Inventor Diligence Removed 102(e) Prior Art

In Arctic Cat Inc. v. GEP Power Products, Inc., [2018-1520, 2018-1521] (March 26, 2019), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s invalidity determination as to U.S. Patent No. 7,420,822, but reversed as to U.S. Patent No. 7,072,188 because the Board improperly considered Boyd, U.S. Patent No. 6,850,421 as prior art.

The Board concluded that Boyd, whose filing date of April 1, 2002, is about seven months before the October 2002 filing date of the ’188 patent, was prior art to the ‘188 patent under 35 U.S.C. § 102(e). The Board rejected Arctic Cat’s argument of prior conception and diligence in reduction to practice. The Board also rejected the argument that the allegedly anticipatory portions of Boyd are not actually “by another,” as required by 35 U.S.C. § 102(e), even though the only named inventor on Boyd is Mr. Boyd himself, not Mr. Janisch, the inventor of the ‘188 patent.

The Federal Circuit agreed that Janisch had shown prior invention, in particular that the record established that Mr. Janisch was reasonably diligent during the critical period so as not to have abandoned his invention or unreasonably delayed its reduction to practice. While the Board concluded that the evidence did not establish diligence throughout the period from April 1, 2002, to October 29, 2002, the Board’s analysis rested on too rigid a standard, and the record establishes diligence under the correct standard.

The Federal Circuit found that the gaps in activity relied upon by the Board could be explained by third party testing activity and that lack of diligence cannot be inferred from putting the invention into someone else’s hands for needed testing and awaiting test results for a short period commensurate with the testing need, at least where oversight was diligent. That course of action, as a way of reducing an invention to practice, does not give rise to an inference of unreasonable delay or abandonment of the invention.