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10 May 2021
On 19 March 2021 the Supreme Court of Appeal handed down a rare patent judgment in Groundprobe (Pty) Ltd v Reutech Mining (Pty) Ltd (1226/2019, 2021, ZASCA) in a case in which a patent infringement claim had been met by an attack on the validity of the patent.
The issue in this case was whether a patent relating to the mounting of a radar system on a motorised automobile vehicle was valid, given that the same radar system had previously been mounted on a trailer hitched to a vehicle. The radar system was used to monitor slope system stability in open-cast mines and warn of possible dangerous movement that could lead to collapsing mine walls. The defendant argued that the claims of the patent would be obvious to a person skilled in the art and therefore did not involve an inventive step.
The court agreed with the defendant, holding that the patent did not "disclose any advance in radar technology". The court highlighted that radar systems have been mounted on motorised vehicles since World War II. The judge stated as follows:
There can thus be no doubt that the only conceivable candidate for the "inventive concept" is the idea of mounting a radar used for monitoring slopes on a motorised automobile vehicle. I do not think that this can be said to constitute a step forward upon the state of the art and least of all a step that is inventive. Nothing therefore remains of the patent.
For further information on this topic please contact Patrick O'Brien at Spoor & Fisher by telephone (+27 12 676 1111) or email (email@example.com). The Spoor & Fisher website can be accessed at www.spoor.com.
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