The Rolls Building
London EC4A 1NL
B e f o r e :
| VERNACARE LIMITED
- and -
ENVIRONMENTAL PULP PRODUCTS LIMITED
1st Floor, Quality House, 6-9 Quality Court, Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1HP
DX 410 LDE
Telephone No: 020 7067 2900. Fax No: 020 7831 6864
MR. RICHARD DAVIS (instructed by WALKER MORRIS) appeared for the Defendant
Crown Copyright ©
HIS HONOUR JUDGE BIRSS:
Common General Knowledge
"The present invention relates to receptacles and in particular, but not exclusively, to receptacles for use as wash bowls in hospitals, nursing homes and the like.
Patient who are confined to bed find it difficult or impossible to visit a bathroom in order to carry out basic cleaning functions such as washing the hands and face. In such circumstances, a wash bowl is brought to the patient in bed and is filled with water and cleaning agents (e.g. soap or detergent) to allow the patient to wash. Conventional wash bowls take the form of a generally planar circular base from the periphery of which an upstanding, slightly outwardly-flaring frustro-conical wall projects upwardly. The upper end of the wall is formed into an outwardly-turned overhanging peripheral lip in order to facilitate lifting of the bowl, particularly when it is wet. Such bowls are moulded from common plastics such as polyethylene.
After each use of a wash bowl, it is necessary to clean the bowl thoroughly in order to reduce cross-contamination and cross-infection between patients. However, it is not possible to eliminate such risks completely and even with very thorough cleaning, the risk of cross-contamination remains
It is known to form disposable urine bottles, bed pans and the like from paper pulp which, after use, can be placed in a macerator to reduce the particles to a size where they can be discharged into the normal sewer system. However, if a disposable wash bowl were to be made from paper pulp in the same shape and dimensions as the conventional plastics wash bowls, problems would arise.
In particular, the wash bowl is intended to hold a considerable amount of liquid, of the order of 4 litres, and whilst this would not present too many problems when the bowl is in use, problems are likely to be encountered when it becomes necessary to lift a paper pulp bowl when filled with water. In particular, if the bowl is lifted by the rim, a moulded paper pulp bowl is unlikely to have sufficient strength and would almost certainly rupture.
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a bowl, such as wash bowl, which can be made from disposable material such as paper pulp but which can be lifted easily and without fear of disintegration."
"By providing recesses in the enclosing wall, it is not necessary to rely on a peripheral lip in order to lift the bowl when full and thus the likelihood of disintegration of a filled bowl is greatly reduced. In addition, by having recesses in the enclosed wall, a more rigid structure is produced."
Construction and the Claims
"An upwardly open wash bowl manufactured from maceratable, dried moulded paper pulp, the wash bowl comprising a base wall and an enclosing wall extending upwardly from the periphery of the base wall and defining a liquid-receiving volume, the enclosing wall comprising recesses located on opposite sides of the liquid-receiving volume below the upper periphery of the enclosing wall and forming grip means located below the upper periphery of the enclosing wall for facilitating lifting."
(1) The patent as filed does not disclose the use of recesses except in the context of plural recesses.
(2) The patent as filed does not disclose the use of recesses located on opposite sides of the liquid-receiving volume except in the context of two recesses located on opposite sides of the liquid-receiving volume.
(3) The patent as filed does not disclose the existence of recesses either (i) located below the upper periphery of the enclosing wall or (ii) forming grip means located below the upper periphery of the enclosing wall for facilitating lifting except in the context of the disclosed embodiments, in particular in combination with the feature of there being two recesses located on opposite sides of the liquid-receiving volume. In so far as the Patent as granted can be interpreted as disclosing a single circumferential recess, the same is an impermissible intermediate generalisation.
(1) (a) Identify the notional person skilled in the art;
(b) Identify the relevant common general knowledge of that person;
(2) Identify the inventive concept of the claim in question or if that cannot readily be done, construe it;
(3) Identify what, if any, differences exist between the matter cited as forming part of the "state of the art" and the inventive concept of the claim or the claim as construed;
(4) Viewed without any knowledge of the alleged invention as claimed, do those differences constitute steps which would have been obvious to the person skilled in the art or do they require any degree of invention?
"This invention relates to molded fiber containers or trays commonly known as butter or lard trays.
"Containers or trays for this purpose have long been made of rectangular or oblong shape, where the length is from one and one-half to one and three-quarters the width. Both side and end walls are ordinarily formed from flat sheets sloping inwardly to permit the trays to be nested for shipment. The junction between the side and the end walls may be substantially at right angles, or may be somewhat rounded depending on the materials and methods used in manufacture.
This general shape of container or tray is almost universally used in the delivery of such products as butter, lard, peanut butter, delicatessen products, etc. This particular shape has many advantages in handling and delivery of such products."
Common General Knowledge alone
"In my opinion, at the filing date of the patent the common general knowledge in this field consisted of maceratable moulded paper pulp products including bedpans, urine bottles, general purposes bowls and other containers for use in hospitals, care homes and other medical environments. The majority of these products were designed to receive and resist liquids at body temperature and below but none of them were able to resist detergent solutions."
This would appear to be evidence that it might not have been obvious to make the product in the claim because it had to be detergent-proof. That point, however, is no longer relied on by Vernacare.