IPwars.com

Mainly intellectual property (IP) issues Down Under

Selected links from the last week (or so)

Here is a selection of links to IP-related matters I found interesting this week:

Patents

Trade marks

Copyright

Designs

Not categorised

I hope you find something interesting. If you did or have a question, leave a comment or send me an email

Selected links from last week

Here is a selection of links to IP-related matters I found interesting last week:

Patents

Trade marks

  • Is the US Olympic Committee’s [#TwitterBan Fair or Foul?](https://t.co/kmG0Avith) compare
    Telstra ‘Go to Rio’ campaign cleared by Federal Court, AOC case dismissed

Copyright

Remedies

  • Want An Enforceable Online Contract? Don’t Use A Footer Link Called “Reference”–Zajac v. Walker (USA)

Designs

Not categorised

Future of the profession

I hope you find some interesting. If you did or have a question, leave a comment or send me an email

A “new” Act designs case!

Nicholas J has ruled that by selling its Razor fan Martec has infringed Hunter Pacific’s registered design for a ceiling fan hub, ADR No. 340171.

On the right below are two of the representations in the design:[1]

ADR 340171 perspective
ADR 340171 perspective
796.12
Martec’s Razor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADR 340171 hub
ADR 340171 hub

 

Martec's Razor hub
Martec’s Razor hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and on the left above are corresponding views of Martec’s infringement.

On the s 19 analysis mandated by s 71, Nicholas J recognised a number of obvious differences between the registered design and the Razor. However, the overall impression conveyed was one of similarity. In particular, the lower “hubs” were similarly proportioned and conveyed a generally sleek and flat appearance. This was particularly important as this was the feature which contributed most to the informed user’s assessment of the design. As Hunter Pacific’s expert pointed out, that was significant as a ceiling fan hub would be viewed from underneath, looking up. Thus, his Honour concluded:

Although they exhibit a number of obvious differences in shape and configuration, these differences are in my view insufficient to displace what I consider to be significant and eye-catching similarities that create an overall impression of substantial similarity.

It is a bit difficult to tell as images of the prior art are not included. That said, the verbal descriptions suggest that the Razor was much closer to the registered design than any of the prior art. The number of prior art advanced by Martec served to emphasise that there were many different ways to achieve the same functional outcome. Accordingly, while the designs were to some extent dictated by function, there was no significant restriction on the designer’s freedom to innovate.

Nicholas J did not explicitly take sides on the debate about who was the informed user, simply restating the statutory test.[2] His Honour did follow Yates’ J lead, however, in emphasising that the impression that the informed user would form was not based on a fleeting or casual inspection. Rather, it required a careful and deliberate visual inspection.

Hunter Pacific International Pty Ltd v Martec Pty Ltd [2016] FCA 796


  1. The annotations were marked up by one of the witnesses.  ?
  2. Contrast the “Review” approach vs Multisteps discussed by Yates J at [57] – [71].  ?

The Government has published its response to ACIP’s Designs Report

On 6 May 2016, the Government published its response to ACIP’s review of designs law. Who knew?

ACIP came up with 23 recommendations. For the most part, the Government accepted ACIP’s recommendations. Those accepted include:

  • introducing a 6 month grace period before filing an application for registration, with a requirement that an applicant relying on the grace period provide a declaration to that effect (recommendation #12);
  • introducing a prior user defence (recommendation #12);
  • retaining the requirement of distinctiveness in s 19 in its current form (recommendation #10);
  • not introducing an unregistered design right (recommendation #22);
  • allowing amendment of a statement of newness and distinctiveness up until certification (recommendation #11 – “in principle”);
  • not extending the maximum term of a registered design from 10 years to 15 years unless Australia decides to join the Hague Agreement (recommendation #3) as to which IP Australia should investigate further and continue to monitor usage by our major trading partners;[1]
  • changing the name of a registered, but uncertified, design to something less misleading like “uncertified design” (recommendation #4);
  • retaining the current requirement that a design be registered for the whole product, while investigating further whether allowing partial product registrations would substantially advantage Australian applicants and does not give rise to substantial practical or legal issues overseas (recommendation #13);
  • take steps to make s 18 consistent with the overlap provisions of the Copyright Act;
  • correcting a miscellany of anomalies (including conferring power on exclusive licensees to being infringement proceedings) (recommendation #18), but aligning s 71 with the exclusive rights granted by s 10[2] is not necessary as the current position has not given rise to any problems and fixing the anomaly would create uncertainty and could have unintended effects (recommendation #17).

