Archive for June, 2010

Viacom v YouTube: a decision

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

District Court Judge Stanton has granted YouTube summary judgment in Viacom’s action for copyright infringement.

The judge’s opinion is here (pdf).

Prof. Goldman provides an initial summary here.

As Prof. Goldman notes, Viacom will presumably seek to appeal.

Given the provenance of our own limited “safe harbours” in the US DMCA via the US Free Trade Agreement, nonetheless, the decision should repay consideration in the Australian context.

On a general note, Judge Stanton distinguished YouTube’s position from Grokster, finding:

It is not remotely the case that You Tube exists ”solely to provide the site and facilities for copyright infringement.” . Even the plaintiffs do not (and could not) suggest as much. Indeed, they have repeatedly acknowledged the contrary.
The Grokster model does not comport with that of a service provider who furnishes a platform on which its users
post and access all sorts of materials as they wish, while the provider is unaware of its content, but identifies an agent to receive complaints of infringement, and removes identified material when he learns it infringes. To such a provider, the DMCA gives a safe harbor, even if otherwise he would be held as a contributory infringer under the general law.

While that is made in the context of the DMCA “safe harbour” defences, the point should be well worth bearing in mind when the Full Court comes to decide the iiNet appeal.

Viacom International Inc. v YouTube Inc

Share Button

More on new gTLDs

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Further to yesterday’s post, ICANN has released:

  • v4 of the draft Applicant’s Guidebook; and
  • an Economic Framework for the Analysis of the Expansion of Generic Top-level Domain Names;
  • and two “snapshots”.

The materials are open for public comment until 21 July.

Lid dip: Marty

The Economic Framework and snapshots can be downloaded via here.

Try not to be cynical: this is about giving people who missed out on registering their domain name in .com (or wherever) a chance to get their preferred domain name; it is not about creating ways for registrars to generate more fees or …

According to the Economic Framework document, there would be a US$185,000 starting fee for a new gTLD.

It identified:

The potential benefits of new gTLDs to Internet users are that they may provide competition to existing gTLDs, add differentiation and new products that are valuable to consumers, and/or relieve congestion problems caused by having only a few gTLDs.

Notwithstanding 2 waves of new gTLDs, 73% of domain names registered in “open” gTLDs are still registered in .com (which accounts for only 6.3% of all domain names). “Only” 52% of survey respondents who registered their domain name in .biz, for example, had registered the domain “for defensive purposes”, i.e., to stop someone else registering it. So much for competition and reducing congestion. How many people can register “coca-cola” anyway?

Apparently, one fifth of survey respondents who registered in .biz or .info or .name had not previously registered a domain name and 55% claimed to have registered a different domain name to names registered in a pre-existing gTLD. However, looking at duplicate domain names registered in more than 1 open gTLD:

a high percentage of domain names registered on .info were also registered on .com (89 percent), .net (81 percent), and .org (75 percent), and a high percentage of domain names registered on .biz were also registered on .com (85 percent).

but:

only 11 percent of the overlapping .info and .com names were registered to the same owner. For .biz and .com overlap, the percentage registered to the same owner was higher, 42 percent.

A different study by Zittrain and Edelman based on a sample of 823 names registered in both .biz and .com estimated about 20-30% were registered to the same person.

About half of the registrations in .info and .biz were inactive, while 15% simply redirected to another website.

New gTLDs might reduce search costs, perhaps, on the theory that you would only have to go to the .canon gTLD to find information about Canon’s products. Would Canon give up canon.com? Who searches that way anyway? Only 90% of survey respondents reported using a search engine to find things on the Internet – so for those users of search engines, new gTLDs are “less likely” to reduce search costs. How long does it take to get a search result from Google or Bing! or Yahoo (may be a problem with exclamation marks here)?

On the negative side, the Economic Framework reports an estimate of legal costs for UDRP proceedings in the order of US$1.58 million which “suggests that the external costs associated with cyber-squatting in new gTLDs would be low”, although the study does acknowledge that there would be an increase in costs having regard to steps taken outside the UDRP.

