Construing the Specification and Claims

The person skilled in the art

2.20 The specification is construed through the eyes of the person skilled in the art and is considered as a whole in the light of the surrounding circumstances without reference, as relevant, to an alleged infringement, prior art, documents subsequent to the specification, etc (Glaverbel v British Coal [1995] RPC 255). The addressee is taken to be a person of ordinary skill in the art who possesses the common general knowledge in the particular art at the earliest validly claimed priority date of the invention.

2.21 In Peng Lian Trading v Contour Optik [2003] 2 SLR 560, the Court referred to the English case of Technograph Printed Circuits Ltd v Mills & Rockley (Electronics) Ltd [1972] RPC 346 which stated that:

“… the hypothetical addressee is a skilled technician who is well acquainted with workshop technique and who has carefully read the relevant literature. He is supposed to have an unlimited capacity to assimilate the contents of, it may be, scores of specifications but to be incapable of a scintilla of invention.”

2.22 In Institut Pasteur & Anor v Genelabs Diagnostics & Anor [2000] SGHC 53, the Court referred to various definitions from UK case law:

(1) he is not the “mechanician of genius nor… the mechanical idiot”, Van der Lely NV v Bamfords Ltd [1961] RPC 296;

(2) he is “assumed to be of standard competence at his work without being of an imaginative or inventive turn of mind”, General Tire & Rubber Co v Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co Ltd & Ors [1972] RPC 457;

(3) he is “the normally skilled but unimaginative addressee in the art at the priority date”, Windsurfing International Inc. v Tabur Marine (Great Britain) Ltd [1985] RPC 59;

(4) he is “not the man of inventive imagination who might see straightaway what was required, but a hypothetical unimaginative technician skilled in the particular art”.

(5) the person skilled in the art may comprise a team if more than one skill is required in the technology where the invention lies.

2.23 Prakash J in Ng Kok Cheng v Chua Say Tiong [2001] SGHC 143 summed up the essential indicators of a person skilled in the art as a person who:

(1) possesses common general knowledge of the subject matter in question;

(2) has a practical interest in the subject matter of the patent or is likely to act on the directions given in it; and

(3) whilst unimaginative is reasonably intelligent and wishes to make the directions in the patent work.