Background
Supreme Court decision


On June 6 2013 the Supreme Court dismissed Vorwerk's violation of due process appeal and cassation appeal filed against a Barcelona Court of Appeal judgment which revoked the first instance judgment in a patent infringement case filed by Vorwerk against Taurus.

Background

In 2007 Vorwerk filed an action for infringement of three of its patents, ES2117423, ES201615 and ES2252900 (all related to improvements of the specific parts of Thermomix) based on Taurus's commercialisation of the MyCook product.

In its defence Taurus claimed non-infringement of the patents and counterclaimed for the nullity of patent ES201615.

In a December 30 2008 judgment Barcelona Commercial Court No 5 partially upheld Vorwerk's infringement claim, finding that Taurus had infringed patent ES201615, and dismissed the counterclaim filed by Taurus.

Both parties appealed. In a July 1 2010 judgment the Barcelona Court of Appeal revoked the first instance judgment and declared:

  • that Taurus had not infringed Vorwerk's patents ES2117423 and ES2252900;
  • the nullity of claims 1 to 18 and 20 to 24 of patent ES201615; and
  • that Taurus had not infringed claim 19 of patent ES201615.

Supreme Court decision

Vorwerk filed a violation of due process appeal and a cassation appeal against that decision. The appeals were based only on the grounds related to non-infringement of patent ES2252900.

The main argument behind the violation of due process appeal was that the Barcelona Court of Appeal had breached its duty of congruence by changing the terms of the debate since, in Vorwerk's opinion, the court had declared the non-infringement of patent ES2252900 by virtue of an argument not invoked by Taurus.

The Supreme Court established that the duty of congruence is compatible with a critical analysis of the parties' arguments, and even with a change in the juridical point of view expressed by the phrase 'iura novit curia' ('the court knows the law'), if it does not involve a mutation of the object of the process which produces defencelessness.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court added that:

"the fact that the judgment appealed uses, to distort the basis of the first instance judgment, legal arguments that were not invoked in the defence pleading, independently from being determined by the solution adopted by the first instance Judge, does not suppose an attack towards the 'causa petendi' nor does it affect the object of the process, since they are found within the juridical approach of the process, they are part of the 'iura novit curia' and do not imply a new question, therefore there is no surprising situation nor anything near defencelessness."

It also noted that, if accepted, the appellant's strict interpretation of the demand for amendment of the grounds of the dismissing judgment to the grounds used by the defendant in its pleading would lead to the absurd situation of impeding the dismissal of a claim in cases where the defendant did not file a defence pleading or where the court did not substantially share the arguments of the defence pleading.

Finally, the Supreme Court added that, regardless of the above reasoning, the arguments on which the Barcelona Court of Appeal based its decision were those given by Taurus in its defence pleading. Thus, the violation of the due process appeal was based on a decontextualisation of some paragraphs of the appealed judgment.

Regarding the cassation appeal, Vorwerk's main argument was that the judgment issued by the Barcelona Court of Appeal infringed Article 50 of the Patent Act, as such article was not applied. Vorwerk argued that the appeal court considered patent ES2252900 not to have been infringed due to the fact that, in the user guide for Taurus's MyCook product, the phrase 'has been preset', referring to the temperature, was not used.

The Supreme Court stated that this argument made no sense – the differences in the wording of the patent and the wording of the user guide of a controversial product were irrelevant. The kitchen robot MyCook did not infringe patent ES2252900 because, for safety reasons, it could not simultaneously carry out the functions of heating and dough kneading, an aspect that was implicit in the claims of Vorwerk's patent.

Finally, the Supreme Court ordered Vorwerk to pay the court costs of the two appeals.

For further information on this topic please contact Ana-Laura Morales at Grau & Angulo by telephone (+34 93 202 34 56), fax (+34 93 240 53 83) or email ([email protected]).