The Claim of Patent EP 877 130
Viken, Sweden - November 10, 2004
The European patent EP 877 130 recently passed the final appeal in EPO. Here is our summary of the main points of this patent.
This patent, granted 26.01.2000 is about a flooring system which could be mechanically connected on long and short sides. It describes the basic technology which today is used in the majority of the glue free flooring in the world.
- The locking system consists of a strip and a locking element in one edge which cooperates with a locking groove in an other edge.
- The locking strip is made in one piece with the panel and is flexible on the short side.
- The short sides use this flexibility of the strip and could be locked with snapping.
- In order to snap, the long sides must be possible to displace along the long edge. Therefore the tongue-groove which makes the vertical connection must have a fit which allows displacement.
- The claim also requires that the horizontal connection on the long side is possible to displace. Therefore there should be a play between the locking element and the locking groove which allow this displacement. No such play is required on the short sides which snaps together.
- Finally the long sides should be possible to angle up in order to release the panels.
Välinge is convinced that there is no doubt that the major part of glue free floor panels infringe all parts of the claim.
At the opposition in 2002, we were forced to include play on short side as well. This play was very difficult to show in some cases because a snap could be made without a play in the system. Now, after the appeal, we have no such problems.
The debate is now only about a play on the long sides allowing displacement.
A play is generally a very small distance. In an engine there is a play between the piston and the cylinder. The play is generally used to define a fitting between two parts that are intended to be dispaced against each other. It is not limited downwards in any way and could be for example 0,001 mm when the panels are pressed against each other. Panels which are possible to displace on the long side in an normal manner during installation, have play between the wood fibres.
If panels are connected with a very tight fit without play, they are very difficult to install, especially in humid conditions or if they are slightly banana shaped. They are also complicated to produce.
Välinge has collected evidence since the start of the glue free flooring evolution and there is no doubt that several floor products sold in large quantities have been and still are infringing this patent.
Välinge has several other patents on glue free technology which do not require play.
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Download and read the claim of this patent:
EP877130 Claim 1