The Government has specifically rejected introducing customs seizure provisions for infringing products in line with the regimes currently in force for other intellectual property rights. This:

would pose a range of practical difficulties, and would be resource intensive for the Australian Border Force (ABF) to implement.

Moreover, design owners can currently obtain orders from the Courts which ABF could act on to prevent release of particular imported products.

A number of other recommendations were noted (such as requiring examination to be requested by the first renewal period and introducing an opposition system following certification). The Government considers action on these should await IP Australia’s further investigations into whether Australia should join the Hague system for international registration.

Another recommendation “noted” was the recommendation to improve the process for multiple design applications by reducing the fees. This needs to be considered “further in the context of IP Australia’s current fee review, to be completed in 2016.”

For the full response to all recommendations, go here (pdf).


  1. The Productivity Commission of course is going to say “Don’t do it” – much louder than that! See chapter 10.  ?
  2. Although s 10 confers the right to authorise exercise of an exclusive right, authorising someone to do an infringing act is not itself an infringement under s 71 and, of course, what is required for liability at common law for directing or procuring and infringement is so much clearer following Keller.  ?

Productivity Commission reports on IP (in draft)

The Productivity Commission has released its draft report into Intellectual Property Arrangements.

You will be startled to learn that the Productivity Commission has discovered Australia is a net importer of intellectual property. We buy more IP from the rest of the world than we sell to it. Fig. 2 in the Report indicates Australian IP earned AUD1 villion from overseas, but we paid out about AUS4.5 billion for the use of their IP. The Productivity Commission then notes that we provide surprisingly strong IP protection for a country in our position.[1] This finding guides the Productivity Commission’s recommendations which might broadly be characterised as: take the least restrictive option in terms of IP protection (where our international obligations permit).

The Productivity Commission explained its position this way:

Intellectual property (IP) arrangements need to balance the interests of rights holders with users. IP arrangements should:[2]

• encourage investment in IP that would not otherwise occur;

• provide the minimum incentives necessary to encourage that investment;

• resist impeding follow-on innovation, competition and access to goods and services. (emphasis supplied)

So, for example, after much gnashing of economists’ teeth about the (let’s face it, indefensible) term of copyright protection, the Productivity Commission considers that the appropriate term of protection is somewhere between 15 and 25 years.[3] However, what it actually recommends is rather more limited:

4.1: remove the current unlimited term of protection for published works.[4]

5.1: implement Parliament’s At What Cost? IT pricing and the Australia Tax recommendation to make it clear that it is not an infringement of copyright to circumvent geoblocking.

5.2 repeal the remaining parallel import restrictions for books.

5.3 amend the Copyright Act 1968 to replace the current fair dealing exceptions with a broad exception for fair use.

The latter two, so far, have elicited the loudest complaints here and here.[13] Meanwhile, the US’ Register of Copyrights is celebrating the first anniversary of her Fair Use Index.

18.1 expand the safe harbours to online service providers.[5]

Patents

The Productivity Commission reports that there are 120,000 active patents registered in Australia. 93% of these have been granted to non-residents. There are also 25,000 – 30,000 applications each year; of which about 60% ultimately proceed to grant.

According to the Productivity Commission, however, there are too many granted patents which do not contribute social value and are not “additional” – in the sense that they would not have been made if there was no patent protection.[6]

This needs to be remedied. However, the Productivity Commission acknowledges that international agreements put constraints on our freedom of action. There are 10 recommendations for patents.

