Invention ‘not obvious’ court rules

Posted: 27th December 2012

The manufacturer of a moist wound dressing with sales in the UK of nearly £15 million per annum has fought off a bid by a trade rival to have its patent for the product revoked. The steps leading to the invention of the product were not so obvious as to invalidate the patent, the Court of Appeal ruled.

The dressings contain gel-forming polymers and ionic silver which has for many years been known to have valuable properties as an antimicrobial agent but which has the drawback that it is not stable in the presence of light. The patented invention was a method of making moist wound dressings containing ionic silver in a light stable form and was of great commercial importance.RCJ

At first instance, the respondent manufacturer conceded that the patent was invalid in the form in which it was granted but was given permission to amend it. On appeal, the appellant argued that the amendments should not have been permitted and that the patent was in any event invalid on grounds of obviousness in the light of two academic publications which had appeared prior to registration.

Lord Justice Kitchin acknowledged that it was a difficult case in that the method identified in the previously published research was within the knowledge of the respondent and would have been easy to perform, requiring no great time or effort. However, the respondent’s technicians had faced the ‘puzzle’ of how to implement the method and apply it to a modern wound dress. ‘It is all too easy to find an invention obvious with the benefit of hindsight’, he concluded.