniels, 144 F.3d at 1456; In re Klein, 987 F.2d 1569, 1571 (Fed.Cir.1993) (" [U]sual[ly] in design applications, there is no description other than the drawings." ). Thus, when an issue of priority arises under § 120 in the context of design...
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