Does KSR’s “Common Sense” Make Sense? The Federal Circuit Adjusts Obviousness in Mintz v. Dietz & Watson


KSR v. Teleflex marks the Supreme Court’s most recent statement on the law of obviousness. In KSR, the Supreme Court at least briefly addressed such concepts as allowing for common sense, avoiding hindsight bias, and looking to problems addressed in patents. But what do these concepts really mean? And to what extent do they apply to the obviousness equation? This year, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit provided some clarification of these issues in Mintz v. Dietz & Watson.

The Mintz Case -

Facts - Mintz involves U.S. Patent No. 5,413,148 (“the ’148 patent”), which claims a casing structure for encasing meat products. The ’148 patent discusses two problems— the “adherence” problem and the “cost” problem—that arise in prior-art meat encasements. Prior art meat encasements use a netting that allows meat to bulge between the netting strands; this produces a desirable checkerboard pattern on the meat’s surface. However, the meat in the prior art encasements bulges and cooks around the netting strands, making it difficult to peel the netting off the cooked meat (“adherence problem”). Some prior art encasements tried to solve the adherence problem by placing a separate layer of collagen film, or stockinette, between the meat and the netting. But doing so required a two-step stuffing process, which was labor intensive and expensive (“cost problem”).

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