“Ordinary Creativity” is no Different Than “Common Sense” and Requires Explanation

In DSS Technology Management, Inc. v. Apple Inc., [2016-2523, 2016-2524] (March 23, 2018), the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the PTAB finding claims 1–4 and 9–10 of U.S. Patent No. 6,128,290 obvious, because the Board failed to provide a sufficient explanation for its conclusions.

The patent is directed to a wireless communication network for a single host device and multiple peripheral devices.  The sole issue on the appeal was whether it was obvious to modify the single asserted reference.  The Federal Circuit noted that common sense and common knowledge have their proper place in the obviousness inquiry, if it is explained with sufficient reasoning.  However there are at least three caveats to the application of “common sense”: First, common sense is typically invoked to provide a known motivation to combine, not to supply a missing claim limitation.  Second, common sense is invoked to fill in a missing limitation only when “the limitation in question was unusually simple and the technology particularly straightforward.  Third, reference to “common sense” —whether to supply a motivation to combine or a missing limitation—cannot be used as a wholesale substitute for reasoned analysis and evidentiary support, especially when dealing with a limitation
missing from the prior art references specified.

The Federal Circuit found that the Board’s invocation of “ordinary creativity” was no different from “common sense,” and requires a “searching” inquiry.  The Federal Circuit noted that the full extent of the Board’s analysis was contained in a single paragraph.  In finding the claimed invention obvious, the Board made no citation to the record, and instead referred to the “ordinary creativity” of the skilled artisan.

The Federal Circuit said that to the extent the Board’s obviousness findings were based on expert testimony — which was questionable, since it was not cited. Dr. Hu’s testimony—which is questionable, because the Board never cited her testimony directly— the “conclusory statements and unspecific expert testimony” were insufficient to support the Board’s findings.

The Federal Circuit said that without “a reasoned explanation that avoids conclusory generalizations,” the Board’s reasoning was not sufficient.

 

Even Under a Narrower Construction Because of Disclaimer; The Board was Correct that the Claims were Obvious

In Arendi S.A.R.L. v. Google LLC, [2016-1249] (February 20, 2018), affirmed the PTAB’s determination that all of the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,323,853 were obvious.  The PTAB presented two alternative claim construction, one rejecting prosecution disclaimer and one adopting prosecution history disclaimer.

The Federal Circuit held that the construction rejecting prosecution disclaimer was incorrect, but found the alternative construction based upon prosecution disclaimer correct. The Federal Circuit noted that applicant amended the claims and explained what was changed and why, and the examiner confirmed the reasons why the amended claims were deemed allowable.  However, even under this narrow construction, the Federal Circuit agreed with the PTAB that the claims were unpatentable for obviousness.

 

Board’s Construction of the Claims was Unreasonably Broad and Inconsistent with the Specification

In In re Hodges, [2017-1434] (February 12, 2018), the Federal Circuit reversed the Board’s anticipation determinations, vacate
its obviousness determinations, and remand for further
proceedings.  The application is directed to a valve assembly
for draining contaminants, condensation, and other fluids that adversely affect the efficiency and function of a pressurized system.

The Federal Circuit found that the Board’s Finding that the claims were anticipated was unsupported by substantial evidence.  A prior art reference anticipates a patent’s claim when the four corners of the document “describe every element of the claimed invention, either expressly or inherently, such that a person of ordinary skill in the art could practice the invention without undue experimentation.  At issue was the positioning of a valve in the prior art relative to the claimed invention.  The Board found the positioning “similar,” but the Federal Circuit found that the Board neither supported its assertion of
similarity, nor explained how the positioning of the valve in the prior art would enable a skilled artisan to “practice the invention without
undue experimentation.”

As to anticipation by another reference, the Board affirmed a rejection that a piston stem and piston head collectively constitute the claimed “sensor” because they sense pressure insofar as they move in response to the pressure applied thereto.  The Federal Circuit noted that the Patent Office did not attempt to defend this finding on appeal “for good reason” as the Board’s anticipation finding was predicated on an erroneous construction of “signal,” and the reference did not disclose a sensor.  The Federal Circuit found the Board construction of the claims to be unreasonably broad and inconsistent with the specification.  The Federal Circuit said that under any reasonable construction of “signal,”
the prior art’s piston stem and head combination cannot fairly
be characterized as a sensor that generates a signal.  The Federal Circuit reversed the rejection, not wanting to give the Patent Office “a second chance to reject the claims on grounds that it is unwilling or unable to defend on appeal.”

