Archive for June, 2011

Phillip Morris sues Australia!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Phillip Morris has announced that it plans to sue Australia under the Australia-Hong Kong (SA) Bilateral Investment Treaty over the planned plain packaging legislation.

What the Government is proposing to do

Under the proposed Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011, tobacco companies would be required to adopt a prescribed form of packaging for tobacco products.

In its most recent form, this would involve all tobacco companies using the same olive brown colour for their packaging with large, graphic images and health warnings. Some illustrations here. The contemplated regulations would limit brand names to be positioned on the top, bottom and a designated position on the front of the box in Lucida sans serif font, point size 14. (See pp. 12 and 13 of the Consultation Paper (pdf).

The trade mark lawyers amongst us will notice that clause 15 of the proposed bill will preclude a registered trade mark from being removed for non-use resulting from the strictures imposed by the proposed legislation.

The announced intention is for the laws to come into full operation on 1 July 2012. The proposal is only in exposure draft form at this stage, with public comment being scheduled to have closed by 6 June. However, the Opposition has apparently indicated its support for the Government’s position.

What Phillip Morris claims

If you read a newspaper in Australia, you can hardly have failed to notice the advertisements taken out by the tobacco companies violently opposed to this plan. There is also a website.

Phillip Morris has taken matters a step further and lodged a notice of claim against Australia under the Australia-Hong Kong (SAR) Bilateral Investment Treaty.

Unlike Free Trade Agreements and WTO / TRIPS, apparently, companies can bring claims against a party (alleged) to be in breach of its treaty obligations, not just another country party.

It would appear that Phillip Morris is not just after compensation but also an order requiring Australia to suspend operation of the law.

Details about the basis of Phillip Morris’ claim are sketchy at this stage. According to Phillip Morris’ own News Release:

“The forced removal of trade marks and other valuable intellectual property is a clear violation of the terms of the bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. We believe we have a very strong legal case and will be seeking significant financial compensation for the damage to our business”.

The speculation is that Phillip Morris will argue that the proposed law is an expropriation of Phillip Morris’ investments (trade mark rights) without fair compensation: see Article 6.

According to its Press Release, Phillip Morris has apparently garnered support from an eminent Georgetown professor (and Harvard graduate) for its position.

The Government has previously denied its plans will breach its international obligations.

Assoc. Prof. Jurgen Kurtz at Melbourne University has a very interesting consideration of the issues, noting that there is case law which would support the Government’s position as well as a contrary line. Prof. Rothwell from the ANU also explores the issues. He also reportedly contends that Phillip Morris may well have lodged its complaint too soon as the bill is not law yet, although, presumably, that would not preclude another complaint at a later stage.

The News Release also indicates that a period of 3 months’ negotiating follows before an arbitration proceeding is implemented under the Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law 2010. The process will not be a short one!

How much to pay for an infringement

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Over at the Fortnightly Review, Ass. Pro. David Brennan takes issue with the economists who argued that Larrikin should not have been paid any damages for the Kookaburra infringements.

The economists’ argument seems to have been that Larrikin didn’t lose any sales as a result of Men at Works’ infringements and so suffered no loss.

Damages under s 115(2) of the Copyright Act are compensatory: that is, they are calculated to compensate the copyright owner for the loss suffered as a result of the infringement. One way to measure that may be the profit the copyright owner lost on sales which typically applies where the copyright owner and the infringer are competing in the same market. One problem with this is that the figure for lost sales must be discounted to reflect infringements by the infringer which would never have been sales made by the copyright owner. So for example in Autodesk v Cheung, the infringer gave the pirate copies away for free while the copyright owner’s genuine software programs sold for hundreds of dollars.

Another measure often used is the licence fee approach, particularly applicable where the owner exploits the copyright by licensing. So, Autodesk wanted the licence fees it would have been paid as if Cheung had taken out a distribution agreement like its other distributors. Wilcox J was not prepared to order damages at a reasonable royalty level because, as is typically the case, there was no way Autodesk would have licensed Cheung or, for that matter, that Cheung would have paid for a licence from Autodesk. In that situation, Wilcox J felt that the basis for a reasonable royalty — the price a hypothetical willing (but not overly anxious) licensor and a hypothetical willing (but not overly anxious) licensee would have struck — could not apply.

While some courts at first instance have been willing to use a ‘reasonable royalty’ as a basis, Wilcox J’s concerns have been endorsed by Black CJ and Jacobson J in Aristocrat.

