In a slightly dated order passed in February this year, the Chennai Patent Office rejected TVS Motor’s patent application titled “A Self-Locating Ignition Lock Assembly”. The principal claim of the application reads as follows:
“A self-locating ignition lock assembly for a motor vehicle comprising a lock body with a key slot for receiving the ignition key therein, said body having a key plate securely fixed to it, said plate having an aperture shaped to expose the key slot; and the plate being made of a fluorescent substance for absorbing light energy during the day and rendering itself fluorescent to be visually self-locating during the night”.
The inventive step of the invention lay in the use of fluorescent material for the plate which can absorb light and emits it at night (which means the plate is visible at night).
The Patent Office cited US6060985 and US5709453 saying these documents anticipate and render obvious the invention. The former discloses use of luminous fluorescent reflector which forms part of the visible face of the instrument panel of a motorcycle.
The second US patent discloses an illuminating strip which may be used to shed light on the devices/instruments adjacent to it. The illuminating strip uses a light conducting material that has a fluorescent substance. The sheet has two portions, one to gather light and the other to emit it.
From the above two patents, what is clear is that the use of fluorescent substances to illuminate instrument panels in vehicles in fairly known. However, does this mean that Claim 1 of the TVS application lacks in novelty?
For this, one must understand what is claimed as novel about the invention. Use of a fluorescent material either as part of the instrument itself or as an illuminating device/strip is known in the art. But, does the art, or at least the cited US patent documents reveal use of fluorescent material as the material for the construction of the body of the instrument panel, which absorbs and emits light?
I don’t think so because, the first document merely reveals use of fluorescent material, and the second speaks of an illuminating strip that has light-absorbing and emitting portions.
In contrast, in the TVS application, the very body of the panel/ignition lock assembly is made of fluorescent material, the whole of which can absorb and emit light. Therefore, at best both the US documents put together may render the TVS application obvious. However, these US patents don’t seem to erode the novelty of the TVS application since neither of these individually discloses all essential embodiments of the TVS application.
That said, I’d agree with the finding that the TVS application suffers from lack of inventive step.
The Patent Office however rejected the application on both grounds that it is neither novel nor non-obvious.