In re: Verhoef, No. 17-1976 (Fed. Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
VerHoef’s dog developed a walking problem called “knuckling.” Their veterinarian, Dr. Lamb, suggested trying a commercially available harness to support the leg during therapy. The harness did not fix the problem. VerHoef recognized that the harness would work if connected to the dog’s toes. Lamb suggested a strap configured in a figure 8 that fit around the toes and wrapped around the lower leg, above the paw. VerHoef implemented Lamb’s figure eight idea, and, after adjustments, had a working device that reduced the knuckling problem. VerHoef filed a patent application listing the two as joint inventors. A single independent claim expressly recited the figure eight loop. Relations between VerHoef and Lamb soured. VerHoef’s attorney abandoned the joint application and filed a substantially identical application, listing VerHoef as the sole inventor. That same day Lamb filed a substantially identical application listing herself as sole inventor. Each application recites the same independent claim. The examiner issued a final rejection (35 U.S.C. 102(f)). The Patent Board agreed that VerHoef did not maintain “intellectual domination” over the inventive process and that Lamb was a joint inventor. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence in the form of VerHoef’s affidavit supports determinations that Lamb contributed the idea of the figure eight loop and that the figure eight loop is an essential feature of the invention not insignificant in quality or well-known in the art.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on May 7, 2018.