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In re Anova Hearing Labs, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

April 7, 2020, Decided

2019-1507

Opinion

Moore, Circuit Judge.

Anova Hearing Labs, Inc. appeals the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's decision on reexamination holding that claims 1-6, 9, 10, 12-39, 41-47, 49-58, and 63-70 of U.S. Patent No. 8,477,978 would have been obvious. Because the Board's decision did not articulate a basis or rationale sufficient for this court to determine whether substantial evidence supports its motivation to combine finding, we vacate and remand.

Background

The '978 patent is directed to a completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid in which a flexible mounting insert secured in the bony region of the ear canal holds the device case in place. '978 patent at 5:4-9. The specification describes the advantages of allowing natural sounds to flow into the ear canal and mix with the augmented sound generated [*2]  by the hearing device. Id. at 2:57-60, 3:3-6, 5:46-52, Fig. 6. That natural sound flows past the case inserted into the ear canal and through an open area provided on an outer portion of a flexible insert mounted within the ear canal. Id. at 3:3-6. The top portion of the flexible insert is attached to the receiver section of the case. Id. at 2:65-3:2.

The '978 patent issued on July 2, 2013. In 2015, Anova requested supplemental examination for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to consider U.S. Patent No. 7,421,086 (Bauman '086) and U.S. Patent No. 7,076,076 (Bauman '076) as prior art. The USPTO ordered reexamination, finding Bauman '086 and Bauman '076 raised a substantial new question of patentability. In a Non-Final Office Action, the examiner rejected claim 1 under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a) as obvious over U.S. Patent No. 5,654,530 (Sauer) and U.S. Patent App. Pub. No. 2002/0085728 (Shennib) in view of Bauman '086 and Bauman '076. Anova amended claim 1 to overcome this rejection. Claim 1 is representative:

1. A completely in the canal hearing device, said device comprising:

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2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 10903 *; 2020 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 10297

IN RE: ANOVA HEARING LABS, INC., Appellant

Notice: THIS DECISION WAS ISSUED AS UNPUBLISHED OR NONPRECEDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE CITED AS PRECEDENT. PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Prior History:  [*1] Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. 96/000,138.

Ex parte ANOVA HEARING LABS, INC., Patent Owner and Appellant, 2018 Pat. App. LEXIS 9209 (P.T.A.B., Nov. 28, 2018)

Disposition: VACATED AND REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

combine, insert, ear, skill, references, flexible, ordinary person, motivation, open area, passageway, hearing aid, articulate, mounted, Patent, modify

Patent Law, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Substantial Evidence, Nonobviousness, Elements & Tests, Ordinary Skill Standard, Evidence, Prima Facie Obviousness