Re “Wire gripper”

Overview:

The court confirmed the JPO’s decision to hold the concerned patent valid.

Legal Issue:

The feature claimed in the patent was obvious for the person skilled in the art.

Summary of Conclusions:

The patent in question concerns a wire gripper having a long lever with a ring portion at its tail end, in which the ring portion is twisted at an angle of 15° to 45° with respect to a plane intersecting the long lever and a gripped wire, in order to prevent winding or kinking of the wire when a pulling load is applied to the ring portion. A cited document disclose a wire gripper configured to solve the same problem as the one addressed in the subject patent, by way of a handle having a stepped bent portion and a pivotally connected portion, in which the arc of the bent portion and the movement of the pivotally connected portion is adjusted in accordance with the shape/arrangement of a guide. The court determined that since the problem is solved by the above configuration, it is unnecessary for the handle of wire gripper in the cited document to have a “twisted” portion instead, and that there is no motivation to modify the configuration described in the cited document to that of the patent in question. The court further considered that configuring a long lever to have a “twisted” portion goes beyond well-known and conventional technique to those skilled in the art, and that rather, in order to achieve the “twisted” portion, the configuration disclosed in the cited document would require modifications to the shape and location of the guide in order to position the ring portion away from the wire, and would further require re-coordinating the stepped bent portion of the handle and the arc of movement of the pivotal connection. Thus, it was held that the handle of the cited document is not easily modified to have a “twisted” portion.

204

Comments:

The plaintiff asserted that “twisting” and “curving” the long lever of the cited document produce the same effect and they are merely a matter of design choice.  However, the court rejected this assertion, holding that the wire gripper of the cited document achieves the functional effect of preventing winding or kinking of a wire when a pulling load is applied to the eye, and that the adoption of “twisting” or “curving” of the long lever is not merely a design choice, but instead makes a difference of technical significance.