In pertinent part, an appellate bench of the Madras High Court reversed the finding of the lower court and held that Bajaj had not established a “prima facie” case of infringement in respect of its patented twin spark technology. Consequently, it vacated the interim injunction granted to Bajaj by the lower court.
Indeed, Sai must be one of the very few law students to have evern been cited by a court. Please join me in congratulating him!
We’ll carry a review of this judgment soon, but here is the cited portion:
“66. Apart from the above analysis, when we consider the claim of valid patent by the Respondent and the alleged infringement by the Appellant it will be worthwhile to understand the teachings of the already patented product of the Respondent and the claim of the Appellant in respect of the alleged infringed product viz., 125 cc ‘FLAME’, we had an opportunity of making a reference to an article written by a student of Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT Kharagpur, Mr.J.Sai Deepak titled “SPARKS FLY AS TITANS CROSS PLUGS”. The said article throws much light on the working of the product of the patentee viz., the Respondent and that of the Appellant. We deem it appropriate to extract a few points expressed in the said article which reads as under:
“…..Through its written description, Bajaj has explained in sufficient detail the disadvantage of using a single spark plug, as opposed to using twin spark plugs located preferably diametrically to each other (US patent 4177783 too contains a similar arrangement). This is because of better-controlled ignition timing in the latter and lesser time taken for the flame to travel during combustion. It has specifically listed the merits of use of twin spark plugs in a lean mixture (a mixture where the proportion of fuel in air is lesser when compared to rich mixture).
The novelty according to Bajaj, also lies in the use of a sleeve to protect the spark plug which is susceptible to exposure to lubricating oil. Such being the case, the emphasis and the scope of protection would be limited to use of twin spark plugs in a single cylinder with two valves, one plug protected by a sleeve. It is interesting to note that of the four patents cited in the International Search Report in the PCT application, 3 relate to inventions only on sleeve, and only one speaks of use of twin spark plugs.
CC-VTi, on the other hand, predominantly is about even combustion of fuel by altering the air-fuel mixture received by the 2 intake ports or valves. Usually, a cylinder has one intake and one exhaust valve. Earlier, the charge (air-fuel mixture) was either subjected to swirl or a tumble depending on the load conditions and speed. The stirred or circumferential motion of charge in the cylinder is called swirl, whereas a motion directed towards the axis of the cylinder is called tumble.
The former is used for a lean mixture and the latter is used for richer mixtures at high speeds. Several patents on the use of these phenomena exist. TVS s technology combines both these phenomena with 2 intake ports, providing swirl and tumble simultaneously, making the design compatible for both lean and rich mixtures. The degree of swirl would be greater for a lean mixture and the degree of tumble for rich mixture. This design ensures even combustion of fuel in all corners of the cylinder and is further marked by the use of twin spark plugs, which as explained earlier, provides fuller combustion.
This shows that the points of emphases in the designs of both these technologies differ considerably, notwithstanding the use of twin spark plugs in both instances…..” (Emphasis added)
67. The distinction made out by the Author of the said article is quite appealing and does not conflict with the facts pleaded by the parties before us. By taking a clue from the said article, when the patented product of the Respondent is considered, the granted patent is an improved internal combustion engine working on four stroke principle. Accepting the stand of the Respondent that with the placement of the twin spark plugs in the cylinder head on diametrically opposite sides and the ignition points set in such a manner resulting in improved internal combustion in a lean burn mixture, the claim of the Appellant’s in relation to its product viz., 125 cc ‘FLAME’ talks of even combustion of fuel by altering the air fuel mixture received by the two intake valves with the combination of swirl as well as tumble operated air fuel mixture.
In other words, while the Respondent’s patented product of an improved internal combustion engine is by virtue of the functioning of two spark plugs due to its ideal location and the point of ignition in a lean burn operation, the product of the Appellant though also with the provision of twin spark plugs, the internal combustion was due to the receipt of air fuel mixture by the two intake valves (one providing swirl action and another tumble action) with the third valve being exhaust valve also providing effective internal combustion with the combination of lean burn and rich burn mixture.
68. Having regard to the nature of operation of the engine of the patentee viz., the Respondent as well as the Appellant in such a descriptive manner viz., one by virtue of twin spark plugs and the other by virtue of receipt of air fuel mixture through two different intake valves both by swirl and tumble operations, as rightly observed by the author of the said article, the point of emphasis in the description of the product of the Appellant as well as the Respondent differ considerably notwithstanding the use of twin spark plug in both the technologies. Viewed in that respect also we are convinced that the alleged infringement of the Respondent’s patent cannot be prima facie accepted.”
“71. Prima facie when we examine, as rightly set out in the article of Mr.J.Sai Deepak, student of I.I.T. Kharagpur, the Respondent’s patented product de hors the fact that it has the already existing concept of twin plug operation in an internal combustion engine, at the threshold we are not inclined even prima facie to state that the validity of the patent is doubtful.
The operation of the invention as claimed by the Respondent appears to be plug centric one in as much as having regard to the descriptive statement in the final complete specification it will have to be held that the claim as set out therein if accepted would spark the ignition with twin plugs in a four stroke engine of a single cylinder with two valves specification produce improved internal combustion in a lean burn mixture and the Respondent may well be justified in its attempt to enforce its rights based on the said patent. Nevertheless, on that score alone, we find it difficult to countenance the claim of the Respondent that the Appellant’s product specification have infringed its patented right.
Here again, we find considerable knowledgeable expression made by the author of the article Mr.J.Sai Deepak, wherein, he has differentiated the product of the Appellant as valve centric one in as much as the two intake valves as claimed by the Appellant provides for combined air fuel mixture of swirl and tumble action, with a separate exhaust valve in an internal combustion engine of single cylinder with four stroke with the aid of twin plug provision. The descriptive note of the author in stating that the Appellant’s product is predominantly of even combustion of fuel by altering the air fuel mixture received by two intake ports or valves and that therefore the said technology differs considerably with that of the Respondent is quite convincing. “