In a recent Federal Circuit opinion in Personal Web Technologies LLC v. Apple Inc., the court reiterated that a determination of patent invalidity based on 35 U.S.C. 103 "obviousness" requires not only a mere explanation that a person of ordinary skill could combine the cited prior art references, but must also explain how he or she would do so. On this basis, the lower PTAB decision was vacated and remanded, noting that the case lacked “a clear, evidence-supported account of the contemplated workings of the combination” to adequately explain and support the conclusion that a relevant skilled artisan would have been motivated to make the combination and reasonably expect success in doing so.
In the perpetual Apple v. Samsung (and Samsung v. Apple) battles for patent dominance, the Federal Circuit's most recent decision invalidated two of Apple's asserted patents, notwithstanding a jury verdict finding the opposite. The two claims were directed to Apple's mobile device patents, including automated spell corection, slide-to-unlock (found in the lower court to have been infringed by Samsung devices, and resulting in $119 million in damages). The claimed features were invalidated on appeal to the Federal Circuit based on 35 U.S.C. 103, in that each of the "slide-to-unlock" and "spell correction" claims were obvious in view of the prior art. In support of the patents, Apple presented evidence of copying, industry praise, long-felt but unsolved need, and commercial success all being secondary considerations of nonobvious. The Federal Circuit reviewed Apple's presented evidence, and collectively found the secondary evidence to be too weak to overcome the evidence of obviousness based on the prior art, and reversed the lower court's jury verdict.