It is interesting to contrast this approach with the way the courts in the UK have dealt with it. Relying on some “old” patent cases (including a House of Lords decision), the Court of Appeal in Blayney (trading as Aardvark Jewellery) v Clogau St David’s Gold Mines was willing to use a “notional royalty” as the measure of the damages. The foundation of this approach was a rejection of the idea that the only loss suffered by the copyright owner was lost profits. Thus, in Watson, Laidlaw & Co Ltd v Pott, Cassels and Williamson (1914) 31 RPC 104, Lord Shaw expressed the principle:

wherever an abstraction or invasion of property has occurred, then, unless such abstraction or invasion were to be sanctioned by law, the law ought to yield a recompense under the category or principle, as I say, of price or hire. If A, being a liveryman, keeps his horse standing idle in the stable, and B, against his wish or without his knowledge, rides or drives it out, it is no answer to A for B to say: “Against what loss do you want to be restored? I restore the horse. There is no loss. The horse is none the worse; it is the better for the exercise.

and applied it in the context of patent infringement:

If with regard to the general trade which was done, or would have been done by the Respondents within their ordinary range of trade, damages be assessed, these ought, of course, to enter the account and to stand. But in addition there remains that class of business which the Respondents would not have done; and in such cases it appears to me that the correct and full measure is only reached by adding that a patentee is also entitled, on the principle of price or hire, to a royalty for the unauthorised sale or use of every one of the infringing machines in a market which the infringer, if left to himself, might not have reached. Otherwise, that property which consists in the monopoly of the patented articles granted to the patentee has been invaded, and indeed abstracted, and the law, when appealed to, would be standing by and allowing the invader or abstractor to go free. In such cases a royalty is an excellent key to unlock the difficulty, and I am in entire accord with the principle laid down by Lord Moulton in Meters Ld. v Metropolitan Gas Meters Ld. (28 R.P.C. 163). Each of the infringements was an actionable wrong, and although it may have been committed in a range of business or of territory which the patentee might not have reached, he is entitled to hire or royalty in respect of each unauthorised use of his property. Otherwise, the remedy might fall unjustly short of the wrong.

The Meters case was referred to by Wilcox J, but it does not seem that Watson, Laidlaw was cited to his Honour.

Now, of course, the 19th century considerations of a horse owner and “borrower” seem “quaint” in the age of Gogle and P2P torrents. But is the principle really so different?

It appears that the third member of the Court in Aristocrat, Rares J, may well have been willing to adopt the Watson, Laidlaw approach, but the evidence failed to provide a basis for any “judicial” estimate.

Raising the bar – some differences between the Exposure draft and the Bill

Friday, June 24th, 2011

As noted previously, the Intellectual Property Laws (Raising the Bar) Amendments Bill was introduced earlier this week, following fairly extensive consultations on an exposure draft of the Bill.

Patentology has now looked at some of the differences in the proposed changes to the Patents Act between the exposure draft and the Bill as introduced here. His earlier post looked at the different transitional regime for the new standards for patentability.

Will unsuccessful opponents be estopped?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

As noted previously, the “Raising the Bar” bill aims to change the standard of proof required for acceptance of a patent application and for successful opposition from the prevailing “practically certain” or “clear” standard to a balance of probabilities.

Currently, an unsuccessful opponent is not estopped from bringing revocation proceedings, largely because of the difference in onus applying at the opposition versus revocation stage: Genetics Institute v Kirin-Amgen at [17] and note Clinique at [13] (trade mark). At [17], the Full Court in Kirin-Amgen said:

17       During the hearing there was some discussion as to the possibility of the owner of a patent the grant of which was unsuccessfully opposed, defending a revocation proceeding instituted by the pre-grant opponent by raising an issue estoppel in respect of the findings of fact of the single judge. In the present case, however, the respondent has conceded that no issue estoppel would apply to the findings of fact of Heerey J in any revocation proceeding instituted by the applicant in respect of the patent. In any event, the difference between the issue determined by his Honour in the pre-grant opposition proceeding, and the issue that would arise for determination in any revocation proceeding instituted by the applicant, is in our view sufficient to preclude the operation of issue estoppel principles in that second proceeding. The overriding issue in the pre-grant opposition proceeding before Heerey J was whether it was practically certain that the patent to be granted on the specification would have been invalid on the ground that the content of the specification was not in accordance with the requirements of s 40 of the Patents Act 1952 (Cth) (Genetics Institute Inc v Kirin-Amgen Inc (No 3) (1998) 156 ALR 30 at 39-41). Even if revocation of the patent was subsequently sought by the applicant on the virtually identical ground of non-compliance with subs 40(2) or subs 40(3) of the current Act (see par 138(3)(f) of the Act), the issue for determination by the judge hearing that revocation application would be whether the patent should be revoked for the specification’s non-compliance with subs 40(2) or subs 40(3). The decision of Heerey J that it was not practically certain that the patent should be so revoked would be inconclusive of this issue. Accordingly, there would be no scope for the operation of an issue estoppel in relation to the decision of Heerey J in any post-grant revocation proceeding instituted by the applicant in respect of the current patent. (emphasis supplied)

