Patent infringement in LIDL's Monsieur Cuisine robot
LIDL has been sentenced by the Commercial Court of Barcelona to withdraw the Monsieur Cuisine robot in Spain for infringement of a patent held by VORWERK, manufacturer of the Thermomix robot, for the technology associated with its weighing function.
A decision has recently been announced in the interesting case involving VORWERK (manufacturer of the Thermomix food processor) against LIDL for the sale of its Monsieur Cuisine food processor, on the grounds that its patent rights based on ES 2301589 T3, validation in Spain of the European patent EP 1269898 B1, were being infringed.
The technical features protected by the patent in question relate to a coupling between the lid and the mixing vessel which, only in one locked position makes it possible to supply power to the motor of a mixing member or a heating system; whereas in the same locked position, in any other position without locking or even without the lid attached, it makes it possible to supply power to a weighing device.
On the one hand, LIDL claimed that its food processor did not include the technical features protected by the patent. On the other hand, and in fact it counterclaimed, it also argued that VORWERK's patent was invalid because (i) the technical solution protected by the patent was considered not to be inventive on the basis of similar machines previously marketed; and (ii) the wording of the claims had been amended during the course of the examination of the patent application by using terms not expressly included in the original wording of the patent specification as filed.
In this regard, it is of interest in the decision that i) it assesses the possibility that more than one different closest prior art can be used as a starting point for analysing the question of inventive step, in the application of the problem-solution approach; and that ii) it recognises that there may be implicit support in the original text of the application for making amendments to the text of the claims during the course of the examination of a patent application.
After more than a year and a half of proceedings, the Barcelona Commercial Court has now determined that VORWERK's patent is indeed valid and that the Monsieur Cuisine robot does indeed infringe it, as it reproduces the technical features protected by the patent.
Consequently, it has sentenced LIDL not to offer or import the Monsieur Cuisine robot, not even to keep it in stock, and to destroy the advertising about it, all in Spain, and to compensate VORWERK for the damages suffered.
This sentence is not final yet and it could be appealed, although it is also possible that LIDL may follow a radically different strategy and opt to comply with it and wait for VORWERK's patent to expire 20 years after the date of its application, i.e. from 27.06.2022, in order to start selling its robot again, without VORWERK being able to prevent them or third parties from incorporating the patented technology.
It will be interesting to follow the legal and/or market reaction and strategy of the parties in this case.
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