EPO - JEAN CHEREAU SAS v/ SCHMITZ CARGOBULL AG
EPO - Opposition Division
JEAN CHEREAU SAS / SCHMITZ CARGOBULL AG
The patentee, Jean Chereau SAS, was represented by Julien Thon and Axel Casalonga, European Patent Attorneys. The decision of the Opposition Division is entirely favorable to the patentee and maintains the patent as granted.
The company Schmitz Cargobull formed opposition against European Patent No. 1612126 of Jean Chereau SAS on the basis of lack of novelty and inventive step.
The invention relates to a motor vehicle chassis comprising damping elements for damping docking efforts during the recoil of the vehicle against a loading dock. In the state of the art, such damping elements come into contact directly against the loading dock, thereby generating shearing forces during loading and unloading of the vehicle.
The main objective of the invention is to provide a vehicle chassis which increased reliability and life of the damping elements.
To this end the European patent of CHEREAU essentially proposes to provide a vehicle chassis provided with an abutment arm mounted to a rear end of the chassis body, extending outwards substantially transversely with respect to said body and movable longitudinally at least one damper being mounted between the chassis body and a front face of the stop arm element, and at least one roller rotatably mounted substantially horizontally on a rear side of said stop arm.
At first, the opponent argued that the "transverse" orientation of the stop arm in the patent claim does not ensure the safety of third persons since the claim would include an orientation in an horizontal plane or in a vertical plane.
The Opposition Division considered on the contrary that "transverse" orientation was perfectly clear and based on the description in accordance with the provisions of Article 84 EPC.
According to the division, the horizontal and lateral direction is to be understood relative to the general longitudinal direction of the chassis. The Opposition Division adds that this interpretation is consistent with the technical field of vehicle chassis with the teaching of the patent specification and with the documents of the technical area cited in the search report.
In a second step, the opponent raised a lack of novelty based on document BR 7502621U (D1).
Following the arguments developed by the company JEAN CHEREAU, the Opposition Division found that the patent claim was new to the extent that the prior art does not disclose some of the characteristics claimed among which the transverse orientation of the stop arm relative to the chassis body as interpreted above.
The opponent also raised a lack of inventive step by considering D1 taken in conjunction with US 1,583,636 (D2).
After determination of the objective technical problem solved by the claim over D1 forming the closest prior art, the Opposition Division stated that it was appropriate to consider whether the state of the art contained a teaching that would have prompted the skilled person to modify or adapt D1 to achieve a result falling within the claim.
Following the arguments developed by the company JEAN CHEREAU, the Opposition Division found that a 90 ° rotation of the two vertical arms of the device disclosed in D1 would not have been considered by the skilled person because such a rotation would be technically incompatible with the existing lever that connects both arms and would no longer allow to perform the function that is the essence of D1 i.e. to avoid vehicle underrun under the chassis of the truck.
The Opposition Division considered finally that claim 1 was inventive vis-à-vis the state of the art and decided to maintain the European patent No. 1,612,126 without modification.
This decision highlights the importance of interpreting the terms of the main claim, taking into account both the technical field of the invention, the patent specification and cited documents of the same technical field.
Moreover, this decision reiterates the importance of the definition of the skilled person and technical domain associated that can allow for the assessment of inventive step to exclude a prior document belonging to another technical field.
The decision of the Opposition Division has not been appealed and is therefore final.