Cartel conduct and IP licences and assignments

Will your assignments and licences of intellectual property, such as in a typical franchise agreement, expose your client to liability for cartel conduct or will you be ready to apply for an authorisation?

One of the bills pending before Parliament contains the long pursued (by the ACCC) repeal of s 51(3) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Section 51(3) exempts from most of the prohibitions in Pt IV of the Competition and Consumer Act terms and conditions in assignments and licences of intellectual property which most of us take for granted.

The rationale for repeal is that most transactions involving IP do not have anti-competitive effects or purposes and, if they do, they should not be exempt from the competition laws.

Rodney De Boos, a consultant at DCC with many years’ experience in licensing and commercialisation of IP, however, points out that this explanation was developed before the provisions banning cartel conduct were introduced into the Act. And, he contends, typical arrangements in IP agreements which allocate, for example, territories or customers will constitute cartel conduct and so need authorisation if the parties are not to be in breach of the cartel provisions.

As Rodney explains, a cartel provision are certain types of specified provisions between competitors.

Now, it may well be that an assignor and assignee, or a licensor and licensee, will not be competitors. There are many types of arrangements, however, where the Competition and Consumer Act will deem them to be competitors. An obvious example is the case of a franchisor who has retail outlets (either itself or through a related body corporate) as well as retail franchisees. Other arrangements involving IP could also be similarly problematical.

You can read Rodney’s concerns in more detail here.

The bill repealing s 51(3) has already passed the House of Representatives and is due to be debated by the Senate in the sittings coming up.

Hague consultations – outcome

IP Australia has published a report on the results of its consultations on the economic consequences of Australia joining The Hague Agreement for the international registration of industrial designs.

In short, there’s a bit of minor tweaking, but the outcome is pretty much the same. The revised best estimate:

  • net benefit to Australian designers is $3 million (up from $1.7 million)
  • net cost to Australian consumers is $39.7 million (down from $58 million)
  • net cost to Australian IP professionals is $2.5 million (unchanged)
  • net cost to the Australian Government is $2.8 million (unchanged).

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the report is an analysis of all infringement court cases involving patents, trade marks or registered designs since 2008:

Rate of infringement cases by registered IPR

There have been far less design infringement cases but, having regard to the number of registered designs, litigation is in approximately the same proportion as trade mark infringement cases,[1] but approximately only one third the rate of patent litigation.

Another surprising aspect: the New Zealand Intellectual Property Association also made submissions – which appear to have been rather influential – which strongly opposed Australia joining the Hague system.

Finally, the report is at pains to say that the costs benefit analysis of joining Hague is only one factor being considered. Anyone want to put money on Australia joining (before we sign up to anothere one-way trade agreement with, this time, the EU)?


  1. The report gets a bit over-excited by the high proportion of certified designs which get litigated – well, duh!  ?

Productivity Commission implementation part 2

IP Australia has released draft legislation for the proposed Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill (Productivity Commission Response Part 2 and Other Measures) Bill 2018.

Schedule 1 of the proposed bill includes measures to:

  • amend inventive step requirements for Australian patents (to bring them into line with the imagined approach of the EPO;
  • introduce an objects clause into the Patents Act 1990
  • phase out the abomination innovation patent system.

Well, 1 out of 3 is not so bad.

Schedules 2 – 4 propose the mooted amendments to the Crown use provisions (both patents and designs) and the compulsory licensing provisions.

There are also streamlining measures and “technical improvements” in schedules 5 to 7.

Download the draft bill, the draft EM and consultation questions from here.

Written submissions are due by 31 August 2018.

IP Laws Amendment ( Productivity Commission Response Pt 1 etc) Bill 2018

On May 10, the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 was referred to the Senate’s Economics Legislation Committee.

You may recall that, amongst other things, the Bill has another go at parallel imports and trade marks (which also entails repealing s 198A of the Copyright Act 1968), reduces the period before registered trade marks can be attacked for non-use, permits non-PBR-protected varieties to be declared as essentially derived varieties and a host of other reforms (Sch. 2 has 21 Parts)

The Senate committee is required to report on the bill by 22 June 2018.

