Carter Holt Harvey wins RFID patent appeal

High Court knocks back Weyerhaeuser forestry patent

Carter Holt Harvey has successfully appealed the granting of a patent to international forest products company Weyerhaeuser for the “invention” of an information management system for silviculture based on RFID tags.

The patent was granted in January 2009 by the assistant commissioner of patents.

In a High Court decision, Justice Duffy ruled the CHH appeal successful on the grounds that the claimed invention lacked inventiveness.

“The claimed invention can broadly be described as constituting methods and systems of information management for silviculture which records information of interest to silviculturalists over the life-cycle of a forested tree,” he says in the judgement.

“‘Silviculture’ is defined in the specification part of Weyerhaeuser’s patent application to mean, ‘information that relates to the cultivation, location, harvesting, processing and/or properties of one or more trees’.”

The Weyerhaeuser invention involved storing a first portion of silvicultural information on an electronically programmable tag located near or attached to a tree; storing a second portion of silvicultural information on at least one database; then making the first and second portions of silvicultural information, including accessing the first portion of the silvicultural information on at least one occasion during the growth of the tree, on at least one occasion during harvesting of the tree, and on at least one occasion during processing of the tree.

Justice Duffy says he had taken the time to consider if the patent claim were manifestly untenable.

“I consider it is. First, I cannot see any inventive concept. The claimed invention is no more than an aggregate of well-known integers each working as they are intended to do. This would preclude the grant of a patent. The way in which the integers are being used would be obvious to a reader skilled in the art…

“What the claimed invention amounts to is no more than a clearly obvious use of existing technology. It follows that the appeal on the ground of lack of inventiveness is successful.”

Nelson Forest Products is a subsidiary of US-listed Weyerhaeuser.

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