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8 August 2017
SISGrass system for World Cup final

Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek’s patent experts successfully enforced IP rights of Dutch company Sisgrass B.V. On June 27, 2017, Düsseldorf Regional Court ruled that a South German manufacturer of sports field machines infringed the German part of European patent EP 3 029 199 and German utility model DE 20 2016 104 072.5.

These IP rights relate to machines implanting individual artificial lawn threads into a natural lawn, much like a large sewing machine. The lawn keeps the pleasant characteristics of a natural lawn and is also significantly more resistant due to the implanted synthetic fibers. Numerous sports fields, in particular soccer fields, hockey fields, and rugby fields, are being treated with this technology at the current time.

In particular, the patented technology uses a drum, by means of which the synthetic fibers are transported near the lawn surface, are cut and inserted into the substrate. A South German company manufactured sports field machines with this technology and sold them among other things to a company in North Rhine-Westphalia that uses them in the construction of sports facilities. Since an out-of-court agreement could initially not be achieved, SISGrass B.V. decided to sue both companies at Düsseldorf Regional Court for infringement of the patent and the associated German utility model.

In the course of the proceedings, the manufacturer issued a formal admission. Düsseldorf Regional Court subsequently issued a judgment by admission. In particular, this prohibits the manufacturer from producing and offering further such machines. With regard to all other aspects, a settlement agreement was found.

The second defendant, which bought and used these machines, has not yet issued such an admission. The court proceedings are therefore still pending against that defendant. The company has still not filed a statement of defense more than two months after the expiry of the relevant deadline. According to the Court’s schedule, the Court of First Instance will issue a decision only after a court hearing to be held on January 16, 2018.

Dr. Anton Horn, Head of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek’s Patent Litigation Team, commented as follows: “It is not often the case that the defendant unconditionally acknowledges the claims asserted in the complaint. The fact that an experienced mechanical engineering company has taken this step in this case after being advised by lawyers and patent attorneys confirms our conviction that the patent of Sisgrass B.V. is legally effective.”

George Mullan, the CEO of the patent holder, added: “Innovation and competition are important. Each company should make its contribution and respect other market participants’ rights. Anyone who fails to comply with these rules and who does not want to conclude a sensible agreement must expect consequences. Not only production but also use of patent-infringing machines is illegal.”