We've been following the KSR v. Teleflex case for a while, as it's an important legal case concerning the future of the patent system. If you recall, it's a patent infringement lawsuit where one side is claiming that the patent is quite obvious and never should have been granted (patents are only supposed to be granted for ideas that are non-obvious to a skilled practitioner). In this case, it was taking two commonly used ideas and linking them together -- which plenty of people (including the defendant in the case) suggested was completely obvious. Many people stepped up to point out that there really isn't a test for obviousness, despite the requirements of the patent system. The court system currently uses prior art as the only test for obviousness -- but it's possible for an idea to be obvious without it having been written about in a journal or earlier patent. However, for years the patent office and the courts have disagreed, basically ignoring the "and" statement in the "new and non-obvious" requirement for getting a patent. Back in June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and now the EFF has stepped up and filed an amicus brief, pointing out the problems of the current obviousness test. As they say it, "has forced litigants to search through haystack upon haystack of technical knowledge for the exact needle in which someone, somewhere, bothers to state the obvious." When you need to "search through haystack upon haystack" to prove "obviousness," something seems wrong. Having a better test for obviousness makes a lot of sense. We've all heard too many stories of "obvious" ideas getting patents, and if the idea of the patent system is to promote new and novel ideas, we're all better off (well, perhaps not the patent attorneys) if obvious patents aren't granted.
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