Patent protection is a valuable privilege that is only afforded to ideas and products that are genuinely novel and inventive. In a case on point, the High Court declared invalid two patents in respect of plastic food packaging on the basis that the central feature that was said to set them apart from others was not novel.
Both patents were for containers of the lidded transparent type commonly used in supermarkets for packaging fresh fruit, fish or meat. The patent holders argued that they met a long-felt desire within the plastics industry for packaging that was more reliably sealed, less expensive and more recyclable than existing models. Both patented containers featured what was referred to as a peripheral flange that was said to represent a novel development on previous packaging designs.
However, in upholding a third packaging manufacturer's challenge to the patents, the Court found that both designs lacked inventive steps when compared with an Australian patent which pre-dated both of them. That patent proposed the use of a flange located around the periphery of a package's lid as a platform for adhesive. A skilled engineer would not view the patents in issue as representing a novel advance on the prior art represented by the Australian patent.