Archive for August, 2009

Selected microblog posts w/e 30/8/09

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Selected microblog posts from the past week:

  • Wyeth gets interloc. injunction in Australia against Alphapharm for alleged infringement of Efexor-XR patent:http://bit.ly/dvYwy
  • Kenny J also rejects a higher threshold for interlocutory injunctions in patent cases http://bit.ly/SQViX ; Beecham doesn’t rule.
  • Pros and Cons of Stand-Alone Non-Verbal Logos and Other Trademark Styles: A Legal Perspective : Duets Bloghttp://ff.im/-73bMH
  • RT @MegLG: Three Chocolate Companies Run Three Different Ways when it comes to TMs http://ow.ly/l2kyProperty, Intangible via @RonColeman
Share Button

Patenting racemates and enantiomers

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Lundbeck had a patent for citalopram for the treatment of depression, which it marketed in Australia under the name Cipramil

Citalopram is a chiral molecule: it can exist in two isomeric forms; a (+)-enantiomer and a (-)-enantiomer. The two forms have the same chemical structure, but they are mirror images. At its priority date, the relevant skilled addressees would have understood that the compound was a racemate or racemic mix consisting of both the (+)-enantiomer and the (-)-enantiomer.

Subsequently, Lundbeck discovered a way to make the (+)-enantiomer in isolated or pure form and, even better, it was this enantiomer that contributed the therapeutic effect of citalopram. It obtained a further patent, claim 1 of which was for:

1. (+)-1-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)-1-(4’-fluorophenyl)-1,3-dihydroisobenzofuran-5-carbonitrile and non-toxic acid addition salts thereof.

The Full Federal Court by 2-1 (Bennett and Middleton JJ; Emmett J dissenting) has upheld the validity of this claim in the face of the prior patent for citalopram.

If resort could be made to the body of the specification, it was clear that the skilled addressees would have understood that claim was a claim to the enantiomer in its pure, isolated form and not to the product as part of a racemic mix.

Emmett J considered the claim was clear and unambiguous. Accordingly, there was no warrant to resort to the body of the specification.  Bennett and Middleton JJ, on the other hand, accepted that the trial judge was entitled to accept evidence about how the skilled addressee would have read the claim.  Bennett J approved the approach taken by Dr Barker, as delegate for the Commissioner, in Emory University v Biochem Pharma:

[152] …. He drew a distinction between a reading of the claim in the context of the specification to understand what the claim is talking about (as did Burchett J in International Business Machines Corporation v Commissioner of Patents [1991] FCA 625; (1991) 33 FCR 218), where the whole thrust of the specification makes a limitation clear, and impermissibly importing a limitation from “mere comments” in the description. ….

Her Honour further explained that the citalopram patent didn’t anticipate the claim:

193 The prior citalopram patent described the racemate. It did not describe the pure or isolated (+)-enantiomer. There is no anticipation unless the disclosure of the racemate was, to the skilled addressee, a disclosure of the (+)-enantiomer. As the primary judge pointed out at [171], the skilled but non-inventive addressee would have understood that (+/-)-citalopram consisted of the (+)-enantiomer and the (–)-enantiomer and would have been able to identify the formulae for the S and R enantiomers but would not have known in the absence of experimentation which was the (+)-enantiomer and which the (–)-enantiomer. As his Honour said, these facts would not point specifically to the independent existence of the enantiomers. They did not disclose an invention which, if performed, would necessarily infringe the Patent.
194 It is the case that the skilled addressee knew that the racemate could be resolved into the enantiomers but there was nothing to tell him or her to do so. Further, the prior citalopram patent was silent as to the means of obtaining the enantiomers and there were different methods available to try to do so. There were no clear and unmistakable directions to obtain the enantiomers. Some of the available methodology may have been successful, other methods may not.