What the Full Court said in the emphasised passages was obiter as the point was conceded. Given the reason why the Court accepted the concession, however, it may well be that an unsuccessful opponent will be estopped from from bringing revocation proceedings in those cases where the “practically certain” standard no longer applies.

The absence of discovery and, usually, cross-examination and, possibly, the very nature of opposition proceedings may however lead to a contrary conclusion: see the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Special Effects v L’Oreal (commentary by IPkat and Birds), albeit

(a) involving an opposition in the Registry and not the Court; and

(b) recognising the possibility that the revocation proceedings may be stayed as an abuse of process.

The fact the earlier UK proceeding was in the Registry and did not involve discovery or cross-examination could be a highly important point of distinction as cross-examination and, sometimes, discovery do occur when opposition proceedings are appealed to the Court.

When the change takes effect, prospective opponents would still be very well advised to consider carefully whether to oppose, or keep their powder dry, and, if they do oppose, do it properly right from the start. Of course, even under the current standard, a half-hearted opposition can seriously prejudice the outcome of both the opposition and subsequent revocation proceedings.

 

The Raising the Bar Bill

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Senator Carr introduced the Intellectual Property Laws (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011 into Parliament today.

Press release

Download the text of the Bill and EM from here (choose your own format).

You will remember that (according to the Press Release) the main objects of the Bill include:

  • raising patent standards to ensure Australian innovators are well placed to take their inventions to the world;
  • increasing penalties for trade mark counterfeiters;
  • improvements to border security measures for goods that infringe copyright and trade marks;
  • providing free access to patented inventions for researchers; and
  • cutting red tape and delays when seeking an IP right.

While there have no doubt been modifications to the text of the Exposure Draft (and Patentology flags a big change to the transitional provisions for the new patentability standards), you can get a very good feel for what the various parts of the Bill are trying to achieve:

in relation to patents from Dr Summerfield’s 8 part series over at Patentology:

  1. Part 1: inventive standard
  2. Part 2: usefulness
  3. Part 3: provisional specifications
  4. Part 4: enablement
  5. Part 5: claims supported by description
  6. Part 6: experimental use
  7. Part 7: miscellanea including standard of proof
  8. Part 8: transitional

Kim Weatherall also commented on a number of aspects, exploring in particular the (proposed) trade mark criminal offences.

You do need to bear in mind that these commentaries were on the text of the Exposure Draft and it was intended that anomalies identified through the Exposure Draft would be corrected in the Bill so, as I have already noted, there will be changes. Nonetheless, these comments should give you a good fell for what was being intended and issues that might be thrown up.

As you will see from the commentaries on the exposure draft, there are a host of issues to be considered. Time doesn’t permit anything but a cursory attempt on a couple of points here:

Item 113 of Sch 6 will replace the current s 41 of the Trade Marks Act (requiring a trade mark to be capable of distinguishing) with a new provision intended to reverse Blount and ensure that there is a presumption that a trade mark is registrable. It does this by requiring the Registrar to be satisfied that the trade mark is not capable of distinguishing before the Registrar can reject the application on this ground.

So clause 41(2) says “A trade mark is taken not to be capable of distinguishing … only if ….”

(Now I look at it, I wonder how long before it will be before someone tries to argue that “taken not to be capable of distinguishing” means something different to (and less than) “is not capable of distinguishing”. Oh well. Surely that one would be dispatched over the fence for six?)

While the Bill does seek to change the standard of proof against patent applications and patent oppositions from the existing “practically certain to fail” or “clear” type standard to the usual “balance of probabilities (see e.g. items 14 and 15 of Sch 1), no such amendment is proposed for trade mark oppositions. Therefore, the current state of uncertainty on this issue will continue (contrast e.g. Hills v Bitek at [43] – [55] to Sports Warehouse v Fry at [26] – [40]) , even though the school of thought favouring the “practically certain” or “clear” standard was imported from the Patents Act.

