(CN) – Rolls-Royce’s patented fan-blade technology for jet engines does not interfere with another engine manufacturer’s patent, the Federal Circuit ruled.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld a Virginia judge’s ruling for Rolls-Royce in its patent lawsuit against United Technologies Corp.
Both companies patented a method for setting jet engine fan blades at a certain angle, or “sweep,” in order to increase efficiency and reduce engine noise.
United Technologies filed two reissue applications in 1999 and 2001 for a patent first issued in 2005.
Rolls-Royce holds a British patent issued in 1996 and a U.S. patent issued in 1997, for which it sought a partial continuation in 1998.
Rolls-Royce asked the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences to declare no interference between the patents, but the board ruled for United Technologies.
On appeal, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema sided with Rolls-Royce.
The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that United Technologies’ latest reissue application does not render Rolls-Royce’s patent obvious.
Circuit Judge Randall Rader said Rolls-Royce’s invention “would not have presented itself as an option, let alone an option that would have been obvious to try.”
The court added that Rolls-Royce’s commercial success and industry acclaim “reinforce and substantiate” the lower court’s decision.
Rolls-Royce’s Trent 8104 engine “was the first commercially available engine with highly swept fan blades,” the ruling states. The engine was so successful and well-received that it won an award at the International Paris Air Show and was featured on the cover of Flight International magazine.
Jet engine makers quickly caught on, making Rolls-Royce’s model the industry standard.
“Rolls-Royce established the required nexus between engine sales and the invented fan blade design,” Rader concluded. “The secondary considerations cement the district court’s conclusion of non-obviousness.”