THE Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed an 18-year-old infringement case filed by the Filipino-German owner of a textile company against the Philippine Airlines (PAL).
Sabine Koschinger, the complainant, had accused the flag carrier of using her patented “shell designs” on table linens and placemats in its commercial flights without her consent or approval.
But in a 14-page decision penned by Associate Justice Amelita Tolentino, the CA’s 11th Division reversed the ruling of the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC), which earlier ordered PAL to pay Koschinger P50,000 in damages.
Koschinger is the owner and general manager of Linens International Inc. (LII), which manufactures beddings, tablecloths, quilts, decorative pillows, most of them with embroidery and appliqués.
She claimed that PAL used her patented designs in its commercial flights without her authority.
But the CA agreed with PAL that even before Koschinger applied for a patent on May 31, 1988 for the shell designs, the airline was already using the table linens and placemats with the said designs.
PAL added it purchased the items with the shell design from the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) as early as June 1987, or almost a year before Koschinger filed her design patent application.
The CA noted that under Section 9 of Republic Act 165 or the Patent Law, designs that had been in public use or on sale in the Philippines for more than six months before the application for a patent shall not be considered new or capable of being patented.
The appeals court also noted that the Makati RTC “should have taken into account the fact that prior to the delivery of the table linens and placemats with the shell designs, they were already offered for sale to the public, otherwise the defendant-appellant could not have placed an order for them.”
There was no evidence that the airline could have been informed of the issuance of a patent for the shell design.
“Since there is no infringement, there is no basis for the award of nominal damages in favor of plaintiff-appellee (Koschinger)… There is no basis for finding that defendant (PAL) acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner,” the CA said.
Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Stephen Cruz concurred with the ruling.
Copied, she said
In her complaint filed with the Makati RTC in 1992, Koschinger said she is the grantee of two patents for the shell designs, for placemats and for table linens, respectively, issued by the then Bureau of Patents, Trademarks and Technology Transfer on Jan. 24, 1989.
Koschinger added that from 1987 up to the filing of her complaint, her company kept using the patented designs.
From January to April 1988, Koschinger said that her company supplied PAL, through the PITC, approximately P1.1 million worth of table linens and placemats bearing the shell designs.
In May 1988, PAL stopped ordering.
The complainant said she had found out that PAL hired subcontractors to embroider the same designs on the table linens and placemats without her knowledge, which constituted an infringement of her design patents. (JCV/Sunnex)