This appeal is from the decision of the Patent Office Board of Appeals, adhered to on reconsideration, sustaining the rejection of the single claim in appellants' application
The sole claim on appeal is as follows:
The references indicative of the knowledge possessed by one of ordinary skill in this art were all placed in the record by the examiner. Of those supporting the rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 103, Meyer et al.,
In the above structure, X may be either an O, S or NH radical. For simplicity, we will use the designation "di-substituted ethylenes" as representing this class of compounds. The patent teaches that these compounds may be prepared by dehydrogenating the corresponding di-substituted ethane with a suitable dehydrogenating agent, and cites a considerable number of such agents any of which would be suitable. It goes on, however, to specify a preference for "mild oxidizing agents, especially mercuric
Of particular pertinence in the Meyer et al. patent is illustrative example 5 wherein is shown the production of the compound α:β-di-[benzoxazolyl-(2)]-ethylene, from which the compound of the instant claim differs only in that the benzene rings are substituted at the `5' position with a methyl group. The example concludes with the comment that "α, β-di-[benzoxazolyl -(2)] - ethane methylated in the benzene nucleus may also be [de]-hydrogenated[
Of the secondary references, those relevant to the rejection are Schneider,
The Prior Art Rejection
The examiner rejected the claim in view of the disclosure of Meyer et al. (I) taken either alone or in combination with the above-mentioned secondary art. His reasoning was stated in the Answer as follows:
The Res Judicata Rejection
In their parent application, appellants had presented claims reciting only the compounds themselves, one claim drawn specifically to the compound recited in the claim before us now, the others defining the alkyl group on the benzene rings in more generic fashion. These claims were rejected over the combination of Meyer et al. (I) in view of Meyer et al. (II), previously discussed. The examiner there took the position that the claimed compounds were homologous to those described in Meyer et al. (I) and therefore at least prima facie obvious due to the close structural similarity. He was sustained on appeal to the board, which also stated its belief, citing the closing sentences in example 5 of Meyer et al. (I) (also discussed previously), that that reference "substantially anticipates the claims on appeal." Affidavit evidence submitted by appellants, showing that the compounds prepared according to their process were significantly better as optical brighteners for polyester fibers than compounds disclosed in the references and made by the process described therein, was dismissed by the examiner as being
Appellants refiled and, in an obvious attempt to get around the criticisms of both the examiner and the board in the parent case, limited their claimed invention to the pure, crystalline, di-5-methylated compound giving the maximum brightening effect. They also submitted additional affidavits showing a comparison of the claimed product with the non-methylated compounds of Meyer et al. (I) when prepared according to appellants' process. This comparison did demonstrate that, when pure, the compounds of the prior art are effective as optical brighteners for polyester fabric, but indicates as well that it would take approximately ten times as much of the pure prior art compounds to produce a brightening effect comparable to that of the claimed product.
The examiner in this case took the position that the subject matter claimed here is the same as that represented by the claim to this compound in the parent case since the parent case showed its preparation in the pure form now recited. He asserted that the issue of purity had been considered in the earlier case and concluded: "The question of patentability over Meyer et al. (I) is no longer a virgin problem and the prior adjudication stands, right or wrong."
THE BOARD OF APPEALS
The board affirmed the rejection over the prior art in this case, adopting the examiner's reasoning as its own. With regard to the combined affidavit evidence of record, the board first observed that the results therein shown apply only to polyester fabrics treated with the claimed material. It then went on to conclude:
The examiner's position that the instant claim amounts to a relitigation of substantially the same subject matter previously adjudicated and held unpatentable was also sustained, our decision in In re Herr, 377 F.2d 610, 54 C.C.P.A. 1315 (1967), being distinguished on its facts.
As we see it from the record before us, the gist or essence of appellants' invention, in practical, commercial terms, is the discovery that the specific compound
On the other hand, appellants have satisfactorily demonstrated not only that the prior art compounds were not comparable in purity to theirs, but also that such compounds even when so pure possess a significant (although admittedly very specific) property to a substantially lesser degree. Proof of the former has the effect of weakening the Patent Office case since, as we have indicated, that the prior art compounds be presumed pure is an important element of the logic behind the Patent Office position. Both aspects of the evidence, when taken together, have the effect of justifying an inference that the manifest difference in properties of the claimed subject matter over the prior art compounds would have been unexpected. Considering the record before us in light of the above, we are satisfied that appellants have rebutted the initial inference of obviousness and have established that their claimed subject matter, as a whole, would not have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in this art. Cf., In re Doyle, 327 F.2d 513, 51 C.C. P.A. 993 (1964).
The board's comments with regard to "overclaiming" we find particularly in-appropriate in this case, and we note that none of the opinions cited by the solicitor in support thereof is really pertinent. Those cases all had to do with attempts at proving unobviousness with regard to subject matter of relatively broad scope with evidence pertaining to only a relatively narrow portion of such subject matter. Here we are dealing with evidence pertaining to the full extent of subject matter being claimed. The mere fact that such evidence deals with only one of a spectrum of properties possessed by that subject matter does not detract from its relevance. As we alluded to earlier, such evidence tends to prove that the subject matter claimed possesses a difference in properties over that with which it was compared which would have been unexpected. As such it is relevant and, we feel, convincing of unobviousness.
In connection with the rejection on res judicata grounds, we note first that the decision asserted as an estoppel is that of a Patent Office tribunal and not a decision on the merits by a court of record. As such, we find that, in presenting for examination the modified claim we now have before us, appellants did sufficiently alter the issues on patentability to be decided by the Patent Office. Accordingly, the following cases are in point and require reversal of the board's decision on this rejection: In re Craig, 411 F.2d 1333, 56 C.C.P.A. 1438 (1969); In re Herr, 377 F.2d 610, 54 C. C.P.A. 1315 (1967).
The board's decision is reversed.