Favorable UK Opinion – EHC’s Escalator Handrail Advertising Patent #1152971

On November 17, 2009, the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom (“UKIPO”) issued a non-binding opinion with respect to the UK national patent of EHC’s European patent number 1152971. Contact EHC for copies of the patent or the opinion. The opinion is an opinion of a single patent examiner and was prepared in response to a request citing specific documents submitted by a third party.

EHC wishes to emphasize that the opinion is non-binding and does not serve to invalidate the patent in the UK or any other country. In other words, EHC’s patent rights granted under European Patent No. 1152971 have not changed and EHC will continue to assert its rights against anyone who infringes them.

In any subsequent litigation, EHC would not be bound by the opinion or by any statements made during the opinion procedure. In any UK patent litigation, the claims would be subject to a more detailed and thorough analysis than in the enclosed opinion, which would include a Court hearing as well as expert evidence. The outcome of such litigation may well be different from the findings of the opinion which was rendered without the benefit of expert testimony.

The opinion was prepared in accordance with UK patent law. The application of patent law varies by country, and therefore there is no certainty that the findings in this opinion have any applicability to patents in other countries, including national parts of this European patent in other European countries.

In preparing the opinion, the role of the UKIPO examiner was to review only the specific documents provided with the request for the opinion and determine whether or not the claims of EHC’s patent are invalid because they define subject matter that is not new (“lack of novelty”) or obvious (“lack of inventive step”). Of the 30 claims of EHC’s patent, only claims 1 to 6 and 9 were challenged in the request for the opinion. Thus, it would appear that the requester implicitly acknowledged that claims 7 and 8 and 10 to 30 are valid.

The UKIPO examiner stated that claims 3, 4, 5 and 9 were valid over the prior art.

The UKIPO examiner found that claims 1 and 2 are invalid for lack of novelty, deciding that a prior art reference had disclosed the concept of a handrail having a single film layer and a layer of adhesive bonding the film layer to the handrail, and includes printed matter on top or underneath the film layer, among other things. The UKIPO examiner also found that claim 6 is invalid for lack of inventive step, deciding that the concept of providing a film with a solid colour or a repeated pattern is not inventive when applied to a single film. EHC does not agree with the opinion and will continue to assert its patent rights.

The claims of a patent define the scope of the subject matter that is protected. Claim 3, which the opinion deems to be both novel and inventive over the prior art, depends on claim 1. This means that claim 3 incorporates all of the limitations of claim 1, but further specifies that there is a second film layer and a second layer of adhesive bonding the second film layer on top of the first film layer. Thus, claim 3 grants to EHC the exclusive rights to a handrail having a first film layer and a layer of adhesive bonding the film layer to the handrail, printed matter on top of or underneath the first film layer, and a second film layer and a second layer of adhesive bonding the second film layer on top of the first film layer.

Overall, EHC regards the results of the opinion to be positive.

The majority of the prior art reviewed by the UKIPO examiner had not been reviewed by the European Patent Office during the pre-grant examination of the patent, and is assumed to be the most relevant prior art known to the requester.

Nonetheless, the majority of the claims were held to be valid especially those critical to the preferable means for commercialisation of the invention.

However, EHC is currently considering its options with respect to appealing the opinion.

EHC takes intellectual property rights seriously. EHC is committed to protecting its innovation in Europe and around the world, and will continue to aggressively pursue any encroachment of its patent rights.