KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc – Obvious non-obviousness?

Teleflex International Co. held a patent titled “Adjustable Pedal Assembly With Electronic Throttle Control.”  One of the claims of the patent describes a mechanism where an electronic sensor is combined with an adjustable pedal to control the throttle in an automobile.  KSR International Co. added an electronic sensor to its previous automobile pedal design and Teleflex obviously sued for patent infringement.

The District Court dismissed the case, holding that the claim contained in Teleflex’s patent was obvious.  The Federal Circuit reversed, applying its “Teaching, Suggestion, Motivation” test.  Under this test, the combination of existing processes to create new processes is not obvious when there is no prior art that explicitly or implicitly teaches, suggests, or motivates the combination.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Federal Circuit’s application of the test need not become “rigid and mandatory formulas” and finding that “any need or problem” can provide the patentee with a reason for combing processes.   The Supreme Court’s new obviousness standard will probably increase litigation on obviousness grounds (the Verizon v. Vonage appeal comes to mind)… However, the full impact of the new obviousness standard is certainly non-obvious.

The full text of the opinion may be found at:
http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/06pdf/04-1350.pdf

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