The Framework also reports on a fascinating study about “typosquatting”. Apparently, about 80% of the sample misspelt domain names resolved to pay-per-click advertising sites.

“Industry sources” reported to ICANN that it costs a company between US$6,000 and %15,000 p.a. to monitor each trade mark that is being protected. [What monitoring activities are your clients spending that money on?]

There is lots more fascinating detail in the Economic Framework document in particular.

Share Button

Australian government consults on new gTLDs

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

ICANN is considering introducing new gTLDs – the top level domains that come after the last “dot” in a domain name (e.g., .com, .au).

The Australian government is now seeking your views on what it’s position should be.

You can find out more, and the contact details, here (pdf).

Marty Schwimmer looked at some of the issues for someone thinking of introducing their own .brand (via here). More ICANN resources via here.

I didn’t see a deadline for submissions.

Share Button

Taking genuine steps to resolve before going to court -corrected

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The Commonwealth Attorney-General introduced the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010 into Parliament today which, if enacted, will require:

  1. applicants in civil proceedings in the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Court to file a genuine steps statement before the hearing date specified in the Application when the application is filed (thanks, Tim);
  2. respondents to file a genuine steps statement before the hearing date stating whether or not they agree with the applicants’ statements; and
  3. lawyers to advise people who are required to file genuine steps statements of the requirement and to assist them in complying with their obligations.

A genuine steps statement will not be required where the proceeding relates wholly to “excluded proceedings”: clauses 15 – 17 provide lists of excluded proceedings and a power for regulations to prescribe further proceedings.

An applicant’s genuine steps statement must set out the steps that have been taken to try to resolve the dispute before commencing proceedings or why no such steps were taken.

The Bill does recognise, however, that what will constitute “genuine steps” in any particular case will depend on the circumstances of that case. The EM states in relation to cl. 4:

The Bill does not prescribe specific steps to be undertaken. Rather, it is intentionally flexible to enable parties to turn their minds to what they can do to attempt to resolve the dispute. This is to ensure that the focus is on resolution and identifying the central issues without incurring unnecessary upfront costs, which has been a criticism of compulsory pre-action protocols.

A failure to provide a genuine steps statement would not automatically invalidate the application or defence/response.  However, in exercising its powers in relation to the proceeding, by cl. 11 the court may have regard to whether a genuine steps statement was filed (when required) and whether genuine steps were in fact taken. In addition to referall of the dispute to ADR, the EM at [45] gives as examples of ways the power may be exercised:

  • setting time limits for the doing of anything, or the completion of any part of the proceeding
  • dismissing the proceeding in whole or in part
  • striking out, amending or limiting any part of a party’s claim or defence
  • disallowing or rejecting any evidence, and
  • ordering a party to produce to it a document in the possession, custody or control of the party.

The NADRAC report contemplated that courts might use this information in various ways such as tailored orders for the provision of necessary information without requiring or fostering costly discovery processes. This, and other measures contemplated, are already within the courts’ powers so, at least this far, the bill seems to be an instrument to encourage cultural change. Indeed, this is made explicit in relation to cl. 12 – the court’s powers to award costs:

The court may also have regard to whether a genuine steps statement was filed (when required) and whether genuine steps were in fact taken when exercising its powers to award costs.

Furthermore, the court may order costs personally against a lawyer who fails to comply with his or her duties.

The EM states that these provisions are intended “to bring about a cultural change in the conduct of litigation so that parties are focused on resolving disputes as early as possible.”

Clause 14 seeks to preserve the “without prejudice” privilege for negotiations to settle.

