Rosuvastatin goes to the High Court

The High Court has allowed special leave to appeal from the Full Federal Court’s decision in AstraZeneca v Apotex (“Rosuvastatin”).

From the special leave transcript, it looks like the main issue will be the operation of s 7(3) and the basis on which a reference ascertained for the purposes of s 7(3) may be combined with common general knowledge under s 7(2).

In Rosuvastatin, a Full Bench of 5 justices held that the “starting point” identified in the patent could be used as the “starting point” for testing whether the solution in the patent was obvious only when shown to be part of the prior art base. The Full Court nonetheless held the patent was invalid as a s 7(3) reference, the Watanabe paper, was added to the common general knowledge.

From the special leave transcript, it appears that all parties were in agreement that the person skilled in the art would undertake a literature search. The resulting search would have thrown up a number of documents. AstraZeneca argues that the Full Court erred in allowing the Watanabe paper to be used as a s 7(3) reference. Its main argument appears to be that the search would have thrown up at least 2 papers, Watanabe and Aoki. AstraZeneca argues that, before the Watanabe paper can be combined with common general knowledge under s 7(2), it needs to be shown that the person skilled in the art would have chosen the Watanabe paper over Aoki. According to AstraZeneca, however, the evidence did not establish that. Again according to Astrazeneca, there was evidence that the skilled person could choose either paper and, if Aoki was chosen, would fail:

If you had gone down the NK-104 path you fail – a relative fail. If you had gone down the other one, you win. The evidence of Professor O’Brien was – others can reasonably make one choice or another. Dr Reece did not even venture on the issue as to which one he would go down.

A second point that AstraZeneca argues is that to choose Watanabe the skilled person would have needed to refer first to Aoki. That is, it argues that it was necessary to engage in impermissible masoning.

If AstraZeneca succeeds, there will also be a dispute about entitlement issues and the operation of new s 22A and 138(4).

No doubt more will become clearer when the appeal documents are posted on the High Court’s website.

Astrazeneca AB & Anor v Apotex Pty Ltd; Astrazeneca AB & Anor v Watson Pharma Pty Ltd; Astrazeneca AB & Anor v Ascent Pharma Pty Ltd [2015] HCATrans 58

 

What conduct makes novelty destroying information publicly available

In finding (2:1) that the primary judge had wrongly held that most of the claims in Damorgold’s patent were invalid because they lacked novelty, the Full Court confirmed that the novelty test under the 1990 Act is stricter than the old law.[1]

Damorgold’s patent relates to a mechanism for raising and lowering a blind. As characterised by Bennett J at [6], claim 1 was a combination of some 27 integers.

The Full Court upheld the primary judge’s finding that a Mr Horner had imported into Australia and shown to some potential customers a product which embodied all the integers in the relevant claims of Damorgold’s patent notwithstanding the imperfections in the evidence.

Although Mr Horner had been showing the product to potential customers to solicit sales, the evidence was that he did not in fact sell any. Nor did he leave any samples with anyone.

Mr Horner only showed the product to his potential customers in its assembled form. It was not possible, however, to tell how the product worked in its assembled form. To ascertain the internal componentry and how all the parts worked together, it was necessary to dissassemble it – to pull the product apart. And that was never done.

Section 7(1)(a) in the form applicable [2] provided that a claim in a patent was taken to be novel unless it was shown not to be novel in light of prior art information made publicly available in a single document or through doing a single act.[3]

The trial judge considered that a potential customer could have asked to see how the product worked and, if they had done so, Mr Horner would have shown them or allowed them to disassemble it; disassembly (and re-assembly) would have been easy. Therefore, his Honour held the novelty destroying information was made publicly available.

On appeal, Bennett J and Yates J held that the requirement in 7(1)(a) that the information be made publicly available meant the question was what information did the prior use communicate (or make available) to the public. As the demonstrations to the public in the assembled form did not disclose the internal workings of the product, the information communicated to the public did not disclose all the integers of any claim. Therefore, the attack on novelty failed.

Bennett J pointed out at [11] that different consequences flowed from whether the prior art relied on was a document or an act:

The question is whether an act can be identified that did in fact make the information being the integers of the invention publicly available. This is not the same requirement for anticipation by prior publication, which is satisfied if the information is in a document which is publicly available. (emphasis supplied)

In his opinion concurring with Bennett J, Yates J was at pains to stress that nothing he said should be taken as dealing with the situation where there had in fact been a sale or a sample had been given to and retained bya potential customer.

In dissent, Jessup J agreed with the primary judge that the appropriate question was what information would have been conveyed by the use.[4]

Damorgold Pty Ltd v JAI Products Pty Ltd [2015] FCAFC 31


  1. As I was junior counsel for the appellant, this post will aim just to identify the court’s ruling.  ?
  2. The applicable prior art base was the form before the amendments made by the Patents Amendment Act 2001 so acts of prior use had to be done in Australia.  ?
  3. Bennett J’s emphasis.  ?
  4. For example at [61], [64], [68] (emphasis supplied).  ?

Springboard injunctions and patents

In December, Beach J found AUG infringed Streetworx’ innovation patent for a street light fitting. Now, his Honour has granted an injunction restraining AUG from further infringing the patent, but has refused to grant a “springboard injunction” or order delivery up.

