Sports equipment hanger invention at the PTAB

If you have kids that play sports, you know that sometimes their equipment comes back wet, smelly, dirty, or any combination thereof, and in desperate need of washing. But of course the equipment can be bulky and unsuitable for traditional high efficiency washing machines. Further, if you are traveling somewhere (such as for an away game), things can be even more difficult..

So Dan Durham invented a new type of portable equipment hanger to address these challenges and technical deficiencies in the available hangers on the market. Dan retained a patent attorney and filed a patent application for his invention. The invention provides a hanger system with a blower to direct air to the items hanging on it to dry them. Below is claim 1 on appeal, with several areas emphasized by the Board (PTAB),


Of particular note are the extensions 24/25 below the hanger 32 shown in FIG. 1 below.


The prior art cited by the Examiner, Collier, had some similar features, but the hanger was quite different. In Collier, the arms 26 and appendages 16 are the hanger, according to the examiner. But, the examiner also contended that extensions 34 were “positioned below a respective one of the ends of the hanger.” Of course, these extensions are not projecting from the main vertical member, among other deficiencies.


Unfortunately, Dan’s patent application was assigned to an examiner with a very low allowance rate (data from


Now, just because the examiner has a low allowance rate does not mean that the rejections are improper in every case (just more often than other reasonable examiners). However, in this particular case, the rejection was fundamentally flawed in numerous ways. The examiner was clearly stretching the prior art beyond its disclosure.

So Dan had to appeal. Sometimes an applicant knows that further amendments and RCEs will not move the needle and so the only way to address improper rejections is to appeal. The PTAB fully agreed that the rejection was improper:


The case here illustrates a classic way in which examiners often hand the applicant an easy win on appeal - particularly a situation where the examiner re-uses portions of a reference to be multiple distinct claimed elements. As summarized by the applicant in their brief, such a rejection is internally inconsistent:


It is important to have a clear strategy with your patent application and understand that sometimes the case is assigned to an examiner who will reject the application unreasonably. Keep pushing the examiner to justify the rejection and often they will hand you an easy victory by making clear their improper distortion of the cited art.