I am curious as to patentability of one critical parameter of an existing (and patented) process. For clarity I will posit a hypothetical situation analogous to a real situation.
Industrial material A has the possibility of being made at better performance via new process class B. So over the years various inventors develop variants of B, i.e. B1, B2, B3 . . .
All class B processes focus the process on a single idea, e.g. that chilling of the material from its production temperature to ambient conditions will produce a material with superior properties. This is generally observed by all researchers and industrial producers. The various different class B processes differ only in how this chilling is done. Most of the class B processes were invented by engineers rather than pure scientists (i.e. chemists, physicists, biologists) in those industries producing material A.
A new researcher X who has a pure science background, after looking in detail through decades of research data of class B type processes and being cognizant of the physical and chemical state of the starting material, realizes that rapid heat extraction via chilling is not the sole factor involved in this transformation. For example, X may intelligently speculate that the chill starting temperature is also very important as it affects the condition of the primary state of the material and therefore its subsequent evolution during chilling. X supports this hypothesis with extraneous but largely uncommented-on data from prior publications on B processes. X also does his/her own experiments that clearly show situations where a moderate chill from a temperature higher than that used in normal production can produce even better material than that made via a severe chill from the normal production temperature.
The results in terms of material performance are dramatic. Yet the only real difference in processing practice is that X has adjusted one parameter for all class B processes with his/her insight: something that was definitely not obvious to many good engineers working in that area. There is no doubt that X's contribution will have industrial application and will surely lead to much higher performance in material A with appropriate added value to its unit cost. And it is almost certainly "new" to the world as the social/financial incentives for its publication/patenting by any prior discoverer would have been substantial.
But given that it essentially only requires an adjustment of a single process parameter to each of a class of existingly patented processes, can it be regarded as patentable ?
I would be very interested in the opinions of patent agents/attorneys on this question.