FORTUNE -- In late 1940s, an inventor named William Graham solved the age-old problem of how to protect a plow cutting through rocky soil by adding shock absorbers to the plow's shanks. He applied for a patent, and it was granted in 1950. When John Deere (DE) incorporated the technology into its plows, Graham sued.
The Court held that obviousness should be determined by examining:
As for the latter, the Court outlined examples of factors that show "objective evidence of nonobviousness." They are:
The so-called "Graham factors" played a leading role in the Federal Appeals Court's decision Wednesday to reverse, vacate and remand to another court the International Trade Commissions 2012 dismissal of an Apple (AAPL) complaint against Motorola Mobility -- now part of Google (GOOG). Apple claimed that Motorola had infringed two key smartphone patents -- patents that Apple has also asserted in its high-profile case against Samsung. They are
"We are troubled by the ITC's obviousness analysis," the appeals court wrote in a stinging repudiation of the ITC's work on the case. "We have repeatedly held that evidence relating to all four Graham factors -- including objective evidence of secondary considerations -- must be considered."
Those secondary considerations are the ones that anybody with eyes who has shopped for a mobile phone in the past six years can't miss seeing.
Namely, that Apple succeeded in building a commercially successful touchscreen smartphone where others had failed, and that once the iPhone proved its worth, competitors around the world rushed into the marketplace with devices that looked an awful lot like Apple's.
It was the second time in a week that the ITC was schooled by a higher authority for ruling against Apple. See How the ITC forced a veto in the Samsung-Apple patent case.
It came the same day the White House proposed reforming the very agency that issued it.
FORTUNE -- The ironies underlying the U.S. International Trade Commission's order Tuesday banning the import from China of certain older iPhones and iPads are stacked up like planes circling Dulles International waiting for a chance to land.
But before we list them, we need to make an important distinction between two kinds of patents:
Standards-essential patents (SEPs), MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 5, 2013 9:53 AM ET
HTC was forced to drop one feature. Motorola may have to drop another. More to come.
Many commentators took at face value HTC's declaration of "an actual victory" after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that it had infringed Apple's (AAPL) patent on software that allowed a user to dial a number embedded in an e-mail simply by clicking on it. That particular feature was only one of 10 patents Apple MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 23, 2011 6:58 AM ET
Shares of HTC are down sharply in advance of a ruling on a key Apple patent suit
HTC shipped more than 5.7 million smartphones to the U.S. last quarter, according to Canalys, beating out Samsung and Apple to become the country's leading smartphone vendor.
So there's a lot at stake for the giant Taiwanese phone maker -- and indeed for the manufacturers of all Google (GOOG) Android phones -- in the ruling MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 5, 2011 7:41 AM ET
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