Hammar Maskin AB v Steelbro New Zealand Ltd
(2010 NZCA 83, 24th March 2010)
The Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the High Court, in a case that centered on issues of patent construction. The Court of Appeal found that Steelbro infringed Hammar's patent for stabiliser legs on side-lifters, which provide stability for vehicles during the loading and unloading of, inter alia, shipping containers. The dispute centered on the meaning of an integer of the patent claim. Namely: “an extension part of which is movably arranged in a bearing in the first support part”. In essence, the dispute is whether that integer refers to a bearing in the form of a separate physical component or to a bearing relationship between two other components. The Court of Appeal preferred the latter, functional view. The Court of Appeal rejected the contention that recourse can only be made to the body of the specification if the claims are ambiguous. Rather, claims must always be interpreted in the overall context of the patent, including reference to the object and description in the specification.