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UK – Phil & Ted's Most Excellent Buggy Company v TFK

02 May 2014

Phil & Ted's Most Excellent Buggy Company Ltd v (1) TFK Trends for Kids GmbH (2) Oliver Beger (3) Udo Beger, 16 April 2014, [2014] EWCA Civ 469, The Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Terence Etherton, Kitchen LJ and Sir Stanley Bunton

The Court of Appeal has dismissed TFK's appeal against a decision of HHJ Birss QC (as he then was) and held that the judge was entitled to reach the conclusion that TFK's European Patent (UK) 1 795 424 (the "Patent") was obvious, and therefore invalid, in light of a piece of prior art known as "Goodbaby" (a Chinese utility model patent) and the common general knowledge. The Patent concerned baby buggies.
TFK sought to appeal the first instance decision on the basis that the judge erred in principle when considering the fourth Pozzoli question, that being whether, viewed without any knowledge of the invention as claimed, the identified differences between the inventive concept of the Patent and the Goodbaby prior art (those differences being adapters to detachably mount a seat on a chassis and means of suspending the base from the frame) constituted steps that would have been obvious to the person skilled in the art or whether they required any degree of invention.

TFK argued the judge erred in his consideration in three respects. Relating to the first of those, the Court of Appeal was not convinced that the skilled person would not have been interested in putting Goodbaby into practice; Goodbaby was published close to the priority date and described a device which could be converted from a cot to a seat and back again. While the Court of Appeal accepted that Goodbaby was not necessarily a good starting point for a car seat, it was a reasonable starting point for the design of a buggy.

Further, Lord Justice Kitchen, giving the leading judgment, held that the adapters disclosed in the Patent would have been an obvious way to implement Goodbaby, as making a buggy seat detachable was a very important consideration for a buggy designer at the time.

Finally, the Court of Appeal was not convinced that the disclosed means of suspending the base from the framework TFK’s patent did not fall within the claims of Goodbaby. The Court of Appeal held that, when converting from cot to seat configuration, the angular adjustment of the base parts was carried out by the fabric side walls and not by the framework, which satisfied the requirements of the claim.

Read the decision (in English) here.

Head note: Jake Hayes