Docket No. 2017-1290 (IPR2015-00195)
DYK, REYNA, CHEN
March 13, 2018
Brief summary: PTAB FWD following IPR finding certain claims of US 6,475,435 B1 relating to aseptic food packaging unpatentable for obviousness affirmed (e.g., the prior art “fairly suggests maintaining” the claimed “‘at least about 5 to 1’”), as was its claim construction determination (Steuben’s “proposed construction…impermissibly restricts the claim term a specific embodiment.)
Summary: Steuben appealed PTAB FWD following IPR finding certain claims of US 6,475,435 B1 relating to aseptic food packaging unpatentable for obviousness. The challenged claims are directed to a “sterilization tunnel” with separate zones providing various concentrations of sterilant (hydrogen peroxide) (e.g., “wherein the sterilant concentration levels in the plurality of zones are maintained at a ratio of at least about 5 to 1”) and through which bottles are processed and sterilized. The FC panel explained that it reviews the PTAB’s “legal conclusions de novo and its factual findings for substantial evidence” (Rambus, FC 2013) and its “claim constructions de novo and its underlying factual determinations involving extrinsic evidence for substantial evidence” (Microsoft, FC 2015) under the “broadest reasonable constsruction” standard (Microsoft, FC 2017). And obviousness is a question of law, based on underlying factual findings, including what a reference teaches, whether a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine references, and any relevant objective indicia of nonobviousness” (Apple, FC 2016; In re Kubin, FC 2009; Graham, US 1966). Steuben argued the PTAB incorrectly construed “sterilant concentration levels” too broadly but the FC panel concluded Steuben’s “proposed construction…impermissibly restricts the claim term a specific embodiment disclosed in the specification”. The PTAB’s construction was therefore affirmed. The FC panel also agreed with the PTAB’s obviousness determination, concluding the prior art “fairly suggests maintaining” the claimed “‘at least about 5 to 1’ or ‘at least about 1,000 ppm to 0.1 ppm’ ratio”. Thus, the Board decision was affirmed.