Can Combining Contrivances give rise to Inventive Step? – An IPAB Case Note

Eaton Electric BV Vs. Deputy Controller of Patents and Designs, Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) Decision – Mp. No. 86/210, Decided on 14th July, 2011.

Invention:

A hygrometer is used in combination with the arrangement of a moisture absorbing agent, which is provided inside the enclosed housing of a Switch Gear.

Prior Art:

1. Switch gear in enveloping housing filled with dry air to control Arc energy.

2. Introduction of moisture absorbing agent to reduce water content in the air.

Question: Does the invention possess an inventive step in light of the prior art?

The invention is an improvement over existing switch gears, the modern versions of which have been in existence for a long time. You may visit Wikipedia to see what a Switch Gear is, for a basic background on Switch Gears. The specification claims several advantages such as reducing the size of housing, reducing the need for fool proof insulation, and increasing the shelf life of switch gears. Overall, the invention is claimed to have great economic significance.

After reviewing the cited prior art, the IPAB sided with the decision of the patent office to reject the patent application based on the lack of inventive step. The IPAB observed that combining the prior art to arrive at the invention was obvious to a person skilled in the art, posing no technical hurdles whatsoever to merit patentability. As per IPAB, switch gear housing filled with dry air was known, the role of the moisture absorbent was known, and the method of calculating the quantity of absorbent required was also known. It would not be very difficult, based on the knowledge available, for a person skilled in the art to introduce a hygrometer to measure moisture content, and to remove such moisture using an absorbent, making the invention a mere combination, and therefore,  obvious.

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