On 4 April 2014, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled on Medinol v Abbottconcerning the scope of protection of patents. The Supreme Court held that the description and drawing can lead to a stricter interpretation than the literal wording of the claim suggests, even when the phrasing is clear. This ruling is important for day-to-day practice. But it will not come as a surprise because it was already widely assumed prior to the ruling that the description could lead to a limitation of the patent claim.
Patent holder Medinol argued before the Supreme Court that in interpreting patent claims according to article 69 EPC and its protocol, the context – that is description and drawings – is only relevant when the literal meaning of the wording of the patent claim itself is unclear. According to Medinol, the Court of Appeal had therefore wrongly used the description and drawings to limit the scope of protection. However, the Supreme Court brushed that argument aside: the description and drawings can lead to a stricter interpretation than the literal wording of the claim suggests, even when the phrasing is clear.
The Supreme Court further held that for determining the scope of protection of a patent, the perspective of the person having ordinary skill in the art at the application or priority date serves as guidance. However, for the infringement assessment the knowledge of the skilled person at the time of the alleged infringement can also be given importance, especially in the case of equivalent elements.
The Court had last ruled on this subject in Aga v Occlutech on 25 May 2012.