The bill will also introduce a whole new regime of oppositions to the registration of trade marks.

Item 18 of Sch. 3 will replace s 52 so that there is an obligation to file a Notice of Opposition which the Registrar, not the opponent, will serve on the applicant. Item 19 will introduce a new s 52A. This will require an applicant to file a notice of intention to defend or the application will lapse.

According to the EM, the regulations (when they are promulgated) will include power for the Notice of Opposition to specify the particulars of the grounds of opposition. The EM explains:

Opponents are currently required to state the grounds on which they intend opposing an application when they file their notice of opposition. However, they are not required to set out the particulars of those grounds. Frequently, this means that the opponent sets out all possible grounds, whether or not they have any intention of relying on them. As a result, the trade mark applicant may be faced with a number of grounds to deal with and no indication of which are key to the opposition until late in the opposition proceedings and sometimes not until the hearing

makes it difficult for the applicant to prepare their case. It also increases costs as the applicant is obliged to prepare a case in response to all grounds raised in the statement of grounds, including those on which the opponent may no longer rely.

The amendment addresses this problem by allowing for regulations to be made to require the opponent to file a statement of particulars of the grounds on which they intend to oppose. This will help focus oppositions earlier, reducing costs and unnecessary effort for the applicant.

The EM talks of the regulations conferring a power to require particulars. Whether this will be a discretionary power to be exercised on a case by case basis or an obligation on all opponents will need to await the terms of the regulations themselves. For example, the EM on items 24 and 25 states that opponents will be required to file both statements of grounds and particulars and  the last paragraph of the EM on item 17 states that the particulars will be required to be filed within 1 month of the filing of the Notice of Opposition.

The regulations will also apparently include a power to amend the statement(s) of grounds and particulars. However, the EM on items 24 and 25 states:

The regulations will only permit the opponent to amend the statement of grounds and particulars under tightly controlled circumstances.

The Federal Magistrates Court will get original jurisdiction in matters under the Designs Act and the Trade Marks Act alongside its existing original jurisdiction in copyright and (what used to be called) trade practices matters.

 

 

A problem of expert evidence

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

VIP Plastics has successfully sued BMW Plastics for infringing its patent for a “Variable-length Dip Tube for a Fluid Transfer Container”. The most interesting point to emerge is why the expert evidence on one side prevailed and, on the other, failed – even so far as being rejected as inadmissible.

How the battle was won

As is typically the case, much of the battle turned on whether applicant’s expert evidence or the respondent’s was accepted. Kenny J denied that the respondent’s expert’s evidence was not admissible and, even if it were, would have preferred the applicant’s witnesses. The applicant’s witnesses were the named inventor and his assistant.

In construing a patent (whether for deciding its validity or if it has been infringed), it has to be read through the eyes of the (non-inventive) person skilled in the art.

Who is the person skilled in the art

Kenny J found at [20] that the relevant field or art in this case was:

the manufacture and use of dip tubes, particularly in chemical transfer drums or like containers used in the agricultural and veterinary fields.

The named inventor gave evidence about the attributes of the person skilled in this art at [21]:

these attributes included a good working understanding of the processing of plastics and the manufacture of plastic products (involving, amongst other things, an understanding of varying grades and types of plastics and manufacturing processes such as extrusion and blow, injection and vacuum moulding, as well as the economies of such processes). According to Mr Mandile, it was also necessary to have some experience and understanding of the manufacture of large plastic fluid containers (of a size more than 20 litres in volume) incorporating some sort of extraction system. Further, it was necessary to have an understanding (of the kind that a chemical engineer would have) of the environmental stress effects on plastics and the performance characteristics of varying grades of polymers under stress and when interacting with the types of chemicals solutions used in agriculture and likely to be stored in the drums. Finally, it was necessary to have some familiarity with the various products and solutions that had been tried in the industry. In Mr Mandile’s opinion, knowledge of this kind was generally confined to people working in the plastics industry, who had experience in the design and processing of plastic containers of larger sizes and the manufacture of plastic packaging and transfer of chemical fluid to and from such packaging. In cross-examination, Mr Mandile stated that he regarded himself as a person skilled in working in the field of dip tubes for agricultural and horticultural purposes.

