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11/22/2006
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Supreme Court To Decide What's 'Obvious' In Key Patent Case

The court's decision could have a profound effect on thousands of technology patents.

The Supreme Court next week is set to hear arguments on the issue of what exactly constitutes "obviousness" when it comes to patent rules.

The case arose after the U.S. federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling that said an auto parts manufacturer's patent wasn't enforceable because it was based on a way to create a pedal assembly that would be obvious to a person of ordinary skill. The appeals court said that the defendant in the case, KSR International, failed to show that the method was obvious. Teleflex had sued KSR for patent violation.

The Cornell Legal Information Institute says the Supreme Court's decision could have a profound effect on thousands of technology patents. The ruling could "greatly impact the property rights of all individuals and corporations involved in the business of intellectual property. In addition, it should set clearer guidelines regarding what, specifically, patent holders and seekers must prove to establish that a certain subject matter is non-obvious and patentable under federal law," according to the review.

Plagued with what they consider a rash of nuisance patent suits, Microsoft and Cisco Systems have filed briefs in the case supporting KSR. A victory for the company could result in lower courts applying a more liberal standard in defining what is obvious, and thus not meriting a patent.

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