Print outs of third party websites ruled inadmissible

Mortimer J has ruled that print outs of third party websites are inadmissible as hearsay and, if not, excluded under s 135 of the Evidence Act as unduly prejudicial.

Shape Shopfitters is suing Shape Australia for infringement of several registered trade marks which, it says, include SHAPE as the essential feature and the usual passing off-type actions.[1] Both are in the commercial construction business. Shape Australia used to be called ISIS Group Australia, but changed its name in October 2015, as her Honour said “for reasons that are immediately obvious.”

Shape Shopfitters is contending that the use of “Shape” in Shape Australia’s name is likely to lead people to think that Shape Shopfitters is the “shopfitting” arm of Shape Australia, which it is not.

As part of its defence Shape Australia sought to lead evidence of ASIC and Australian Business Register records of other companies and businesses with the word SHAPE in their name. Shape Australia also sought to introduce print outs of the websites of various businesses resulting from Google searches such as “shape building”.[2] Some, but not all, of the print outs were from the Wayback Machine. The print outs purported to be of businesses called Shape Consulting, Shape Builders Pty Ltd, Shape Joinery & Design Pty Ltd, Shape Fitouts Pty Ltd and Shape Finance (Aust) Pty Ltd. You will immediately appreciate that Shape Australia was hoping to show that “shape” itself was not distinctive or to rely on the well-known proposition from the Hornsby Building Information case.[3]

Mortimer J noted that no objection was taken to the ASIC or Australian Business Register print out – presumably, because they were official records.[4]

However, the print outs of the websites of the businesses themselves were hearsay. They were being advanced to show that there were other businesses out there claiming to have and use the names appearing in the print outs. At [24], her Honour ruled:[5]

the evidence sought to be adduced by the respondent is clearly hearsay within the meaning of s 59 of the Evidence Act. The statements made on various internet sites of other corporations or business entities (including the archived material to which Mr Henry deposes in [24] of his affidavit)[6] constitute a previous representation made by the person or persons who constructed the website, wrote the text and inserted the graphics. The purpose of adducing evidence of those statements of text and graphics is to prove the existence of a fact it can reasonably be supposed was intended by the drafter of the text and the person who constructed the graphics. The fact is that there were business entities trading on the dates specified (between August and October 2016) in the industries and markets set out on the pages exhibited by Mr Henry, in the locations those webpages identified using the names those webpages identified. It is the actual existence of those business entities, the names they were using, the industries and markets in which they were trading, the services they were offering and the locations in which they were offering those services which the respondent in my opinion seeks to use as part of its case to prove that there was no confusion in the marketplace generated by its use of the word “shape” in SHAPE Australia.

Even if the print outs were not hearsay, Mortimer J would have excluded them under s 135 if the Evidence Act on the basis that their probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice to Shape Shopfitting.

the evidence … constitutes no more than a snapshot of what was available through a series of internet searches on a particular date, without any context being available to be tested about the nature of the businesses these searches have turned up. The probative value of such searches is limited on any view. The applicant’s case is a very specific one about what participants in the commercial construction industry may or may not be led to believe concerning the relationship between the applicant and the respondent, and whether the applicant might be seen as no more than a “specialist shop fitting arm” of the respondent. To have evidence in the nature of single date extracts of internet searches showing businesses using the word “shape”, without calling evidence from witnesses who operate or control those businesses, and allowing the applicant to test the similarities or differences between those businesses and its own, between the customer base(s) of those business and its own, and in turn between those businesses and the respondents, is in my opinion to create a danger of unfair prejudice to the applicant. Snapshots of internet searches on particular dates, all of which are between just under and just over a year after the respondent adopted the name “SHAPE Australia” contribute little by way of proof as to what participants in the commercial construction industry were likely to believe about the commercial relationship between the applicant and the respondent since 26 October 2015, but it is not the kind of evidence the applicant can test as it should be able to.

What Shape Australia should have done was get affidavits, or subpoena, from (1) witnesses from the companies it wished to prove existed and (2) consumers who might be searching for the relevant services.

