Bombardier ./. Stadler: Infringement action dismissed, patent held invalid

Case No. O2012_043 ¦ Decision of 10 June 2016 ¦ “Antriebseinrichtung für Schienenfahrzeug: Zugänglichmachung Öffentlichkeit; notwendige Auslage Patentanwalt”

Note that Hepp Wenger Ryffel is involved in this matter on behalf of the defendant.

Plaintiff in this infringement action is Bombardier Transportation. The defendants of the Stadler group of companies essentially argued for nullity as a plea in defense and alleged a prior user right; Art. 35 PatA. The patent in suit is EP 1 963 157 B1 (see EPO Register and Swissreg for bibliographic details). For further details on the background of the case and the actual subject-matter at stake, please see the report on the main hearing on this Blog here.

In a nutshell, EP’157 concerns the pairwise arrangement of transformer units and power converter units at the wheel units of a train:

The only independent claim 1 reads as follows:

Rail vehicle with a body (102) which is supported on a first wheel unit (103.1) and a second wheel unit (103.2) located a distance away in the longitudinal direction of the body (102), and an electrical drive device (104), which drives the first wheel unit (103.1) and the second wheel unit (103.2), wherein the drive device (104) comprises at least one first transformer unit (105.1) and a first power converter unit (106.1) allocated to it, which are arranged in the body (102), characterised in that the first transformer unit (105.1) and the first power converter unit (106.1) are arranged in the area of the first wheel unit (103.1) and drive the first wheel unit (103.1), and the drive device (104) comprises a second transformer unit (105.2) and a second power converter unit (106.2) allocated to it, which are arranged in the area of the second wheel unit (103.2) and drive the second wheel unit (103.2).

The interim assessment of the reporting judge already held that EP’157 is not novel over documents (compiled here from the EPO online file-wrapper) that had been submitted from ABB to both Siemens and Stadler in parallel. This was confirmed in the present decision. Actually, neither the contents nor the actual exchange of the documents by Email was under dispute, but rather only whether or not the respective exchange of documents had occured under implicit confidentiality or not. The FPC held that implicit confidentiality must not be assumed with levity; it is instead to be considered as an exception which has to unfold from the actual circumstances beyond any doubt:

Eine solche implizite Geheimhaltung ist jedoch nicht leichtfertig anzunehmen, sondern ist vielmehr als Ausnahme zu betrachten und muss sich entsprechend zweifelsfrei aus den Umständen ergeben.

This was not the case here: The documents had been sent by ABB to both Siemens and Stadler in parallel, in an informal reply to a request for an offer from Siemens. The mere fact that ABB deliberately distributed the documents not only to Siemens but also to yet another third party (the defendant) made clear that ABB had no interest in any confidentiality.

The alleged prior user right had been acknowledged in the interim assessment (Art. 35 PatA), but could be left undecided in view of the lack of novelty of the patent in suit.

A compensation of CHF 70’000,– was awarded for professional legal representation, strictly according to the tariff and based on a value in dispute of CHF 1m; Art. 5 CostR-PatC. But the refund of ‘necessary expenses’ for a patent attorney under Art. 3 lit. a CostR-PatC was another interesting aspect of the decision. There is no tariff for such ‘necessary expenses’. The FPC finally awarded CHF 90’000,– and accordingly held that ‘necessary expenses’ may well be within the same order of magnitude of the costs for legal representation:

Dabei erscheint es angemessen, den Maximalbetrag, der dafür im Verfahren geltend gemacht werden kann, von der Grössenordnung her im Bereich der rechtsanwaltlichen Entschädigung anzusiedeln.

Reported by Martin WILMING

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Case No. O2012_043 ¦ Decision of 10 June 2016 ¦ “Antriebseinrichtung für Schienenfahrzeug: Zugänglichmachung Öffentlichkeit; notwendige Auslage Patentanwalt”

Bombardier Transportation GmbH

./.

(1)  Stadler Altenrhein AG
(2)  Stadler Bussnang AG
(3)  Stadler Rail AG

Board of Judges:

  • Dr. Dieter BRÄNDLE
  • Dr. Tobias BREMI
  • Dr. Daniel KRAUS
  • Dr. Markus MÜLLER
  • Dr. Christophe SAAM

Court Clerk:

  • Susanne ANDERHALDEN

Reporting Judge:

  • Dr. Tobias BREMI

Representative(s) of Plaintiff:

  • Dr. Michael RITSCHER (MLL)
  • Dr. Mark SCHWEIZER (MLL)
  • Matthias KARLHUBER (Cohausz & Florack), assisting in patent matters

Representative(s) of Defendants:

FULL TEXT OF THE DECISION

Download (PDF, 379KB)

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