If you are an agricultural organisation, medical research industry, an IP peak body (who is not going to INTA) or somehow at a loose end, you need to get your skates on as submissions must be made by 1 June 2018.

The Hague Agreement: a cost benefit analysis

IP Australia has published a cost benefit analysis for Australia joining the Hague Agreement for registration of designs.

You are no doubt thinking that sounds very exciting (not). But, even if you are not into registered designs, you SHOULD READ IT. This is the Government’s first attempt at applying the Productivity Commission’s call for any proposals to reform intellectual property laws to be economically justified. As the Report says in the first paragraph of the Executive Summary:

The report assesses the impacts [i.e., the costs and benefits to Australia of joining the Hague Agreement] with reference to the Productivity Commission’s (PC) guiding principles of effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability and accountability. This report is intended to form part of the evidence base in relation to whether Australia should join the Hague Agreement.

So, unless it involves an acronym that is like TPP, this could well be a harbinger of things to come.

And what does it conclude find:

  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net benefit for Australian designers is $1.7 million;[1]
  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to Australian consumers from higher prices resulting from the longer term of design protection is $58 million;[2]
  • to add a little bit more spice to the debate, IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to Australian IP professionals is $2.5 million;[3] and
  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to the Australian government of implementing new systems etc. to comply with Hague is $2.8 million.[4]

The big question IP Australia is asking you is how realistic are these estimates?

Now, in arriving at these numbers, the Report does include quite a lot of hard data.
For example, most Australians who file designs overseas do so in the EU, the USA, NZ and China. On the other side of the coin, most incoming design registrations were from the USA, the EU, Japan, NZ, Switzerland and China.[5]

On the other hand, the Productivity Commission reported that less than 20% of registered designs are renewed beyond the first 5 year term.[6] According to IP Australia, however, approximately half of all design registrations are renewed for the second 5 year term and non-residents are more likely to renew than Australians.[7]

Will we become better at designing if we “stick” with our current settings – 19th out of the top 40[8] – or should we “twist” and sign up? Of course, there is an anterior question: do we even care about good design in the first place?

IP Australia is seeking feedback on its cost-benefit analysis and its proposed methodology to elicit additional evidence and views with the aim of finalising the analysis in 2018. You should get your say in by 31 May 2018.

The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs: A cost-benefit analysis for Australia March 2018


  1. This represents the costs savings from the simplified application procedure and the increased profits from taking new designs overseas. IP Australia estimates the range of benefit is from $0.03 million to $6 million.  ?
  2. This represents how much Australian consumers would pay to overseas owners of registered designs if the term of a registered design was extended from 10 years (currently) to the minimum 15 years required under Hague. IP Australia estimates a resulting range of net outflows from $23 million to $114 million.  ?
  3. IP Australia anticipates that “IP professionals” will garner some extra work at the examination stage but will lose work at the filing stage as the Hague Agreement provides for one central application to WIPO rather than multiple individual application to each separate jurisdiction. IP Australia estimates a range from a benefit of $0.3 million to a cost of $12 million.  ?
  4. The Government (presumably that means IP Australia) will incur costs between $2.3 and $3.4 million in upgrading its IT systems.  ?
  5. Report p. 10. It’s not clear from this part of the Report whether Australian applicants filed in all, some or only one of those destinations.  ?
  6. Productivity Commission, Intellectual Property Arrangements: Final Report, p. 337. These were the figures from ACIP as at 2013.  ?
  7. Report p. 11. In 2010, 66% of non-residents renewed. How the discrepancy between the Productivity Commission’s figures (i.e.,
    ACIP’s figures) came about is not clear.  ?
  8. Report Appendix 3 table 4.1.  ?

Government consultation papers on patent and trade marks

Government consultation papers on patent and trade marks

Government consultation papers on patent and trade marks

The Australian government has issued 5 consultation papers on how to implement some of the recommendations it has accepted from the Productivity Commission’s Final Report into Intellectual Property Arrangements:

Submissions are required by 17 November 2017 (with a view to introducing a bill as soon as possible).