On the obviousness rejections, the Board concluded in a “single paragraph” that the claims would have been obvious, but did not explain how the reference could be modified.  The Federal Circuit also noted that the Board made no findings on any of the Graham factors.  The Federal Circuit said that the Board must “explicate its factual conclusions, enabling us to verify readily whether those conclusions are indeed supported by ‘substantial evidence’ contained within the record,” but that the Board failed to do so, so the Federal Circuit remanded the case.

 

 

Board’s Obvious Analysis Improperly Relied Upon Hindsight

In Polaris Industries, Inc. v, Arctic Cat, Inc., [2016-1807, 2016-2280] (February 9, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the PTAB’s determination in an IPR that claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,596,405 were invalid, and affirmed the PTAB’s determination is a separate IPR that the claims of the same patent were not invalid.

After being sued for infringing claims of the ’405 patent, Arctic Cat filed two petitions for inter partes review, challenging the patentability of claims 1–38 as obvious in view of combinations of certain prior
art references, including Denney, Furuhashi, and Hickey.  In one petition, Arctic Cat argued that all relevant claims were obvious in view of the combination of Denney and Furuhashi, and in the other that all of the claims were obvious in view of Hickey and at least one other reference.

Polaris attacked the invalidation of the claims on three grounds: First, that the Board’s obvious analysis was predicated on an improper claim
construction or was too cursory. Second, that the Board relied on impermissible hindsight in combining the prior art, failing to articulate a valid motivation to combine these references and applying a “subjective preferences” analysis that finds no basis in this court’s precedents. Third, it contends that the Board erred in rejecting the undisputed evidence that Polaris introduced regarding the commercial success.

On the first grounds, the Federal Circuit rejected Polaris’ claim construction, noting that claims are given their broadest reasonable interpretation, and finding Polaris’ construction too restrictive.  Regarding Polaris’ argument about the cursory nature of the Board’s analysis, the Federal Circuit noted that although the Board’s reasoning could have been more thorough, it did not find fault in the Board’s arguably limited treatment of Polaris’s arguments where the Board’s treatment “was at least commensurate with Polaris’s presentation of this issue.

On the issue of hindsight, the Federal Circuit agreed with Polaris, the Board failed to analyze whether the prior art taught away from the claim limitations.  The Federal Circuit noted that the Board said that “one of ordinary skill has the ability to weigh the various benefits  and disadvantages based on subjective preferences in an analysis largely unrelated to obviousness,” and said that it has never articulated a framework for analyzing whether claims would have been obvious that includes the phrase “subjective preference” or that permits a tribunal
to wholly disregard the significance of prior art teachings based on such a characterization.  The Federal Circuit identified three problems with the Board’s “subjective preference” analysis: First, by completely disregarding certain teachings as ill defined “subjective preferences,” the Board’s approach invited the “distortion caused by hindsight bias” into the fold.  The Federal Circuit also noted that the Board improperly focused on what a skilled artisan would have been able to do, rather than what a skilled artisan would have been motivated to do at the time of the
invention.  Finally, the Federal Circuit found that the Board’s analysis encourages the fact-finder to outright discard evidence relevant both to “teaching away” and to whether skilled artisans would have been
motivated to combine references.

Finally, the Federal Circuit agreed that the Board erred when it declined to accord substantive weight to the Polaris’ undisputed evidence that its product is the invention disclosed in certain claims because it characterized the Polaris’ evidence as “conclusory,” noting that Artic Cat presented no contrary evidence.  The Federal Circuit said that the Board must assess the import of this evidence after presuming
that a nexus between the claims and the commercial success exists, unless and until that presumption is adequately rebutted.

 

 

About “About”: “Less Than About 3%” Includes 4%

In Monsanto Technology LLC v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., [2017-1032] (January 5, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s decision that affirmed reexamination examiner’s rejection of claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,790,953, on Soybean Seed and Oil Compositions and
Methods of Making Same as anticipated by or obvious from U.S. Patent No. 6,426,448.

