Motivation to Combine Unnecessary Under Section 103 if Secondary Reference Does Not Supply Element or Teaching
On January 10, the Federal Circuit issued an opinion affirming a decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) invalidating several claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,597,812 (the ‘812 patent) as obvious. Realtime Data, LLC v. Iancu, No. 2018-1154 (Fed Cir. Jan. 10, 2019) (Before Dyk, Taranto, and Stoll, Circuit Judges) (Opinion for the court, Stoll, Circuit Judge).
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., HP Enterprise Services, LLC, and Teradata Operations, Inc. (collectively, HP) sought inter partes review (IPR) of U.S. Patent No. 6,597,812, alleging that the claims were obvious under 35 U.S.C. §103(a) over U.S. Patent No. 4, 929, 946 (O’Brien) and further, in view of a data compression textbook by Mark Nelson (Nelson). After instituting review, the PTAB found the challenged claims obvious over the prior art. Realtime Data appealed on two grounds: (1) that the PTAB erred in determining that a person of ordinary skill would have been motivated to combine the teachings of O’Brien and Nelson, and (2) that the PTAB erred by failing to properly construe the term “maintaining the dictionary”.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit accepted HP’s primary argument that all of the challenged claims were disclosed in O’Brien, with Nelson used only to demonstrate that the term “dictionary encoder” used in the ‘812 patent was actually what was disclosed in O’Brien. HP thus relied on Nelson merely to explain that O’Brien’s algorithm was a dictionary algorithm, which Realtime conceded. Because the PTAB did not rely on Nelson for the disclosure of any particular element or teaching and instead relied on O’Brien alone to supply the elements and teachings, there was no obligation to make any finding regarding a motivation to combine O’Brien and Nelson. Therefore, the PTAB “did not err when it concluded that claim 1 was invalid under § 103 based on O’Brien alone,” Judge Stoll wrote.