The arrival of a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) office action citing no less than six earlier patents directed to various sub-combinations in the features of the main independent claim in an application which I was handling prompted the present note. Readers may recall the decision of Judge Rich In re Winslow 365 F.2d 1017 (C.C.P.A. 1966): “We think the proper way to apply the 103-obviousness test to a case like this is to first picture the inventor as working in his shop with the prior art references — which he is presumed to know — hanging on the walls around him.” However, Boltzmann’s entropy formula S = k log W where S represents entropy, a concept associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty, and W represents the number of possible states in the relevant system, leaves an unforgettable impression on those who have studied it. Even if the fields from which the earlier patents might be selected are restricted to relevant general classifications, the number of combinations of six references which might have been collected together from the body of prior art in the relevant technical field randomly and without knowledge of the invention is mind-boggling.

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