Monsanto argued that misconstruing the Board misconstrued the “about 3% or less” limitation in the ’953 patent to include progeny with a linolenic acid content of 4%, but the Federal Circuit found that the PTAB “reasonably interpreted” Booth’s parent line containing 4% linolenic acid “to be within the scope of ‘about 3%,’” as recited in claim 1 step (a).  The Federal Circuit found that the claim language was not instructive, so it turned to the the remainder of the specification.  The Federal Circuit noted that Exhibit 9, which purportedly had a linolenic acid content of about 3%, which included a reference that disclosed linolenic acid contents from 2.3% to 4.1%.  Thus the Federal Circuit found that the intrinsic evidence supported finding that a person having ordinary skill in the art would reasonably consider “about 3%” to encompass a range that includes 4%, and that Monsanto’s counterarguments were “unavailing.”

Monsanto further argued that the finding of anticipation was not supported by substantial evidence because the anticipation was not inherent, as the PTAB found.  The Federal Circuit disagreed, saying that inherent anticipation applies because the prior art “necessarily include the unstated limitation.”  Declarations in the record confirmed that the generation identified in the prior art would necessarily result in progeny within the scope of claim 1. Monsanto challenged the PTAB’s reliance on this “non-prior art data” and “secret data” in the declarations, but the Federal Circuit found this was appropriate, saying that Monsanto was confusing prior art with extrinsic evidence used to support what is “necessarily present” in a prior art’s teaching. Extrinsic evidence may be used to interpret the allegedly anticipating reference and to shed light on what it would have meant to a person of ordinary skill in the art. The Federal Circuit said that the declarations did not expand the
meaning of reference or serve as prior art: they demonstrate
what is inherent in the disclosure.  Second the declarations were not improper “secret data” — the were not used as prior art , but merely in support of prior art already of record.  Third, the Federal Circuit offered no rebuttal evidence to the declarations.

The Federal Circuit further affirmed the obviousness determination, noting that PTAB did not rely solely on its finding of inherent anticipation, but explained that explained that a PHOSITA would have been motivated to modify the reference to meet the requirements of the claims.

 

Federal Circuit Affirms Board on Claim Construction, No Anticipation, and Nonobviousness

In HTC Corp. v. Cellular Communications Equipment, LLC [2016-1880] (December 18, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s Final Written Decision, finding no error in the Board’s claim construction, and that substantial evidence supported the Board’s determination that the challenged claims were not invalid.

The IPR involved U.S. Patent No. 7,941,174, which is directed to
methods and apparatuses for a radio communications system where a subscriber station, i.e., a mobile device, is assigned a plurality of codes for transmitting messages.

The Board did not expressly construe the term “message,” nor did HTC did not seek construction of the term.  However, the Federal Circuit found that Board findings establishing the scope of the patented subject matter may fall within the ambit of claim construction, reviewable on appeal.  However the Federal Circuit found HTC’s arguments unpersuasive and inconsistent.

On the asserted anticipation grounds, the Federal Circuit found that substantial evidence supported the Board’s conclusion, and rejected arguments presented by HTC for the first time on appeal.  On the asserted obviousness grounds, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Board’s reading of the prior art, and found that HTC did not point to any evidence in the record that would undermine the Board’s findings on the scope and content of the prior art.

 

Patent Owner Has Burden to Prove Marking Once Infringer Identifies Unmarked Products

In Arctic Cat Inc. v. Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., [2017-1475] (December 8, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirme the district court’s denial
of judgment as a matter of law as to obviousness, the
jury’s royalty rate, willfulness, treble damages, and award of an ongoing
royalty to Arctic Cat, but vacated the court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law as to marking and remand for further consideration limited to that issue.

The case involved U.S. Patent Nos. 6,568,969 and 6,793,545 directed to thrust steering systems for personal watercraft.  At trial, the jury found both patents not invalid, awarded a royalty for past infringement of $102.54 per unit, and based upon the jury’s finding of willful infringement, the district court trebled damages.  The district court also awarded an ongoing royalty of $205.08 per unit.

On the obviousness finding the Federal Circuit said that it presumes the jury found that an ordinarily skilled artisan would not have been motivated to combine the prior art as appellant proposed, and that if
such a fact finding is supported by substantial evidence, it cannot not reverse it. The Federal Circuit noted that appellant devoted much of its argument to re-litigating its case and its evidence rather than addressing the evidence that could have supported the jury’s finding of no motivation to combine. The Federal Circuit said that it does not reweigh the evidence and reach its own factual determination regarding motivation. The question on appeal is only whether substantial
evidence supports the jury’s presumed finding, and the Federal Circuit found substantial evidence did support the finding.

