Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. Serial No. 11/395,232
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reyna, Circuit Judge.
Before PROST, O'MALLEY and REYNA, Circuit Judges.
Mr. Blaise Laurent Mouttet ("Mouttet") appeals the decision of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences ("Board") affirming the rejection of all pending patent claims under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a). Substantial evidence supports the Board's factual determinations, and we agree with the Board's conclusion that Mouttet's claimed invention would have been obvious to one having ordinary skill in the art. We therefore affirm.
A. Mouttet's Patent Application
On April 3, 2006, sole inventor Mouttet submitted utility patent application No. 11/395,232 ("the '232 application") entitled "Crossbar Arithmetic Processor." It discloses a computing device for processes such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using nanoscale materials in a crossbar array.*fn1 Specifically, Mouttet claimed in representative*fn2 claim 1:
1. A computing device comprising:
at least one crossbar array including a first set of N conductive parallel wires (N≥2) forming a set of columns and a second set of M conductive parallel wires (M≥2) forming a set of rows, and formed so as to intersect the first set of conductive parallel wires, wherein intersections are formed between the first and second sets of wires forming MxN crosspoints wherein each of the crosspoints is programmable so as to be in a relatively high conductive state representative of a binary value 1 or a relatively low conductive state representative of a binary value 0;
a programming unit configured to program the crosspoints to have one of the relatively high conductive state or the relatively low conductive state so that at least one column of the crossbar array stores a bit pattern representative of a programmed numerical value;
an input unit configured to provide a bit pattern representative of an input numerical value to the columns of the crossbar array; and
a post-processing unit configured to convert analog signals output from each of the rows of the crossbar array into digital output bit patterns and configured to combine the digital output bit patterns so as to form a resultant bit pattern representative of an output numerical value,
wherein the output numerical value is mathematically dependent on both the programmed numerical value and the input numerical value.
Ex parte Mouttet, No. 2009-010041, 2011 Pat. App. LEXIS 15036, at *1-2 (B.P.A.I. Mar. 29, 2011).
Mouttet's crossbar array consists of two intersecting sets of conductive parallel wires. At the wire junctions, or "crosspoints," a thin film material or molecular component acts as a bridge between the wires. The resistance of the thin film material or molecular component between the intersecting wires may be altered by controlling the voltages applied to individual wires in the first and second sets. By altering the resistance, each crosspoint can be programmed to be in a high resistance (low conduction) state or low resistance (high conduction) state. The two states can represent the binary values "0" and "1" and thus store digital data. For example, Mouttet's Figure 2b from the '232 application, below, illustrates the internal structure of a 3x8 crossbar array with various crosspoints in either state after programming:
Figure 2b depicts binary values 00001001, 00000111, and 00000011, which in the base 10 number system represent the numerals 9, 7, and 3.
Mouttet's claimed computing device adds other input and output units to the central crossbar array. As shown in Figure 1 of the '232 application, reproduced below, an input unit 103 and a program unit 102 provide the necessary voltage to the array of crossbar wires 101, altering the resistance at the crosspoints:
By altering the conductive states of the crosspoints, input unit 103 and program unit 102 provide the crossbar array with bit patterns (a series of "0"s and "1"s) representative of numerical values. Post-processing unit 105 converts the analog signals from each of the rows of the crossbar array 101 into digital output bit patterns representative of numerical values, for example, the sum of the values provided by the input unit 103 and program unit 102.
The examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") rejected all twenty of Mouttet's pending claims under § 103(a) as unpatentable over a publication by Shamik Das*fn3 ("Das") and four prior art patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 4,633,386 (filed Apr. 6, 1984) ("Terepin"), 5,249,144 (filed Sept. 29, 1989) ("Falk"); 6,693,821 (filed June 28, 2001) ("Hsu"), and 6,867,996 (filed Aug. 29, 2002) ...