I can’t say that introducing yet another inventive step test (there are 4 if you count common general knowledge alone – depending on which regime applies to the patent in question) makes much sense.

Most of the Productivity Commission’s reasoning was based on the common general knowledge alone test used in Alphapharm.1 It did find, however, that there had not been much change in the Commissioner’s rate of granting patents relative to the EPO since the Raising the Bar act was passed. However, so far as I could see, it doesn’t tell us how many applications the Commissioner had examined under the Raising the Bar regime and you would have to guess a large number were still under the 2001 regime.2

Essentially, the Raising the Bar regime allows any piece of prior art to be combined with common general knowledge to test obviousness. It also allows prior art information to be combined in the same way as one might expect an English court or an EPO board would.3 The Raising the Bar regime should in fact operate just like the UK/EPC regime and one would have thought we should give it a good chance to work!

  1. See e.g. the reliance on Angiotech Pharmaceuticals v Conor Medsystems Inc. [2007 EWCA 5 at [43]. ??
  2. The Merial case is the only judicial consideration I am aware of applying the regime introduced in 2001 but, if you know of others, let me know. ??
  3. See e.g. KCI Licensing v Smith & Nephew [2010 EWCA Civ 1260 at 6. ??

 

Unregistered design or registered design – UK

Over at the IpKat, Darren Meale has an extensive post explaining some of the intricate differences that arise when litigating an UK unregistered design right versus a registered design right. As he explains:

But UKUDR is quite powerful. As noted above, a designer can essentially make up what it says its rights are once it has seen an alleged infringement appear on the market, and it can lawfully do so in an immensely complex way. Only robust case management can deal with the menace….

Definitely well worth reading!

The case is Neptune v DeVol Kitchens [2017 EWHC 2172 (Henry Carr J)

Cutting the costs of designs litigation

Justice Carr in the UK has weighed into case management of design infringement cases in a big way.

Clingabeez[1] are apparently the runaway toy of the last year or so, being the Activity Toy of 2016 in the UK. They are the subject of a Registered Community Design. So, when what they allege are “copycats” hit the market, the letters of demand started flying. “Bunchem[2] is one such competitor.[3] It sued for unjustified threats and challenges the validity of the Registered Community Design. “Clingabeez” cross-claimed for infringement and denied invalidity.

At the initial case management conference, Clingabeez estimated a six-day trial and £776,000 costs; Bunchem estimated a four day trial and £360,000 costs.

Justice Carr considered both estimates were well out of order. His Lordship considered that a case relating to a registered design for a consumer product should be much simpler, largely dependent on the Court’s visual assessment of the evidence. In line with Court of Appeal decisions,[4] at [6], Justice Carr said:

(i) Registered design cases are concerned with the overall impression of the registered design, the alleged infringement and the design corpus. It is easier to see this than to describe it in words.

(ii) Admissible evidence in such cases is very limited, and is most likely to comprise technical evidence about design constraints. Such evidence is unlikely to require substantial cross-examination. It should be possible to decide a registered design case in a few hours.

(iii) If permission for expert evidence is to be given, then the precise ambit of that evidence should be defined. The expert should be told what question to address and the evidence should be confined to those questions.

(iv) It is clear law that whether the defendant has copied is irrelevant. It is equally irrelevant for the defendant to prove or to give disclosure about how his design was arrived at.

On the question of admissible evidence and further discovery, Justice Carr excluded evidence going to copying at this stage. Copying was not relevant to the question of infringement. However, it could be relevant to the remedy of additional damages. Accordingly, his Lordship postponed discovery and any evidence directed to that issue to any subsequent hearing on remedies if the trial on liability and validity resulted in a finding of infringement.

Both parties had already filed detailed particulars of, respectively, differences and similarities. Justice Carr did not consider the parties’ requests for further information about these matters would be helpful. However, his Lordship directed that each side should exchange concurrently enlarged photographs of the products alleged to infringe marked up to indicate the points it relied on.

