(CN) - In a rare discussion about the properties and function of sex toys, the Federal Circuit ruled that owners of Know Mind Enterprises cannot patent sex devices made of slippery borosilicate glass.
"[Sex] devices are generally in the shape of rods of various curvatures and are made out of rubber, plastic glass or some combination of these materials," explained Judge Richard Posner, a 7th Circuit judge sitting by designation on the three-judge panel.
Know Mind patented a "sexual aid ... fabricated of a generally lubricious glass-based material containing an appreciable amount of an oxide of boron to render it lubricious and resistant to heat, chemicals, electricity and bacterial absorptions."
Before the company's invention, glass sex toys were typically made out of soda-lime glass, the most common form of glass.
Know Mind sued rival sex-toy maker Topco Sales for patent infringement and won, but appealed the judgment when it wasn't satisfied with the award.
Judge Posner explained that Know Mind's patent referred to a "slippery" device made of borosilicate glass, the kind of glass used to make Pyrex glassware.
"That glass has the properties that the patent claims for it, and one can see how those properties might enhance the utility of sexual devices made out of it," Posner said.
"Nevertheless, though the plaintiffs' invention is useful (setting aside any qualms that one might have about sexual devices in general), it is not patentable if it would have been 'obvious' ... to a person having the relevant technical skills."
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., determined that the plaintiff's patent was an obvious improvement on an existing product.
"[T]o experiment with substituting borosilicate glass for ordinary glass in a sexual device was not a venture into the unknown," Posner wrote.
The judges reversed the judgment against Topco and remanded.
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