TNA claimed that the patent relating to the rotary stripping and sealing mechanism employed on its Robag VFFS packaging machines had been infringed by Ishida's Apex and CBM2 bagmakers.
Proceedings commenced in the UK Patents Court (part of the High Court of Justice) against Ishida (Europe) and Ishida in September 1998. The ruling therefore brings to an end five and a half years of extensive litigation between TNA's leader Alf Taylor and Ishida. It has taken to June 2004 for the final payments to be made.
Overall, including legal costs, Ishida ended up paying in excess of £2.6 million (AU$6.5 million) (not including their own legal costs) as a consequence of their infringement of the patent.
The hearing of the claim against Ishida Europe and Ishida Japan took place in the Patents Court in London during May and June 1999 and on 30 July 1999 the Patent was held to have been infringed by both of Ishida's machines.
As a result of the Patents Court judgment an injunction was granted against both Ishida Europe and Ishida Japan, restraining them from undertaking a number of acts including making, using, selling or offering for sale the Apex or CBM2 machines in the UK and both companies were ordered to deliver up or destroy all infringing assemblies in their possession or control in the UK (pending an appeal by the defendants, these orders did not come into effect immediately).
The Court also ordered both companies to pay damages, or an account of profits, as well as the costs of the proceedings. As a consequence of their conduct in the proceedings, part of the costs were awarded at a higher level.
In December 1999 Ishida filed an Appeal against the Patents Court decision which was heard in the UK Court of Appeal in June 2001. On 12 July 2001 the Court dismissed theAppeal and awarded costs.
In August 2001 however Ishida made a last ditch attempt to appeal the earlier decisions by filing a Petition for Leave to Appeal to the House of Lords, England's highest Court, which sought to overturn the decision of the Court of Appeal. In April 2002, the Appeal Committee of the House of Lords refused Ishida's Petition and ordered Ishida to pay the costs of the Petition.
After Ishida had exhausted its avenues of appeal, damages resulting from their infringement were sought and, finally in October 2003, some five years after the proceedings were initially commenced, Ishida agreed to settle the damages claim prior to trial (which was due to take place in December 2003).
"The case took so long as it went through all levels of Courtproceedings, as both sides claimed and counter-claimed," TNA marketing manager Claire Hartley told FoodProductionDaily.com. "This is just how long the legal system sometimes take in complex cases."