range : CAFC Alert

Claimed Narrow Range Must Be Shown To Be Critical To Operability Of Invention To Avoid Anticipation By Broader Range

| April 27, 2015

Ineos USA LLC v. Berry Plastics Corp.

April 16, 2015

Before: Dyk, Moore and O’Malley. Opinion by Moore.

Background:  Appeal from U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas which granted summary judgment that patent asserted by Ineos is invalid for anticipation.


U.S. Patent No. 6,846,863 (the ‘863 patent) claims a polyethylene-based composition which can be used to form shaped products, in particular bottle caps.  The composition contains a lubricant to optimize the cap’s slip properties.  The ‘863 patent asserts that the composition does not impart a bad odor and flavor to food products stored in contact with the composition, which is an improvement over prior art polyethylene composition containing a lubricant.

Claim 1 is the only independent claim:

1.  Composition comprising at least

[1] 94.5% by weight of a polyethylene with a standard density of more than 940 kg/m3,

[2] 0.05 to 0.5% by weight of at least one saturated fatty acid amide represented by CH3(CH2)nCONH2 in which n ranges from 6 to 28[,]

[3] 0 to 0.15% by weight of a subsidiary lubricant selected from fatty acids, fatty acid esters, fatty acid salts, mono-unsaturated fatty acid amides, polyols containing at least 4 carbon atoms, mono or poly-alcohol monoethers, glycerol esters, paraffins, polysiloxanes, fluoropolymers and mixtures thereof, and

[4] 0 to 5% by weight of one or more additives selected from antioxidants, antacids, UV stabilizers, colorants and antistatic agents.  (emphasis added)

The CAFC opinion inserted the bracketed numbers into the claims to identify the components of the composition.  In addition to the base polyethylene (component 1), the only required component is the specifically defined saturated fatty acid amide (component 2, which serves as a primary lubricant.)

Claim 1 recites a range of 0.05 to 0.5% by weight for the lubricant.  Berry asserts that claim 1 is anticipated by U.S. Patent No. 5,948,846 (the ‘846 reference patent) which discloses a polyethylene based composition containing stearamide, a compound falling within the group of saturated fatty ester amide (2) recited in claim 1 of the ‘863 patent.  The broad range of 0.1 to 5 parts by weight disclosed in the ‘846 reference patent for component (2) overlaps with the relatively narrow range recited in claim 1 of the asserted patent, as shown below (not to scale):




The ‘846 reference patent also describes the amount of the lubricant as being “at least 0.1 part by weight per 100 parts of polyolefin, in particular of at least 0.2 parts by weight, quantities of at least 0.4 parts by weight being the most common ones”.

The district court found claim 1 and the dependent asserted claims to be anticipated by the ‘846 reference patent, and granted summary judgment for Berry Plastics.

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Prima facie case of obviousness is not established solely because end point of claimed range is close to disclosed range

| July 31, 2014

In re Rajen M. Patel

July 16, 2014

Panel:  O’Malley and Hughes.  Opinion by O’Malley.


PTAB affirmed Examiner’s rejections of Applicants’ claims reciting a range limitation of weight percent of a polymer component, as being obvious over a cited reference because it discloses a range whose upper limit is very close to the claimed lower limit.  Applicants appealed from the PTO decision and argued before CAFC that the PTAB erred in finding a prima facie case of obviousness where the amounts do not overlap.  CAFC agreed with the Applicants and distinguished this case from its previous cases where range overlapping at least to some degree was required to find obviousness.

出願クレームは、ポリマーの量(26 wt%以上)を記載し、先行技術はポリマーの量(25 wt%以下)を開示していた。その差は僅か1%ほどである。米国特許庁審査官はこの場合、数値は重複していないが、非常に近接しているので、それだけで自明性の存在が一応証明され(prima facie case of obviousness)、したがって、出願人が非自明性(たとえば予期せぬ効果)を証明しなければ特許されないと判断した。同特許庁審判部はこの結論を維持した。この決定を不服として出願人はCAFCに上訴し、クレームの数値範囲に「近い」という理由だけで即座に自明であるとした特許庁の判断は間違いであると主張した。CAFCは出願人の意見に同意し、特許庁の判断を覆した。本件は、先行技術の数値がクレームの数値と重複しておらず、クレームの数値へ増量するという教示が先行技術にはないことに着目し、単に数値が「近い」というだけで自明であるとしてはいけないとの判断である。特許庁のガイドラインは、数値範囲が重複していなくても、同様の特性が予期できる程度に「近い」といえる場合は一応の自明性があると説明しているが、本件はこの基準の適用範囲を制限した判決であると考えられる。

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