Now, depending on which side of the case you find yourself, you will be cheering or in tears. But, at the very least one might wonder if that correct approach is really conducting litigation “as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible”? It will be very interesting to see how her Honour deals with Shape Australia’s substantive arguments whether it’s name is too similar to Shape Shopfittings’? Meanwhile, the Registrar can treat the Wayback Machine as valid evidence.

Shape Shopfitters Pty Ltd v Shape Australia Pty Ltd (No 2) [2017] FCA 474


  1. In which I include the usual misleading or deceptive conduct actions under the Australian Consumer Law too.  ?
  2. It is not clear whether the search was just of the two words or the two words in quotation marks.  ?
  3. At [25].  ?
  4. At [13].  ?
  5. Noting that at least 2 prior decisions had ruled internet archive materials inadmissible: Athens v Randwick City Council [2005] NSWCA 317 and E & J Gallo Winery v Lion Nathan Australia Pty Limited [2008] FCA 93.  ?
  6. I.e., the Wayback Machine print outs.  ?

The Federal Circuit Court can grant Mareva injunctions

The Federal Circuit Court can issue mareva injunctions[1] under s 14 and s 15 of the Federal Circuit Court Act 1999.

Mr Vartzokas is an architect. Through his company he agreed to provide architectural services in connection with the development of a 5 storey apartment block in Prospect Rd Adelaide to the developer, Nazero Contructions Pty Ltd.

He provided the services and sent in his bill for $48,100.

Mr Younan seems to have been the principal of Nazero Constructions and was the person with whom Mr Vartzokas dealt.

With some difficulty, Mr Vartzokas managed to extract payments totalling $25,000 from Mr Younan. When Mr Vartzokas sent in his final bill for the remaining $23,100 with the final drawings, the drawings were endorsed with the statement:[2]

These drawings are the copyright property of the architect and are not to be reproduced or copied without prior written license of the architect.

Needless to say (this is a court case afterall), Mr Vartzokas was not paid his outstanding $23,100.

Instead, he was contacted by a Mr Chen on behalf of Yi Hong Pty Ltd, which was about to purchase the Prospect Rd property and wanted to engage Mr Vartzokas to provide further architectural services in relation to it.

Mr Chen provided Mr Vartzokas with copies of the working drawings for the property which Mr Chen had obtained from Mr Younan in connection with the proposed purchase and wanted Mr Vartzokas to work on.

Mr Vartzokas recognised the drawings as being the ones he had prepared for Mr Younan and Nacero Constructions. Only the authorship was attributed to “JB Archi-Build”!

Unbeknownst to Mr Vartzokas, around the time Mr Vartzokas was having trouble extracting his initial payments from Mr Younan, Mr Younan caused a new company, Nazero Group SA Pty Ltd to be incorporated. Nazero Constructions sold the Prospect Rd property to Nacero Group for $1,017,500. Nacero Constructions then changed its name to Zeecat Constructions.

When Mr Chen provided the “JB Archi-Build” drawings to Mr Vartzokas, Mr Vartzokas discovered the existence of Nacero Group and that it was in the process of selling the Prospect Rd property to Yi Hong for $1,190,000. Settlement on the contract was due the next day following the hearing.

Mr Vartzokas sued seeking a mareva injunction to require the proceeds from the sale (after paying out the bank holding a registered mortgage over the property) be paid into the Federal Circuit Court pending trial of Mr Vartzokas’ copyright infringement claims.

Judge Brown granted the mareva injunction ex parte. On the question whether Mr Vartzokas had demonstrated a real risk that the assets would be dissipated and the Court’s process frustrated, his Honour pointed to the sneaky swap in ownership of the Prospect Rd property between Mr Younan’s companies, his failure to pay all Mr Vartzokas’ bills and continued use of the drawings without payment or recognition:

[35] I am also satisfied that the applicant has established a prima facie case that there is a real risk of assets being dissipated, if the relief sought is not granted. In my view, the significant evidence in this regard arises as a consequence of the change of name of Nazero Constructions Pty Ltd, which coincided with that entity not honouring the invoices submitted to it by the applicant. This failure to pay its debt, to the applicant, ultimately led to the winding up of the company concerned.

