Project home appeals

The Full Court has partially allowed Tamawood’s appeal, and denied Habitare’s appeal from Collier J’s findings about copyright infringement.

Tamawood designs and builds homes; Habitare is (or was) a developer. Habitare arranged for Tamawood to design some houses for a development it was working on. The plans were submitted to the local authority for, and received, planning approval. Tamawood and Habitare were unable to agree the basis on which they would go forward. Habitare decided to get Mondo Architects to draw up the building plans to carry the project forward and used Bloomer to build the houses. At first instance, Collier J found some of Mondo’s plans infringed, but others did not.

On appeal, the Full Court upheld Collier J’s ruling that Habitare’s licence to use the plans with planning approval terminated when Habitare decided not to proceed with Tamawood. This was because the basis of the licence was that Tamawood would not charge for preparing the drawings on the understanding it would build the houses. Use (ie., reproduction) of the plans outside those terms was unlicensed.

On appeal, Tamawood also successfully challenged Collier J’s conclusion that its copyright in “Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld”:

Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld
Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld

was not infringed by Mondo Duplex 1:

Mondo 1 Duplex with patio
Mondo 1 Duplex with patio

Two points of interest here. First, the Full Court was unanimous in holding that Collier J had erred by ascertaining whether Mondo Duplex 1 sufficiently resembled Stad 939 Conondale/Dunkeld and then considering whether or not there had been copying. The question of copying needs to be resolved first although, in doing so, the degree of resemblance may lead to an inference of copying.

Secondly, for Jagot and Murphy JJ, the degree of resemblance, Mondo’s access to Tamawood’s plans and the significant difference between Mondo’s plans before that access and after all contributed to a conclusion of copying. Their Honour’s then applied Eagle Homes v Austec to find reproduction of a substantial part on the basis that the copyright work could still be seen in the accused plans. For Jagot and Murphy J the changes in the floor plan were minor. At [168]:

The footprints of the duplexes are identical but for the addition of the patio at the rear of the Mondo Duplex 1 plans. The internal and other external differences all result from two changes – swapping the position of bedroom 1 with bedroom 2 and swapping the position of bedroom 3 with the living/entry space. All changes appear consequential on these two basic changes in location. The changes, however, are minor, in the sense that the overall relationship between the internal spaces and the exterior remain the same. ….

Greenwood J dissented on this point at [89] – [90], considering that the layout and traffic flows, shapes and proportions and relationships of the rooms and other spaces were sufficiently different. His Honour considered that the common placement of Beds 1 and 2 and associated wet areas along the external walls of the duplex rather than the party wall was rational and for obvious reason.

Otherwise, the Full Court affirmed her Honour’s ruling at first instance.

Tamawood Limited v Habitare Developments Pty Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (Receivers and Managers Appointed) [2015] FCAFC 65

 

How much is that copyright in the power generation system

The Full Federal Court has allowed the Commissioner of Taxation’s appeal from Pagone J’s ruling allowing SPI Powernet a deduction for the value of its copyright in the plans, drawings and manuals for its electricity power generation network.[1]

SPI Powernet bought the assets of the Victorian electricity power generation and transmission line system when the Kennett government privatised the State Electricity Commission in 1997. It paid $2.5 billion. The assets included the intellectual property rights which included the copyright in some 100,000 drawings and plans which were critical to the operation and maintenance of the business and various manuals and software.

The purchase price was not apportioned amongst the various assets. Indeed the sale agreement specified that the purchase price was fixed notwithstanding that the components might be shown “collectively to have a different value.”

SPI Powernet sought to apportion the purchase price among the various asset classes and, in the case of the copyright, claimed depreciation in respect of a “unit of industrial property”. The Commissioner assessed the value of the copyright at “nil”. Pagone J allowed SPI Powernet’s appeal, finding that the value of the copyright was in the order of $171 million using the replacement cost methodology.[2]

The Full Court’s decision involves a number of procedural issues as well as substantive questions including the extent to which the Commissioner’s methodology could be challenged and his Honour’s exclusion of the expert’s written reports at first instance.[3]

The Full Court were agreed that the valuation exercise undertaken by the experts was misdirected. The question was what part of the purchase price should be attributed to the copyright, not what was the market value of the copyright. That caused two problems for the SPI Powernet parties.