193 The prior citalopram patent described the racemate. It did not describe the pure or isolated (+)-enantiomer. There is no anticipation unless the disclosure of the racemate was, to the skilled addressee, a disclosure of the (+)-enantiomer. As the primary judge pointed out at [171], the skilled but non-inventive addressee would have understood that (+/-)-citalopram consisted of the (+)-enantiomer and the (–)-enantiomer and would have been able to identify the formulae for the S and R enantiomers but would not have known in the absence of experimentation which was the (+)-enantiomer and which the (–)-enantiomer. As his Honour said, these facts would not point specifically to the independent existence of the enantiomers. They did not disclose an invention which, if performed, would necessarily infringe the Patent.

194 It is the case that the skilled addressee knew that the racemate could be resolved into the enantiomers but there was nothing to tell him or her to do so. Further, the prior citalopram patent was silent as to the means of obtaining the enantiomers and there were different methods available to try to do so. There were no clear and unmistakable directions to obtain the enantiomers. Some of the available methodology may have been successful, other methods may not.

That seems rather to qualify the force of the earlier point. One might even think, with respect, that it limits the patentable subject matter to some particular method of making the purified, isolated (+)-enantiomer, rather than the substance per se.

In contrast to this approach, however, Lundbeck lost its attempt to get the term of the second, escitalopram patent extended pursuant to s 70 of the Patents Act.

The problem for Lundbeck here was that s 70(2) referred to a patent for a pharmaceutical substance per se, but s 70(3) and (5) and s 71 did not. The Full Court found that s 70(2) operated to identify the subject matter of the extension application – the substance per se here being escitalopram.

Because the later sub-sections did not refer to the substance per se, when it came to working out the timing for making the application for an extension of term, the question was (in this case) the date when goods containing the substance (not the substance per se) were first included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Citalopram, of course, contained the (+)-enantiomer and it had been registered in the ARTG. It was first included in the ARTG on 29 December 1997. The application to extend the term of the escitalopram patent was made almost 6 years later – on 22 December 2003.

Section 71(2), however, required the extension application to be made within 6 months of the patent being granted or “the date of commencement of the first inclusion in the [ARTG] of goods that contain … the pharmaceutical substance referred to in s 70(3)” (i.e., within 6 months of the inclusion in the ARTG of citalopram).

The majority also found that claim 5 was invalid for insufficiency. However, Lundbeck did succeed insofar as Alphapharm was found to have infringed claims 1 and 3 of the escitalopram patent, presumably up to the date of expiry of the patent on 13 June 2009.

Share Button

ACIP: Post grant patent enforcement

Monday, August 24th, 2009

ACIP’s interim report on Post-Grant Patent Enforcement Strategies is now available on the internet (pdf).

The main recommendation is that:

Proposal 1: That IP Australia establish an IP dispute resolution centre along the lines of WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center, which in the first instance focuses on patent disputes. Funding for the centre should be on a “user pays” basis.

A number of “implementation” recommendations hang off that. For example:

Proposal 2: That IP Australia establish a validity and infringement opinion service (taking into account the needs of SMEs), along similar lines to that provided by the UKIPO, and incorporated within the IP dispute resolution centre.

Proposal 4: That IP Australia establish, within the IP dispute resolution centre, a determinative ADR process in the form of a Patent Tribunal along the following lines:

(a) each Tribunal hearing panel to comprise up to 3 people, integrating legal and technical expertise;

(b) Tribunal hearing panel members to be drawn from the register of experts established under Proposal 3;

(c) patent attorneys to have a right to appear;

(d) the Tribunal to have more streamlined procedures and simplified evidentiary requirements;

(e) the Tribunal to take a pro-active and inquisitorial role;

(f) mechanisms be introduced to encourage parties to comply with the Tribunal’s determinations, and to discourage parties from using the courts instead of the Tribunal where it would be appropriate to do so; and

(g) that the effectiveness of the Patent Tribunal be monitored from its date of establishment.

Also, there should be a power of customs’ seizure (as already exist for copyright and trade marks).

Submissions need to be in by Wednesday 30 September 2009.

Interim Report (pdf); press release (pdf too)

Share Button

Selected microblog posts for week ending 21/8/09

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Share Button

Sea-horse shaped chocolate not a trade mark

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Having secured an International Registration, Guylain tried to register a chocolate in this shape

as a trade mark in Australia through the Madrid Protocol (TM App 936483).

