19/11/10 – Diamond Floor Polishing Innovation Misses Final Patent Step in Europe
19 November 2010
When diamond impregnated floor pads were developed by the founder of HTC, Håkan Thysell in 2005, the company launched an immediate patent application. The product, under the trade name Twister, was launched locally in Sweden the same year and internationally at ISSA in Amsterdam in spring 2006. HTC has a whole family of patents supporting the innovation behind the Twister product. In Europe the company has 7 applications covering both stone/stone like floors but also polymer based floors like vinyl. The first patent based upon these applications was a broad patent covering stone and stone like floors. This patent has now been up in the final level of European Patent Office, (EPO) Board of Appeal.
The Board found the patent to fulfill all formal requirements and is novel, but did not think it fulfilled the requirements for inventive step. This means that the EPO has recognized that this is a new invention made by HTC, but that the first broadest application is not inventive enough to hold a patent. The lack of inventive step is a patent legality decision based upon the EPO interpretation of the prior art.
In a statement the company says, “This means that the European patent is not valid anymore and HTC has to rely upon the other applications, to get the recognition as inventor and have a legal support for the Twister invention. The other applications in process cover both stone and stone like floors, upgrading of floors and polymeric based floors, but in the case of stone floors the claims are somewhat more narrow or specific compared to the patent, that no longer is in force.”
Patents in force and applications outside Europe are not affected by the EPO decision not the company. The Twister products from HTC have been well-received in the floor maintenance market because they are not only highly effective but are cost-effective and green requiring no addition detergents or additives. However, competitors such as 3M have already entered the market with their own diamond floor pads for polishing marble floors. HTC has stated that it is determined to defend its market position despite the patent setback.