The key recommendation for standard patents is yet another go at raising the threshold of inventive step.

an invention is taken to involve an inventive step if, having regard to the prior art base, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the relevant art.

This looks very similar to what we already have. As the Productivity Commission envisages matters, however, there are important differences. First, it reverses the onus currently expressed in s 7(2). According to the Productivity Commission, the current position is the opposite of where the onus lies in the USA, Japan, the EU and the UK (amongst others). Rather than a challenger having to prove the invention is obvious, therefore, the patentee will have to prove it is not.

Secondly, the Productivity Commission sees the current requirement that there be only a scintilla of invention being raised. The Productivity Commission sees this low threshold being reflected in the limitation on “obvious to try” being something which the skilled addressee would be directly led as a matter of course. Instead, the Productivity Commission considers that the test should be at least:

whether a course of action required to arrive at the invention or solution to the problem would have been obvious for a person skilled in the art to try with a reasonable expectation of success (as applied by the Boards of Appeal of the EPO).[7]

This change would be buttressed with appropriate comments in the Explanatory Memorandum and, additionally, the insertion of an objects clause into the Act. The latter would be intended to ensure that the Courts focused on the social objectives of the Patents Act including, in particular, the public interest.[8]

On the more colourful fronts, the Productivity Commission also recommended repeal of the abomination innovation patent and amendment of s 18 explicitly to exclude from patentable subject matter business methods and software.[9]

Pointing to analysis which estimates the net present value to R & D of the extension of term for a pharmaceutical patentat at year 10 at $370 million – of which only $7.5 million would accrue to Australia because our industry is so small – while the cost to the Australian government and consumers of the same extension of term is estimated at $1.4 billion, the Productivity Commission also wants a significant tightening up of the regime for extending the term of pharmaceutical patents. The Productivity Commission also opposes any extension of the period of data protection for therapeutic goods, including biologics.[10]

The Productivity Commission also recommends exploring raising the renewal fees payable, particularly in later year’s of a patent’s life.

Registered designs

The Productivity Commission considers the registered design system deficient but, as we have committed to it internationally and there is no better alternative, we are stuck with it.

However, continuing the net importer theme, Australia should not go into the Hague system “until an evidence-based case is made, informed by a cost–benefit analysis.”

Trade marks

I’m just going to cut and paste here: the Government should:

  • restore the power for the trade mark registrar to apply mandatory disclaimers to trade mark applications, consistent with the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property in 2004 (the only people that won’t support this are in the place that counts – IP Australia)
  • repeal part 17 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) (Trade Marks Act)
  • amend s. 43 of the Trade Marks Act so that the presumption of registrability does not apply to the registration of marks that could be misleading or confusing
  • amend the schedule of fees for trade mark registrations so that higher fees apply for marks that register in multiple classes and/or entire classes of goods and services.
  • require the Trade Marks Office to return to its previous practice of routinely challenging trade mark applications that contain contemporary geographical references (under s. 43 of the Trade Marks Act). Challenges would not extend where endorsements require goods and services to be produced in the area nominated
  • in conjunction with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, link the Australian Trade Mark On-line Search System database with the business registration portal, including to ensure a warning if a registration may infringe an existing trade mark, and to allow for searches of disclaimers and endorsements.

Also, s 123 should be fixed up so that parallel importing does not infringe.

Like the rest of us, the Productivity Commission is bemused by the Circuits Layout Act and recommends implementing “without delay” ACIP’s 2010 recommendation to enable “essentially derived variety declarations to be made in respect of any [plant] variety.”

On competition policy, s 51(3) should be repealed and the ACCC should develop guidelines on the application of our antitrust rules to IP.

Innovatively, the Productivity Commission also recommends free access to all publications funded directly by Government (Commonwealth, State or Terriroty) or through university funding.

There are also at least 17 requests for further information.

