Verdegaal Bros. v. Union Oil Co.

814 F.2d 628 (Fed. Cir. 1987)



A claim is anticipated only if each and every element as set forth in the claim is found, either expressly or inherently described, in a single prior art reference. 


Verdegaal Brothers, Inc., (Verdegaal) brought suit against Union Oil Company of California (Union Oil) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California charging that certain processes employed by Union Oil for making liquid fertilizer products infringed all claims of its '343 patent. The process disclosed in the 343 patent involves the process for making a concentrated liquid fertilizer by reacting sulfuric acid and urea in order to form an end product. Union Oil defended on the grounds of non-infringement and patent invalidity under 35 U.S.C. §§ 102103. The trial court ruled that Verdegaal’s patent was valid; and that, under 35 U.S.C.S. §§ 102,103, certain of Union Oil’s processes infringed claims 1, 2, and 4 of the patent. Union Oil filed a motion under Rule 50(b) for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) seeking a judgment that the claims of the 343 patent were invalid under sections 102 and 103. The district court denied the motion without opinion.


Did the district court err in denying Union Oil's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict with respect to the validity of claims 1, 2, and 4 of the 343 patent?




After considering the record taken as a whole, the Court held that Union Oil established anticipation of claims 1, 2, and 4 by clear and convincing evidence and that no reasonable juror could find otherwise. Consequently, the Court ruled that the jury's verdict on validity is unsupported by substantial evidence and cannot stand. Thus, according to the Court, the district court's denial of Union Oil's motion for JNOV must be reversed.

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