Cascade Corporation v. Kinshofer GmbH 2016 FC 1117

Analysis – Cascade is the owner of Canadian Patent No. 2,587,065 which claims priority to a number of New Zealand patent applications. Cascade alleged that Kinshofer’s X-LOCK couplers infringe the ‘065 patent.

The ‘065 patent relates to quick/hitch couplers for quickly coupling an implement to an earth working machine. The coupler has a hook portion that engages a front pin of the implement, and a mounting portion that engages a back pin of the implement. In order to ensure secure engagement of the hook portion to the back pin, independent claim 1 recites “wherein the safety locking device of the hook portion is configured to release the front pin by being moved into an unlocked position using a hydraulic circuit which operates independently of the hydraulic locking mechanism of the mounting portion”. While Cascade alleged that multiple claims of ‘065 were infringed, only claim 1 was construed.

The Court construed the expression “hydraulic locking mechanism” as relating to both the mechanical components of the back pin locking mechanism and the hydraulic circuit which actuates them. The Court also construed the term “independence” to mean that the operation of one locking device does not affect the operation of the other locking device. The Court stated that they preferred the claim construction of Kinshofer’s expert as this expert took into account the identification of the problem of the prior art and the explanation of the preferred embodiment disclosed in the ‘065 patent.

The Court found that in order for the front pin lock to be disengaged in Kinshofer’s X-LOCK product, the pressure in one of the hydraulic lines must exceed a pressure threshold, thereby permitting flow of hydraulic fluid to the cylinder that retracts the front pin lock. The Court stated that the hydraulic component of the X-LOCK product that moves the front pin safety locking device into an unlocked position is not able to perform that function without regard to the status or function of the hydraulic componentry of the back pin locking mechanism. As such, the Court concluded the X-LOCK product did not infringe independent claim 1 and the ‘065 patent.

Practice Point – While this decision was reached largely on the technical details of the ‘065 patent and the X-LOCK product, the Court made an interesting observation in preferring the expert of Kinshofer. The Court stated that “I would have preferred to see a focus upon the meaning of the claims in the Patent before turning to interpretation of the disclosure, to ensure that the jurisprudential principles surrounding claim construction have been respected”. Companies doing business in Canada are reminded to be mindful of the principles of claim construction when engaging experts. The Court was able to decide the merits of the case via the Federal Court’s summary trial rules. As such, the case was expedited and costs were reduced for all parties. Interesting enough, Kinshofer is the owner of European Patent No. 1,852,555, which claims priority to the same New Zealand patent applications as the ‘056 patent. It is likely that Kinshofer had no interest in raising an invalidity defense given the risk of invalidating its own European patent.