The invention in question relates to a method of analyzing phonocardiogram (PCG) data and electrocardiogram (ECG) data obtained from a portable sensor device. The claimed invention is characterized by dividing phonocardiogram data and electrocardiogram data in time segments, discarding low quality time segments and determining whether the heart is considered to need further examination based only on high quality time segments. The Korean Intellectual Property Office (“KIPO”) finally rejected the patent application on the ground that the invention lacks an inventive step over a combination of three cited references and well-known techniques.
The examiner of KIPO asserted that one of ordinary skill in the art could have easily derived the technical features in the claimed invention from a design modification based on a specific environmental change as Cited Reference 2 discloses a division based on a complete cardiac cycle, and it is a well-known in the art to divide the electrocardiogram into PQRST waves based on events of the cardiac cycle and the phonocardiogram into S1 to S4 based on the events of the cardiac cycle. Particularly, the examiner concluded that the claimed invention does not produce an unpredictably remarkable effect, without providing any reasonable basis. Contrary to the examiner’s assertion, (i) Lee International believed that the claimed invention divides one cardiac cycle into a plurality of time segments, whereas the cited references only disclose a division based on a complete cardiac cycle; and (ii) the cited references and well-known techniques neither disclose nor suggest the feature in the claimed invention, i.e., when the quality of phonocardiogram data is greater than a threshold level and the quality of electrocardiogram data is greater than a threshold level, whether the heart is considered to need further examination is determined based only on time segments of the phonocardiogram data and the electrocardiogram data. Therefore, Lee International appealed the Final Rejection to the IPTAB and Lee International specifically explained constitutional differences based on the specification and drawings in the appeal brief and during the technical hearing to persuade the IPTAB to understand the essential technical point. In order to further emphasize the technical significance resulting from the constitutional differences, Lee International also clarified the technical effect of the claimed invention distinguished from those of the cited references, i.e., since only insufficient quality segments (subset of a cardiac cycle) are discarded, there is no need to discard a lot of data and heart data can be more safely and accurately analyzed. Accordingly, the IPTAB was persuaded by Lee International’s argument and issued a decision confirming that the claimed invention has an inventive step.
This case is a noteworthy example which overcomes an obviousness rejection over a simple design modification of a combination of several cited references and well-known techniques by arguing the technical effect, i.e., heart data can be more safely and accurately analyzed, resulting from the constitutional difference between a claimed invention and prior art that one cardiac cycle is divided into a plurality of time segments and only time segments with low quality are discarded to demonstrate that the constitutional difference having a technical significance would be enough for the claimed invention to be recognized to have an inventive step.