As to objective indicia of non-obviousness, the patent owner argued the claimed invention received industry praise and satisfied a long-felt need. The Federal Circuit again presumed the jury found in favor of patentee, and the Federal Circuit cannot reverse these presumed findings if they are supported by substantial evidence, which the Federal Circuit found they were.

As to the marking issue,  the Federal Circuit said that the patent owner patentee bears the burden of pleading and proving it complied with § 287(a)’s marking requirement, because if a patentee who makes, sells, offers for sale, or imports the patented articles has not given notice of its right”by marking the articles pursuant to the marking statute, it is not entitled to damages before the date of actual notice.  A patentee’s licensees must also comply with §287, because the statute extends to persons making or selling any patented article for or under the patentee.  The Federal Circuit add that recognizing that it may be difficult for a patentee to ensure his licensees’ compliance with the
marking provisions, its has held that where third parties are involved, courts may consider whether the patentee made reasonable efforts to ensure compliance with the marking requirements.

In the present case, the patent owner Arctic Cat licensed patents to Honda, and the agreement specifically stated Honda “shall have no obligation or requirement to mark” its licensed products.  However, While Honda sold products in the U.S. without marking them, Arctic Cat contended they were not covered by the patent and thus should not have been marked.

Arctic Cat and Bombardier disputed whether the products Honda sold were patented articles that were required to be marked, as well as who had the burden of proof.  There was a split in the Circuits on the burden of proof, which the Federal Circuit resolved by holding that an alleged infringer who challenges the patentee’s compliance with § 287 bears an initial burden of production to articulate the products it believes are unmarked “patented articles” subject to § 287. The Federal Circuit said that this was a low bar, and that the alleged infringer need only put the
patentee on notice that it or its authorized licensees sold specific unmarked products which the alleged infringer believes practice the patent. The Federal Circuit said that the alleged infringer’s burden is a burden of production, not one of persuasion or proof.  The Federal Circuit said that  once the alleged infringer meets its burden of production, however, the patentee bears the burden to prove the products identified do not practice the patented invention.

The Federal Circuit declined to determine the minimum showing
needed to meet the initial burden of production, but found that it was satisfied.  The Federal Circuit did say that alleged infringer need not produce claim charts to meet its initial burden of identifying products, because it is the patentee who bears the burden of proving that it satisfied the marking requirements and thus the patentee who would have to prove that the unmarked products identified by the infringer do not fall within the patent claims. The Federal Circuit concluded that the district court erred in placing this burden upon BRP and vacated and remanded on the issue of marking.

On the pre-judgment and post-judgment royalty rates, the Federal Circuit found no error, noting that a difference in the rates may be justified by the change in the parties’ legal relationship and other factors.  Finally the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court on the issue of willfulness and enhanced damages.

 

 

Obviousness v. Anticipation: That Which Doesn’t Disclose Still Could Teach

In CRFD Research, Inc., v. Matal, [2016-2198] (December 5, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed two Final Written Decisions invaliding claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,191,233 on user-directed transfer of an on-going software-based session from one device to another device, and reversed one Final Written Decision that the claims were not obvious.

What is interesting about this case beyond the fact that a patent owner should have to simultaneously defend three IPR attacks on its patent, the loss of any one of which would be fatal, is the Federal Circuit’s reversal of the Board’s determination that Hulu had not shown the challenged claims to have been obvious.  The Federal Circuit said “the Board erred, both in how it performed its obviousness analysis and in the merits of its determination of nonobviousness.”

The Board concluded that the Bates reference did not anticipate certain challenged claims because it did not meet the claim requirement of “transmission of session history after discontinuation.”  Hulu complained, and the Federal Circuit agreed that the Board improperly
relied on its finding that Bates did not anticipate various asserted claims to support its finding of nonobviousness without considering whether Bates suggests transmission of session history after
discontinuation.  The Federal Circuit said that “Even if a reference’s
teachings are insufficient to find anticipation, that same reference’s teachings may be used to find obviousness.”

Hulu further argued that it would have been obvious, based on Bates, to
transmit session history after session discontinuation.  Hulu argued the obviousness of the claims based upon Bates, but the Board declined to institute on grounds of redundancy.  The Federal Circuit noted that Hulu expressly incorporated this argument as part of other grounds of unpatentability on which the Board instituted trial.  The Federal Circuit found that:

To bar Hulu from pressing an argument it raised in a ground the Board found “redundant” and that it expressly incorporated into other proposed grounds of unpatentability on which the Board instituted would not only unfairly prejudice Hulu, but would also raise questions about the propriety of the Board’s redundancy  decision.

