As Patently-O reports this morning, 

The Supreme Court recently rejected Medela’s petition for certiorari arguing that the conclusion of obviousness should be made by a judge rather than a lay jury.

In the wake of Medela’s failure, Acushnet (maker of Titleist) is now asking the Supreme Court to hold that "a court reviewing a jury’s [obviousness] verdicts must always independently render its own legal conclusion regardless of whether one or all of the jury’s underlying findings are accepted as adequately supported by the evidence." Taking that a step-further, Acushnet argues that a jury’s verdict on the question of obviousness should be seen as "entirely advisory as to the ultimate legal conclusion." 

Medela was intriguing — and Acushnet would be even more intriguing — because many believed that the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc. gave the courts even more power to dispose of patent infringement cases prior to reaching a jury trial by making the court involved even further in determining the "nonobviousness"* of new inventions.

The denial of certiorari in Medela, however, implied the opposite, thereby preserving the primary role of juries — to resolve factual disputes — in patent cases.  A denial of certiorari in Acushnet would be a big win for plaintiffs, since it would empower them to argue that the district court can only grant summary judgment if there is no way the jury could find the patented invention "nonobvious."

On the merits of the petition, Acushnet’s argument is incompatible with the civil litigation and jury trial system envisioned by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. We don’t demand jury service from ordinary citizens, particularly the weeks of jury service required for patent trials, just so they can render "advisory opinions." We demand jury service to evaluate the material facts over which there is a "genuine" dispute.

* "Nonobviousness" is important because §103 of the Patent Act precludes patents when “the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art.”