So far as IP goes, “ex parte” applications are within the definition of “excluded proceedings”, so some Anton Piller and Mareva situations will not be affected. IP litigation is usually preceded by letters of demand. This (and the resulting rejection) may well fall within, if suitably drawn, the first two or three examples given in cl 4:

  1. notifying the other person of the issues that are, or may be, in dispute, and offering to discuss them, with a view to resolving the dispute;
  2. responding appropriately to any such notification;
  3. providing relevant information and documents to the other person to enable the other person to understand the issues involved and how the dispute might be resolved.

The discussion of these matters in the NADRAC report identifies a tension perceived in the UK between reducing some court backlogs while imposing onerous costs obligations on parties before the litigation commences.

Civil Dispute Resolution Bill 2010 (html) (pdf)

EM (html) (pdf)

Press release

Some further background and consideration of the thinking behind the legislation may be found in the NADRAC report

Share Button

Peer-to-patent Australia

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Ben McEniery from QUT has kindly provided an update on the completion of the Peer-to-patent Australia pilot:

The peer review phase of the inaugural Peer-to-Patent Australia pilot project is now complete. For those of you not familiar with the project, Peer-to-Patent Australia (www.peertopatent.org.au) is a web-based initiative aimed at supporting patent examination and improving the quality of issued patents in Australia. This is a joint project of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and IP Australia that was launched in December 2009. The project’s chief investigators are Professor Brian Fitzgerald and Ben McEniery.
The project is designed to prevent the grant of patents that do not satisfy the statutory requirements of novelty and inventiveness. It aims to achieve this goal by allowing members of the public to put forward prior art references to be considered by IP Australia’s patent examiners during patent examination. The object of the pilot is to test whether an open community of reviewers can uncover relevant prior art that might not otherwise be found by the patent office during a routine examination.
In all, 31 pending patent applications were reviewed by the community of peer reviewers during the six-month peer review phase. During that time, the community generated 106 prior art references in response to those applications. These prior art references will now be forwarded to IP Australia to be considered by the patent office in examination.
Peer-to-Patent Australia has now entered a six-month evaluation phase. During this phase, both IP Australia and QUT will evaluate the pilot’s success. The results of the pilot will be published in an anniversary report, which will be made available under a Creative Commons licence on the project website in December 2010. Any prior art submission applied in examination will be recognised in the ‘Prior Artist Awards’ section of the Peer-to-Patent Australia web site as information comes to hand.
Share Button

2003 Designs Act appeal

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The Full Federal Court (Emmett, Besanko and Jessup J) has dismissed Elecspess’ appeal from Gordon J’s ruling that it had infringed LED Technologies’ registered design for combination LED lights used as rear lights for trailers, trucks, buses, caravans and other vehicles. I think this is the first substantive decision by a Full Court on the new regime introduced by the Designs Act 2003.

From a very quick skim, it seems that the approach taken in the Review cases (here and here) by Kenny J and Gordon J below appears to be largely endorsed but the decision runs for 447 paragraphs, with each Judge giving a separate judgment, so rather closer examination will be required. At least in respect of Elecspess and the corporate infringers, Jessup J agreed with Besanko J’s reasons; Emmett J also gave extensive reasons.

The vexed question of the liability for contributory infringement of individual officers or employees also receives extremely extensive consideration. Jessup J agreed with Emmett J’s reasons for finding that a Mr Keller was not individually liable as a joint infringer. Besanko J also found Mr Keller was not liable.  Jessup J agreed with Besanko J that a Mr Armstrong also was not jointly liable, but for different reasons.

Working out the ramifications of the differences between their Honours should prove quite diverting.

The Court also upheld Gordon J’s refusal to award damages, or an inquiry into damages, for infringing conduct between the date of trial and the making of final orders. This should not be a problem where an undertaking or injunction restraining the respondent’s conduct is in place pending trial.  Where no undertaking or injunction is in place, however, it would appear that the Court considers it imperative to establish at trial that the infringer is continuing their infringing conduct, notwithstanding the court action,  to provide a foundation

Keller v LED Technologies Pty Ltd [2010] FCAFC 55 (Emmett, Besanko and Jessup JJ)

Share Button

The onus on appeal from a trade mark opposition

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

If there were any doubt about it, the Full Federal Court has confirmed that the person opposing the registration of a trade mark bears the onus of proving a successful ground of opposition on appeal to the Court. (As a side note, I think this is the new Chief Justice’s first IP decision, at least since joining this Court.)

