Archive for February, 2012

The Raising the Bar bill comes alive

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

News from IP Australia that the Senate finally passed the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill without further amendment.

It is now expected to be passed by the House of Representatives in the “autumn” sittings.

Some earlier posts here, here, here and here. IP Australia’s summary. The EM.

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Another round in the plain packaging tobacco war

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

This is a bit behind as it happened over the break:

The “tobacco plain packaging” legislation became law last December and, as you will recall, Philip Morris Asia has initiated an arbitration proceeding under the Australia-Hong Kong Investment Treaty.

Australia filed its “defence” late in December, alleging that Philip Morris Asia bought the assets in question after the Government’s plans were known and so hasn’t lost any value:

Prof. Davison has a typically wry report

Philip Morris’ complaint and Australia’s “defence” are available via here.

 

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Registering a trade mark in bad faith

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Dodds-Streeton J has handed down what appears to be the first detailed judicial consideration in Australia of what constitutes making an application for a trade mark in bad faith contrary to s 62A.

Sports Warehouse Inc. and Fry both sell tennis products online using trade marks based on TENNIS WAREHOUSE.

Sports Warehouse started first, in 1984 in California although in time its business expanded and in 1994 it went on line. Eventually, its sales expanded internationally including to Australia.

Fry had successfully opposed Sports Warehouse registering TENNIS WAREHOUSE.

Sports Warehouse successfully opposed Fry registering:

However, Dodds-Streeton J has now upheld Fry’s appeal.

The grounds of opposition included that the trade mark lacked capacity to distinguish, that it was confusingly similar to Sports Warehouse’s trade mark and also that the application was made in bad faith.

The s 62A ground was based on the fact that, before Fry adopted its trade mark, its principal, Mr Fry had done a Google search and come across Sports Warehouse’s website. He also used some photographs from Sports Warehouse’s website for his own site. However, he said that before he adopted the name his wife had done a trade mark search to confirm it was not an “international” trade mark. Further, he acknowledged at [21]:

there was potential that some people would confuse the websites (at least at the point of the domain name) and acknowledged that he chose the name partly for that reason, but denied that he hoped to use Sports Warehouse’s reputation in order to boost early sales.  He also denied that he believed the name TENNIS WAREHOUSE would cause customers aware of Sports Warehouse’s website to think that the Fry Consulting website was an arm or affiliate of Sports Warehouse.

Dodds-Streeton J noted that, when introduced in 2006, the EM had included a number of examples of bad faith:
  • a person who monitors new property developments; registers the name of the new property development as a trade mark for a number of services; and then threatens the property developer with trade mark infringement unless they licence or buy the trade mark;
  • a pattern of registering trade marks that are deliberate misspellings of other registered trade marks; and
  • business people who identify a trade mark overseas which has no market penetration in Australia, and then register that trade mark with no intention to use it in the Australian market and for the express purpose of selling the mark to the overseas owner.

(The last example may be contrasted to the “sharp”, but previously legitimate, practice of registering such a mark and operating a business in Australia – see [20] here.)

The concept in s 62A, however, was not limited to those examples. Her Honour drew substantial guidance from a number of English cases (and consideration of those decisions in the Office) on s 3(6) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 (UK) which adopted a “combined test” involving both subjective and objective elements:

dishonesty requires knowledge by the defendant that what he was doing would be regarded as dishonest by honest people, although he should not escape a finding of dishonesty because he sets his own standards of honesty and does not regard as dishonest what he knows would offend the normally accepted standards of honest conduct.

and

The words “bad faith” suggest a mental state. Clearly when considering the question of whether an application to register is made in bad faith all the circumstances will be relevant. However the court must decide whether the knowledge of the applicant was such that his decision to apply for registration would be regarded as in bad faith by persons adopting proper standards.

Accordingly, her Honour considered:

  1. Bad faith, in the context of s 62A, does not, in my opinion, require, although it includes, dishonesty or fraud. It is a wider notion, potentially applicable to diverse species of conduct.
  2. The formulation in United Kingdom authority of bad faith as falling short of the standards of acceptable commercial behaviour observed by reasonable and experienced persons in a particular area is, in my view, an apt touchstone. An overly literal application may, however, tend to negate the relevance attributed to the applicant’s mental state in the combined test preferred in Harrison.
  3. Further, in my view, mere negligence, incompetence or a lack of prudence to reasonable and experienced standards would not, in themselves, suffice, as the concept of bad faith imports conduct which, irrespective of the form it takes, is of an unscrupulous, underhand or unconscientious character.

Dodds-Streeton J rejected the proposition that it was enough that Fry knew of Sports Warehouse’s trade mark and usage.

