OPINION OF THE COURT
ADAMS, Circuit Judge.
In this patent infringement case, we must first determine the validity of United States Patent No. 3,076,421, issued to Albert W. Spitz (Spitz) and owned by Trio Process Corp. (Trio), and
The primary issue of validity is whether the process disclosed in the patent was obvious to a practitioner with ordinary skill in the appropriate art at the time the process was developed. The infringement issue can be resolved by determining whether Trio is precluded by "file-wrapper estoppel" from asserting the doctrine of equivalents to show infringement.
The patent which forms the subject matter of this case teaches a process of removing organic insulation from scrap wire. The method basically consists of the following steps:
The device disclosed in the patent by which the process may be practiced consists of a portable, sheet-metal conical combustion chamber upon which a refractory-lined afterburner is superimposed.
For the past several decades, there has been an increasing demand for nonferrous metals, including copper, for the electrical and other industries. To meet this demand, newly-mined metals are supplemented with metals reclaimed from scrap sources. Before scrap wire can be reclaimed, however, it is necessary to remove the insulation covering such wire.
Prior to the development of the method set forth in the Spitz patent, two procedures were utilized to remove insulation from scrap wire. One such method was to burn the wire in an open field. This procedure was inefficient and uneconomical as it required that the wire be raked back and forth to achieve proper burning, and did not provide satisfactory control over the oxidation and melting of the wire.
In late 1957, Spitz undertook an assignment from Franklin Smelting & Refining Company to develop an effective method of removing insulation from wire. Spitz investigated the procedures currently in use, devised a fixed furnace that could be charged from the top and unloaded from the bottom, and finally developed a concept converse to that previously employed, namely, the burning of
Spitz applied for a patent in October of 1958. The original application contained both apparatus and method claims. All of the claims were rejected by the examiner on the basis of prior art.
Early in 1959, L. Goldstein's Sons, Inc. (Goldstein) became aware of the Spitz method and tried to emulate it, probably because Goldstein found the other two methods of processing scrap wire, described at p. 68, supra, unsatisfactory. Goldstein hired first one, then another engineer to attempt to duplicate the Spitz process, but although these engineers observed the Spitz furnace in operation, they were unable to devise a similar procedure. One of the engineers recommended a wire-chopping process which was eventually adopted for the reclamation of aluminum wire.
In 1960, Goldstein obtained licenses from Trio to use Spitz's method to process scrap wire.
In May, 1969, Trio filed suit against Goldstein for willful patent infringement, contributory infringement, and unfair competition. Goldstein's answer denied infringement and asserted as an affirmative defense that the patent was invalid under 35 U.S.C. §§ 101, 102, 103 and 112. After a trial without a jury, the patent was held to have been willfully infringed, but invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103. The district court did not rule on the issue whether the patent was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 112. Trio appealed from the holding of invalidity and Goldstein cross-appealed on the issue of infringement.
VALIDITY OF THE PATENT
We begin this discussion with the pole star proposition that a patent is presumed to be valid and that the burden of proof is on the party alleging invalidity.
Congress provided in 35 U.S.C. § 282 (1970), that: "A patent shall be presumed valid. * * * The burden of establishing invalidity of a patent or any claim thereof shall rest on the party asserting it." And this Court has recognized that "* * * the burden of proving invalidity in the face of the presumption is a heavy one." Schmidinger v. Welsh, 383 F.2d 455, 462 n. 10 (3d Cir. 1967); cert. denied, 390 U.S. 946, 88 S.Ct. 1031, 19 L.Ed.2d 1134 (1968). Indeed, invalidity must be demonstrated by clear and convincing proof, Ever-Wear Inc., v. Weiboldt Stores, Inc., 427 F.2d 373 (7th Cir. 1970); General Foods Corp. v. Perk Foods Co., 419 F.2d 944 (7th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1038, 90 S.Ct. 1537, 25 L.Ed.2d 649 (1970); Moon v. Cabot Shops, Inc., 270 F.2d 539 (9th Cir. 1959), cert. denied, 361 U.S. 965, 80 S.Ct. 596, 4 L.Ed.2d 546 (1960).