The Food Channel Pty Ltd (Channel) had applied to register TM 967804:

TM 967804

TM 967804

in class 16 for printed matter. During the application process, it assigned the trade mark application to The Food Channel Network Pty Ltd (Network). Both companies were related entities as a Mr Lawrence was the sole director and shareholder of both.

The registration of TM 967804 was opposed by Television Food Network GP (Television), a US entity. Television is the owner of TM 881666 for TELEVISION FOOD NETWORK and TM 881667, both registered in classes 9, 38, 41 and 42 and  TM938228 for services in class 41. TM 881667 and 938228 were for devices:

TM 881667

TM 938228

The Registrar rejected Television’s opposition. The trial judge, however, upheld the appeal finding that Network bore the onus of establishing it was the owner of the trade mark, had used it in good faith and that it was confusingly similar to Television’s trade marks.

The onus point

The Full Court (Keane CJ, Stone and Jagot JJ) dealt with this point quite quickly as inconsistent with the the presumption of registrability established by s 33, long standing principle and the legislative scheme.

The Full Court rejected Television’s argument that the difficulties facing an opponent attempting to establish lack of ownership (s 58) or lack of intention to use (s 59) meant that an evidential onus should shift to the applicant. While the Court appeared to accept that an evidential onus might arise under s 59 where the opponent raises a prima facie case of lack of intention, it considered the difficulties that could arise in the context of s 59 did not attend s 58 which was usually directed to showing that someone else, often the opponent, had used the trade mark first.

The not the owner point

The difficulty which Television seized on here was the assignment from Channel to Network and some evidence in chief from Mr Lawrence:

1. I am the Founder and Managing Director of Food Channel Network Pty Ltd (The Food Channel) and am authorized to make this affidavit. [Network] is based in Queensland Australia.
5. In 1996, and with the advent of pay television being developed in Australia, The Food Channel trademark was created and a logo device attached to its name. In 1997 after filing the required documentation with our then solicitors MALLESON STEPHEN JACQUES which was then AIPO – (Australian Industrial Property Organisation) and after their search of the database that was conducted, it was concluded that there was no applications [sic] that had been filed or applications that were pending for the trademark – The Food Channel. The Food Channel trademark proceeded to registration without any opposition. The Food Channel is a REGISTERED AUSTRALIAN TRADEMARK – NUMBER 733265 – The Food Channel trademark has been registered in Australia since 1997 and is registered until 2017 when it again comes up for renewal. Annexed hereto and marked annexure H. ….

Television’s argument was that Mr Lawrence defined “The Food Channel” as Network in his affidavit and deposed that it was The Food Channel (i.e., Network) which created and used the trade mark.

The trial judge had found that, the onus being on Network and it not being clear from Mr Lawrence’s evidence who created the trade mark, the ground of opposition was successfully made out.

The Full Court noted that Mr Lawrence had drawn his affidavit himself and commented:

61 The courts should be cautious to allow the legal fiction of the corporate veil to defeat registration in a case where one of a group of companies, all controlled by the same directing mind and will, used the mark prior to the other. This is particularly so where, as here, the conclusion that the words The Food Channel in Mr Lawrence’s affidavit meant Network and only Network depends on a single opening definition in an affidavit drafted by a layperson, in a case where Network was the sole respondent attempting to answer a notified ground of opposition that Network was not the owner of the mark, and where any distinctions Mr Lawrence drew between his companies were few, random and confused. In this case, this evidence does not establish that Network was the prior owner through use. It may establish that Network used the mark at a time before registration, but it doesn’t negate the possibility that Channel was, in fact, also a user (and indeed the first user) of the mark before registration. Further, there is no evidence as to how the mark was used by Network. Use needs to be in relation to the goods or services claimed; on the only evidence before the Court, there was “no set formula” with regard to use. This tends against a conclusion that any mark was used by Mr Lawrence, Network or Channel to distinguish one company’s goods from another. Finally, the requirement of prior user as a trademark is that it is used to distinguish one’s goods from another’s: if Network did use the mark, there does not seem to be evidence of an attempt to use it in such a manner as to distinguish its goods from those of Channel. And of course, it is inherently unlikely that Mr Lawrence, as the directing mind and will of both companies, would have had any such an intention.

