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In re Hall [Parties not identified.]

    Brief Fact Summary. The Patent Office rejected an application for a patent because a dissertation on the same topic had already been published overseas.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An invention that is already in the public domain is no longer patentable.

    Facts. Hall’s application for a patent was rejected because a doctoral thesis was available as a “printed publication†more than one year prior to the application’s effective date. Hall appealed, claiming that there was no evidence that the dissertation was indexed properly in the library catalog before the critical date and that, even if it were, the presence of a single catalogued thesis in one university library does not establish sufficient accessibility of the publication’s teachings to those interested in the art and who practice reasonable diligence.

    Issue. Is an invention that is already in the public domain patentable?

    Held.(Baldwin, J.) No. An invention that is already in the public domain is no longer patentable. Here, the dissertation had an effective date as prior art more than a year before the filing date of Hall’s first application. Competent evidence of the general library practice may be relied upon to establish an approximate time when a thesis becomes accessible. The dissertation was indexed and placed in the main collection at Freiburg University in Germany. Affirmed.

    Discussion. This case demonstrates the rule that a publication becomes public as of the date it becomes available to at least one member of the general public. Magazine articles become public as of the date of their publication (when they are available to the public), not when they are sent to the publisher. In this case the statutory bar involved 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) because the publication occurred more than one year prior to Hall’s application for the patent.


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