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Patent problems as IPEC deems fabric protection invalid

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 10 May 2016

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Saertex France SAS v Hexcel Reinforcements UK Ltd (formerly Formax (UK) Ltd) [2016] EWHC 966 (IPEC), [2016] All ER (D) 35 (May)

Facts:

The claimant was the proprietor of a European patent concerning a method of manufacture of fibre-based reinforcements.

They alleged that the patent had been infringed by the defendant's products, which were in sheet form and consisted of layers, and which included a glass fibre reinforcing fabric and a polyester release film carrying dots of hot melt adhesive.

The defendant admitted that its products fell within the claim, but counter-claimed for a declaration that the patent was invalid for lack of novelty and inventive step.

The claimant consequently conditionally applied to amend the patent if it was found to be invalid.

The proposed amendment added the requirement that the adhesive was present only on the surface of the fibre-based material. Another amendment also included the use of a hot-melt glue as a further feature.

Issues:

The court decided to consider whether the patent is invalid by comparing it to:

  1. Crystic, which disclosed a method of cutting a dry fabric
  2. an article entitled 'Working with Fibreglass'.

Judgment:

In respect of the invention claimed in the patent, the skilled person was someone who would have a practical interest in treating fibre-based materials himself to create a treated reinforcement of the type disclosed in the patent, namely a manufacturer of treated reinforcements.

Whilst the defendant's method fell within all the claims in issue, on the evidence, the patent lacked novelty over Cytec and Working with Fibreglass and lacked inventive step over Crystic.

Even with the two amendments proposed by the claimants, the court found they would still lack novelty and inventive step.

Therefore, the claim of patent infringement was dismissed as the patent, including its variations, was deemed invalid.

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