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What is a clamp?

Written by Ben Evans on 14 October 2010

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In a recent hearing the Court of Appeal has decided that the word 'Clamp' in a patent simply means a clamp in the everyday sense of the word and not an all inclusive term for securing things together.

The defendant AGA Medical Corp ('AGA') owns a patent for a device designed to be placed inside blood vessels in order to block them. It is made of a fabric of metal wires clamped at either end with an external clamp. The claimant's Occlutech GmbH manufactured a similar device, however their device was welded at the end not clamped. AGA claimed that Occultech was infringing its patent, in response Occultech sought a declraration of non-infringement on the basis that the loose ends of its products were welded instead of clamped and thus outside the scope of AGA's patent.

Mr Justice Mann in the High Court ruled in favour of Occultech, simply he was convinced by Occultech's expert who's evidence defined a clamp as an object that exerts force upon two or more objects in order to keep them together.

At the appeal Lord Justice Patten upheld Mann J's view that a clamp was something that bound together objects by an external pressure, but that also it could be extended to include a device that physically bound the strands together. Patten LJ help that in this circumstance the skilled addressee would understand the language of the patent to mean that a clamp was an external device holding the strands together and thus Occultech's device fell outside of the patent claims.

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