Patent Application for Poultry Processing System Refused By Examiner is allowed by Deputy Commissioner

One of the nice things about the Israel patent system is that the Applicant has the right to appeal Examiner’s claim rejections to the Commissioner. The process is rather smoother, cheaper and faster than Appeals in Europe and the US.

Israel Patent Application Number IL 190482 to Ecolab Inc titled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ON-SITE RECLAMATION, RECONDITIONING AND REAPPLICATION OF POULTRY PROCESSING WATER” is the national stage entry of a PCT application US/2006/038333 submitted in October 2006.

poultry processingThe invention relates to recycling water used for processing poultry and reusing for the same purpose. The first office action of 14 January 2013 found the Application non-patentable due to it lacking an inventive step over US 2005/0016934. The Applicant requested allowance under section 17c, based on the corresponding Australian issued patent no. AU 2006303885 that had issued in 2011. However the Examiner considered that the Applicant should deal substantively with the obviousness objection before the patent could be allowed.

On 8 December 2016, after five rounds of claim amendments, the Examiner finally refused the application under regulation 45 of the Patent Regulations 1968.

In the meantime, the corresponding Canadian patent, CA 2618436 issued with virtually identical claims. However the US patent application was refused, as was an Appeal to the PTAB, due to US 6,182,833 to Zittel, US 6,802,984 to Perkins and US 5,470,472 to Baird, none of which were cited in Israel.

The main claim is as follows:

“1. A treatment system for on-site reclamation, reconditioning, and re-use of poultry processing water, wherein said treatment system is connectable to a washing system, said treatment system comprising:
(a) an inlet line connected to a first receptacle within the washing system forcollecting said processing water leaving said washing system;
(b) a rotary filter, said filter retains solids greater than 0.001 to 0.010 inches, wherein the inlet line is connected to the rotary filter for filtering debris from the processing water collected in said first receptacle;
(c) a channel for removing said debris filtered from said rotary filter;
(d) a dispenser comprising equipment for preparing an antimicrobial solution, and a plurality of spray nozzles positioned proximate to said filter;
(e) a second receptacle for collecting water and antimicrobial solution from the rotary filter and from the dispenser, said second receptacle having a fluid capacity of 100 to 2000 gallons;
(f) piping for circulating said processing water through said washing system and said treatment system and for returning said processing water to said washing system; and,(g) a plurality of air operated diaphragm pumps for circulating the processing water through said piping;
wherein said dispenser is configured for dispensing antimicrobial solution and water onto said filter, and wherein the treatment system comprises only one disinfecting mechanism consisting of the dispenser as a source of antimicrobial solution and the rotary filter and second receptacle as receptacles of antimicrobial solution.”

The Examiner’s decision to reject the Application was based on the following reasons:

  • The application lacks inventive step over US 2005/0016934;
  • The Applicant failed to explain why the invention was an improvement over the prior art, especially US 2005/0016934, and did not provide data showing that it was more efficient. Consequently, the Examiner considered that adding the anti-microbial solution during or after filtering were equivalent and the differences were well understood to persons of the art.
  • Since over US 2005/0016934 shows a rotating filter with sprinklers, there is no technical problem to add ozone to the filter in addition to or instead of the oxidation described in over US 2005/0016934.

The Applicant responded by offering to add a further element to claim 1, thereby narrowing the scope of the patent and providing an inventive step.

The additional narrowing feature is as follows:

“(d) a dispenser comprising equipment for preparing an antimicrobial solution, and a plurality of spray nozzles positioned proximate to said filter, said dispenser spray nozzles configured for dispensing antimicrobial solution continuously onto the filter for 10-60 seconds every 5 minutes to 5 hours; ”

The Applicant similarly applied to amend independent claim 9 as follows:

“(e) dispensing an antimicrobial solution and water onto said filtering apparatus by means of dispenser comprising a plurality of spray nozzles positioned proximate to said rotary filter by spraying water onto said filtering apparatus for between 10 to 60 seconds every 5 minutes to 5 hours at a force of between 0.6 to 6 pounds-force when measured from 12 inches away from said filtering apparatus and constantly spraying said water at a force of between 0.1 to 0.5 pounds-force when measured from 12 inches away from said filtering apparatus, thereby removing the retained solids from said filter thus forming a waste stream and removing bacteria from reclaimed water;”

The Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha considered this sixth claim amendment in a hearing on 24 April 2017.