While her Honour regarded Fry’s conduct as exploitative, the factor which saved it in the end was an exchange of correspondence between the parties. After Sports Warehouse learnt of Fry’s use and demanded it stop on the basis of its international trade mark, Mr Fry had challenged it to provide proof of the international trade mark. Sports Warehouse said it would do so the next day but, her Honour found, never did so. At [174]:

  1. In circumstances where:

(a) Mr Fry unequivocally indicated his willingness to cease using TENNIS WAREHOUSE if Sports Warehouse provided evidence of its entitlement, and sought a prompt response, so that if necessary he could change the name prior to significant business development and expenditure on advertising;

(b) Mr Fry did not acknowledge Sports Warehouse’s ownership or rights in Australia and Kenny J did not find that Mr Fry did not believe his assertions about the implications of a business name search, although they were misconceived;

(c) Sports Warehouse, despite undertaking to do so, did not provide any documentation or evidence of its entitlement or rights to the “TENNIS WAREHOUSE” mark, the subsequent application to register which in Australia was unsuccessful. It failed to make any further contact or objection until Fry Consulting again initiated contact two years later; and

(d) During that period, in the absence of any further objection or contact from Sports Warehouse, Mr Fry proceeded to develop his business using the words “TENNIS WAREHOUSE”, to which he added the word “AUSTRALIA”, and subsequently commissioned Mr Hughes to design a tennis ball logo, resulting in a composite mark,

it was difficult to accept that Fry’s conduct fell short of what would be acceptable commercial behaviour (especially, one might add, where Fry did not lodge its application until 2 years after Sports Warehouse said it would provide its proofs the next day).

Fry Consulting Pty Ltd v Sports Warehouse Inc (No 2) [2012] FCA 81

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Simulcasting radio broadcasts over the internet

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Foster J has ruled that radio stations do not have to pay an additional licence fee to the record companies for simultaneously transmitting their radio broadcasts over the internet.

If you want to understand how recorded music is licensed to the radio stations, this is a good place to start.

The broadcasting of recorded music over the “airways” by the commercial radio stations is covered by licence agreements with PPCA. When the radio stations broadcast recorded music as part of a “program”, the audio stream is split between the FM and DAB+ radio bands and a webcast service; that is, the audio stream is sent to 3 different distribution means.

In deciding what is comprehended within the broadcast right under the Copyright Act (see ss 85(1) and 10(1)), it is necessary to determine what is included in a “broadcast service” under the Broadcasting Services Act. The relevant Ministerial Determination under this legislation excluded from the definition of “broadcasting service”:

.. [any] service that makes available television programs or radio programs using the Internet

but then excepted from that:

… [any] service that delivers television programs or radio programs using the broadcast services bands.

Foster J considered this definition required him to focus on what was “the service” and not just the means of transmission:

130 The service which transmits the very same radio programs at essentially the same time both to the FM transmitters and beyond and to the web stream servers and beyond is the one service. On the facts before me, the members of CRA who stream their radio programs on the Internet do so only as part of a program package which also simultaneously transmits those programs via frequency modulated radio waves to the consumer’s FM receiver. In truth, the service is but one service being a service which combines various delivery methods or platforms and which delivers the same radio program using the broadcasting services band. It falls within the exception to the exclusion set out in the Ministerial Determination.

131 Therefore, in my view, the service provided by the members of CRA is a broadcasting service.

132 That being so, the simulcast transmission of the same radio program via the FM waves and the Internet is also a “broadcast” within the current definition of that term in s 10(1) of the Copyright Act and, for that reason, is within the scope of the licence which PPCA agreed to grant to the members of CRA and which it did grant from time to time to members of CRA upon the terms and conditions set out in the Member Agreement.

Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Ltd v Commercial Radio Australia Limited [2012] FCA 93

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ALRC to get new copyright reference

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The Commonwealth Attorney General has announced the appointment of Prof. Jill McKeough to lead a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into the operation of copyright in the digital environment.

Prof. McKeough is Dean of the University of Technology Sydney and a well known IP luminary.

According to the Press Release:

“The Gillard Government is determined to get the balance right between providing incentives for creators and innovators and encouraging new opportunities within a digital economy including via the National Broadband Network.

“The inquiry will consider whether the exceptions in the Federal Copyright Act are adequate and appropriate in the fast paced digital environment,” Ms Roxon said.

Draft terms of reference are to be released soon, for consultation.

The ALRC has famously produced the excellent Designs report which led to the Designs Act 2003 and also a report into Gene Patenting. Hopefully, this inquiry will get the resources and the time to meet the high standard set by those efforts.

Lid dip: Peter A. Clarke

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Optus wins first round of Optus TV Now!

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

At first instance, Rares J has ruled that Optus’ TV Now service does not infringe the copyright in broadcasts of the AFL or the NRL (its the first round only as, by agreement, leave to appeal to the Full Court was given to whichever party lost before the decision was handed down).

The pressures of time mean that I can only provide a very brief synopsis at this stage: however, his Honour has also published a very helpful Summary in what would probably be considered more user friendly language (and length).

To recap: Optus offered its 3G mobile (cellular) customers – well the personal and small and medium business ones – with a service in which they could choose to record a broadcast of a free to air (FTA) television broadcast. Once a customer chose a recording, Optus’ equipment recorded the FTA transmission (in 4 different formats: PC, Apple, Android and iOS) on Optus’ servers and the customer could then chose to replay the recording at a later time (within 30 days) by having it streamed to their computer, iOS or Android device. All customers got some storage (45 minutes) as part of their subscription, but could pay for more. (For Optus’ descriptions see here and here.)

