US – Insuffisance de la description rend invalide une alternative secondaire revendiquée

La décision de la “Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit” Automotive Technologies International, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., et al. (September 6, 2007) concerne l’invalidation d’un brevet par la Cour d’appel dont les revendications en litige récitaient des “means responsive to the motion of said mass”, couvrant un “electronic sensor” alors que la description se limitait à des modes préférentiels de nature purement mécanique.

Il a été décidé par la Cour que, puisque la description ne comprenait pas suffisamment d’information sur le mode de fonctionnement du “electronic sensor” pour qu’un homme du métier puisse le fabriquer et le faire fonctionner, la revendication ne pouvait être trouvée valide.

. . . Noticeably absent is any discussion of the circuitry involved in the electronic side impact sensor that would provide more detail on how the sensor operates. The mere boxed figure of the electronic sensor and the few lines of description fail to apprise one of ordinary skill how to make and use the electronic sensor.
ATI argues that despite this limited disclosure, the knowledge of one skilled in the art was sufficient to supply the missing information. We do not agree. In Genentech, Inc. v. Novo Nordisk A/S, 108 F.3d 1361, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 1997), we stated: “It is the specification, not the knowledge of one skilled in the art, that must supply the novel aspects of an invention in order to constitute adequate enablement.” Although the knowledge of one skilled in the art is indeed relevant, the novel aspect of an invention must be enabled in the patent. The novel aspect of this invention is using a velocity-type sensor for side impact sensing.

Given that the novel aspect of the invention is side impact sensors, it is insufficient to merely state that known technologies can be used to create an electronic sensor. As we stated in Genentech, the rule that a specification need not disclose what is well known in the art is “merely a rule of supplementation, not a substitute for a basic enabling disclosure.” 108 F.3d at 1366. We further stated that the “omission of minor details does not cause a specification to fail to meet the enablement requirement. However, when there is no disclosure of any specific starting material or of any of the conditions under which a process can be carried out, undue experimentation is required.” Id.

The inadequacy of the description of an electronic side impact sensor is highlighted by comparison with the extensive disclosure of how to make and use a mechanical side impact sensor, consisting of two full columns. If such a disclosure is needed to enable making and using a mechanical side impact sensor, why is not a similar disclosure needed to enable making and using an electronic side impact sensor, which is an essential aspect of the invention?

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