Safestand v Weston Homes [2023] EWHC 3250 (Pat)

19 December 2023

Andrew Lykiardopoulos KC and Henry Edwards represented the Claimant (“Safestand”) in proceedings brought against the Defendants (“Weston”) for infringement of three of Safestand’s patents, and three of its registered designs (“RRDs”). Weston counterclaimed for invalidity of (i) two of the patents (“EP 738” and “UK 822”), for obviousness; and (ii) all three RRDs, based on lack of unity and/or clarity, and lack of individual character.

Safestand’s patents and RRDs all concerned builders’ trestles, a type of metal scaffolding. One patent, “UK 978”, comprised handrails for joining trestles at variable spacing, and an ‘anti-flip’ bracket to support overhanging portions of the platform. EP 738 claimed an additional safety barrier for the same modular system as UK 978. UK 822 claimed a bracket for holding a ‘kick-board’ (low-level skirting to prevent a user stepping off the platform). The representations of the RRDs all showed the same modular system described in the patents.

HHJ Hacon, sitting as a High Court Judge, found all three of Safestand’s patents valid. Weston failed to show EP 738 was obvious over prior art “Berchem”, as they relied on an impermissible ‘step-by-step’ approach. EP 738’s inclusion of a selectively removable safety barrier on the working side, which enabled walls and other structures to be built in fewer lifts, also rendered it inventive over prior art “Kelk”. As to UK 822, the skilled person would not have thought to adapt “Dobersch” nor “Harris” in a way which resulted in the patented bracket.

The judge also held the patents were infringed by Weston’s trestle systems, KK1500 and KK600. Despite Weston conducting experiments with the aim of showing its products were too unstable to be trestles, the judge concluded this was irrelevant, as they nevertheless met the definition in the relevant British Standard.

None of Safestand’s RRDs were valid, and were therefore not infringed. All sought to protect multiple alternative embodiments, and therefore none was a ‘design’ for the purposes of the Registered Designs Act 1949.

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