If you are inspired to make a further submission, you should get it in before 3 June 2016.[11]


  1. Not much discussion here whether the best way to get more technological development is through a strong IP regime or to,scrap the IP system and fully commit to free riding.  ?
  2. Despite the tentative nature of this declaration, it is the first “Main key points”.  ?
  3. Draft finding 4.2.  ?
  4. The Government is trying to do this – see schedule 3 of the exposure draft of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill (pdf).  ?
  5. See schedule 2 of the Disability Access and Other Measures bill.  ?
  6. You will have to read Appendix D to find out how the Productivity Commission works out which patents are socially valuable and “additional”.  ?
  7. The EPO cases the Productivity Commission referred to are T 149/93 (Retinoids/Kligman) (1995) at 5.2 and T 1877/08 (Refrigerants/EI du Pont) (2010) at 3.8.3.  ?
  8. Here, the Productivity Commission notes that the Full Federal Court rejected reference to the public interest in Grant.  ?
  9. Dr Summerfield tells you why he thinks that’s a bad idea over here and of course, the Europeans (including the UK in that) do not have all sorts of complications carrying out their nice, clean exclusion.  ?
  10. In an interesting departure from its overarching premise that patents do not really contribute much to innovation because there are other protections such as lead time and trade secrets, the Productivity Commission warns that reliance on data secrecy is sub-optimal compared to patent protection.  ?
  11. Bearing in mind they have to submit their Final Report to Government by 18 August 2016.  ?
  12. In between buying your books from Amazon and Bookdepository, some references to the larger economic issues affecting booksellers here.  ?

Productivity Commission reviews IP

The Productivity Commission has released an issues paper for its inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements.

What it was asked to do

In his reference the then Treasurer directed the Productivity Commission to investigate:

The Australian Government wishes to ensure that the intellectual property system provides appropriate incentives for innovation, investment and the production of creative works while ensuring it does not unreasonably impede further innovation, competition, investment and access to goods and services. In undertaking the inquiry the Commission should:
1. examine the effect of the scope and duration of protection afforded by Australia’s intellectual property system on:
(a) research and innovation, including freedom to build on existing innovation;
(b) access to and cost of goods and services; and
(c) competition, trade and investment.
2. recommend changes to the current system that would improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society, which take account of Australia’s international trade obligations, including changes that would:
(a) encourage creativity, investment and new innovation by individuals, businesses and through collaboration while not unduly restricting access to technologies and creative works;
(b) allow access to an increased range of quality and value goods and services;
(c) provide greater certainty to individuals and businesses as to whether they are likely to infringe the intellectual property rights of others; and
(d) reduce the compliance and administrative costs associated with intellectual property rules.

Big job!

As a consequence, there are a “gazillion” questions set out in the Issues Paper. Here’s just a few:

Do IP rights encourage genuinely innovative and creative output that would not have otherwise occurred? If not, how could they be designed to do so? Do IP rights avoid rewarding innovation that would have occurred anyway? What evidence and criteria should be used to determine this? Are IP arrangements in other jurisdictions more effective in generating additional creative output?

To what extent does the IP system actively disseminate innovation and creative output? Does it do so sufficiently and what evidence is there of this? How could the diffusion ofknowledge-based assets be improved, without adversely impacting the incentive to create?

What, if any, evidence is there that parties are acting strategically to limit dissemination?

Do IP rights provide rewards that are proportional to the effort to generate IP? What evidence is there to show this? How should effort be measured? Is proportionality a desirable feature of an IP system? Are there particular elements of the current IP system that give rise to any disproportionality?

What are the relative costs and return to society for public, private and not-for-profit creators of IP? Does the public provision of IP act as a complement or substitute to other IP being generated? Are there any government programs or policies that prevent, raise or lower the costs of generating IP?

What are the merits and drawbacks of using other methods to secure a return on innovation (such as trade secrets/confidentiality agreements) relative to government afforded IP rights? What considerations do businesses/creators of IP make in order to select between options? How does Australia’s use of methods besides IP rights to protect IP compare to other jurisdictions? Why might such differences arise?