Of course, even if it does “raise questions about the propriety of the Board’s redundancy decision,” that should not be a concern of the Federal Circuit because according to Cuozzo institution decisions are not reviewable.  The Federal Circuit went on to find that Bates did in fact sufficiently teach what it did not exprsessly disclose, and reversed the Board’s determination that the claims were not shown to be obvious.

This case illustrates that some of the mischief that arises from a Board’s finding of redundancy.  The petitioner is allowed to use the arguments in the non-instituted redundant ground to support its position in the instituted grounds — at least if they are sufficiently “incorporated.”  Another problem with redundancy is that the estoppel effect is unclear.  The Federal Circuit has indicated that estoppel does not apply to grounds that are not instituted.  HP Inc. v. MPHJ Tech. Inv., LLC, 817 F.3d 1339, 1347-48 (Fed. Cir. 2016).  If this interpretation applies to grounds denied for redundancy, it means that a patent owner could prevail in the IPR, and later face a challenge based upon the redundant ground — one found by the Board to indistinguishable from the ground on which the patent owner prevailed.

Amendment of Claims in Parent Application Do Not Apply to Continuation Claims that do not have the Amended Language

In Sanofi v Watson Laboratories, Inc., [2016-2722, 2016-2726](November 9, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s final judgment rejecting the obviousness challenge to claims 1–6, 8–13, and 16 of the U.S. Patent No. 8,410,167; finding inducement of infringement, by both
defendants, of all of those claims except claim 5; and finding infringement by both defendants of claims 1–3, 5-9, and 12–15 of U.S. Patent No. 8,318,800, and by Watson of claims 10 and 11 as well.

On appeal, Watson and Sandoz challenge the district court’s inducement
finding as to the ’167 patent, the district court’s rejection of their obviousness challenge to that patent, and the district court’s rejection of their prosecution disclaimer argument for limiting the scope of the ’800
patent claims.

On the inducement issues, the Federal Circuit said that it reviews the district court’s finding of inducement based on encouragement and inferred intent for clear error, which the Federal Circuit found was absent.  The Federal Circuit noted that the label directed medical providers to information identifying the desired benefit for only patients with the patent-claimed risk factors.  The Federal Circuit rejected Watson and Sandoz argument that substantial noninfringing uses not forbidden by the
proposed labels prevented a finding of intent to encourage an infringing use.  The Federal Circuit found no legal or logical basis for the suggested limitation on inducement.

On the obviousness issue, Watson and Sandoz only challenged the district court’s finding of no expectation of success.  The Federal Circuit said that although the evidence might well have supported the opposite finding, it could not conclude that the district court clearly erred in its finding.

On the infringement issue, the Federal Circuit rejected the argument that Watson and Sandoz  that the district court erred by failing to limit
the claims of the ’800 patent to exclude polysorbate surfactants.  While while prosecuting the parent application, which issued as U.S. Patent No. 7,323,493, Sanofi amended the sole independent claims
(hence all claims)f so as expressly to exclude pharmaceutical
compositions with a “polysorbate surfactant.”  Based on that amendment,
Watson and Sandoz contend that Sanofi made a “prosecution
disclaimer” that also limits the scope of the claims of the ’800 patent, despite the absence of any limiting language in the ’800 patent’s claims.

The Federal Circuit said that a prosecution disclaimer occurs when a patentee, either through argument or amendment, surrenders claim
scope during the course of prosecution.  But when the purported
disclaimers are directed to specific claim terms that have been omitted or materially altered in subsequent applications (rather than to the invention itself), those disclaimers do not apply.  The general ruling being that a prosecution disclaimer will only apply to a subsequent patent if that patent contains the same claim limitation as its predecessor.

The Federal Circuit observed that in prosecuting the application
that issued as the ’493 patent, was to write an express limitation into the claims: “provided that the pharmaceutical composition does not contain a polysorbate surfactant.” This language does not appear in the ’800 patent claims at issue, and Sanofi did not argue during prosecution that the unamended claim language of the ’493 patent, or the disclosed invention generally, excluded polysorbate surfactants.  The Federal Circuit said that the prosecution followed a familiar pattern:

an applicant adopts an explicit claim-narrowing limitation to achieve immediate issuance of a patent containing the narrowed claims and postpones to the prosecution of a continuation application further arguments
about claims that lack the narrowing limitation.

