Godines v. CA (G.R. No. 97343)

Facts:

Respondent SV-Agro Industries acquired a letter patent issued to one Magdalena Villaruz which covers a utility model for hand tractor or power tiller by virtue of a deed of assignment executed by the latter in its favor. Respondent after suffering a decline in sales of the patented power tillers, investigated and discovered that petitioner Godines was manufacturing the same power tillers as they have. Respondent thus filed a complaint for patent infringement and unfair competition against petitioner Godines. The trial court held petitioner liable for infringement. CA affirmed.

Issue:

Whether or not petitioner’s products infringe upon the patent of respondent SV-Agro.

Ruling: YES.

Tests have been established to determine infringement. These are (a) literal infringement; and (b) the doctrine of equivalents. In using literal infringement as a test, “. . . resort must be had, in the first instance, to the words of the claim. If accused matter clearly falls within the claim, infringement is made out and that is the end of it.” To determine whether the particular item falls within the literal meaning of the patent claims, the court must juxtapose the claims of the patent and the accused product within the overall context of the claims and specifications, to determine whether there is exact identity of all material elements. It appears from the observation of the trial court that these claims of the patent and the features of the patented utility model were copied by petitioner: In appearance and form, both the floating power tillers of the defendant and the turtle power tiller of the plaintiff are virtually the same. Viewed from any perspective or angle, the power tiller of the defendant is identical and similar to that of the turtle power tiller of plaintiff in form, configuration, design and appearance. The parts or components thereof are virtually the same. In operation, the floating power tiller of the defendant operates also in similar manner as the turtle power tiller of plaintiff.

Petitioner’s argument that his power tillers were different from private respondent’s is that of a drowning man clutching at straws. Recognizing that the logical fallback position of one in the place of defendant is to aver that his product is different from the patented one, courts have adopted the doctrine of equivalents. Thus, according to this doctrine, “(a)n infringement also occurs when a device appropriates a prior invention by incorporating its innovative concept and, albeit with some modification and change, performs substantially the same function in substantially the same way to achieve substantially the same result.” In this case, the trial court observed: But a careful examination between the two power tillers will show that they will operate on the same fundamental principles.

We are compelled to arrive at no other conclusion but that there was infringement.

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