Vernacare Limited (claimant/respondent) v Moulded Fibre Products Limited (defendant/appellant)

Tuesday 20 June 2023

This is an appeal from an Order of Nicholas Caddick QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the Chancery Division) granting the Respondent relief for infringement of United Kingdom patent GB 2439947 (the “947 Patent”).

The parties are competing suppliers of single use, paper pulp products to the NHS. The 947 Patent describes and claims a ‘washbowl’ moulded from a paper pulp composition that includes a fluorocarbon. The alleged infringement is MFP’s paper pulp wash bowl.

The sole issue on the 947 Patent was validity. MFP relied on lack of novelty and/or inventive step over two items of prior art known respectively as Shimooka and Sugimoto.

Shimooka discloses food containers moulded from a paper pulp composition that includes a fluorocarbon additive. The fluorocarbon is described as conferring oil and grease resistance. It was common ground that it would also confer detergent resistance.

The primary point on the 947 Patent was a simple point of construction; what is the meaning of the term ‘washbowl’? MFP contends that it means a bowl suitable for holding water for use in washing. MFP’s case was that such a bowl is disclosed by or obvious over Shimooka notwithstanding that Shimooka describes it as a food container.

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