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High Court Rules on Mine Clearance Patents Dispute

Patents are an essential means of protecting original ideas from plagiarism and have application to almost every field of human endeavour. In one case, the High Court’s ruling on a case concerning underwater mine clearance operations would have an impact on the relevant market for years to come.

The devices at the centre of the case, which were the subject of two patents, were designed to attach shaped explosive charges to sea mines using a sophisticated form of nail gun mounted on unmanned underwater vehicles. A major player in the defence equipment field (the company) argued that the patents should be revoked on grounds that the devices lacked novelty when compared to previous developments in the mine hunting field and that their design involved no inventive steps.

The Court found that two of the claims made within one of the patents stood to be revoked because they would have been obvious to those with expertise in the field. However, the remainder of the revocation claims failed and, in upholding in part a counterclaim by the holder of the patents, the Court found that a product of the company infringed a valid claim made within one of the patents. The Court would hear further argument as to the appropriate relief arising from its ruling.