Werit Wins in Supreme Court Replacement Part Ruling
The UK Supreme Court issued its judgment on the long-awaited Schütz v Werit case, ruling that Werit’s supplying replacement parts had not infringed Schütz’s patent rights. The Supreme Court ruled that, manufacturers would have to consider a variety of factors in replacing parts. They include whether the part is to be replaced in the normal life of the larger item (permissible repair) or whether it forms part of the invention (reconstruction).
This decision implies that manufacturers are now able to create replacement consumable parts for objects like cars, or ink and toner cartridges for printers, without infringing patent rights.
Schütz holds a patent for a bulk container for liquids that contained a bottle in a metal cage on top of a pallet. Werit’s customers may take that product and replace damaged or worn bottles with Werit bottles. Customers then sold those reconditioned bulk containers.
The High Court had ruled that Schütz’s patent had not been infringed by Werit’s actions.
The Court of Appeal decided that the High Court’s test had been incorrect and stated that the patented product should be considered as a whole. The cage and the bottle of the product were parts. By putting a new bottle into the cage, Werit’s customers were completing the patented product. They had infringed Schütz’s patent, and so had Werit by its supply without a license.
However, the Supreme Court finally ruled that replacing a part is permissible repair and not necessarily an act of “making” (reconstruction) and that Werit and its customers had not infringed Schütz’s patent.
The case was won by the global law firm of Hogan Lovell. Stephen Bennett, a partner in the firm who led the team advising Werit, commented that this decision removes an obstacle to reconditioning. He said it means that manufacturers can now potentially create replacement parts for larger consumable objects without fear of infringing patent rights. It also has the potential to open up the market for consumable parts and allow more competition in the manufacture of consumable parts such as filters and cartridges.
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