Blue Gentian Llc & Anor v Tristar Products (UK) Ltd & Anor, Patents Court (Birss J), London, UK, Case No.  EWHC 4098 (Pat)
In its judgment of 20 December 2013 the High Court of England and Wales decided a case regarding expandable garden water hoses. The trial was expedited, resulting in a speedy (and relatively brief) judgment less than five months after issuance of the claim form (and less than 18 months after the patent was filed). The case demonstrates that appropriate patent cases can be decided very quickly in the English High Court.
The judgment is of general interest in relation to the instruction of expert witnesses. The court held that the fact that the defendant’s expert was aware of the patented invention before he considered the prior art did not necessarily mean his views were tainted by hindsight. Other recent cases have emphasised the importance of presenting experts with the patent after the prior art (e.g. see here at ). However, this judgment reflects the reality that certain experts may be aware of particular inventions before the relevant patent is presented to them.
The case also deals with issues that arise where prior art comes from a different field compared to the patent. The court held that “at least” in relation to novelty, prior art must be assessed by the person to whom it was addressed. However, in relation to obviousness, the parties agreed that this must be assessed by the person to whom the patent-in-suit is addressed, and the court proceeded on that basis. In such cases expert evidence from both fields may be helpful. However, this case illustrates the difficulties in mounting a successful obviousness attack based on prior art in a different field.