Free World Trust v. Électro Santé Inc. (2000), 263 N.R. 150 (SCC)

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Temp. Cite: [2000] N.R. TBEd. DE.016

Free World Trust (appellant) v. Électro Santé Inc., Paul Demers and Noël Desjardins (respondents) and Promotion R.A.S. (1992) Inc. and Électronique SEM Inc. (plaintiffs before the Superior Court) and Procter & Gamble Inc. (intervener)

(No. 26406; 2000 SCC 66)

Indexed As: Free World Trust v. Électro Santé Inc. et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

L’Heureux-Dubé, Gonthier, McLachlin, Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache and Binnie, JJ.

December 15, 2000.


A patent owner brought an action seeking an injunction plus compensatory and puni­tive damages against the defendants for patent infringement. The patent owner alleged that the defendants stole the sub­stance of its invention.

The Quebec Superior Court dismissed the action, holding that the patent owner’s pat­ents were invalid. The patent owner ap­pealed.

The Quebec Court of Appeal, in a decision reported [1997] R.J.Q. 2907; 81 C.P.R.(3d) 456, held that the patent owner’s patents were valid but that there was no infringe­ment. The court dismissed the appeal. The patent owner appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal without costs.

Patents of Invention – Topic 1006

The specification and claims – General – Interpretation of – [See second
Patents of Invention – Topic 1026

Patents of Invention – Topic 1026

The specification and claims – Construc­tion of a patent – General – The Supreme Court of Canada held that the Patent Act pro­moted adherence to the language of the claims – Adherence to the language of the claims in turn promoted fairness and pre­dictability – See paragraphs 33 to 43.

Patents of Invention – Topic 1026

The specification and claims – Construc­tion of a patent – General – The Supreme Court of Canada held that patent claims were to be construed in an informed and purposive way – The lan­guage of the claims thus construed defined the mono­poly – There was no recourse to such vague notions as the “spirit of the inven­tion” to expand the monopoly further – See paragraphs 44 to 50.

Patents of Invention – Topic 1031

The specification and claims – Construc­tion of a patent – Essential and non-es­sen­tial elements – The Supreme Court of Canada held that the claims language would, on a purposive construction, show that some elements of the claimed inven­tion were essential while others were non-essential – Identification of elements as essential or non-essential was made: (1) on the basis of the common knowledge of the worker skilled in the art to which the patent related; (2) as of the date the patent was published; (3) having regard to whether or not it was obvious to the skilled reader at the time the patent was published that a variant of a particular element would not make a difference to the way in which the invention worked; or (4) according to the intent of the inventor, expressed or inferred from the claims, that a particular element was essential irrespec­tive of its practical effect; (5) without, however, resort to extrinsic evidence of the inventor’s inten­tion – See paragraphs 51 to 67.

Patents of Invention – Topic 1075

The specification and claims – Elements of a patent – General – [See
Patents of In­vention – Topic 1031

Patents of Invention – Topic 1803

Grounds of invalidity – Prior knowledge and use – Particular patents – Electro-magnetotherapy machine – The trial judge declared that patents for an electro-mag­netotherapy machine were invalid because the “invention” had been described in a publication printed in Canada or in any other country more than two years before the filing of the patent application – The Supreme Court of Canada overturned this decision – The publication in question was “nothing more than a four-page overview of the history of electro-magnetotherapy” -The patent owner did not claim to have invented electro-magnetotherapy – It obtained a patent for a particular means to effect electro-magnetotherapy – The claimed invention effected an ingenious combination rather than a mere aggrega­tion of previously known components – The ingenious combination was neither taught nor anticipated in the publication – See paragraphs 24 to 27.

Patents of Invention – Topic 2803

Infringement of patent – General principles – Nature of a breach or infringement of a patent – The Supreme Court of Canada held that there was no infringement if an essential element of a claimed invention was different or omitted – There could still be an infringement, however, if non-essential elements were substituted or omitted – In the present case, a patent owner’s claim respecting an electro-mag­netotherapy machine indicated that mag­netotherapy was controlled by “circuit means” – A competitor’s machine effected magnetotherapy control by means of a “microcontroller” – The Supreme Court of Canada held that control of magnetothe­rapy by “circuit means” was an essential element of the invention – The court added that the competitor’s machine, by substitut­ing a “microcontroller” for the “circuit means” substituted a totally differ­ent tech­nology – There was no infringe­ment – See paragraphs 31, 68 to 75.

Patents of Invention – Topic 2926

Infringement of patent – Acts not consti­tuting an infringement – Of particular patents – [See
Patents of Invention – Topic 2803

Cases Noticed:

Clothworkers of Ipswich Case (1653), 78 E.R. 147, consd. [para. 13].

Minerals Separation North American Corp. v. Noranda Mines Ltd., [1947] Ex. C.R. 306 (Ex. Ct.), consd. [para. 14].

Consolboard Inc. v. MacMillan Bloedel (Sask.) Ltd., [1981] 1 S.C.R. 504; 35 N.R. 390; 122 D.L.R.(3d) 203; 56 C.P.R.(2d) 145, consd. [para. 26].

