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Teaching In Prior Art Must Be Enabling For PSITA [Person Skilled In The Art] To Defeat A Patent

In intellectual property law, the determination of patent validity often hinges on the concept of prior art. Prior art refers to any evidence that an invention is already known. When assessing the novelty of an invention, one crucial factor is whether the prior art teaches or enables a person skilled in the art (PSITA) to create the claimed invention. This article delves into the significance of enabling teaching within prior art as a means to invalidate a patent, with a focus on a recent case involving Indian Patent Application No.1783/CHENP/2012.

Background of the Case:
The case in question involves the rejection of an Indian patent application titled "Message Communication of Sensor and other Data" filed on 27 February 2012. The application claimed priority from a PCT Application dated 15 September 2010, with the original priority date being 23 September 2009. The rejection was challenged, leading to an appeal, wherein the Hon'ble High Court overturned the rejection order.

Analysis of the High Court's Observations:
The High Court's decision rested on a critical observation regarding the enabling teaching within the prior art. It was noted that while the cited prior art also dealt with the transmission of sensor data to subscribing applications, it failed to teach or enable the conversion of raw sensor data into easily readable messages, which was the essence of the claimed invention.

The court highlighted the distinction between merely transmitting sensor data and converting it into easily interpretable messages. Despite similarities in functionality, the prior art lacked explicit teachings or enabling disclosures regarding the conversion process. This crucial disparity indicated that the claimed invention addressed a unique problem not addressed by the prior art.

Importance of Enabling Teaching in Prior Art:
The case underscores the significance of enabling teaching within prior art as a determinant of patent validity. Patent law requires that prior art must sufficiently teach or enable a PSITA to create the claimed invention. Mere disclosure of similar functionalities or elements is insufficient if it does not provide explicit guidance or enablement for implementing the claimed invention.

The High Court's analysis reaffirms the principle that patent protection should not extend to inventions that are obvious or readily derivable from existing knowledge in the relevant field. Enabling teaching serves as a safeguard against the granting of patents for incremental innovations lacking inventive step.

Challenges in Establishing Enablement:
Proving lack of enabling teaching in prior art presents challenges in patent litigation. It requires a nuanced analysis of the disclosed content, coupled with an understanding of the knowledge and capabilities of a PSITA at the relevant time. Courts often rely on expert testimony and documentary evidence to evaluate the level of enablement provided by the prior art.

In the present case, the appellant successfully demonstrated the absence of enabling teaching in the cited prior art, thereby invalidating the rejection of the patent application. The court's scrutiny of the prior art's content and its comparison with the claimed invention played a pivotal role in reaching this conclusion.

The case highlights the critical role of enabling teaching within prior art in determining patent validity. Patent protection should be reserved for inventions that offer solutions not obvious or readily available to a PSITA based on existing knowledge. The requirement of enabling teaching serves as a safeguard against the grant of patents for trivial or incremental innovations.

Moving forward, patent applicants and practitioners should emphasize the uniqueness and non-obviousness of their inventions, supported by clear and enabling disclosures. Likewise, patent examiners and courts must rigorously assess prior art to ensure that patent rights are granted only to deserving inventions that significantly contribute to technological advancement.

Case Title: Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC Vs Assistant Controller of Patents and Designs
Order Date: 28.02.2024
Case No. (OA/3/2021/PT/CHN)
Neutral Citation:2024:MHC:1009
Name of Court: Madras High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge:Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy, H.J.

Ideas, thoughts, views, information, discussions and interpretation expressed herein are being shared in the public Interest. Readers' discretion is advised as these are subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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