I4F wins court case; Unilin to appeal

Home Inside FCNews I4F wins court case; Unilin to appeal

By Ken Ryan

Innovations4Flooring (I4F), a technology company providing flooring installation solutions, has announced a court case win against Unilin Beheer B.V. to nullify the Dutch part of Unilin’s base pretension patent EP 1026341 (EP’341).

This decision was rendered Oct. 21 by the District Court of The Hague in the Netherlands following proceedings on the merits filed by I4F against Unilin in December 2014. The District Court ruled that the products provided with the Click4U technology—and which do not contain a measure in conformity—do not infringe the foreign parts of this patent. The court rejected all other or additional claims and ordered Unilin to pay the legal expenses.

Unilin announced it would appeal the ruling.

John Rietveldt, CEO of I4F, said the ruling means that the Dutch part of Unilin’s patent EP’341 is “fully nullified” and must be regarded as having never existed. “I4F believes this effectively releases flooring manufacturers and distributors from the obstruction created by Unilin’s patent after 19 years of invalid enforcement and unjustified payment of license fees.”

However, Unilin is disputing this claim. “The decision is only a first- instance decision and so the Dutch part of the EP’341 pretension patent is not fully nullified,” Christine Walmsley-Scott, patent legal counsel for Unilin, told FCNews. “Unilin has the right to appeal and will file for appeal. Under Dutch law it can only be considered invalid after an appeal decision is issued.”

Rietveldt called the court ruling “an enormous win” and also “historic.” He said I4F’s main objective is not to nullify patents but to foster open innovation. “The evidence we put forward was so clear and unprecedented.”

In light of the court’s ruling, I4F’s Click4U can be fully sold, Rietveldt said, adding, “our technology becomes a market standard.”

According to Unilin, however, the decision does not state that I4F’s Click4U can be fully sold or that it does not infringe EP’341. “In fact, the Dutch court dismissed a request for a declaration of non-infringement of I4F’s Click4U technology,” Walmsley-Scott said. “The judges clarified and said that if products would be sold in Europe that do not incorporate the claimed pretension feature then they would not infringe on the European patents. This is not a declaration but simply a restatement of general patent law. A party is always free to sell a product which does not fall under a patent of another party.”

Unilin further stated: “The decision is limited to the Dutch part of EP (NL) 1026341… has no invalidity effect for any other country other than the Netherlands, and also has no effect on any of the other 32 Dutch patents or European patents related to Unilin’s glueless locking patent portfolio.”

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