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In re Fought

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 4, 2019

IN RE: DAVID FOUGHT, MARTIN CLANTON, Appellants

          Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. 13/507, 528.

          Ryan Matthew Fountain, Mishawaka, IN, argued for appellants.

          William LaMarca, Office of the Solicitor, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, VA, argued for appellee Andrei Iancu. Also represented by Thomas L. Casagrande, Thomas W. Krause, Joseph Matal, Coke Morgan Stewart.

          Before Newman, Moore, and Chen, Circuit Judges.

          Moore, Circuit Judge.

         David Fought and Martin Clanton (collectively, Appellants) are the named inventors on U.S. Patent Application No. 13/507, 528, filed on July 5, 2012. The examiner rejected claims 1 and 2 under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b), and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed. Ex Parte Fought & Clanton, No. 2017-000315, 2018 WL 4458741 (P.T.A.B. Aug. 28, 2018) (Board Decision). Because we hold the Board erred in concluding "travel trailer" does not limit the scope of the claims, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Background

         The '528 application relates to the construction of travel trailers. The specification describes a preferred embodiment of the trailer having two compartments, a living quarters and a garage portion, separated by a wall assembly. The application includes two claims:

1. A travel trailer having a first and second compartment therein separated by a wall assembly which is movable so as to alter the relative dimensions of the first and second compartments without altering the exterior appearance of the travel trailer.
2. A travel trailer having a front wall, rear wall, and two side walls with a first and a second compartment therein, those compartments being separated by a wall assembly, the wall assembly having a forward wall and at least one side member,
the side member being located adjacent to and movable in parallel with respect to a side wall of the trailer, and
the wall assembly being moved along the longitudinal length of the trailer by drive means positioned between the side member and the side wall.

J.A. 17.

         The examiner rejected both claims under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 102(b). The examiner rejected claim 1 as anticipated by U.S. Patent No. 4, 049, 311 (Dietrich), which describes a conventional truck trailer such as a refrigerated trailer, and claim 2 as anticipated by U.S. Patent No. 2, 752, 864 (McDougal), which describes a bulkhead for shipping compartments. Appellants responded to the rejections by arguing that a "travel trailer" is "a type of recreational vehicle." Appellants relied on U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2010/0096873 (Miller) as extrinsic evidence regarding the meaning of "travel trailer" and "recreational vehicle."[1] The examiner maintained his rejections. Appellants appealed to the Board and cited Woodall's RV Buyer's Guide (Woodall's) as additional evidence to support their position. Appellants also argued to the Board that the examiner erred by rejecting the claims under ยง 102 without addressing the level of ordinary skill in the art. The Board affirmed the examiner's rejection, concluding the preamble term "travel trailer" is a mere statement of ...


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