Press Release Patent Reform

Public Knowledge Supreme Court Amicus Curiae Brief Demands Common Sense in Patents

January 22, 2015

Today Public Knowledge filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of the United States, urging the Court to hear the case K/S HIMPP v. Hear-Wear Technologies. The case centers on the role of obviousness in patent law, by which a patent may not be obtained on an invention if that invention is too obvious or ordinary in view of existing technologies.

The following may be attributed to Charles Duan, Director of Public Knowledge’s Patent Reform Project:

“Obviousness is perhaps the most serious problem with patents today. Whenever a patent is criticized, whether it be scanning-to-email, swinging on a swing or taking a photograph against a white background, someone always asks, ‘Couldn’t anyone have easily come up with this idea?’

“The reason that patents on obvious ideas are so commonplace is that courts have created rules that make obviousness difficult to prove. The case in which our brief was filed is a classic example. The Federal Circuit ruled that common-sense knowledge could not be used to prove an idea obvious without written documents describing each and every part of the idea. This flies in the face of how patents are supposed to work. Only big leaps in technology deserve the substantial reward of a United States patent, while common-sense, ordinary ideas are free for anyone to come up with.

“Our brief urges the Supreme Court to undo this pernicious ruling of the Federal Circuit. Without intervention, the Federal Circuit’s ruling will only make obviousness unduly hard to prove, encourage abusive assertion of obvious patents, and stifle the ordinary innovations and technologies that every person requires in daily life. It is only common sense for the Supreme Court to take this case.”

You may view our brief here.