Chemical company DSM, which uses the services of V.O. for cases involving intellectual property rights, recently achieved commercial success by eliminating a patent held by its competitor 3D Systems. Both companies are active in the field of stereolithography, a technology that can be used to create a three-dimensional object through the layered polymerisation of a liquid with light (photopolymerisation).
DSM contested the patent held by 3D Systems, which was initially granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), in opposition proceedings. During the patent granting procedure, a so-called disclaimer was used to make the patent new in comparison with a patent publication that had an earlier submission date, but was not public at the time when the patent was taken out for 3D Systems.
In theory, an undisclosed disclaimer of this nature is permitted, provided a number of strict requirements are met. However, the opposition division was of the opinion that the disclaimer used did not meet these requirements, because of which it revoked the patent. Subsequently, 3D Systems appealed against this decision by the opposition division, in an attempt to annul the decision and to keep its patent in place. The Technical Board of Appeal at the European Patent Office decided that the disclaimer was indeed invalid. As a result, the decision of the opposition division to nullify the patent was upheld.
Since the obstacle presented by 3D Systems has now been removed, DSM believes that this will result in more possibilities for the further development and marketing of photopolymers and compositions that can be used in stereolithography.