Board Rejects Appellants' Assertion that the Examiner's Proposed Combination Renders the Prior Art Unsatisfactory for its Intended Purpose

February 15, 2012 – Blog Post

In Ex parte Schmitt, (Case No. 2010-011741, in Application Serial No. 11/387,678, decision issued February 14, 2012), the issue on appeal was whether the Examiner erred in asserting that a combination of Babula, Redgate, and Lavery renders obvious independent claim 20.  The issue turned on whether modifying Babula, as suggested by the Examiner, would render Babula unsatisfactory for its intended purpose. 

The claimed invention was directed to medical devices and methods for remote maintenance of medical devices. Independent Claim 20 was directed to a medical device, comprising:

an electronic control and monitoring device for operating the medical device;

a data transmission device connected to the control and monitoring device for transmitting data between the control and monitoring device and a remotely-located computer,

the data transmission device configured to transmit the data to the remotely-located computer via a power line;

wherein the data transmission device is connected to the control and monitoring device by a wireless connection; and

wherein the power line is a public power supply network or is connected to a public power supply network.

Babula discloses a medical diagnostic system 12, which includes an ultrasound system 18 including a system controller 60 that regulates operations of a scanner 58. The ultrasound system 18 includes a communications module 62 for transmitting service requests, messages, and data between the system controller 60 and a service facility 22. The communications module 62, as well as a workstation 72 and field service units 24, may be linked to the service facility 22 via a remote access network 80.  The network 80 may include any suitable network, such as proprietary networks, dedicated networks, and open networks, such as the Internet.

Redgate discloses that power line installation wires which carry electricity to energize devices connected to the wires can also be used simultaneously to carry other electrical signals that convey information or control between devices connected to the wires. Each device to be connected to an electric power line installation can be uniquely identified (referred to as the device's electronic genetics) in such a manner that practical applications are not limited as to the number of devices connected to, or as to complexity of information or control effected by communications over, the wires of the power line installation. With its unique identity, any such device can be connected to any power line installation to communicate with any other such device connected to that installation so long as the identity information and linked operational files are within the system of devices connected to the particular installation. 

The Board held that the Examiner did not err in asserting that a combination of Babula, Redgate, and Lavery renders obvious independent Claim 20. The Appellant asserted that if Babula was modified to replace network 80 with the power line installation wires of Redgate, “it would destroy the purpose and/or operability of Babula et al., as the modems 98 of the service facility 22 would have no capability of deciphering the ‘keys’ provided by the power line of Redgate et al., and thus the service facility 22 in the modified version of Babula et al. would not be capable of communicating with the controller 60 and/or the workstation 72, thereby destroying the purpose and/or functionality of Babula et al.”

The Board did not find the Appellants arguments persuasive and reasoned that “the ‘keys’ are merely an embodiment of Redgate, as Redgate also generally discloses conveying information over power lines without keys. It is these generic power lines of Redgate that replace network 80 of Babula, which renders the ‘keys’ issue moot.”