Andersen v. Pella (Fed. Cir. 2008)(non-precedential)
Andersen sued Pella and WL Gore for infringement of its window screen patent. Apparently, the patented screen allows ventilation and blocks insects, but is easier to see through than traditional screens. The claims focus on the diameter and strength of the screen wires and as well as on the screen's "transmittance" and "reflectance" properties.
Prior to KSR, the district court had rejected the defendant's summary judgment motions on obviousness – finding that the prior art references lacked a motivation to combine. After KSR, the district court reversed course – this time granting summary judgment of invalidity based on obviousness of the claimed screen. In its analysis, the district court asked and answered the following question: "would an insect screen manufacturer of ordinary skill have found it obvious to use the [prior art] screening material, decrease its reflectance value, bond it, and place it in a window frame? The answer, plain and simple is 'Yes.'" According to the lower court, the prior art mesh was the "heart" of the claimed invention, and it was a "simple act of common sense" to slightly modify the mesh and apply it to a window. Although secondary factors of nonobviousness were shown, the lower court found they were not enough to rebut a strong showing of obviousness.
Analogous Arts: On appeal, the Federal Circuit vacated – finding material facts that prevent summary judgment of obviousness. In particular, the appellate panel found that the prior art mesh might not count as nonobviousness type prior art because it "outside the scope and content of the prior art." The court based its decision on three issues: (1) the prior mesh was not in the same "insect screen manufacturing field"; (2) there was some evidence that the prior mesh would not be useable for an insect screen (teaching away); and (3) the PTO specifically considered the reference before granting the patent and should be given some deference.
Upon our review of the record in the light most favorable to Andersen, we find support adequate to overcome summary judgment on the question of whether the TWP mesh was outside the scope and content of the prior art. Andersen put forth evidence in the record that, one, the TWP mesh was not part of the insect screen manufacturing field, and, two, an insect screen manufacturer would have read the prior art to teach away from using a mesh with the characteristics possessed by the TWP mesh. This field-of-invention and teaching-away evidence, combined with the deference owed to the PTO's issuance of this patent after reviewing the same prior art references that form the basis of this obviousness challenge, raises a genuine issue of material fact as to whether an ordinarily skilled insect screen designer would have found the combination of the TWP mesh with the other prior art references obvious.
Teaching away and price feasibility: One of the 'teaching away' arguments accepted by the Federal Circuit was that of price infeasibility. Andersen had argued that the prior mesh would not have been considered by a designer because it was quite "extraordinarily expensive." In its holding, the appellate panel gave backing to the notion that a high price would discourage consideration of a potential prior art reference.
As to the third characteristic, pricing, Andersen's expert, Laurence Armstrong, stated that the TWP mesh was "extraordinarily expensive in comparison with traditional insect screen material, costing about $75.00 per square foot." It is not unreasonable to suggest that a significant difference in cost could discourage an insect screen designer from using the more expensive mesh. . . . On the whole, we think, the record creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the durability, transparency, and pricing of the TWP mesh would have discouraged an ordinarily skilled artisan from incorporating the mesh into an insect screen.
Summary judgment vacated.