62 To treat Mr Lawrence’s statement that Network ‘created’ and ‘used’ the mark as exclusive of permitted use by Channel is counter-intuitive, given her Honour’s observation at [77] that the “evidence …is that Mr Lawrence tended to confuse his own business interests with those of his companies, and appeared to randomly use companies and trade marks depending on the circumstances…”.

This with respect pragmatic approach may be constrasted with the very strict approach taken by a rather different Full Court in Crazy Ron at [109] – [127].

As the Full Court noted, further, to the extent there was any confusion about ownership, it fell to Television to clarify the position since the onus lay on it as the opponent.

(It would appear from the Register that TM 733265 was in fact registered by Channel and subsequently assigned to Network.)

The no intention to use point

The trial judge’s finding that Network had no intention to use the trade mark when it was filed was tied up with the confusion in Mr Lawrence’s evidence about who created the trade mark.

Mr Lawrence did give evidence that “The Food Channel” had provided recipes bearing the trade mark to butchers for distribution by the butchers to their customers. It was not clear whether or not the recipes were sold to the butchers or there was some other quid pro quo. However, the Full Court accepted that this uncontested evidence demonstrated that there had in fact been use of the trade mark in the course of trade.

Trade mark comparison

Finally, the Full Court found that Network’s trade mark was not deceptively similar to Television’s trade marks when viewed as a whole – they neither looked nor sounded similar – and having regard to the differences in the goods and services specified.

Food Channel Network Pty Ltd v Television Food Network GP [2010] FCAFC 58 (Keane CJ, Stone and Jagot JJ)

Share Button

Tobacco and trade marks seminars – the video

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

IPRIA held a public seminar on the Commonwealth Government’s proposals to ban the use of artwork and logos on cigaratte packaging.

The video and Powerpoint packs are now online via here – Prof. Davison advises me that Videos 4 and 5 are the “legal” ones.

Share Button

Ramifications of IceTV

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Last February, Gordon J ruled that there was no copyright in White Pages subscriber listings and (perhaps more surprisingly) Yellow Pages listings. Now, Stone J has applied IceTV (here and here) to find that copyright did not subsist in medical records held by a range of general practitioners.

Primary Health Care (PHC) is a publicly listed company that has been buying up medical practices. As part of the purchase, the medical practitioner contracted to work at the new practice for a period. The vendor practice’s patient records consisting of (1) consultation notes, (2) prescriptions and (3) referral letters were transferred to the new PHC practice. PHC claimed deductions from its income tax for depreciation of the value of the copyright said to subsist in the patient records and the Commissioner disallowed the claim.

Stone J accepted that copyright subsisted in the sample patient referral letters written by the medical practitioners and one sample consultation note (the so called di Michiel patient 6), but rejected the claim to copyright in all the other sample patient records. Her Honour did note that her ruling was not a finding that copyright could never subsist in any patient records, only that it did not subsist in the particular samples addressed in the case.

The case could easily become a ready instructional tool for students and “new” intellectual property lawyers.

The consultation notes

Each practice maintained a file for each patient. The file usually consisted of a summary sheet which contained information such as the patient’s name, address, age, medicare number and, sometimes, important medical issues. This information was usually taken down by the receptionist or other clerical staff. In addition, there were cards, or sheets of paper, or in some cases electronic records containing a series of notes entered sequentially about each consultation with the patient.