Kenny J noted that Aickin J had accepted that evidence about the experiments undertaken by an inventor leading up to the invention could be relevant even if “not always likely to be helpful”. As a result, Kenny J considered at [22] that the inventor could also give evidence about the characteristics of a the person skilled in the relevant art, albeit such evidence needed to be assessed carefully. On the other hand, the respondent contended that “just about any engineer with a basic knowledge of manufacturing techniques and a basic knowledge of mechanics of devices could be classified as a skilled addressee”. Kenny J rejected this on the evidence.

Accordingly, her Honour accepted at [23] that:

the skilled addressee is a person with practical knowledge of and experience in the manufacture of plastic products, particularly large fluid containers incorporating some kind of extraction system. That is, such a person would have practical knowledge and experience in the manufacture of plastic packaging for the storage of fluid and the transfer of such fluid from the packaging. Such a person would also have an understanding of the environmental stress effects on plastics.

Why the professor was not a psa

There were a number of problems why Kenny J considered that the evidence of the professor advanced by the respondent was not relevant (and so not admissible). The chief reason was that he had no relevant or special expertise and was unable to give evidence about what those in the art would know or do.

Section 76 of the Evidence Act generally rules opinion evidence inadmissible. One important exception is provided by s 79 for “expert” opinion (about a relevant issue). The opinion is “expert” for this exception where it is evidence from a person if the person “has specialised knowledge based on the person’s training, study or experience” and the opinion “is wholly or substantially based on that knowledge” (emphasis supplied).

In this case (and will not necessarily be true in every case), the professor had worked in the wool industry “for 10 years in the 1980s” and, since then, he had “mainly been an academic, teaching in the area and consulting in minor ways for engineering” when the priority date for the patent was in 2000. Then at [60]:

Of course, in a case such as this, a court may receive expert evidence from persons other than skilled addressees if it is otherwise relevant. There was, however, a serious difficulty with [the professor's] evidence in another respect: it was not just that he was not a skilled addressee but that he had no history of working in the fields of dip tubes or plastics, or some related field. Without this specialised knowledge, based on training, study or experience, [the professor] was not in a position to give relevant evidence to the court bearing on the meaning of the VIP Patent or a prior publication, the issue of novelty and the issue of obviousness:

Then, so far as the professor gave evidence about the innovation process based on his specialised knowledge, it was not knowledge relevant to the art in question.

There were other problems too: opinions were expressed about questions of mixed fact and law – e.g. it was obvious – based on misunderstanding of key legal concepts; there was also a problem of hindsight.

The use of relative terms

The infringer’s attack on the patent as lacking clarity because it used relative terms such as “inhibits bending” and “just below the end” were dismissed. Kenny J accepted that they were not precise, but found they applied Nesbit Evans Group Australia Pty Ltd v Impro Ltd (1997) 39 IPR 56 at 95 to find they provided a workable standard.

VIP Plastic Packaging Pty Ltd v B.M.W. Plastics Pty Ltd [2011] FCA 660

An earlier round in the dispute where Kenny J refused to refer the matter to the Commissioner by a direction under s 97(3) of the Patents Act.

ICANN approves ‘historic’ new gTLD regime

Monday, June 20th, 2011

ICANN’s board meeting in Singapore today voted to launch new top level generic names: apparently 13 voted for, 1 opposed and 2 abstained.

Currently, gTLDs there is a closed system, confined to 22 different types such as .com, .info, .biz etc.

Under the new plan, there won’t be any limits on what can be the top level domain. Thus, if Sony wanted to launch its own top level domain such as .sony or maybe .psp, it could apply to do so.

According to ICANN’s Chairman of the Board:

Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.

and

ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind,” said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.

Some reports also indicate that so-called internationalised domain names have been approved; i.e., those using characters other than Latin letters – Chinese, cyrllic etc.

Applications for new gTLDs are planned to be open from January 2012 to April 2012.

It is expected that it will cost US$185,000 to apply.

There looks like lots of “fun” will be in order.

Some names will be “reserved”. (See page 2-8 of the Application Guidebook (really p. 60)). Then there will be questions of applicant suitability and DNS / technical stability.

There will be an objection process to deal with 4 types of disputes:

  • String Confusion Objection – The applied-for gTLD string isconfusingly similar to an existing TLD or to another appliedforgTLD string in the same round of applications.
  • Legal Rights Objection – The applied-for gTLD stringinfringes the existing legal rights of the objector.
  • Limited Public Interest Objection – The applied-for gTLDstring is contrary to generally accepted legal norms ofmorality and public order that are recognized underprinciples of international law.
  • Community Objection – There is substantial opposition tothe gTLD application from a significant portion of thecommunity to which the gTLD string may be explicitly orimplicitly targeted.

