The High Court recently issued a decision in Ecotherm (TFT) v Kendek Industry Sdn Bhd on the alleged infringement of a patent used for the manufacture of latex gloves.(1)
The plaintiff is the owner of a Malaysian patent (MY-12188-A) entitled "Conveyor System for Use in Dipping Process", used for the manufacture of latex gloves. The plaintiff filed an action against the defendants for supplying and selling conveyor systems and holder assemblies that allegedly consisted of features that were equivalent to such elements in the plaintiff's patent. The defendants challenged the infringement claim and counterclaimed for invalidation of the patent and/or for a declaration of non-infringement.
The court held on the facts that the patent was novel and inventive (ie, had not been anticipated by any prior art). However, the court held that the plaintiff had failed to prove infringement due to a lack of admissible evidence. The plaintiff's claim for infringement was therefore dismissed with costs and the counterclaim with regard to the invalidity of the patent was also dismissed with costs.
Validity of the patent
In its ruling the court found that the patent was novel as it disclosed a different operating system from the prior art and was capable of doubling the production capacity of gloves. Furthermore, the invention disclosed in the patent involved an inventive step, as it disclosed a significantly improved method for manufacturing gloves that solved a number of problems faced by the industry. The court argued that this method would not be obvious to a person skilled in the art of glovemaking. However, the disclosure contained in the patent's specification was sufficiently clear to a person ordinarily skilled in the art.
The court applied the established rules on interpretation of patent specification and claims laid down in Catnic Components Limited v Hill & Smith Limited ( RPC 183). In its decision the court found that the essential features of the patent were as follows:
- There were a number of holders to which the glove formers were releasably mounted.
- Each holder was mounted at one end on a linkage arm that was coupled at the other end to a conveyor.
- Each linkage arm was coupled to the conveyor by a pivotal connection.
- The linkage arm was shaped and arranged in a series of holders in a tiered arrangement.
- A guide enabled the pivotal movement of the holder of one tier in relation to the other.
The court found that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the first defendant had infringed the first claim of the patent. It therefore ruled that there could not have been infringement of the other claims, as infringement of such claims was dependent on infringement of the main claim being proved. The court also found that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the second and third defendants had infringed the patent.
The plaintiff has filed an appeal against the High Court's decision with the Court of Appeal. The defendants have also filed a cross-appeal against the decision disallowing the counterclaim for invalidation of the patent.
For further information on this topic please contact Michael Soo or Wendy Lee at Shook Lin & Bok Kuala Lumpur by telephone (+60 3 2031 1788), fax (+60 3 2031 1775) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).