The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Friday in Dippin’ Dots, Inc v. Mosey that the Dippin’ Dots patent number 5,126,156 is unenforceable. The Federal Circuit based its ruling on the fact that Dippin’ Dots made sales of its product more than one year prior to filing its patent application and failed to disclose this information to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
This ruling emphasizes the importance of filing a patent application BEFORE disclosing your invention. Although the United States grants a short grace period within which to file your patent application after disclosure, failure to timely file a patent application places the invention into the public domain. In the event you do obtain a patent, as did Dippin’ Dots, failure to disclose a prior sale may, at best make the patent unenforceable, and, at worst, subject you to huge liability for antitrust violations.
Also interesting is the Federal Circuit’s ruling in the Dippin’ Dots case which drastically limited the coverage afforded method claims. These new technicalities will certainly give patent lawyers all over the country fits and should dissuade any inventor attempting to draft patent method claims without the aid of a well-qualified patent lawyer.
On the upside, your next purchase of Dippin’ Dots this summer may no longer require you to take out a second mortgage on your house.