Orthokinetics Inc. v. Safety Travel Chairs, Inc.
806 F.2d 1565 (Fed. Cir. 1986)

  • Orthokinetics made pediatric wheelchairs. They invented and received a patent on a wheelchair improvement that made it easy to load people into and out of cars.
    • Specifically, the patent claimed "wherein said front leg portion is so dimensioned as to be insertable through the space between the doorframe of an automobile and one of the seats thereof." The claim did not specify any range of sizes that would fit into a car, or suggest what size range of cars the invention was designed to be used with.
  • A few years later, STC started marketing a similar kind of wheelchair. Orthokinetics sued for infringement.
    • STC argued that Orthokinetics' patent was invalid because it did not "particularly point out and distinctly claim the invention," as required by 35 U.S.C. 112 ¶2.
      • STC argued that the dimensions of the wheelchair would be dependent on the dimensions of the car that the wheelchair is built for. Since the dimensions of the car are not part of the patent, it would impossible for someone reading the patent to figure out how to make a properly-sized wheelchair.
    • Orthokinetics argued that it was pretty obvious that you had to measure the car to properly size the wheelchair and that someone skilled in the art would be able to do that without having to have it explicitly spelled out in the patent.
  • The Trial Court found for STC in a JNOV. Orthokinetics appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that Orthokinetics' claim did not describe the invention in "full, clear, concise, and exact" terms. Therefore the patent is invalid due to indefiniteness.
    • JNOV (judgment notwithstanding the verdict) means that the jury found for Orthokinetics, but the judge thought that the jury made such a horrible mistake, he ignored the jury's verdict.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Trial Court had erred when they discounted Orthokinetics' expert witness' testimony that someone skilled in the art would know how to measure the car.
  • The test for definitiveness is not whether there is a better, more specific way to have drafted the claim. The test is simply whether it is definitive enough so that someone skilled in the art could figure it out.