Sundberg J, on appeal from the Registrar’s refusal, has also rejected it as incapable of distinguishing Guylain’s goods (pralines and chocolate, to be precise) under s 41.

Not inherently adapted — enough

First, Sundberg J was satisfied that the sea-horse shaped chocolate was inherently adapted to distinguish to some extent, but not enough to be distinctive.

Guylain argued:

31. its shape is a “fanciful stylised” representation of a seahorse, which “depart[s] radically from the shape of seahorses found in nature”. The departure, it says, arises from two particular features of its chocolate shape:
(a) the tail that wraps up behind the spine of the creature, rather than forwards; and
(b) the solid and “chunky” appearance, as opposed to the more slender and elongate shape of a real seahorse.

31. … its shape is a “fanciful stylised” representation of a seahorse, which “depart[s] radically from the shape of seahorses found in nature”. The departure, it says, arises from two particular features of its chocolate shape:

(a) the tail that wraps up behind the spine of the creature, rather than forwards; and

(b) the solid and “chunky” appearance, as opposed to the more slender and elongate shape of a real seahorse. (my emphasis)

Accepting this to some extent, Sundberg J considered nonetheless:

[77] …. there is a danger that first impressions will be sidelined when an analysis of a shape’s individual components or features is undertaken. In this case, the immediate impression one has of the mark in suit is of an ordinary seahorse. I would not expect most ordinary consumers to know that the tails of seahorses do not curl backwards, only forwards. I think most would know that seahorses have a tail and expect that they curl up in some direction. Accepting that the tail and the stocky appearance might, to a studious observer, appear unusual, I consider on balance that the average consumer would see it as a relatively ordinary representation of a seahorse. The possibility for confusion therefore between Guylian’s shape and any other seahorse shapes is, I think, a real one. (my emphasis)

Test this for yourself: do you think either of these would be deceptively similar to Guylain’s shape (if it were registered)?

To those who might wonder who on Earth would want to sell a chocolate in a sea-horse shape if it hadn’t been for Guylain’s success, Sundberg J had earlier explained:

71   … In my view, it is quite possible that as at the priority date other traders might want to depict a seahorse, along with starfish, crabs, prawns for example, in a way that is similar enough to cause potential confusion in the minds of consumers. …. [after noting that no-one in Australia was in fact selling sea-horse shaped chocolates at the priority date, his Honour continued] ….  It might be thought that that fact, together with the fact that Guylian had been selling its seahorse shape in Australia for a long time (since the 1980s), would diminish the likelihood that, as at 2002, other legitimately motivated traders might in the ordinary course of their business wish to sell seahorse chocolate shapes. However, the absence of other seahorses on the market does not in my view mean it was unlikely that others may in the future wish to depict that particular sea creature. (His Honour’s emphasis)

Not qualified under s 41(5) either

Guylain has been selling its sea-horse shaped chocolates in Australia since 1980 as part of its sea shells range. In recent years, reatail sales of the sea shells range had exceeded tens of millions of dollars each year and millions of dollars were spent each year on advertising and promotion. The sea-horse shaped chocolate was not sold by itself, however. There seem to have been some rather small sales of sea-horse shaped chocolates by other brands, at various points, although they seem to have been after the priority date.

Nonetheless, survey evidence before the Court showed that 40% of the sample identified the sea-horse shaped chocolates as coming from Guylain, unprompted. Conversely, all the other brands mentioned accounted for only 13% of the sample; the highest of these, Lindt, reached 1.7% and no other brand reached 1%.

Given that level of association, why wasn’t the sea-horse shape distinctive of Guylain?

Because, following Woolworths v BP (No 2), the association must be shown to have arisen from use of the sea-horse as a trade mark, not just use. His Honour quoted with approval from Jacob LJ’s explanation of the distinction in the Vienetta case:

There is a bit of sleight of hand going on here and in other cases of this sort. The trick works like this. The manufacturer sells and advertises his product widely and under a well-known trade mark. After some while the product appearance becomes well-known. He then says the appearance alone will serve as a trade mark, even though he himself never relied on the appearance alone to designate origin and would not dare to do so. He then gets registration of the shape alone. Now he is in a position to stop other parties, using their own word trade marks, from selling the product, even though no-one is deceived or misled.

