Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision of District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia limiting United Technologies Corp.'s patent application to forward sweeping jet blade tips. At the same time the court overturned a decision by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences which prevented Rolls-Royce from using their patent application on a forward sweeping jet blade tip design.
On May 5, in a ruling handed down by Judge Rader for the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the Circuit court upheld the decision of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia rendered by Judge Brinkema where the court held that United Technologies Corp.’s (UTC) patent only covered rear sweeping jet engine fan blade tips. The Court of Appeals held that because the district court correctly determined that Rolls-Royce, PLC’s (Rolls-Royce) forward sweeping blade tip patent would ‘not have been obvious’ in light of UTC’s application of their rear sweeping blade tip, the judgment of the District Court was proper. That decision can be found here.
By affirming the District Court’s decision and the overruling of BPAI’s determination, the Circuit Court of Appeals has effectively limited the ‘not obvious’ test for allowing new patent applications. Judge Brinkema’s decision utilized the ‘not obvious’ test and rejected UTC’s argument that a forward sweeping tip of the fan blade is an easily predictable and achievable variation in view of the disclosure of the rearward sweeping tip in UTC’s earlier application. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment that the forward sweeping blade tips were ‘not obvious’ because of the availability of a broad selection of choices for further investigation that included any degree of sweep for the fan blade tip. A further consideration secondary to the ‘not obvious’ test, was that an embodiment of Rolls-Royce’s invention had become the industry standard, thus the Court of Appeals reinforced the finding of non-obviousness. Discussion of this subject can also be found here.
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