Hoyt Augustus Fleming v. Cirrus Design Corporation

Docket No. 2021-1561 (IPR2019-01566) (https://cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions-orders/21-1561.OPINION.3-10-2022_1919730.pdf)

LOURIE, HUGHES, STOLL

March 10, 2022

Brief Summary:  PTAB IPR FWD finding parachute systems claims obvious and denial of entry of amended claims for lacking written description affirmed.

Summary:  Mr. Fleming appeal PTAB IPR final written decision (FWD) that the challenged claims of US RE47,474 relating to ballistic parachute systems on aircraft.  The PTAB’s denial of his motion to amend the claims for lack of written description (WD) support and indefiniteness was also appealed.  The FC panel opinion explains that the ‘474 patent is directed to “intelligent ballistic parachute systems” that only deploy under certain conditions (e.g., altitude, speed, position) and without direct pilot action, but also includes an optional “intelligence override interface” (e.g., pull-handle or button to press).  The PTAB concluded the claims would have been obvious over a pilot manual (“POH”) and the “James” patent (e.g., “relying on expert testimony, found that the skilled artisan would have recognized it is desirable to tailor James’s system in view of those parameters” in the POH).  It was not persuaded by Mr. Fleming’s submitted evidence of copying (secondary consideration in the obviousness analysis).  Regarding obviousness, the FC panel reviewed the PTAB’s “conclusions de novo and its factual findings for substantial evidence” (Univ. of Strathclyde, FC 2021; OSI, FC 2019; Fox, FC 2019 (secondary considerations)).  The FC panel agreed with the PTAB on obviousness (e.g., “one of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to program James’s autopilot system to perform these flight maneuvers upon receipt of a parachute deployment request because they are suggested by POH in order to achieve safe and beneficial deployment of a ballistic parachute”) (Randall Mfg., FC 2013; unlike Arendi S.A.R.L., FC 2016 (criticizing “the Board for relying on common sense to supply a missing claim limitation” but noting it “cannot be used “as a wholesale substitute for reasoned analysis and evidentiary support”; no teaching away (Arendi (“the obviousness inquiry does not require that the prior art combination is the ‘preferred, or the most desirable’ configuration”)).  The FC panel also found the PTAB appropriately considered the evidence of copying (Iron Grip Barbell, FC 2004).

The FC panel explained that it reviews “the Board’s decision to deny a motion to amend under the Administrative Procedure Act, and we may set aside the Board’s action if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law” (5 USC 706(2)(A), Bosch Auto., FC 2017; Intelligent Bio-Sys, FC 2016).  It also explained that the WD requirement means that “the application’s disclosure must ‘reasonably convey[] to those skilled in the art that the inventor had possession of the claimed subject matter as of the filing date’” (Ariad, FC 2010).  The FC agreed with the Board’s analysis “manual selection by an aircraft occupant” (as in the sections cited by Mr. Fleming) “does not adequately support the processor-based selection required by the proposed amended claims”.  The PTAB decision was therefore affirmed.

Patrick Halloran

Pat has a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from The University of Health Sciences / The Chicago Medical School (now the Rosalind Franklin Institute (North Chicago, IL) (1994)). He also completed post-doctoral studies at The National Cancer Institute (1994-1996) where he developed novel…

Pat has a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from The University of Health Sciences / The Chicago Medical School (now the Rosalind Franklin Institute (North Chicago, IL) (1994)). He also completed post-doctoral studies at The National Cancer Institute (1994-1996) where he developed novel approaches for gene therapy of melanoma. Pat has been an attorney (IL) since 1999 after graduating from Chicago-Kent College of Law, which was recently ranked as one of the top five law schools for Intellectual Property in the U.S. (U.S. News and World Report link). Pat also has a B.A. in Biology from Augustana College (Rock Island, IL; 1989) where he was on two NCAA Division III National Championship football teams (1985, 1986). He currently resides in Center Valley, PA.