His Lordship limited the expert evidence to the following matters;

There are very limited issues upon which expert evidence is admissible. The issues on which I intend to allow expert evidence are as follows. First, are any of the features listed in subparagraphs (1) to (9) of paragraph 6.5 of the Amended Particulars of Claim features of appearance of a construction toy such as Bunchems which are solely dictated by its technical function? Second, to what extent, if any, is the degree of freedom of design limited by the functional nature, if any, of the features of subparagraphs (1) to (9) of paragraph 6.5 of the Amended Particulars of Claim?

Bunchem” was happy with its expert evidence being limited to 10 pages and two pages (excluding exhibits) directed to the design corpus. “Clingabeez”, having asked for 20 pages, was permitted 15.

Justice Carr fixed the trial duration at three days including reading time, and did not think it would be necessary for any adjournment for preparation of final written submissions. His Lordship then set out at [23] eight “lessons for the future” to achieve shorter trials more expeditiously in such matters:

(i) The parties should, in appropriate cases, produce images at an early stage to show the differences or similarities upon which they rely, and in the case of the defendant, those features which are wholly functional or in which design freedom is said to be limited. Requests for further information are unlikely to be helpful.

(ii) Claimants should not try to introduce or seek disclosure in relation to copying. The parties should carefully consider why, if at all, disclosure is necessary, rather than agreeing to standard or even issue based disclosure.

(iii) Expert evidence as to whether the alleged infringement produces on the informed user the same or a different overall impression as the registered design should not be included in cases concerning consumer products.

(iv) The parties should try to limit the length of expert evidence to an agreed number of pages.

(v) If any evidence of fact is to be introduced, the court will need to be satisfied of its relevance.

(vi) The parties should be prepared at the pre-trial review to identify issues on which cross-examination is necessary, and to explain why.

(vii) Where multiple designs, or multiple infringements, are alleged, the parties should each select a limited number of samples on which the issues can be tested.

(viii) The parties should give careful thought to those issues which can be postponed to a damages enquiry, which will only need to be considered if liability is established.

Justice Carr’s approach would no doubt commend itself to Justice Finkelstein, were he still on the bench. It may also be rather more difficult for an Australian court to exclude evidence going to the “ultimate question”, given section 80 of the Evidence Act and the first Cadbury/Darrell Lea appeal. On the other hand, the relevance of copying is exactly the same.[5] Nonetheless, as both the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court are striving to make litigation more costs effective,[6] there may well be considerable interest in exploring Justice Carr’s admonitions DownUnder.

Spin Master Limited v PMS International Group [2017] EWHC 1477 (Pat)


  1. Otherwise known as PMS International Group.  ?
  2. Spin Master Limited.  ?
  3. Indeed, a Google search or visit to Youtube might see the two brand names used interchangeably. For example  ?
  4. Procter & Gamble Co v Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Limited [2007] EWCA Civ 936; [2008] Bus LR 801 and repeated and expanded by the Court of Appeal Dyson Ltd v Vax Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1206; [2013] Bus LR 328  ?
  5. Review 2 Pty Ltd v Redberry Enterprise Pty Ltd [2008] FCA 1588.  ?
  6. See also chapter 19 of the Productivity Commission’s Intellectual Property Arrangements – Final Report.  ?

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.

Exposure draft not stillborn

Back in the dying days of 2016, IP Australia landed us with the early Christmas present of an exposure draft of a proposed Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 201? and associated regulations and explanatory materials.

After everyone (well, 17 different organisations) ran around getting in their comments so that IP Australia had something to do after they came back from the holidays …

… IP Australia has announced that the bill itself is still coming, but will be delayed until the Government has finalised its response to the Productivity Commission’s Final Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements.

IP Australia explains:

This is because if any legislative amendments are required as a result of the Government’s response, two intellectual property Bills might be in Parliament at the same time, leading to great complexity and uncertainty.

In the meantime, you could spend World IP Day (or what’s left of it) reviewing the sterling efforts of those brave souls who responded to the call for comments.