As in that case, his Honour found that Guylain had not in fact used its sea-horse shape as a trade mark and the public would not have understood it as being used in that way. For example, his Honour found that this wasn’t use of the sea-horse shape as a trade mark:

The fact that other traders, such as Darrell Lea, sold sea-horse shaped products in boxes with their own brands on them contributed to this conclusion, as did the prominence of the Guylain and, in many case, a stylised ‘G’ on the packaging. Sales of Guylain’s sea shell range in sea-horse shaped boxes didn’t help either as the evidence did not suggest the sales were particularly significant.

The presumption of registrability

Sundberg J also addressed the “presumption of registrability” wars, which his Honour broke down into 2 parts.

First, his Honour explained that s 33 requires that the trade mark be registered unless the Registrar is satisfied that a ground of rejection exists. Thus, in the case, of the distinctiveness inquiry under s 41, the trade mark must be registered unless the Registrar is satisfied that the trade mark is not sufficiently inherently adapted to distinguish as to be capable of distinguishing. If the Registrar was satisfied that the trade mark had insufficient inherent adaptation, the words of s 41(5) and 41(6) plainly imposed the onus on the applicant to satisfy the Registrar that the trade mark had in fact become distinctive (s 41(6)) or otherwise did have the necessary capacity. See [21]. The wonders of plain English drafting!

Secondly, Sundberg J joined the gang (so far comprising Finkelstein and Gyles JJ) rejecting any standard other than the Registrar being satisfied on the balance of probabilities.

The role of the Registrar

Somewhat unusually, the Registrar went to the lengths of filing evidence about other uses of sea-horse shaped chocolate. Those practitioners who have seen their valiant efforts in scrambling around the internet to assemble evidence snidely dismissed will note that the Registrar was reduced to much the same course.

Interestingly, Sundberg J noted:

54. …. Although differing as to the weight such evidence should be given, the parties also appeared to accept more generally that evidence of events taking place after the priority date, whether that be the applicant’s use of the mark itself or use of other similar or otherwise relevant shapes by rival traders, may be relevant to whether the seahorse shape is capable of distinguishing Guylian’s goods. This was an appropriate course to take. In my view, evidence of what other traders were selling prior to, at or subsequent to the priority date has the ability to rationally affect, albeit with varying degrees of weight, the conclusion one might reach about the extent to which a mark is inherently adapted to distinguish under s 41(3) of the Act. ….

Chocolaterie Guylian N.V. v Registrar of Trade Marks [2009] FCA 891

Share Button

IP Australia issues more reform discussion papers

Monday, August 17th, 2009

IP Australia has released two more discussion papers of reform proposals:

  1. Flexible search and
    examination

    Flexible Search and Examination (patents)

  2. Streamlining the patent process

The Streamlining paper has some ambitious goals:

  • Removing unnecessary differences in law between Australia and overseas jurisdictions. This would help reduce the cost to applicants of re-drafting claims to meet the various requirements of each jurisdiction. It would also reduce the potential for errors to occur as a result of the applicant being unaware of such differences.
  • Simplifying and modernising systems for processing patent applications. These include processes associated with amending details relating to patent applications, processing Patent Cooperation Treaty2 (PCT) applications entering the ‘national phase’, and accessing or restricting access to information relating to a patent.
  • Remedying other procedural problems within the patent system..

In relation to ‘harmonising’, proposals include:

Interpretation of the prior art—For the purposes of determining novelty, citations are to be construed at the priority date of the claims under examination rather than the date of publication of the citation.

Whole of contents citation—For the purposes of determining novelty, only the information in the citation at its filing date is to be taken into account.

A claimed product will no longer be patentable merely because it is produced by a patentable process or method.

If the product per se in a product-by-process claim is unpatentable in light of the prior art base, the claim to the product will be unpatentable even though the disclosed product was made by a patentable process.

The claims shall not, except where necessary, rely on reference to the description or drawings.