General Tire & Rubber Co. v. Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co., [1972] R.P.C. 457 (Engl. C.A.), consd. [para. 26].

Beloit Canada Ltd. v. Valmet Oy (1986), 64 N.R. 287; 8 C.P.R.(3d) 289 (F.C.A.), consd. [para. 26].

R. v. Uhlemann Optical Co., [1952] 1 S.C.R. 143, refd to. [para. 27].

Domtar Ltd. v. MacMillan Bloedel Pack­aging Ltd. (1977), 33 C.P.R.(2d) 182 (F.C.T.D.), refd to. [para. 27].

Grip Printing and Publishing Co. of Toronto v. Butterfield (1885), 11 S.C.R. 291, refd to. [para. 28].

Graver Tank & Manufacturing Co. v. Linde Air Products Co. (1950), 339 U.S. 605 (Sup. Ct.), refd to. [para. 28].

Electrolier Manufacturing Co. v. Dominion Manufacturers Ltd., [1934] S.C.R. 436, consd. [para. 34].

Smith Incubator Co. v. Seiling, [1936] S.C.R. 251, consd. [para. 35].

Smit (J.K.) & Sons Inc. v. McClintock, [1940] S.C.R. 279, consd. [para. 36].

Gillette Safety Razor Co. of Canada v. Pal Blade Corp., [1933] S.C.R. 142, refd to. [para. 36].

Warner-Jenkinson Co. v. Hilton Davis Chemical Co. (1997), 520 U.S. 17 (Sup. Ct.), refd to. [para. 37].

Clark v. Adie (1873), L.R. 10 Ch. 667, consd. [para. 39].

Electric and Musical Industries Ltd. et al. v. Lissen Ltd. et al. (1939), 56 R.P.C. 23 (H.L.), consd. [para. 39].

Catnic Components Ltd. et al. v. Hill & Smith Ltd., [1982] R.P.C. 183 (H.L.), consd. [para. 39].

Interpress Associates Ltd. v. Pacific Coilcoaters Ltd. (1994), 29 I.P.R. 635 (N.Z.H.C.), refd to. [para. 39].

Smale v. North Sails Ltd., [1991] 3 N.Z.L.R. 19 (Auck. H.C.), refd to. [para. 39].

Populin v. HB Nominess Pty Ltd. (1982), 59 F.L.R. 37 (Aust. Fed. Ct. Gen. Div.), refd to. [para. 39].

Rhone-Poulenc Agrochimie SA v. UIM Chemical Services Pty Ltd. (1986), 68 A.L.R. 77, refd to. [para. 39].

Multotec Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd. v. Screenez Wire Weaving Manufacturers (Pty) Ltd. (1983) (1) SA 306 (A), refd to. [para. 39].

Sappi Fine Papers (Pty) Ltd. v. ICI Canada Inc. (1992), (3) SA 306 (A.), refd to. [para. 39].

Improver Corp. v. Raymond Industrial Ltd., [1991] F.S.R. 233 (Hong Kong C.A.), refd to. [para. 39].

Eli Lilly & Co. and Thomson Engineering Ltd. v. Novopharm Ltd. (1989), 99 N.R. 60; 26 C.P.R.(3d) 1 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 40].

R. v. Nova Scotia Pharmaceutical Society (No. 2), [1992] 2 S.C.R. 606; 139 N.R. 241; 114 N.S.R.(2d) 91; 313 A.P.R. 91; 74 C.C.C.(3d) 289, consd. [para. 41].

R.C.A. Photophone Ltd. v. Gaumont-Br. Picture Corp. and Br. Acoustic Films Ltd. (1936), 53 R.P.C. 167 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 42].

Western Electric Co. v. Baldwin Interna­tional Radio of Canada, [1934] S.C.R. 570, refd to. [para. 43].

Mobil Oil Corp. et al. v. Hercules Canada Inc. (1995), 188 N.R. 382; 63 C.P.R.(3d) 473 (F.C.A.), consd. [para. 48].

Computalog Ltd. v. Comtech Logging Ltd. (1992), 142 N.R. 216; 44 C.P.R.(3d) 77 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 48].

Feherguard Products Ltd. v. Rocky’s of B.C. Leisure Ltd. (1995), 180 N.R. 346; 60 C.P.R.(3d) 512 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 48].

Baxter Travenol Laboratories of Canada Ltd., Travenol Laboratories Inc. and Baxter Travenol Laboratories Inc. v. Cutter (Canada) Ltd. (1983), 45 N.R. 393; 68 C.P.R.(2d) 179 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 49].

Johnson Controls Inc. v. Varta Batteries Ltd. (1984), 53 N.R. 6; 80 C.P.R.(2d) 1 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 49].

Whirlpool Corp. et al. v. Camco Inc. et al. (2000), 263 N.R. 88 (S.C.C.), refd to. [para. 51].

Maytag Corp. et al. v. Whirlpool Corp. et al., [2000] N.R. Uned. 199 (S.C.C.), refd to. [para. 51].