Before the trial, AUG had secured contracts with two municipal councils, Monash and Moonee Valley, to supply, respectively, 8,000 and 6,000 infringing light fittings. The lights have yet to be supplied. AUG couldn’t negotiate a royalty or licence fee with Streetworx so it could supply. Therefore, it sought to modify its fittings so they no longer infringed. Streetworx sought the “springboard injunction” to block that supply on the basis that AUG secured the contracts with the infringing product and should not be allowed to take the benefit of that infringement.

Beach J accepted that the Court does have power to order a “springboard injunction” of the kind sought.

Beach J accepted Streetworx’ argument that but for the infringing conduct there would not have been any contract to supply.[1] However, that was not enough to secure the “springboard injunction” as his Honour considered it was also necessary to consider the quality of the advantage obtained by the infringement.

[81] …. The quality of the unwarranted advantage needs to be considered. In the scenario where the relevant integers had no causal significance (ie absent the relevant integers the contract would have been awarded for the product in any event), the nature and quality of the unwarranted advantage is less egregious than if the presence of the relevant integers in the product played a critical role in the decision to award the contract. So, in that more nuanced fashion, it is relevant to consider the causal significance of the presence of the relevant integers to the decision to award the contract. The more the unwarranted advantage is causally tied to the significance of the presence of the relevant integers, the stronger the basis for the injunction and vice versa. The concept of unwarranted advantage contains within it a normative aspect and has a spectrum quality rather than Streetworx’s simplistic binary characterisation of it either being established or not established. In other words, there are degrees of unwarranted advantage which are to be considered and which are not foreclosed from consideration by merely demonstrating “but for” factual causation as Streetworx has demonstrated in the present case.

In this case, Beach J considered that damages or an account of profits would be an adequate remedy.[2] Secondly, the qualitative advantage gained by the infringement was low. So far as the evidence went, the infringing features were not a selling point in AUG achieving the sales. Although there was no evidence directly from the Councils themselves, this was supported by the fact they were prepared to accept the non-infringing products in place of the infringing fittings. Thirdly, his Honour took into account the impact of the proposed injunction on the innocent Councils in a market where there were limited suppliers.

His Honour also refused to order delivery up as the fittings had been modified so that they no longer infringed.

Streetworx Pty Ltd v Artcraft Urban Group Pty Ltd (No 2) [2015] FCA 140


  1. If the fitting to be supplied had not been itself the infringement – a holistic infringement, but rather merely a component such as the brake of a car, Beach J may have been prepared to take the more nuanced approach advocated by AUG at the causation stage.  ?
  2. This is an unusual consideration at the final injunction stage as typically the Courts will not condone future infringing conduct. Here, of course, his Honour found the conduct would not be infringing. His Honour did order that the price of escaping the injunction would be an undertaking from AUG to pay its gross margin from the sales into a trust account pending the damages/account inquiry.  ?

Three strikes in Australia

The Communications Alliance has published a draft Code for a copyright notice scheme in Australia.

The draft Code will apply to residential, fixed line accounts only. It appears to be intended to apply to all ISPs of (an as yet to be determined) minimum size. The scheme does not involve ISPs terminating, suspending or throttling accounts, but leads up to the rights holders potentially making applications for preliminary discovery to identify egregious account holders. Participation in the scheme, however, does not preclude a rights holder from taking infringement proceedings at any stage.

The draft Code envisages 3 stages of notice:

  1. an Education Notice;
  2. a Warning Notice; and
  3. a Final Notice.

A rights holder who alleges an infringement would send a notice in the agreed form to the relevant ISP which would then issue a notice at the appropriate level to the account holder. The ISP must not at any stage disclose any personal information “including the identity or any contact details of an Account Holder at any stage of the copyright notice scheme, unless there is a court order or written permission from the Account Holder”.

Each type of notice will include, amongst other things, details about the alleged infringement and information where legitimate content can be obtained.

A Final Notice would be issued only within the 12 months from issue of the most recent Education Notice. If more than 12 months has passed, the process resets to the Education Notice.

If a Final Notice is sent, it will include a warning that the Account Holder may be subject to court proceedings including an application for preliminary discovery. An Account Holder who receives a Final Notice may challenge it before an Adjudication Panel on payment of a $25 fee. Until the challenge is resolved, the Account Holder must not be included in “the Final Notice List”. The costs of the Adjudication Panel are otherwise to be borne by the rights holders.

Rights holders can seek access to each ISP’s Final Notice List – which must be provided in a way that does not include any personal identification material and, having received it, the rights holder may apply to “a federal court or tribunal” for preliminary discovery and the ISP must abide by the outcome.

It is envisaged that the Code will operate for 18 months and then be subject to an evaluation.

The draft has been prepared through consultations involving:

  • on the ISPs side: Telstra, Optus, iiNet, IP Star, M2, Verizon and Vodafone Hutchison; and
  • on the rights holders side: APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Copyright Agency, Foxtel, Free TV Australia, Music Rights Australia, News Corporation Australia, Village Roadshow Limited and World Media.

The implementation of the scheme will be overseen by a Copyright Information Panel, consisting of representatives of the ISPs, rights holders and “the Consumer Organisation”. The Copyright Information Panel will also be responsible for appointing the Adjudication Panel.

In addition to the size of ISPs who must participate, the press release notes that the parties are still to agree on the funding arrangements – i.e., who will bear the costs of the notices and administration – and how many notices an ISP may have to handle in any given month.

The publication of the draft reflects the ultimatum from the Attorney-General back in December.

The draft is now open for public comment until 23 March 2015. The intention is that, once finalised, the draft will be submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for registration as an Industry Code under s 112 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Draft Code here (pdf).

Press release here.