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Saab Seaeye Limited v Atlas Elektronik GmbH & ECS Special Projects Limited , Court of Appeal, London, UK, 19 December 2017, [2017] EWCA Civ 2175

This judgement relates to an appeal by Saab Seaeye (“Saab”) against a decision by Mann J holding that that Saab’s Ballista mine clearing device infringed the valid claims of the UK Patent GB 2482576 (the ‘576 patent) as well as claims 1 and 3 of GB 2483861 (the ‘861 patent). Atlas Elektronik (“Atlas”) cross-appealed the judge’s finding that claims 1 and 2 of the ‘576 patent lacked inventive step.

Both appeals essentially turned on points of claim construction.

Saab argued that when upholding the ‘861 patent valid at first instance the judge had interpreted the claims of the patents too narrowly.

In overturning construction on ‘861 patent, Floyd LJ downplayed the role of dictionaries, which had been cited by Mann J, emphasising that care is needed as they are “acontextual”. Instead Floyd LJ found a number of indicators in the patent specification to support a contextual and broader construction. On the basis of that interpretation it was agreed that claims 1 and 3 of the ‘861 patent were invalid.

Turning to the ‘576 patent, Floyd LJ held that the claims the judge had held to be invalid were “neutral” and so could be broadly interpreted. In doing so Floyd LJ referred to the context being the invention, and the inventive concept, saying that “The fact that the claim, so construed, is wide is not at all surprising given the width of the description of the inventive concept as expressed in the passages to which I have referred.” Based on this interpretation Floyd LJ upheld Mann J’s conclusion that the claims 1 and 2 of the ‘576 patent were obvious, albeit based on a slightly broader interpretation of the claims.

A copy of the judgement in the present case can be found here.

Headnote: Andrew Hutchinson, Simmons & Simmons LLP