POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INV. v. ARTIC CAT, INC., 16-1807, 16-2280, decided February 9, 2018

U.S. Patent No. 8,596,405, directed to side-by-side seating in an ATV.

(1) “A protective panel positioned between the pair of laterally spaced-apart seating surfaces and the engine” does not require a panel for both seats (pages 12-13).  The specification and claims are directed to positioning between the passenger compartment and engine, not to protect both seats (page 13).  (2) For a reason to combine, “subjective preference” cannot overcome a teaching away (pages 19-21).  Subjective preference can invite hindsight, focuses on what is possible rather than what is motivated, and ignores evidence showing why something would not be done (pages 19-21).  (3) For combining a dune buggy prior art with an ATV prior art where the invention is characterized as an all terrain vehicle (pages 23-24), the references are analogous (page 24). (4) A drive shaft “extending between” is interpreted to be the drive shaft without anything (e.g., U-joint) else intervening in extending the whole distance (page 30).  Each use in the specification shows the shaft extending the whole way (pages 30-31).

Hindsight:  (1) For spatial relationships, it may be helpful to be specific and include alternatives.  Thinking in one dimension may have caused a problem here.  This is a claim directed to 3D space, so the claim terms could have dealt with 3D space.  (2) In arguing reasons not to combine, the Examiner should not be merely indicating a preference where there is teaching away.  (3) Attempting broad application of the claims invites a greater collection of analogous prior art.  At least some independent claims could have been focused more on the specific product of the applicant.  (4) Alternatives are good.  The specification may be drafted to include reasonable alternatives, such as U-joints.  In dealing with spatial, be careful reciting terms of distance in the claims.