Interpretation Of A Patent Claim In Differentiation From The Prior Art - Federal Court Of Justice, Judgment Of 27.11.2018, X ZR 16/17 – Scheinwerferbelüftungssystem

Author:Mr Daniel Seitz
Profession:Bardehle Pagenberg

In its decision, the Federal Court of Justice deals with the interpretation of a patent claim in distinction from the state of the art cited by the patent description. Accordingly, when interpreting a patent claim, it must be taken into account that a patent's teaching seeks to distinguish itself from the prior art described in it. If, in the description, a known prior art is equated with the generic term of a patent claim, the features of the characterizing part are not to be understood in cases of doubt as meaning that they are to be found in the prior art from which they are intended to differ.

  1. Background of the decision

    The plaintiff, who was sued by the defendant in an infringement lawsuit, filed a nullity action with the Federal Patent Court and asserted that the patent-in-suit was not patentable due to lack of novelty and inventive step. The Federal Patent Court dismissed the nullity action. The plaintiff filed an appeal against this decision and continued to seek a full declaration of invalidity of the patent-in-suit. The Federal Court of Justice dismissed the plaintiff's appeal.

  2. Reasons for decision

    The subject-matter of the patent was lighting and signalling devices in motor vehicles, in particular headlamps with a ventilation system. The purpose of such ventilation systems is to ventilate the interior of the headlamp while preventing the ingress of water, dust or dirt. The aim is also to prevent water from penetrating into the front headlamp housings during high-pressure washing, for example in the engine compartment of a vehicle. The state of the art provides a winding ventilation path as a solution. The patent-in-suit criticizes the limited effectiveness of the solution provided in the state of the art, because only slightly winding ventilation paths are provided there.

    In order to improve the blocking effect of such a ventilation system, the patent-in-suit proposes a winding path for ventilating the interior, comprising of two opposite inlet openings, an inlet channel transverse to the connecting line between the two inlet openings and a labyrinth with a twofold change of direction extending substantially upwards from the inlet openings.

    The Federal Court of Justice confirmed the decision of the Federal Patent Court, according to which the patent-in-suit is new and inventive in relation to the state of the art, since in the state of the art, among other things, a labyrinth with a twofold change of direction was not...

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