The Commission seeks submissions about how the parameters of the IP system came to be set, and on the basis of what evidence and analysis.

How were decisions to extend IP rights in the past (e.g. copyright) assessed? Is an evidence-based approach systematically used to assess changes to the IP system? How transparent have decisions to change the IP system been, including when it comes to legislation and international agreements? Is a stronger evidence base and greater transparency in the public interest, and if so, how should this be accomplished?

Don’t worry. Things get more specific from here. Some of the questions about patents will give you the flavour:

What evidence is there that patents have facilitated innovations that would not have otherwise occurred, or have imposed costs on the community, including by impeding follow-on innovation?

Are there aspects of Australia’s patent system that act as a barrier to innovation and growth? If so, how could these barriers be addressed?

Do patents provide rewards that are proportional to the effort to generate IP? What evidence is there to show this? How should effort be measured? How does the balance of costs and benefits from patent protection compare across sectors and innovations?

What scope is there to better leverage the economic benefits of patents, by taking steps to improve the diffusion of patent information?

Is the patent system sufficiently flexible to accommodate changes in technology and business practices?

Do the criteria for patentability in the Patents Act 1990 (Cwlth) help the patent system to meet its objectives? Would introducing economic criteria for patentability and/or gradually reducing the duration of patent protection substantially improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the patent system?
….

There are numerouse questions in similar vein for the other IP rights and “data”.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all facinating questions. You, or professors and teams of doctoral candidates, could spend lifetimes trying to answer them.[1]

But here’s a thing. Are we really going to withdraw from the World Trade Organisation (with its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement)? Are we really going to pull out of the Australia – USA Free Trade Agreement? Or, given what the Prime Minister is reported to have said, does anyone seriously think we are not going to implement the TPP?

Hmmm. Maybe, at least as far as patents go, we could tell them that [28] of the majority’s ruling in Myriad has solved all the problems.[2] On the other hand, may be you are thinking this might be a good place to try and “fix” Myriad. In that case, you might like to read “Box 3 Beyond the theory” right up the front of the Issues Paper:

While discussions about IP rights are often theoretical, policy decisions about the balance between creators and consumers matter in real ways. Striking the wrong balance can impact the price and availability of books, music, cars, phones or even clothes.

The balance is particularly contentious in pharmaceuticals. Cases exist where patents have allowed pharmaceutical companies to charge what some consider to be unconscionably high prices for life-saving medicines. New compounds and biologic drugs, and their safety and efficacy, are no doubt expensive to develop and test and consumers are often willing to pay almost anything to access them (or the community as a whole through pharmaceutical subsidy schemes). Practices such as patent ‘evergreening’, seeking extended test data exclusivity for biologics, or paying competing firms not to produce generic medicines makes the balance of IP rights all the more contentious. (my emphasis)

Yes, once it has been “discovered”, the price of a new drug or treatment will be higher than if there was no patent. That is the point of the patent (or any other IP right): to allow the holder the opportunity to charge higher than marginal cost. How do you work out whether the price for that expensive drug is “unconscionably high”?


  1. As it happens, you have until 30 November 2015 to get your thoughts in.  ?
  2. Apart of course from those “innovation” patents.  ?

Productivity Commission to review all IP laws

The Harper Review[1] recommended that the Government should direct the Productivity Commission to undertake an overarching review Australia’s IP laws.

The Treasurer and the Minister for Small Business have now announced that review.

According to the Harper Review:

an appropriate balance must be struck between encouraging widespread adoption of new productivity-enhancing techniques, processes and systems on the one hand, and fostering ideas and innovation on the other. Excessive IP protection can not only discourage adoption of new technologies but also stifle innovation.

Given the influence of Australia’s IP rights on facilitating (or inhibiting) innovation, competition and trade, the Panel believes the IP system should be designed to operate in the best interests of Australians.

