A Proposal to View Patent Claim Nonobviousness from the Policy Perspective of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(A)

This Note analyzes the scope of appellate review that should be accorded to a trial judge’s determination of nonobviousness. Part I details the condition of nonobviousness and how it has evolved into the principal obstacle to patentability. Part II analyzes the Supreme Court and appellate precedents on the scope of review on this issue. Part III evaluates the policy underpinnings of Rule 52(a) and applies a two-pronged analysis to the nonobviousness requirement to determine whether the clearly erroneous standard of review is appropriate. This Note concludes that the treatment of the nonobviousness determination as a question of law cannot be justified on either analytical or policy grounds, and should be treated as a question of fact subject to the clearly erroneous standard.