The ruling by the Judge at Court of the First Instance in Paris means that Manitou, based near Nantes, cannot manufacture, sell or lease telescopic handlers equipped with the patented feature.
During operation of Loadall telescopic handlers fitted with JCB’s Longitudinal Load Moment Control (LLMC) system, sensors monitor the weight being retained on the rear axle. If the sensors detect the rear axle weight is reducing past a pre-set threshold, then the system gradually locks out the hydraulics to prevent further weight being transferred from the rear axle to the front, therefore avoiding the machine tipping forward.
To allow operators to drive continuously without any loss of productivity, JCB has a patented feature on its LLMC system that automatically disengages the device while the machine is moving (EP 2 263 965). This feature prevents JCB’s telehandlers unnecessarily locking out the hydraulics and giving false indications of instability when the machine is simply re-handling or travelling over rough ground. It is the use of this feature the French court has ordered Manitou to cease by March 13th. The court also ordered Manitou to pay costs in the case.
JCB chief executive Graeme Macdonald said: “We invest many millions of pounds in developing and patenting innovative and sophisticated engineering solutions which benefit our customers all over the world. We will not tolerate any copying or infringement of our intellectual property rights wherever in the world they occur.”
However, Manitou later responded that not only was the judgment merely preliminary, and that it has appealed, but that also it would have no impact on its business since it no longer produces the models at the centre of the dispute.
Manitou said: "The decision of the court relating to the second patent, to which JCB’s press release refers has no impact on the business of Manitou BF, its dealers or equipment users. Indeed, this preliminary decision applies to control systems (LLMC) incorporated in certain models produced and sold before August 2017. These models were discontinued in August 2017 and are no longer produced by Manitou BF, a fact that was acknowledged by the decision, which does not constitute a definitive first instance judgment and is wholly preliminary in nature. It therefore does not in any way prejudge the final outcome of the proceedings on the merits.