When an application includes an omnibus claim, an examiner is likely to object to the claim unless it is apparent from the face of the specification that it is necessary for the claim to refer to the description or drawings in order to define the invention.

On flexible examination, proposals include:

  • An early search and opinion would provide an early indication of the validity of a patent (section 3.1). This would also provide the public and business with earlier certainty as to where they have freedom to operate.
  • The introduction of various levels of examination. This would ensure that the fee charged to applicants for examination of a patent application would reflect the extent to which the examination relies on work done by other offices (section 3.2).
  • An option for third parties to request examination of an application. This would provide third parties with an opportunity to obtain an earlier determination of a patent application that potentially impacts on their commercial interests (section 3.3).
  • “adjustment” of “some” examination timeframes

Get your submissions in by 16 October 2009.

Download the papers (pdf) or (doc) here.

Share Button

Recent microblog (twitter) posts

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Following in the footsteps of Marty Schwimmer and Dennis Kennedy, I shall try a weekly post aggregating selected IP “tweets”. If you’re keen on greater currency, my tweets also show up as they’re made in a side bar on the website.

  • RT @priorsmart: RT @ernestgrumbles Is the Fed. Circuit pro-patent? Maybe Not http://bit.ly/Kd9gR (empirical study of decisions)
  • RT @dhowell: RT @entlawupdate How the RealDVD ruling could reshape copyright law http://bit.ly/2sud8B
  • RT @dhowell: Kaleidescape loses; DVD copying falls again (@sandocnet; h/t @HScottLeviant) http://ff.im/-6wPw7
  • RT @DuetsBlog: Branding strategy To Google or Not to Google http://ow.ly/jGvG
  • Working up a theme here? RT @asilverstein: The risks of modernizing a trademark http://bit.ly/h3FkN
  • Patently-O analyses Bilski’s Patent Application http://ff.im/-6tlCF
  • Patry is back: Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: Are There Any Lessons in the P2P Trials? http://ff.im/-6rp7B
  • AmeriKat looks at the briefs in the Catcher in the Rye appeal http://ff.im/-6roVs
  • RT @priorsmart: RT @ernestgrumbles Is the Fed. Circuit pro-patent? Maybe Not http://bit.ly/Kd9gR (empirical study of decisions)

Let me know if you think this is a worthwhile exercise or not.

If you’re a twitterer, you can find me at @wrothnie

Share Button

Software licensing

Friday, August 14th, 2009

IP What’s Up (USA) reviews a book demystifying software licensing (from a US perspective).

OUP’s link.

Share Button

Practical DMCA problems

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Plagiarism Today’s list of top 5 DMCA mistakes (and some things to do to avoid them).

Share Button

Down the proverbial Technicon

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Technicon has lost its appeal from trial findings that it infringed both Caroma’s registered design for a toilet pan and the copyright in drawings in technical specifications.

This was a case under the old (1906) Act rules. The trial judge found there were sufficient differences to avoid liability for obvious imitation. However, there was a strong finding of fraudulent imitation. The trial judge found that Technicon at least had reason to believe or strongly suspect that Caroma’s product was protected by a registered design:

  • Caroma’s brochures for its product range included warnings that the products depicted in the brochure were protected by design registration
  • As reported, there seems to have been fairly strong evidence that Technicon based its product on Caroma’s design
  • Technicon was familiar with the design registration process and had used it itself
  • Technicon’s product development appeared to have skipped the usual detailed design drawing/prototype process.

Technicon did not challenge these findings on appeal. Rather, it sought to persuade the Court that the differences in appearance were sufficiently substantial that the product was not an imitation. The Full Court gave this argument very short shrift.

The details on copyright infringement are a bit sketchy. It seems that section 77A would not have protected Technicon because its drawings were made before 17 June 2004 and so before s 77A took effect (see item 19). I will have to think about that further.

Given the finding of design infringement and the rejection of the claim to additional damages for copyright infringement, the point may well be rather academic.

Technicon Industries Pty Ltd v Caroma Industries Ltd [2009] FCAFC 76

and at first instance: Caroma Industries Ltd v Technicon Industries Pty Ltd [2008] FCA 1465

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Share Button