Improver Corp. v. Remington Consumer Products Ltd., [1990] F.S.R. 181 (Pat. Ct.), consd. [para. 52].

Biogen Inc. v. Medeva plc, [1997] R.P.C. 1; 205 N.R. 257 (H.L.), refd to. [para. 53].

Dyson Appliances Ltd. v. Hoover Ltd., [2000] E.W.J. No. 4994 (Eng. Pat. Ct.), refd to. [para. 53].

AT&T Technologies Inc. v. Mitel Corp. (1989), 28 F.T.R. 241; 26 C.P.R.(3d) 238 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 53].

Lovell Manufacturing Co. v. Beatty Brothers Ltd. (1962), 41 C.P.R. 18 (Ex. Ct.), refd to. [para. 64].

P.L.G. Research Ltd. et al. v. Jannock Steel Fabricating Co. et al. (1991), 46 F.T.R. 27; 35 C.P.R.(3d) 346 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 64].

Foseco Trading AG et al. v. Canadian Ferro Hot Metal Specialties Ltd. (1991), 46 F.T.R. 81; 36 C.P.R.(3d) 35 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 67].

Incandescent Gas Light Co. v. De Mare Incandescent Gas Light System Ltd. (1896), 13 R.P.C. 301, consd. [para. 71].

Statutes Noticed:

Monopolies, Statute of, 1623, generally [para. 13].

Patent Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-4, sect. 10 [para. 12]; sect. 27(1), sect. 28(2), sect. 34, sect. 44 [para. 11]; sect. 55 [para. 12].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Annand, Ruth E., Infringement of Patents — Is Catnic the Correct Approach for Determining the Scope of a Patent Mon­opoly under the Patents Act 1977? (1992), 21 Anglo-American L.R. 39, generally [para. 39].

Boudreau, Jean-Claude, AT&T Technol­ogies: A Contribution to the Purposive Construction Approach for Patent Infrin­gement Analysis in Canada (1999), 15 C.I.P.R. 323, generally [para. 57].

Fox, Harold G., The Canadian Law and Practice Relating to Letters Patent for Inventions (4th Ed. 1969), pp. 127 [para. 26]; 184, 204 [para. 44]; 204 [para. 52].

Goldsmith, Immanuel, Patents of Invention (1981), p. 116 [para. 44].

Hitchman, Carol V.E., and MacOdrum, Donald H., Don’t Fence Me In: Infringe­ment in Substance in Patent Actions (1990), 7 C.I.P.R. 167, p. 201 [para. 49].

Sajewycz, M., Patent Claim Interpretation as It Should Be: Promoting the Objects of the Patent Act (1996), 13 C.I.P.R. 173, generally [para. 39].

Scott, David W., The Record of Proceed­ings in the Patent Office in Canada & Foreign Countries as Evidence in Infrin­gement & Validity Contests (1985), 2 C.I.P.R. 160, generally [para. 65].

Solov’eva, G.R., Instrumentation and Ap­plications of Low-Frequency Magneto­therapy (1975), 8 Biomedical Engineer­ing 166, generally [para. 7].

Sotiriadis, Bob H., Purposive Construction in Canadian Patent Infringement Cases Since O’Hara (1996), 11 I.P.J. 111, p. 116 [para. 48].

Takenaka, Toshiko, Doctrine of Equival­ents after Hilton Davis: A Comparative Law Analysis (1996), 22 Rutgers Com­puter & Tech. L. J. 479, pp. 491, 502, 519 [para. 33].

Terrell on the Law of Patents (15th Ed. 2000), p. 125 [para. 44].

Turner, Jonathan D.C., Purposive Con­struction: Seven Reasons Why Catnic is Wrong (1999), 21 E.I.P.R. 531, generally [para. 39].


Louis Masson and Nathalie Vaillant, for the appellant;

No one appeared for the respondents;

Bruce W. Stratton and Dino P. Clarizio, for the intervener.

Solicitors of Record:

Joli-Coeur, Lacasse, Lemieux, Simard, St-Pierre, Sillery, Québec, for the appellant;

Dimock Stratton Clarizio, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener.

This appeal was heard on December 14, 1999, by L’Heureux-Dubé, Gonthier, Mc­Lachlin, Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache and Binnie, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The judgment of the Supreme Court was delivered in both official languages on Dec­ember 15, 2000, by Binnie, J.


Free World Trust v. Électro Santé Inc. et al.

(2000), 263 N.R. 150 (SCC)

Supreme Court of Canada
Reading Time:
39 minutes
Bastarache, Gonthier, Iacobucci, Major, McLachlin, Bastarache, Binnie, Gonthier, Iacobucci, L’Heureux-Dubé, Gonthier, McLachlin, Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache and Binnie, JJ., Major, McLachlin 

Binnie, J.
: The principal question that arises on this appeal is the extent to which a patent monopoly protects “the substance” or “the spirit” of an invention, as distinguished from what is literally described in the written claims, and whether on the facts of this case the claims patented by the appellant are sufficiently elastic to catch the electro-magnetotherapy machine of the respondent Électro Santé Inc.

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