Back in 2006, the law was amended to make it clear that time shifting (what used to be called home taping such as when people had VCRs) or format shifting of FTA broadcasts for personal use did not infringe copyright in the broadcast or any underlying works. See s. 111.

In finding that there was no infringement, Rares J had to deal with 7 issues. For present purposes, however, the key finding was that it did not make any difference whether or not the customer used their own equipment in their own “house” or the equipment was owned by someone else or located elsewhere.

When the legislation to amend s 111 was introduced it underwent some amendment of its own and Rares J noted that the further amendments were stated to be intended to:

“The bill adds new copyright exceptions that permit the recording or copying of copyright material for private and domestic use in some circumstances. This amendment makes it clear that private and domestic use can occur outside a person’s home as well as inside. The amendment ensures that it is clear that, for example, a person who under new section 109A copies music to an iPod can listen to that music in a public place or on public transport. (Rares J’s emphasis)

and

57 The Minister then explained in the Senate, repeating the words of the Further Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum, why cl 111(1) had been reworded saying (ibid):

“This relates to time shifting. … This amendment substitutes a new section 111(1), which removes the requirement that a recording of a broadcast under section 111 must be made in domestic premises. This amendment provides greater flexibility in the conditions that apply to time-shift recording. The development of digital technologies is likely to result in increasing use of personal consumer devices and other means which enable individuals to record television and radio broadcasts on or off domestic premises. The revised wording of section 111 by this amendment enables an individual to record broadcasts as well as view and listen to the recording outside their homes as well as inside for private and domestic use.” (Rares J’s emphasis)

Thus, it appeared Parliament did not intend to draw a distinction between equipment owned and operated by the viewer in his or her own premises. Accordingly, his Honour considered (at [63]):

… the user of the TV Now service makes each of the films in the four formats when he or she clicks on the “record” button on the TV Now electronic program guide. This is because the user is solely responsible for the creation of those films. He or she decides whether or not to make the films and only he or she has the means of being able to view them. If the user does not click “record”, no films will be brought into existence that he or she can play back later. The service that TV Now offers the user is substantively no different from a VCR or DVR. Of course, TV Now may offer the user a greater range of playback environments than the means provided by a VCR or DVR, although this can depend on the technologies available to the user.

Like the 2nd Circuit in Cartoon Network, his Honour considered (at [66]) that there was no real or sufficient distinction between the characterisation of a user of the service to record a FTA broadcast and someone who used a VCR or DVR to do so.

Rares J noted the careful contractual obligations imposed by Optus to ensure that users promised to use the service only for their own private or domestic purposes and, in recognition of the ordinary experience of life, was prepared to infer that was typically the purpose for which the service was used, even apparently in the case of small and business customers.

The other major issue for comment at present is who makes the communication when the customer pressed the “play” button. Rares J recognised that, in a sense, Optus made the communication as it was its servers which transmitted the stream to the customer. Having regard to the deeming provisions in s 22(6) and (6A), however, his Honour considered that the more correct characterisation was that it was the customer him or herself who made the communication. It was the individual customer who decided what was recorded and who also decided whether, when and to where it was transmitted. In reaching this conclusion, Rares J distinguished the situation in Roadshow where a Full Court had found that there could be a communication to the public by transmission of Bittorrent streams between computers without any human intervention. At [91], Rares J considered that the role of the customer of the TV Now service was very different from that of someone who just clicked on a link on a web page. His Honour commented at [95]:

It may appear odd that Optus, which has stored the films in its NAS computer, does not “communicate” (make available online or electronically transmit) the film in the compatible format, but that is because it did nothing to determine the content of that communication. The user initially chose to record the program so that later he or she could choose to play the film so recorded using the TV Now service. Optus’ service enables the user to make those choices and to give effect to them. But in doing so, Optus does not determine what the user decided to record when he or she later decides to play it on the compatible device he or she is then using to watch the film. Hence, the user, not Optus, is the person responsible for determining the content of the communication within the meaning of s 22(6) when he or she plays a film recorded for him or her on the TV Now service. Thus, the user did the act of electronically transmitting the film within the meaning of ss 86(c) and 87(c).

Needless to say, there are quite a few “other” points in Rares J’s 115 paragraphs:

Singtel Optus Pty Ltd v National Rugby League Investments Pty Ltd (No 2) [2012] FCA 34

For a more recent “no volitional act, therefore no infringement” case in the USA see Prof Goldman’s ‘Photobucket Qualifies for the 512(c) Safe Harbor (Again)–Wolk v. Kodak

There seems to have been a similar success in Singapore; but Rares J considered the TV Catch Up case in the UK less helpful as the legislation and type of usage in question was rather different. A question on communication to the public has been referred by the English court to the CJEU.

Lid dip: Copyright Council

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