Patent law: One term used several times in one patent claim should be interpreted in the same way each time
German Federal Court of Justice – Decision of October 5, 2016 "Zungenbett" (ref. no. BGH X ZR 1/15)
In a recent decision of October 5, 2016, the 10th Board of the Federal Court of Justice has confirmed that one term used several times in a patent claim usually also has the same meaning each time. A different meaning or connotation of a term used at several places of the claim can only be assumed in case the claim, when counterchecking with the description, can be interpreted with such a different understanding.This statement, which at a first glance seems trivial, had in fact not been made before by a Federal Court. The previous instance (Higher Regional Court Düsseldorf) had held during the patent infringement proceeding that one term ("Zungenbett") mentioned twice in a patent claim can be understood in differing meanings, since there is no such interpretation principle according to which one term used twice or more times in a patent claim is always to be interpreted in the same sense. The Federal Court of Justice has now decided that this interpretation principle is in fact existing and that one term used twice or several times in the claim is generally to be interpreted identically. This decision is especially relevant for translations of claims, since in practice, due to linguistic nuances, various terms can describe one feature in one patent claim.