[36] More significantly, after the company had been liquidated, Mr Younan incorporated an entity with a similar name and transferred the land at Prospect to it. At the same time, Mr Younan appears to have been intent on developing the land in a similar manner to that which envisaged the intellectual input of Mr Vartzokas, but without either payment or recognition to him.

[37] In all these circumstances, I am satisfied that there is a significant risk that, if the injunction sought is not made, the proceeds of sale of the Prospect property will not be available to the applicant to either satisfy any award of damages to which he is entitled or to provide any accounting for the profits made on the sale of the land concerned, which, at least on a prima facie basis, seems to have included his architectural designs to be utilised on the property’s development.

His Honour also noted there was no prejudice to third parties as the bank mortgagee would get paid its due before money’s were paid into court.

Vartzokas Architects Pty Ltd v Nacero Group SA Pty Ltd [2017] FCCA 849


  1. Yes, I know we are supposed to call them an asset preservation order, but really ….  ?
  2. The usual implied licence can be excluded by an express written term to the contrary: Devefi v Mateffy Perl Nagy  ?

In which the lawyers don’t lose themselves

Eminem is suing a New Zealand political party for infringing his copyright in New Zealand in Lose Yourself.

A bit of background here.

Part of the barrister’s opening for Eminem plays the two songs and is attracting social media commentary on what is said to be the surrealist way lawyers in court behave.

Meanwhile, we all get to express an opinion (however well informed) on whether there’s an infringement or not.

Lid dip: Therese Catanzariti

Annual IP Report 2017

IP Australia has published its Australian Intellectual Property Report 2017.

Some key points:

  • there were 28,394 applications for standard patents filed in 2016, a one per cent decline from 2015. At the other end, 23,734 patents were granted last year, an increase of 3 per cent from 2015;
  • there were 2,322 innovation patent applications in 2016 up by 27% from 2015;
  • there were 71,344 trade mark applications in 2016, down by 3 per cent from 2015 – Madrid filings decreased by 14 per cent;
  • there were 7,202 design applications filed in 2016, a 3 per cent increase over 2015;
  • in 2016, IP Australia registered 6,644 designs and certified 978;
  • the number of PBR applications increased by a whopping 8 per cent: from 359 to 387. IP Australia registered 111 PBRs.

IP Australia has completed a draft of its cost-benefit analysis for Australia joining the Hague Agreement and “will look to share the draft and seek feedback on the research later in 2017”.

There is also a long(-sh) chapter challenging the view that there is an Australian crisis in university-business collaboration. The chapter includes convoluted node diagrams showing the types of collaboration by institution and concludes that, rather than being at the bottom of the OECD rankings, we are merely “middle of the road”; in about 13th place.

With a view to geographical indications, IP Australia and Melbourne University have been building a world-first database linking Australian registered trade marks to a global atlas of place names. Apparently, this database will be released later this year.

On the research front, IP Australia has also released the 2017 edition of “IPGOD”. This year IP Australia should also release a database of pharma substances subject to patent term extensions. IP Australia has also made available the literature review on grace periods it commissioned from the University of California, Davis here (pdf). There is also a paper (pdf) on how grace periods affect innovation.

Download the report from here.

Minister’s press release here.

More safe harbour consultations

You may recall that, when the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was introduced into Parliament, it was missing the schedule in the exposure draft that extended the “safe harbour” provisions from “carriage service providers” to “service providers”.[1]

This is apparently a complicated issue and so the Government has announced it is engaging in a round of consultations led by no less a personage than the Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts.

The Secretary is required to report to the Minister on the outcome of the consultations by early June 2017.

Press announcement here and, if you want to try to be invited to the consultations, some contact details here.

Anybody wonder what President Trump would do if he found out we were in breach of the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement?[2]


  1. The safe harbour provisions protect “carriage service providers” from liability to damages where they merely provide the facilities used by an infringer: see ss 116AC, 116AD, 116AE and 116AF.  ?
  2. Check out article 29(b) of Chapter 17.  ?