University of Strathclyde v. Clear-Vu Lighting, LLC, No. 20-2243 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other Gram-positive bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics cause health problems, particularly in the hospital environment. TheUniversity of Strathclyde’s 706 patent addresses problems resulting from the “availability of few effective sterili[z]ation methods for environmental decontamination” of air and surfaces and discloses photoinactivation as a method that has emerged for killing harmful bacteria like MRSA and describes a method for photo-inactivating antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA without using a photosensitizing agent.
In inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found claims 1–4 of the 706 patent unpatentable as obvious, 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit reversed. Neither the Board’s finding that the prior art disclosed all claim limitations nor its finding of a reasonable expectation of success is supported by substantial evidence. No reasonable factfinder could have found that the combination of the prior art discloses inactivating one or more Gram-positive bacteria without using a photosensitizer. In this case, where the prior art establishes only failures to achieve that at which the inventors succeeded, no reasonable factfinder could find an expectation of success based on the teachings of that same prior art.