General. The following hypothetical examples teach this concept:
Hypothetical Example No. 1. Daniel allows his friend, Kate, to wear a novel backpack that he invented in public without restriction. At a later time, Sybilla independently invents the same invention and files a U.S. patent application on the invention. The USPTO rejects Sybilla's application under 35 U.S.C 102(a) because Kate's use was a public use.
Hypothetical Example No. 2. Hedy uses her invention at a county fair in a way that it is accessible to the public. Beulah independently invents the same invention at a later date and obtains a U.S. patent on the invention, as Hedy's use is not well known. When Beulah sues Hedy for patent infringement, Beulah's patent is declared invalid because Hedy can show that she used the invention in public before Beulah's date of invention.
Hypothetical Example No. 3. Pocket widgets are widely used in Kew, Australia. Everyone has one. They are not used in the U.S. The inventor of the pocket widget, Maurice, had not reduced his invention to practice in the U.S. before he filed a U.S. patent application on the pocket widget. The USPTO grants a patent to Maurice.
Hypothetical Example No. 4. Mary has been secretly using her invention for her own enjoyment for years. Daniel independently invents the invention and files a U.S. patent application on it. The USPTO grants a patent to Daniel and he starts making and selling the invention, creating a very profitable business. When Mary attempts to set up a competing business, Daniel is able to prevent her from practicing the invention in the U.S.
Case Law. The following examples from U.S. case law teach this concept:
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