Because of the special public interest surrounding the issue of patent validity,
As stated above, the district court held that the patent was invalid on the ground that the invention was "obvious." Section 103 provides, in pertinent part: "A patent may not be obtained * * * if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. * * *"
Although Section 103 was enacted in 1952, it was not until 1966 that the Supreme Court definitively construed it in a trilogy of cases. Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 86 S.Ct. 684, 15 L.Ed.2d 545 (1966); Calmar, Inc. (Colgate-Palmolive Co.) v. Cook Chemical Co., id.; United States v. Adams, 383 U.S. 39, 86 S.Ct. 708, 15 L.Ed.2d 572 (1966). In Graham, the Supreme Court set forth the primary tests and secondary criteria for determining obviousness:
The Adams case illustrates that where all the elements of an invention were known in the prior art but not utilized together, if the combination of the elements produced unexpected results different from the prior art, an invention may be patentable, particularly where the prior art indicates that the procedure utilized by the patent will be unproductive. 383 U.S. at 50-52, 86 S.Ct. 708, accord D. Dunner, J. Gambrell, & I. Kayton, Patent Law Perspectives, Current Service, at A.5 (1966-67 Annual Review).
Trio maintained that because the district court did not specifically make the three primary findings referred to in Graham, reversal is required. But Graham and Anderson's Black Rock do not require that the three primary findings be made, but rather, only that the three primary tests be considered in the findings made by the district court. See Frantz Mfg. Co. v. Phenix Mfg. Co., 457 F.2d 314, 322 (7th Cir. 1972). Here, the trial judge's findings indicate that the scope of the prior art includes the reclamation of scrap wire, the manufacture of charcoal, the control of air pollution, and the incineration of tree stumps and sawdust. The content of the prior art was found to include portable furnaces, fixed furnaces, conical furnaces, and afterburners. The analysis of the prior art performed by the district court clearly highlights the differences between the claims at issue and the prior art as well as the similarities.
Although it would have been preferable for the trial judge to have set forth his findings with regard to the ordinary level of skill in the pertinent art with greater specificity, the findings actually made indicate that an ordinary person skilled in the art would be aware of the use of fixed furnaces operated at high temperatures to process scrap wire, the use of portable furnaces operated at low temperatures with limited air to produce charcoal, and the use of afterburners to cleanse the effluent gases. Furthermore, the district court made specific findings with respect to the needs of the industry and the commercial success of the invention. Accordingly, we held that the district court adequately complied with the requirements of Graham. We have examined the record with respect to the findings of the district court discussed above, and find substantial evidence supporting them.
The ultimate legal conclusion of the district judge that the patent was invalid under Section 103 carries with it the necessary implication that the differences between the invention sub judice and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the pertinent art. It is here that we believe the district court erred.
When the patent examiner approved the Spitz patent, he cited seven prior patents he considered to be in the prior art. These patents disclosed, inter alia, an apparatus and method for reclaiming
To rebut this conclusion, Goldstein cited eight additional patents and three literature references. In holding the patent invalid, the district court relied on five of the patents that were before the examiner (discussed supra), four of the patents cited by Goldstein,
Goldstein argues, however, that the method patented by Spitz was obvious at the time the invention was made because each of the steps described in the Spitz claims was well known in the prior art. However, the essence of the Spitz invention did not lie in the individual steps, but rather, consisted
B. Specific disclosure
Although Goldstein asserted in its answer that the patent was invalid for failure to comply with 35 U.S.C. § 112,
With regard to the allegations of omissions and misrepresentations, we hold that, on the facts of this case, such were not material, in that they did not relate to the statutory conditions of patentability: novelty, 35 U.S.C. § 102; obviousness, 35 U.S.C. § 103; or utility, 35 U.S.C. § 101.
C. Late claiming and Misuse
In its brief to this court, Goldstein urges that the patent should be held invalid because of late claiming under 35 U.S.C. § 132, and unenforceable because Trio misused the patent in a variety of respects. However, late claiming and misuse are affirmative defenses which must be pleaded and proved. 35 U.S.C. § 282 (1970). Because Goldstein's answer to the complaint did not raise these issues, we hold these defenses to have been waived under Rule 8(c), Fed.R.Civ.P., and need not consider them further.
WILLFUL INFRINGEMENT OF THE PATENT
Goldstein contends that the district court's conclusion of willful infringement is erroneous as a matter of law. The evidence disclosed that the only deviation in Goldstein's process from the method described in the patent was that Goldstein ignited the pile of wire prior to superimposing the furnace, whereas the patent stipulates the reverse order of these steps. Trio asserts that it is immaterial whether the pile is ignited before or after superimposition of the furnace, and that the conclusion of the district court is therefore correct under the doctrine of equivalents.
