On December 02, 2004 the patent panel of the district court in Düsseldorf, Germany, handed down its decision in a 20 million Euro patent dispute between subsidiaries of the two world market leaders for wet shaving blades, U.S. companies Gillette and Energizer. The court held that Gillette’s European patents for the "Mach3" shaver with three blades were not infringed by the new "Quattro" shaver, produced by the German Energizer subsidiary Wilkinson Sword.
Gillette’s counsel, contended that Gillett’s European patent concerns progressive three blade exposure and a three phase strategy for shaving. He said the patent would also cover shavers with four blades because even with four blades the shaver makes use of the technical solution in three phases patented for Gillette. However, Energizer contended that the Gillette patent rather warned against using four blades and was restricted to a three blade shaver only. The court found no patent infringement because the fourth blade of the Energizer shaver proved to be no dud but effective. The court handed down its decision immediately after the hearing and not, as usual in patent cases, after a period of deliberation. In his judgment, Judge Thomas Kühn explained that Gillette’s patent covered only a process with three blades, not a process in three steps, and dismissed Gillette’s claim for damages of approximately 17.6 million USD. In addition he ordered that Gillette has to bear the cost for the proceedings at the Düsseldorf district court. Gillette plans to appeal against this decision.
The world wide market for wet shaving equipment is estimated to be worth several billion USD a year. Thus, Gillette and Energizer quite frequently take their disputes on such cutting-edge technology to court. Only a few days ago, on November 24, 2004, the district court Hamburg, Germany, granted an interim injunction against Gillette and in favor of Wilkinson. In the challenged advertising campaign, Gillette contended that the new "M3Power" wet shaver uses electrical "micro impulses" and guarantees a closer shaving. The district court Hamburg could not establish any proof of a technical advantage and found the advertisement misleading. It released a cease and desist order concerning Gillette’s advertising campaign.
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The chapter on the UK summarises the IP court and litigation system in the UK, recent developments in relation to IP law and practice, the forms and availability of IP protection and trends and outlook in the IP sphere.
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