Law School Case Brief
Reeves Bros. v. United States Laminating Corp. - 282 F. Supp. 118 (E.D.N.Y. 1968)
New uses of old elements or devices will be carefully scrutinized by the courts to determine if the new use is really nonobvious. Where the allegedly novel feature of the claimed invention is a structural element substantially similar to one of the prior art, even though its function may be different, the similarity is sufficient to negative patentability.
This action involves two inventions made by John W. Dickey, the first in March, 1956 and the second in May, 1957, upon which three patents were issued and duly assigned to Reeves Brothers, Inc. The First Patent relates to lamination of polyurethane foam to fabric by the use of flame heat. The Second Patent relates to an improvement in the method and apparatus for such lamination. The Third Patent is a reissue of the Second Patent. Plaintiff Reeves instituted this action under 35 U.S.C.S. § 271 against Defendants U.S. Laminating Corp. and Travis Rauch, its general manager and sole owner, for infringement of these patents.
Were the patent claims valid, insofar as they improved the heat bonding process to make possible bonding of textile fabrics to resins?
The court held, inter alia, that all claims of the patents were invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C.S. § 103. The court determined that flame laminating of plastics was well known in prior art, and that the patent claim merely improved the heat bonding process to make possible bonding of textile fabrics to resins such as foamed polyurethane. The court determined that the simultaneous invention of similar processes in several other countries was further evidence of obviousness. Further, where the allegedly novel feature of the claimed invention was substantially similar to the prior art, even though its function was different, the similarity was sufficient to negative patentability. Accordingly, the infringement claims were denied.
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