BASF Corp. v. SNF Holding Co., No. 19-1243 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
SF’s 329 patent is directed to an improved process for preparing high-molecular-weight polymers for use as super-absorbers in fields such as waste treatment and paper manufacturing. The district court entered summary judgment that certain claims were invalid as anticipated and that another was invalid as obvious. The court concluded that a process performed by a third party, Celanese’s “Sanwet® Process,” evidenced prior art knowledge and use of the patented invention under 35 U.S.C. 102(a), and constituted both a public-use bar and an on-sale bar to the patented invention under 35 U.S.C. 102(b).
The Federal Circuit reversed. The district court misinterpreted section 102(a) and the public-use bar of section 102(b); under the proper legal standard, genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. The “known or used” prong of 102(a) means “knowledge or use which is accessible to the public.” Members of the public had access to the plant, where they could view the shape of the conical taper; no evidence suggests that any of these guests was a skilled artisan. The parties dispute whether the remaining elements of the Sanwet® Process were known, and to the extent they were not, whether they were concealed from the public on these tours, in newspaper articles, and in the commemoration video.