South Africa: A rare patent judgment
The South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has handed down a rare patent judgment, Groundprobe (Pty) Ltd and Another Reutech Mining (Pty) Ltd and Others (Case no. 1226/2019) (2021) ZASCA, 19 March 2021.
A patent infringement claim had been met by an attack on validity of the patent. The issue in this case was whether a patent relating to the mounting of a radar system – one that is used to monitor slope system stability in open-cast mines (and warn of possible dangerous movement that may lead to collapsing mine walls) - on a motorised automobile vehicle was valid, given that the same radar system has previously been mounted on a trailer hitched to a vehicle. 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, saying that the patent did not ‘disclose any advance in radar technology.’ The court made the point that radar has been mounted on motorised vehicles since World War 2. The judge ended 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.’