Ex parte Laub
Appeal 2009004880; Appl. No. 10/869,070; Tech. Center 2100
Decided December 18, 2009
The application was directed to an online transactional processing (OLTP) system for a production line that makes a product. A representative claim on appeal read:
13. A method of calculating a value of work in progress on the basis of reporting data received from a set of reporting points of work centers of a production line for producing a product, the production line being logically divided into shop areas, one reporting point of each shop area being an exit point corresponding to an intermediate production step, the method comprising the steps of:In a first Office Action, the Examiner rejected independent claim 13 as anticipated by Martin, which described real-time accounting of plant performance at a sub-plant level. In particular, the Examiner relied on the following two sentences in Martin for the "generating a first table" step.
... generating a first table comprising aggregated quantities of intermediate products and aggregated scrap quantities reported from the exit points on the basis of the reporting data stored in the database;
calculating a total value of work in progress by means of the first and second tables by the server computer.
The plant can also purchase electricity from a local utility and can sell excess electricity to the utility ... For the purposes of this example, it is assumed that the power plan consists of two boilers and a generator. Steam from the two boilers is used both to drive the generator, which in turn, provides electricity to the plant, and to provide steam directly to a number of process units in the plant."The Applicant argued the "generating" limitation was not taught by Martin as alleged. More specifically, the Applicant argued that the Martin's statements that a power plant uses boilers and a generator did not teach generating a table, and did not teach aggregated quantities as reported from exit points, as recited in claim 1.
In the next (final) Office Action, the Examiner changed the rejection of claim 13 to anticipation by Martin "with incorporated reference Beaverstock." The rejection mapped the "generating" step to Beaverstock's Table 1, a block of code showing calculations from variables.
The Applicant filed an After Final Response. Applicant noted that Beaverstock taught an incurred resource cost that was calculated from the variables catalyst usage, energy cost, and materials cost, and that the calculation was implemented by six functions implemented by code in Table 1. The Applicant argued that these did not correspond to aggregated quantities as reported from exit points, as recited in claim 1. An Advisory Action did not comment on the Applicant's arguments on claim 13.
On appeal, the Applicant repeated the same arguments in the Appeal Brief. In the Answer, the Examiner further explained which variable in the code block corresponded to the claimed aggregate scrap quantity.
The Board reversed on the grounds that the Examiner had combined the unrelated teachings of Martin and Beaverstock in a manner not permitted in an anticipation rejection. Beaverstock was discussed in Martin's Background, and was therefore a distinct disclosure not directly related to the portions of Martin relied on for the other claimed elements.
The Examiner has not provided a link between Martin’s embodiments and Table I in Beaverstock. Nor do we see such a link in Martin. Rather, the Examiner has simply selected various disparate features from the references in arriving at the claimed invention which is improper under § 102. See Net MoneyIn, 545 F.3d at 1369; see also Arkley, 455 F.2d at 587.
My two cents: There are a few scenarios in which it's proper for the Examiner to use multiple references in an anticipation rejection -- see MPEP 2131.01 for a list. But these scenarios are pretty limited, so be ready to challenge if the Examiner steps outside of these bounds.
The Applicant got a lucky break here, since the Applicant did not argue the particular issue which the Board used to reverse the rejection.