716.04 Long-Felt Need and Failure of Others [R-07.2022]
Establishing long-felt need requires objective evidence that an art recognized problem existed in the art for a long period of time without solution. The relevance of long-felt need and the failure of others to the issue of obviousness depends on several factors. First, the need must have been a persistent one that was recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art. In re Gershon, 372 F.2d 535, 539, 152 USPQ 602, 605 (CCPA 1967) (“Since the alleged problem in this case was first recognized by appellants, and others apparently have not yet become aware of its existence, it goes without saying that there could not possibly be any evidence of either a long felt need in the . . . art for a solution to a problem of dubious existence or failure of others skilled in the art who unsuccessfully attempted to solve a problem of which they were not aware.”); Orthopedic Equipment Co., Inc. v. All Orthopedic Appliances, Inc., 707 F.2d 1376, 217 USPQ 1281 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (Although the claimed invention achieved the desirable result of reducing inventories, there was no evidence of any prior unsuccessful attempts to do so.).
Second, the long-felt need must not have been satisfied by another before the invention by the inventor. Newell Companies v. Kenney Mfg. Co., 864 F.2d 757, 768, 9 USPQ2d 1417, 1426 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (Although at one time there was a long-felt need for a “do-it-yourself” window shade material which was adjustable without the use of tools, a prior art product fulfilled the need by using a scored plastic material which could be torn. “[O]nce another supplied the key element, there was no long-felt need or, indeed, a problem to be solved”.)
Third, the invention must in fact satisfy the long-felt need. In re Cavanagh, 436 F.2d 491, 168 USPQ 466 (CCPA 1971).
See Ex parte Thompson, Appeal 2011-011620 (March 21, 2014) (informative) for the board’s analysis of the above-mentioned three factors in reversing an obviousness rejection due to evidence of long felt need.
II. LONG-FELT NEED IS MEASURED FROM THE DATE A PROBLEM IS IDENTIFIED AND EFFORTS ARE MADE TO SOLVE IT
Long-felt need is analyzed as of the date the problem is identified and articulated, and there is evidence of efforts to solve that problem, not as of the date of the most pertinent prior art references. Texas Instruments Inc. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, 988 F.2d 1165, 1179, 26 USPQ2d 1018, 1029 (Fed. Cir. 1993).
III. OTHER FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE PRESENCE OF A LONG-FELT NEED MUST BE CONSIDERED
The failure to solve a long-felt need may be due to factors such as lack of interest or lack of appreciation of an invention’s potential or marketability rather than want of technical know-how. Scully Signal Co. v. Electronics Corp. of America, 570 F.2d 355, 196 USPQ 657 (1st. Cir. 1977).
See also Environmental Designs, Ltd. v. Union Oil Co. of Cal., 713 F.2d 693, 698, 218 USPQ 865, 869 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (presence of legislative regulations for controlling sulfur dioxide emissions did not militate against existence of long-felt need to reduce the sulfur content in the air); In re Tiffin, 443 F.2d 394, 170 USPQ 88 (CCPA 1971) (fact that affidavit supporting contention of fulfillment of a long-felt need was sworn by a licensee adds to the weight to be accorded the affidavit, as long as there is a bona fide licensing agreement entered into at arm’s length).