Discussion

The claimed invention was considered novel, so the Examiner concentrated on inventive step over US 2005/0016934 as required by Section 5 of the Law.

Section 5 states:

Inventive Step is an improvement that is not considered self-evident to persons of the art based on publications preceding the Application date as per section 4.

Different approaches for determining inventive step are given in the ruling concerning IL 219732 to Celgene Corporation. According to both the US and the British approaches, one has to identify the prior art available to persons of the art, to identify the differences and to determine whether there is an inventive step that wasn’t known to persons of the art at the relevant date.

In 345/87  Hughes Aircraft Company vs. State f Israel p.d. 44(4) 45 (1990) paragraph 49 it was established that the inventive step does not need to be big.

The prior art relied upon by the Examiner is US 2005/0016934 which describes a system for recycling water after processing poultry by treating the used water to remove solids, fats, oils, and pathogens for reuse of the water in further poultry treatment.

The common elements are: two receptacles for collecting the water, one of which is for collecting the water after use in the washing system; sprinklers, filters for filtering waste from the water after use; a pipe for removing waste, a pump for circulating the water through the system, and a diaphragm pump operating on compressed air to cause the water flow.

There are, however, differences between the cited art and the claimed invention. The filter in the claimed invention rotates and is situated after the first receptacle, whereas that in the system described in US 2005/0016934 is upstream of the first receptacle so that the water is filtered before the anti-microbial solution is added.

The addition of the anti-microbial solution in the claimed invention is by sprinkling onto the rotating filter at an earlier stage that in the cited art wherein the anti-microbial solution is added after two filtration stages. Furthermore, in the system of the application, the anti-microbial solution is added in one stage, in the filter, so there is one disinfectant stage that occurs concurrently with the filtering. In contradistinction, in the cited art, there are two disinfectant stages, where ozone is first used, and then chlorine is added (see [0027] and [0030]. Introducing ozone into the system requires a second stage wherein the ozone acts on water in the receptacle to kill microorganisms in the water. The addition of chlorine is actually optional and it is introduced at different stages not detailed in US 2005/0016934.

The claimed invention includes a dividing system with sprinklers that includes equipment for preparing the antimicrobial solution and sprinklers for its introduction into the filters such that water without the antimicrobial material is continuously sprinkled whereas the water with the antimicrobial material is intermittently added as per the claims. In US 2005/0016934 the water flows continuously.

The Applicant claims that the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are sufficient to provide an inventive step, since the early addition of the antimicrobial solution enables it to act continuously without needing to wait. Furthermore, in the claimed invention the filtering and sterilizing are combined, whereas in the cited art, the washing of the filter is only intended to remove waste.

The Applicant argued that the long period in which the antimicrobial solution is in the system allows a weaker antimicrobial system than that required in the cited art.

RULING

The Deputy Commissioner considers that the differences between the cited art and the claimed invention require persons of the art to apply an inventive step. At least the Examiner failed to cite similar features found in related systems that are required to substantiate the allegation of lack of inventive step.

The Deputy Commissioner disagrees with one allegation of the Examiner; that the Applicant failed to explain the advantages of the claimed invention over the prior art. The Deputy Commissioner does not consider that the Applicant has to provide external evidence that the invention is superior to the prior art. The advantageous feature(s) have to appear in the specification at the time of filing so that the Applicant does not invent during Examination. Furthermore, a different system that is not necessarily superior, but which operates in a different manner may be patentable, if the differences are not obvious to persons of the art.

In light of the above, IL 190482 is allowed for publication for third-party opposition.

COMMENT

The Deputy Commissioner notes that the Israel Law refers to an inventive step and then explains that a non-obvious difference that is not necessarily advantageous is all that is required.

To my mind, the US law requires the claimed invention to be non-obvious, whereas the UK and EP approach requires an inventive step. The wherein clause in the US points out a non-obvious feature, and the characterized by clause in Europe points to an inventive step. The two requirements are not the same.

That as may be, the US board of appeal rejected the invention in light of specific art. I think that for purposes of efficiency, the Deputy Commissioner should have referred the application back to the Examiner to consider that art in light with Israel law since one assumes that oppositions or cancellation proceedings will raise the issues found persuasive in the US. Then again, perhaps it is better for the Commissioner or a judge to consider such issues.

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