AIRBUS S.A.S. v. FIREPASS CORP.

AIRBUS S.A.S. v. FIREPASS CORP., Appeal No. 2019-1803 (Fed. Cir. November 8, 2019).  Before Lourie, Stoll, and Moore.  Appealed from PTAB. (Analogous Art; Obviousness)

Background:

Firepass owns a patent directed to a system for providing a hypoxic atmosphere for preventing and extinguishing fires.  Airbus filed a request for inter partes reexamination, which now has returned to the Federal Circuit from a prior appeal in which the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s decision dismissing Airbus’s cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction and remanded to the PTAB to consider Airbus’s challenge to the claims at issue.

On remand, the Examiner rejected the claims as obvious over various references.  Firepass appealed the Examiner’s rejection of the claims to the PTAB, arguing that the primary reference (an earlier-issued patent with the same named inventor as the patent at issue) was not analogous art.  The PTAB found that the primary reference was not analogous art (i.e., it was neither from the same field of endeavor nor reasonably pertinent to the particular problem with which the inventor was involved) and reversed the Examiner’s rejection of the claims.  The PTAB explained that there was no articulated rational underpinning that sufficiently links the problem of fire suppression/prevention confronting the inventor of the patent at issue to the invention disclosed in the primary reference (directed to human therapy, wellness, and physical training).  In its analysis, the PTAB declined to consider Airbus’s argument that breathable fire suppressive environments were well-known in the art because none of the four references relied on by Airbus in this regard was applied in the rejection at issue.  Airbus appealed.

Issue/Holding:

Did the PTAB err in reversing the Examiner’s rejection? (continue reading)

Summary byBenji Prebyl

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