See page 3-4 (really p. 150) of Module 3.

For IP owners, there will be a trademark clearinghouse process and, after designation of new gTLDS, a post-delegation dispute resolution procedure.

So, if you own a trademark, you may want to start planning now about how you are going to protect your interests even if you don’t plan to set up your own cyberspace.

What happens on the Internet in 60 secs

Monday, June 20th, 2011

70+ domain names registered

13,000+ iPhone apps downloaded

600+ new videos uploaded to YouTube …

See the Infographic

via Peter Black

iTunes Match and making Prof. Lessig’s case

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Recap: Prof. Lessig’s argument.

You will remember that Michael Speck from Music Industry Piracy Investigations was outraged by Apple’s pending iTunes Match service and, in particular, the part where the service would in your iCloud account copies of music on your hard drive which had not been bought through iTunes.

At the time, it wasn’t clear (at least to me) whether Apple was going all gung-ho and just offering this unilaterally or had the agreement of the record companies to this.

Of course, if the record companies had agreed to this, it would be rather hard for them, or their representative, to complain about the pirate’s charter.

Jonathon Bailey, at Plagiarism Today, reports here that Apple is in fact offering the service in the USA with the agreement of the record companies. He also goes on to discuss indications that this is all part of a clever new strategy by the record companies to combat piracy – one of the indications he identifies includes recent reports that the music industry in Australia is not pursuing a 3 strikes policy (at least as strongly) as the movie industry.

Swerving to another aspect: the iTunes Match service Steve Jobs announced was for the USA only. Media reports suggest it will take up to 12 months for the service to be extended to the UK and speculate other countries will have similar delays.

Copyright is, of course, a territorial right and there are often different owners and licensees for different territories (i.e., countries). Thus, just because you have consent from the (or a) copyright owner in one country does not give you rights to do the same thing with the corresponding copyright in another country. No doubt, therefore, a large part of any delay will be attributable to the need to negotiate separate arrangements with the owners of copyright in different territories.

So the delay reported in the media should come as no surprise. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to those in Australia who monitored, for example, how long it took for the iBookstore to get any “in copyright” content. Perhaps, if Mr Speck’s view is representative of the views of the copyright owners in Australia, the wait would be even longer – what an economist might describe as “infinitely long”.

All of which goes to highlight, as representatives around the world assemble in Geneva to debate extending copyright and introducing limitations for visually impaired readers, why are we still dealing in the 21st century with territorial rights for electronic rights which can be accessed virtually instantaneously from virtually anywhere in the world?

Oh, perhaps it’s not just an electronic “problem”. This product is advertised for sale in the USA for US$399. You can buy it here for AUD$699 or (depending on exchange rate fluctuations) approximately US$736. (By the way, I am certainly not recommending that you do buy the product from either source, I have no experience with it.) Almost makes you wonder where’s Prof. Fels?

Microsoft v i4i – US Supreme Court decides

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Microsoft has lost its appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Microsoft had argued it should have to prove its claim that i4i’s patent was invalid by “a preponderance of the evidence”.

Under the US Patent Act, however, a patent having been granted after examination by the Commissioner is “presumed valid”. The US Supreme Court has ruled that “presumed valid” in this context had a settled common law meaning which Congress was presumed to have adopted. As a result, Microsoft had to make its invalidity case “by clear and convincing evidence”. That is, there is a strong presumption of validity in the USA.

Microsoft Corp v i4i Limited Partnership

Initial commentary by Patently-O.

The case initially attracted international attention as Microsoft was ordered to stop selling versions of Word which had the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM file (“an XML file”) containing custom XML. This presumably means that Microsoft will have to pay the US$290 million damages awarded against it for infringement.

Under Australian law, a person alleging a granted patent is invalid has the onus of proof on the usual balance of probabilities standard.

A person opposing the grant of a patent, however, has to establish their case on the clear and convincing or practically certain standard. The exposure draft of the “Raising the Bar” amendment legislation proposes changing that standard, and the standard for acceptance, to the balance of probabilities standard too. (See items 14 and 15 of Sch. 1 (pdf) and pp 26 – 30 of the (draft) EM (pdf).

Patently-O speculates from the voting alignment of the current Court that the US Supreme Court is now shifting “to the right” or “pro-patentee”.