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flashofgenius Like many IP colleagues, I have now seen the movie Flash of Genius dealing with an inventor who dedicated much of his life to suing Ford and eventually other motor car companies for infringing his patents on intermittent window wiper technology.  But after watching the movie I was left with some technical questions, and I wonder if anyone can help me with the answers.

1/ In the courtroom scenes towards the end of the movie, Ford’s counsel appears to be saying in summation that they have proved the invalidity of the patents in question.  While the movie doesn’t portray the entire trial, there seemed to me very little in the part of the case shown in the movie that actually went to the validity of the patents, rather than the fact that Ford simply hadn’t infringed them.  Does anyone know if the case in fact revolved more around validity or infringement?

2/ As a corollary to the first question, wouldn’t it be relatively easy to establish that the patents were indeed valid (and were probably infringed) by the very fact that the Ford company asked to meet with the inventor in the first place to look at his technology?  Of course, the jury found in favor of the inventor in the end, so this may well have been the decisive question for them anyway.

3/ As a really minor point – and I suppose I should be able to work this out on my own given where I work – at one point in the movie, the inventor says that he was trained in engineering at Case Western Reserve University.  It seems to me that the timeline is wrong for a reference to “Case Western Reserve University” as distinct from a reference to “Case Institute of Technology” ie the institution that probably taught engineering prior to the merger with Western Reserve University.  As a faculty member of the law school myself, I should understand more about my own university’s history and I have to plead great and inexcusable ignorance here, but if anyone knows the answer to that one, I’d be interested in hearing it.

3 thoughts on “Flash of Genius”

  1. I don’t see how your (2) could be correct. Just because Ford asked to meet with the inventor to look at his technology does not mean that the patent was necessarily valid. Validity is based upon statutory requirements: Section 101 (patentability); 102 (novelty); 103 (nonobviousness); 112 (written description, enablement, best mode); etc.

    Perhaps this is something the jury would be interested in hearing, but it’s definitely not a game-ender. But patent suits typically cost in the millions of dollars to pursue or defend, so I doubt there was anything easy here about it. Though I don’t know the specific details of this case.

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