The Supreme Court explained the doctrine of equivalents and the conditions for its invocation in Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Products Co.:
Here, by reversing the order of the steps of the process, there is produced "substantially the same function" (ignition of the insulation in the pile of scrap wire in preparation for burning) "in substantially the same way" (burning the insulation at low temperature) "to obtain the same results" (Number 1 grade scrap copper wire). Unless Trio is barred from asserting the doctrine of
The doctrine of file-wrapper estoppel provides that where a patentee abandons or redrafts a claim more narrowly to avoid rejection on the basis of prior art, then the substance of the claim as originally drafted that was thereby excluded cannot be recaptured by resort to the doctrine of equivalents. Exhibit Supply Co. v. Ace Patents Corp., 315 U.S. 126, 62 S.Ct. 513, 86 L.Ed. 736 (1942). Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 33, 86 S.Ct. 684, 15 L.Ed.2d 545 (1966); Schmidinger v. Welsh, 383 F.2d 455 (3d Cir. 1967), cert. denied, 390 U.S. 946, 88 S.Ct. 1031, 19 L.Ed.2d 1134 (1968); Chemical Construction Corp. v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 311 F.2d 367 (3d Cir. 1962).
The doctrine is based on the theory that the prior art is either in the public domain or already patented, so that the patentee may not claim it as part of his invention. By redrafting or abandoning a claim in the face of a prior art rejection, the patentee is conceding that he has not invented what he thereby disclaims, and therefore will not be heard to assert, at a later date, what he disclaimed as his invention. Accordingly, for "file-wrapper estoppel" to become operable, it is necessary, at the least, that a claim have been narrowed to avoid the prior art. Bishman Mfg. Co. v. Stewart-Warner Corp., 380 F.2d 336 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 897, 88 S.Ct. 216, 19 L.Ed.2d 214 (1967).
Here, the claims were redrafted, not because they trespassed upon the prior art, but because they were considered misdescriptive in view of the specification of the patent. The rejection here was a technical matter based on the Rules of Practice of the Patent Office, and had nothing to do with the question whether the matter rejected was patentable. In such a situation, it would not be equitable to deprive a patentee of the full fruits of his invention because of a formalistic rule of the patent office. See Peterson Filters & Engineering Co. v. Eimco Corp., 155 U.S.P.Q. 89 (D.Utah, 1967), aff'd 406 F.2d 431, 438 (10th Cir. 1968).
For these reasons, we hold that, on the basis of the record developed below, the district court's conclusion of law that the patent had been infringed was not incorrect.
Goldstein next asserts that even if it were held to be an infringer, such infringement was not willful because it sought the advice of patent counsel as to the patentability of Spitz's invention. However, the opinion of counsel was not sought after the patent issued, even though more than a year elapsed after issuance before Goldstein began to infringe. This alone is enough to support a conclusion of willfulness, Maxon Premix Burner Co. v. Mid-Continent Metal Prods. Co., 279 F.Supp. 164 (N.D.Ill. 1967), and when viewed in conjunction with the totality of Goldstein's actions, including sending blueprints and operating instructions to a foreign company, we cannot say that the trial court's conclusion in this regard was erroneous.
The judgment of the district court with regard to the validity of the patent will be reversed, the judgment with regard to willful infringement will be affirmed, and the cause will be remanded
In any event, invention might lie in the realization of the exact problem to be solved. When the identification of the problem is not obvious, the invention can be patentable, even though the solution to the problem would then be obvious. Eibel Process Co. v. Minnesota & Ontario Paper Co., 261 U.S. 45, 43 S.Ct. 322, 67 L.Ed. 523 (1923). But cf. Graham v. John Deere Co., supra, 383 U.S. at 25, 86 S.Ct. 684. The proper test is whether the process as a whole would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art, not whether it would be "obvious to try" a certain solution to the problem at hand. In re Dien, 371 F.2d 886, 54 CCPA 1027 (1967).
Examination of the two methods of producing scrap wire known in the prior art shows a facial similarity in function and result. But closer analysis demonstrates that the result of the Spitz process is not the mere production of scrap wire, but the production of such wire in a more economical manner, in that operating and material handling costs are reduced by resort to this method.