All the notes recorded for di Michiel patient 6 were in fact made by Dr di Michiel himself. In the case of all the other samples tendered in evidence, however, the individual notes were made by different practitioners: sometimes the principal, sometimes an employee, sometimes a locum and sometimes another partner in the practice.

This led to PHC’s first problem.

Stone J held that the consultation notes where the entries were made at different times by different practitioners were not works of joint authorship. Her Honour did accept that that, at least in some cases, the consultation notes for each patient could be seen as a continuous narrative. They were not, however, the fruits of a collaborative effort in which the contributions of each author could not be distinguished. To the contrary, each individual contribution could be simply identified by looking at the different handwriting for each entry. (Hmm. I wonder what would happen if all the entries were made electronically and it was not possible to identify who made them?)

A first consequence of this conclusion was that large swathes of many of the consultation notes fell out of consideration as, following IceTV, (1) the person who had actually written them – the author – had not been identified and (2) nor was it established that those unidentified individual authors were “qualified persons” as defined in s 10(1).

The principals of the sample practices (well, some of them) were able to identify various individual entries in particular consultation notes that they had written. That, however, led to the second problem.

Some entries were simply listings of medical conditions. Three examples particularly relied on by PHC by 3 different doctors for 3 different patients were given in [127]:

(a) Triferne 28 Microgynon 20 C&N
(b) H/T, NIDDM, Asthma
(c) Hypertension, Uterine Fibroids, Pagets D, Lumbar Disc Deg

While these entries conveyed information, her Honour held that such clinical data and the names of particular medications did not originate with the doctor who recorded them.

Some were more developed – 3 further entries for 3 different patients:

7kg – growing well. On fresh milk and vitamins

Now c/o diarrhoea – possibly antibiotic induced …

Last 2/12 notices wheezy breathing if lies flat – associated with dry irritant cough – Says doesn’t feel SOB

These too “were not sufficiently substantial to qualify as works the product of independent intellectual effort directed at expression.” Stone J explained at [133]:

None of this denies the intellectual effort and professional skill needed to form the diagnoses, to select methods of treatment or to understand the significance of clinical data that is recorded, however, copyright protects a form of expression not this underlying expertise.

On the other hand, Dr di Michiel patient 6 record, which did constitute a continuous and single work as a whole, was an original work.

Sample prescriptions

The sample prescriptions [113]-[114] and summary notes were at [135] similarly too insubstantial to qualify “as original literary works embodying independent intellectual effort directed towards expression.”

A problem of assignment

A further problem for PHC was that only one of the sale  agreements included an express assignment of copyright. Stone J refused to infer an intention to assign the copyright, as distinct from the property in the physical record, from the sale of the medical practice as a going concern. It simply wasn’t necessary to infer such a term. The lack of such necessity was supported both by the fact that PHC did not claim copyright in third party documents forming part of the patients’ medical records, such as x-rays and letters from specialist consultants, and a consideration of how the records were in fact used after the sale.

No use of copyright

As to the second point, while PHC claimed that the copyright was used after the sale, most of the evidence was not consistent with this. In one case, her Honour accepted that the records had been transferred into a computerised database (and so the copyright was used) but, in the other cases, the most that could be said was that some information only had been used.

Primary Health Care Limited v Commissioner of Taxation [2010] FCA 419

Share Button

Served by Facebook 2 – updated with link

Friday, June 4th, 2010

The press is reporting that a Federal Magistrate has allowed a child support application to be served on a “Mr Howard” by Facebook.

Following service, “Mr Howard” shut down his Facebook and MySpace accounts.

See the Age, Sydney Morning Herald.

The reports say the judgment was published last month; but I haven’t found a link to it yet.

Byrne & Howard [2010] FMCAfam 509

with thanks to David Starkoff (possibly better known as “Inchoate”).

Share Button