The Panel therefore considers that Australia’s IP rights regime is a priority area for review. (emphasis supplied)

In reaching that view, the Harper Review flagged concern about entering into new treaties with extended IP protections.

The terms of reference state:

In undertaking the inquiry the Commission should:

  1. examine the effect of the scope and duration of protection afforded by Australia’s intellectual property system on:

    a. research and innovation, including freedom to build on existing innovation;

    b. access to and cost of goods and services; and competition, trade and investment.

  2. recommend changes to the current system that would improve the overall wellbeing of Australian society, which take account of Australia’s international trade obligations, including changes that would:

    a. encourage creativity, investment and new innovation by individuals, businesses and through collaboration while not unduly restricting access to technologies and creative works;

    b. allow access to an increased range of quality and value goods and services;

    c. provide greater certainty to individuals and businesses as to whether they are likely to infringe the intellectual property rights of others; and

    d. reduce the compliance and administrative costs associated with intellectual property rules.

Then follows a catalogue of 9 matters for the Commission to have regard to. These include the Government’s desire to retain appropriate incentives for innovation, the economy-wide and distributional consequences of recommendation and the Harper Review’s recommendations in relation to parallel imports.[2]

The Commission must report within 12 months.


  1. The Competition Policy Review, recommendation 6.  ?
  2. Rec. 13 and section 10.6 of the Competition Policy Review: i.e., repeal any remaining restrictions unless the benefits outweigh the costs and the objectives of the restrictions can only be achieved by restricting competition. Cue diatribe about “restricting competition” especially given the oft mouthed formula that IP rights rarely (if ever) restrict competition.  ?

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.

Australian Intellectual Property Report 2015

IP Australia has released its Australian Intellectual Property Report 2015.

In addition to reporting on a range of statistics and some commentary, the report includes a number of “interactive” graphs that you may explore. Much, if not all, of the data is available through the Government Open Data initiative.

The headline point is that applications for trade marks and plant breeder’s rights increased over 2013, while applications for patents and registered designs decreased. The report attributes the decline in patent applications to the increased threshold arising from the commencement of most of the substantive reforms in the Raising the Bar and the rush to file before their commencement.

Australians are the largest source of filings for trade mark, registered designs and pbr. US-based applicants the largest source of patent applications; Australian residents being the second largest.

There were 25,947 applications for standard patents in 2014, a decrease of 13% on 2013. 19,034 standard patents were granted; an increase of 13% over 2013. Over 94% were granted to non-residents. The average number of months from filing to request for examination fell from 16.3 to 13.6 months; the average time from request to first report is just over 9 month and, on average, the time from first examination report to acceptance was a further 14 months. Australians filed 9,012 patent applications abroad in 2013 (41% in the USA), up 3% on 2012.

There were 1523 applications for innovation patents, down from 1676 in 2013. Australians accounted for 66% of the filings.

There were 64,381 trade mark applications filed in Australia in 2014, up 2% from 2013; correspondingly, Australians filed 16,267 applications overseas (in 2013). The top 3 filing destinations were the USA, China and NZ – accounting for 50%. The USA supplanted China as the “top destination”. Apparently, this is in line with a global trend.

6550 designs were registered in 2014, and 1452 were certified – almost double the number certified in 2013. IP Australia speculates that there are few applications to register designs because:

According to Lim et al (2014) the role of IP rights in the market for designs is limited.9 Buyers and sellers in the market view designs as a service that is co-created. As IP rights protect the artefact, not the service, IP rights are perceived as a secondary issue in the marketplace. This view of design rights provides insights into the low volume of design registrations relative to patents and trade marks.

The number of applications for plant breeder’s rights skyrocketed from 330 in 2013 to 341!

The report notes that IP Australia is aiming in 2015 to complete research projects into innovation trends in the mining industry, who and in which areas in the textile, clothing and footwear industry is filing patents and the role of geographical indicators.