'An Ecological Building Block Cover Slab' Infringement
Utility Model Patent
–Equivalence of Technical Features
According to Article 7 of the Interpretation by the Supreme People's Court on Issues Concerning the Application of Laws to the Trial of Patent Infringement Disputes, the term "equivalent" shall refer to the equivalence of technical features, rather than the overall designs. Therefore, the equivalent doctrine should be applicable to each technical feature on an individual basis, and no judgment should be made by mixing all features together. It is worth noting that the emphasis on the equivalence between various technical features does not mean that the one-to-one correspondence between various technical features is required.
First instance: (2018) Zhe 02 MinChu No. 604
Plaintiff: Wufeng Cement Products Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (Wufeng)
Defendant: Dinghai Zhongxin Cement Products Co., Ltd. (Zhongxin)
Wufeng was the owner of the utility model patent (Patent) named "An Ecological Building Block Cover Slab" numbered ZL201320398116.6. The patented product can be used as the cover plate of ecological block in river bank revetment project, which is very popular. Claim 1 of the patent is as follows:
"An ecological building block cover slab, comprising the main cover slab. Said cover slab itself contains a cavity for plants to grow through and an anchorage hole, running from top through bottom. Said cover slab has a groove on the top surface, and said groove is connected with said cavity."
Having preserved the related evidence, Wufeng discovered and proved that without the license, Zhongxin had exploited the Patent to manufacture, sell and offer to sell ecological building block cover slabs for the purposes of production and business operation. Wufeng brought an action with the court, requesting a judgment that Zhongxin be held liable for the infringement.
After hearing the case, the Intermediate People's Court of Ningbo City held that Claim 1 of the Patent should be used to define the scope of protection of the Patent. As stated in Claim 1, the cover slab contained "a cavity for plants to grow through and an anchorage hole, running from top through bottom." Its technical feature could be divided as follows: "A. Said cover slab contains a cavity that runs from top through bottom for plants to grow through; and B. Said cover slab contains an anchorage hole that runs from top through to bottom." Technical features A and B respectively dealt with the issue that a plant might not grow out of the cover slab and that the cover slab might get loose or be pried off and stolen. These issues were solved at the same time with the cavities/anchorage holes. The alleged infringing product contained the following technical features: "a. Six quincunx-shaped cavities that run from top through bottom." One or more of these six quincunx-shaped cavities could be used to anchor the cover slab, and the other cavities allowed plants to grow out. This was conceivable and obvious to common people skilled in the art without the need of any creative work. The technical feature "a" of the alleged infringing product and the technical features A and B of the Patent basically utilized the same means, implemented the same functions and achieved the same effects, constituting equivalence. The technical solution of the alleged infringing product included the technical features that were identical or equivalent with those in the related claim of the Patent, falling into the scope of protection of the Patent.
To conclude, the court decided that Zhongxin's making and selling the alleged infringing products had infringed the Patent of Wufeng. It rendered a judgment on August 27, 2018, ordering that Zhongxin should cease and desist from the infringement, destroy the molds and the inventory of the alleged infringing products, and compensate the plaintiff 100,000 Yuan for the loss sustained by the plaintiff.
The emphasis on the equivalence between various technical features does not mean that the one-to-one correspondence between various technical features is required.. The case involved two technical features of the cover slab of the Patent. The technical feature "a" of the alleged infringing product and the technical features A and B of the Patent used basically the same means, implemented the same functions and achieved the same effects. Therefore, they were equivalent to each other.
(Translated by Ren Qingtao)