Monday, 18 July 2011

A slippery patent

Select Healthcare (UK) Ltd v Cromptons Healthcare Ltd & Anor [2011] EWHC 1830 (Pat) (15 July 2011) involved UK patent no 2 433 244 for a clever type of "slide sheet", which enables nurses easily to reposition patients. Proto-Magic owned the patent (which is brief to the point of being terse, as Mr Charrington comments (thanks!) and has a home-made look to it), Select claimed to be the exclusive UK licensee, and Cromptons were alleged to have infringed (and counterclaimed for revocation, naturally, on grounds of obviousness, insufficiency and added matter. The judge, Kitchin J, held the patent was invalid for obviousness, and not infringed anyway. The evidence of the experts showed that it was obvious to use pimples on the surface of the sheet to reduce friction, and the claimed invention was therefore obvious over the prior art. The insufficiency claim (which was by now redundant) was rejected by the judge and so was the added matter claim, but that did not matter.

The one claim that was in issue required a non-woven material with a pimpled finish on one side, coated with a low-friction material. The judge found that the material did not have anything that might be described as a pimpled finish, so although the coating was present the defendant's product did not fall within the claim.

The judge also found it unnecessary to decide whether there was an exclusive licence. However, he did express the view that the evidence supported Select's version of events, that it had the right to work the patent to the exclusion of all others - including the patentee. So had other parts of the judgment gone differently Proto Magic might have been in breach of the licence: but the patent was invalid and not infringed, so it didn't matter.

1 comment:

Mr. Charrington said...

I had a look at the patent. Amazing - a self-drafted thing, only about one side of a4 to the description, no drawings, 2 claims of which only 1 infringed. The original claim was to using a non-woven sheet - amended to include two seemingly admitted prior art features plus some non-limiting verbiage, then granted. Whose idea was it to take that dog to trial?


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