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Rhodia, now part of the Solvay Group, is a French catalyst maker who found in 2006 that a Tianjin company produced and sold products infringing upon its patents, and brought an action for patent infringement before Tianjin High People's Court. The defendant immediately filed a request to SIPO’s Patent Re-examination Board (PRB) for invalidating the involved patent. After the PRB made the first decision in May 2008 declaring part of the patent invalid, Rhodia appealed and won the support of both instance courts in the subsequent court proceedings. The PRB made a second decision in September 2010 holding the entire patent valid. The opposing party appealed and was partly supported by the first instance court which revoked the PRB decision. Rhodia appealed and Beijing High People's Court made out the final decision on 14 June 2013, reversing the previous court decision and upholding the second PRB decision. The patent is now valid and sound. On 11 December 2013, Tianjin High Court issued a decision that HySci’s sale of rare earths mixed oxides for use in automotive catalysts infringed on Rhodia patents, and awarded Rhodia 5.6 Million RMB in damages. HySci will also pay a majority share of Rhodia’s legal expenses.
The case involves very complicated technical issues relating to characterization of chemical compounds whereof parameters are not directly visible, posing serious problems in infringement comparison. Our lawyers and patent attorneys studied numerous prior art and public domain documents and made thorough and concrete analysis and comments on both technical and legal issues, which laid down a solid foundation for the eventual victory. The case also distinguish itself in two aspects: 1. A specialty material institute was engaged by the court to determine parameters of the infringing product samples; and 2. Though the court actually exercised its discretion in awarding damages, the monetary amount is way higher than the statutory 1 million as provided by Chinese patent system.