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Can a U.S. Supreme Court decision be described as a watershed event only a few days after it is issued? Patent lawyers are debating that proposition in the case of KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., No. 04-1350, 2007 WL 1237837 ( U.S. April 30, 2007). KSR reshaped a complex set of rules developed over decades by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to determine when a patent that combines two or more previously known features — as many, if not most, patents do — is invalid as “obvious.” By refocusing the obviousness inquiry, and directing summary judgment invalidating the patent before it, this unanimous decision effectively calls on district courts to become more actively involved in striking down weak combination patents that are the result of nothing more than what the court called “ordinary innovation.”

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