One problem was the form of the purchase price: by specifying that it was a fixed price regardless of the value of the component assets, it meant that no cost could be attributed to a particular component. If you are drafting a sale agreement and including intellectual property rights in the assets and not apportioning the purchase price, be careful.

The second problem was that SPI Powernet, as the purchaser of all the assets to run a power generation business, would have a licence implied by necessity to use and reproduce the copyright in conjunction with the business. So, Greenwood J said at [185] and [186]:

…. Let it be assumed that SPI PowerNet had not acquired the copyright subsisting in the 105,410 documents. Could it be reasonably inferred in such a case, having regard to the terms of the Agreement under which SPI PowerNet acquired all of the relevant assets necessary to conduct the electricity transmission undertaking, that Power Net Victoria (the Victorian government owned corporation which formerly owned the copyright in the documents), would have been the source of an implied licence in favour of SPI PowerNet to use all of the documents in connection with that undertaking in a way which included exercising any and all rights falling within the rights comprised in the copyright? The answer to that question seems plainly enough yes, in which event any exercise of any of the rights subsisting in the copyright would have occurred with the licence of the owner of the copyright.

Fourth, in those circumstances, it is not necessary to undertake a timebased analysis of the value of work which would have been necessary to recreate the 105,410 documents in a way which could have expressed the information contained in those documents in a noninfringing form. Such a valuation exercise does not aid or inform the statutory task under s 124R(5). I respectfully disagree with the finding of the primary judge at [33] that had the copyright not been acquired, SPI PowerNet would have had to create the field of documents in which copyright subsisted in a way which conveyed the same information but in a noninfringing way to enable the business to function.

and Edmonds J said at [102]:

If an actual acquisition by SPANT of all of SPI PowerNet’s assets as at 19 October 2005 had not included the copyright, there can be no doubt that by reason of the notion of “necessity”, as explained by McHugh and Gummow JJ in [Byrne v Australian Airlines Limited][byrne] (1995) 185 CLR 410 at 450, SPANT would have enjoyed an implied licence to copy and modify the drawings and documents in any event: see Copyright Agency Limited v State of New South Wales [2008] HCA 35; (2008) 233 CLR 279 at 305–306 [92] per Gleeson CJ, Gummow, Heydon, Crennan and Kiefel JJ, and the other cases there cited (also [81], [82] and the cases cited); see too Acohs Pty Ltd v Ucorp Pty Ltd and Anor [2012] FCAFC 16; (2012) 201 FCR 173 at [145].

Commissioner of Taxation v AusNet Transmission Group Pty Ltd [2015] FCAFC 60 (Kenny, Edmonds and Greenwood JJ)


  1. The case before the courts was actually 2 cases: 1 concerning SPI Powernet’s claim for the depreciation; the second by its parent when the parent adopted consolidated group accounts including SPI Powernet.  ?
  2. The valuation experts agreed there were three accepted methods to value the copyright: an income approach, a market value approach and a cost approach. Because there was nothing income generated from exploiting the copyright nor a market for the copyright, SPI Powernet’s experts applied the “replacement cost” method – what it would cost in time and effort to recreate the drawings etc. from scratch. See e.g. Pagone J at [24].  ?
  3. The latter of which led to the Full Court quashing his Honour’s decision on that part of the case and remitting it for reconsideration by Pagone J on the basis at [85] and [101] that the exclusion of the written reports meant it was impossible for the Full Court to evaluate his Honour’s reasons for accepting the views of SPI Powernet’s experts over the Commssioner’s expert on what all parties considered the fundamental issuel  ?

ACIP Final Designs Report

ACIP’s final report into its review of the Designs System has been published.

The report is 70 pages (including annexes) – 43 pages for the report itself; and 23 recommendations. Key recommendations include:

  • investigate joining the Hague system and, if a decision is made to join, extend the maximum term of design protection to 15 years;
  • introduce a grace period of 6 months before the filing date, but require an applicant relying on it to file a declaration to that effect;
  • rename a registered design that has not been certified as an “uncertified design”;
  • require a registered design owner to request examination by the first renewal deadline (i.e. 5 years);
  • introduce a system of opposition following certification;
  • improve the process for multiple designs by reducing fees in line with the ALRC’s original proposal;
  • allow fiddling with the statement of newness and distinctiveness until certification;
  • fix up a range of anomalies;
  • specifically include the role of the designs system in any broader review of Australia’s IP framework such as that contemplated by the Competition Policy Review;
  • not introducing an unregistered design right.