716.01(a) Objective Evidence of Nonobviousness [R-08.2017]


Affidavits or declarations, when timely presented, containing evidence of criticality or unexpected results, commercial success, long-felt but unsolved needs, failure of others, skepticism of experts, etc., must be considered by the examiner in determining the issue of obviousness of claims for patentability under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit stated in Stratoflex, Inc. v. Aeroquip Corp., 713 F.2d 1530, 1538, 218 USPQ 871, 879 (Fed. Cir. 1983) that “evidence rising out of the so-called ‘secondary considerations’ must always when present be considered en route to a determination of obviousness.” Such evidence might give light to circumstances surrounding the origin of the subject matter sought to be patented. As indicia of obviousness or unobviousness, such evidence may have relevancy. Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 148 USPQ 459 (1966); In re Palmer, 451 F.2d 1100, 172 USPQ 126 (CCPA 1971); In re Fielder, 471 F.2d 640, 176 USPQ 300 (CCPA 1973). The Graham v. John Deere pronouncements on the relevance of commercial success, etc. to a determination of obviousness were not negated in Sakraida v. Ag Pro, 425 U.S. 273, 189 USPQ 449 (1976) or Anderson’s-Black Rock Inc. v. Pavement Salvage Co., 396 U.S. 57, 163 USPQ 673 (1969), where reliance was placed upon A&P Tea Co. v. Supermarket Corp., 340 U.S. 147, 87 USPQ 303 (1950). See Dann v. Johnston, 425 U.S. 219, 226 n.4, 189 USPQ 257, 261 n. 4 (1976).

Examiners must consider comparative data in the specification which is intended to illustrate the claimed invention in reaching a conclusion with regard to the obviousness of the claims. In re Margolis, 785 F.2d 1029, 228 USPQ 940 (Fed. Cir. 1986). The lack of objective evidence of nonobviousness does not weigh in favor of obviousness. Miles Labs. Inc. v. Shandon Inc., 997 F.2d 870, 878, 27 USPQ2d 1123, 1129 (Fed. Cir. 1993), cert. denied,127 L. Ed. 232 (1994). However, where a prima facie case of obviousness is established, the failure to provide rebuttal evidence is dispositive.