The Federal Circuit said that without more than exists here, that process does not imply a disclaimer as to claims, when later issued in the continuation, that lack the first patent’s express narrowing
limitation.  The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the
scope of the claims of the ’800 patent should not be limited so as to exclude polysorbate surfactants.

Expert Testimony on Lack of Motivation Won the Battle, but Lost the War

In BayerPharma AG v. Watson Laboratories, Inc., [2016-2169] (November 1, 2017), the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s holding that claims 9 and 11 of U.S. Patent No. 8,613,950 would not have been obvious.

The district court rejected each of Watson’s arguments. It found a person of ordinary skill in the art would not have been motivated to
create an ODT formulation of vardenafil and would not have used mannitol and sorbitol as excipients. It found the prior art taught away from formulating vardenafil ODT as immediate-release. The district court also addressed Bayer’s objective evidence of nonobviousness and
found it supported its conclusion that Watson failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that claims 9 and 11 would have been obvious.

The district court determined that Watson failed to meet its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that there would have been a motivation to formulate vardenafil as an ODT formulation largely on the court’s finding the testimony of Bayer’s expert, Dr. Wicks, more persuasive than the testimony of Watson’s expert, Dr. Jacobs.  The Federal Circuit said that the clear error in the district court fact finding that there was no motivation to formulate ED drugs in ODTs, is that it concluded that the record did not contain an indication that ED drugs would be good candidates for ODT formulations.  The Federal Circuit noted that the district court’s opinion did not discuss any of the references that Watson cited to show that ED drugs would be good candidates for ODT formulations.

It is well within the district court’s discretion to credit one expert’s competing testimony over another. The Federal Circuit said it must give due regard to the trial court’s opportunity to judge the witnesses’ credibility.  However, a district court cannot, through a credibility determination, ignore the wealth of evidence, especially as in this case where the expert did not even address it.

The Federal Circuit also faulted the district court’s focus on the fact that  no ODT ED drug had gained FDA approval as of ’950 patent’s priority date.  The Federal Circuit said that  the motivation to combine inquiry is not limited to what products are forthcoming or currently available on the market.  The Federal Circuit said that any motivation, “whether articulated in the references themselves or supported by evidence of the knowledge of a skilled artisan, is sufficient.

The Federal Circuit was left with the definite and firm conviction that the district court clearly erred when it found there would not have been a motivation to formulate vardenafil ODT.

The district court also found a person of ordinary skill in the art would not have been motivated to use mannitol and sorbitol in an ODT formulation, again finding Dr. Wicks’ testimony on this limitation more credible than Dr. Jacobs’.  The Federal Circuit did not question the district court’s credibility determinations. However, the district court’s analysis for the sorbitol and mannitol limitation focused on the  commercial availability of products while failing to address relevant prior art. Upon consideration of the entire record and under a proper analysis, we conclude that the district court clearly erred in finding a person of ordinary skill in the art would not have been motivated to formulate an  ODT with sorbitol and mannitol.

Finally, the Federal Circuit rejected the district court’s determination that vardenafil’s expected bitter taste taught away from an oral formulation.  The Federal Circuit noted that a reference teaches away when it suggests that the line of development flowing from the reference’s disclosure is unlikely to be productive of the result sought by the applicant.  The Federal Circuit said that the district court did not find that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have believed vardenafil’s expected bitter taste and increased bioavailability would have
likely rendered an immediate-release formulation unproductive, but instead focused on whether a person of ordinary skill in the art would have pursued other alternatives.  The Federal Circuit said that the teaching away inquiry does not focus on whether a person of ordinary
skill in the art would have merely favored one disclosed option over another disclosed option.  In assessing whether prior art teaches away, that better alternatives exist in the prior art does not mean that an inferior combination is inapt for obviousness purposes.

Weighing all four Graham factors, the Federal Circuit concluded that
claims 9 and 11 of the ’950 patent would have been obvious. The repeated suggestion in the prior art to make an ODT formulation of an ED drug and the suggestion to use the combination of sorbitol and mannitol as excipients were strong evidence of a motivation to make the claimed combination.