Raising the Bar regulations

IP Australia has published the first tranche of draft regulations to implement the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 (most of which comes into force on 15 April next year).

This tranche includes the draft regulations for:

  •  Schedule 1 – Raising the quality of granted patents,
  • Schedule 4 – Assisting the operations of the IP profession, and
  • Schedule 5 – Improving mechanisms for trade mark and copyright enforcement.

Comments should be submitted by 21 November 2012.

Download all the gory details, including draft EMs, here.

Lots have people have had a go at trying to explain some, or all, of the ramifications of the Act. If you don’t want to Google, or bing, or duck duck go, the EM can be found on Parliament’s site here and the Bills Digest prepared by the Parliamentary secretariat is here.

Tobacco plain packaging

Quote from the High Court:

At least a majority of the Court is of the opinion that the Act is not contrary to s 51(xxxi).

Reasons (which may explain that rather cryptic quantity) to follow later.

So, by 1 December 2012, all retail cigarette packs in Australia will look something like this. – the colour is officially described as Pantone 448C.

Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011

Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations 2011

Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Regulations 2012 – extending regime to cigars and tobacco pouches.

On the global front, Ukraine, Honduras and Dominican Republic have brought complaints against Australia before the WTO dispute resolution process and, so far, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, the European Union, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Uruguay and Zimbabwe have joined in the consultations.

So far as I can work out, the arbitration between Philip Morris and Australia under the 1993 Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong for the Promotion and Protection of Investments has reached the stage where the panel of 3 arbitrators has been established.

The Raising the Bar bill comes alive

News from IP Australia that the Senate finally passed the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill without further amendment.

It is now expected to be passed by the House of Representatives in the “autumn” sittings.

Some earlier posts here, here, here and here. IP Australia’s summary. The EM.

ECJ’s first case on Registered Community Design

Case C-281/10 PepsiCo v Grupo Promer Mon Graphic

The excellent Class 99 blog has a summary focusing on the concept of “informed user”.

The IPkitties are typically loquacious.

Lid dip: Ray Hind

The Raising the Bar Bill

Senator Carr introduced the Intellectual Property Laws (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011 into Parliament today.

Press release

Download the text of the Bill and EM from here (choose your own format).

You will remember that (according to the Press Release) the main objects of the Bill include:

  • raising patent standards to ensure Australian innovators are well placed to take their inventions to the world;
  • increasing penalties for trade mark counterfeiters;
  • improvements to border security measures for goods that infringe copyright and trade marks;
  • providing free access to patented inventions for researchers; and
  • cutting red tape and delays when seeking an IP right.

While there have no doubt been modifications to the text of the Exposure Draft (and Patentology flags a big change to the transitional provisions for the new patentability standards), you can get a very good feel for what the various parts of the Bill are trying to achieve:

in relation to patents from Dr Summerfield’s 8 part series over at Patentology:

  1. Part 1: inventive standard
  2. Part 2: usefulness
  3. Part 3: provisional specifications
  4. Part 4: enablement
  5. Part 5: claims supported by description
  6. Part 6: experimental use
  7. Part 7: miscellanea including standard of proof
  8. Part 8: transitional

Kim Weatherall also commented on a number of aspects, exploring in particular the (proposed) trade mark criminal offences.

You do need to bear in mind that these commentaries were on the text of the Exposure Draft and it was intended that anomalies identified through the Exposure Draft would be corrected in the Bill so, as I have already noted, there will be changes. Nonetheless, these comments should give you a good fell for what was being intended and issues that might be thrown up.

As you will see from the commentaries on the exposure draft, there are a host of issues to be considered. Time doesn’t permit anything but a cursory attempt on a couple of points here:

Item 113 of Sch 6 will replace the current s 41 of the Trade Marks Act (requiring a trade mark to be capable of distinguishing) with a new provision intended to reverse Blount and ensure that there is a presumption that a trade mark is registrable. It does this by requiring the Registrar to be satisfied that the trade mark is not capable of distinguishing before the Registrar can reject the application on this ground.

So clause 41(2) says “A trade mark is taken not to be capable of distinguishing … only if ….”

(Now I look at it, I wonder how long before it will be before someone tries to argue that “taken not to be capable of distinguishing” means something different to (and less than) “is not capable of distinguishing”. Oh well. Surely that one would be dispatched over the fence for six?)

While the Bill does seek to change the standard of proof against patent applications and patent oppositions from the existing “practically certain to fail” or “clear” type standard to the usual “balance of probabilities (see e.g. items 14 and 15 of Sch 1), no such amendment is proposed for trade mark oppositions. Therefore, the current state of uncertainty on this issue will continue (contrast e.g. Hills v Bitek at [43] – [55] to Sports Warehouse v Fry at [26] – [40]) , even though the school of thought favouring the “practically certain” or “clear” standard was imported from the Patents Act.

The bill will also introduce a whole new regime of oppositions to the registration of trade marks.

Item 18 of Sch. 3 will replace s 52 so that there is an obligation to file a Notice of Opposition which the Registrar, not the opponent, will serve on the applicant. Item 19 will introduce a new s 52A. This will require an applicant to file a notice of intention to defend or the application will lapse.

According to the EM, the regulations (when they are promulgated) will include power for the Notice of Opposition to specify the particulars of the grounds of opposition. The EM explains:

Opponents are currently required to state the grounds on which they intend opposing an application when they file their notice of opposition. However, they are not required to set out the particulars of those grounds. Frequently, this means that the opponent sets out all possible grounds, whether or not they have any intention of relying on them. As a result, the trade mark applicant may be faced with a number of grounds to deal with and no indication of which are key to the opposition until late in the opposition proceedings and sometimes not until the hearing

makes it difficult for the applicant to prepare their case. It also increases costs as the applicant is obliged to prepare a case in response to all grounds raised in the statement of grounds, including those on which the opponent may no longer rely.

The amendment addresses this problem by allowing for regulations to be made to require the opponent to file a statement of particulars of the grounds on which they intend to oppose. This will help focus oppositions earlier, reducing costs and unnecessary effort for the applicant.

The EM talks of the regulations conferring a power to require particulars. Whether this will be a discretionary power to be exercised on a case by case basis or an obligation on all opponents will need to await the terms of the regulations themselves. For example, the EM on items 24 and 25 states that opponents will be required to file both statements of grounds and particulars and  the last paragraph of the EM on item 17 states that the particulars will be required to be filed within 1 month of the filing of the Notice of Opposition.

The regulations will also apparently include a power to amend the statement(s) of grounds and particulars. However, the EM on items 24 and 25 states:

The regulations will only permit the opponent to amend the statement of grounds and particulars under tightly controlled circumstances.

The Federal Magistrates Court will get original jurisdiction in matters under the Designs Act and the Trade Marks Act alongside its existing original jurisdiction in copyright and (what used to be called) trade practices matters.

 

 

A lamp lens too far

The fifth decision under the “new” Designs Act 2004 illustrates the operation of that old principle: in a crowded field, small differences may be enough to confer validity, but equally small differences in the accused products will be sufficient to avoid liability.
You will recall that LED Technologies successfully sued Elecspess (and others) for infringing LED’s registered designs for a dual lens lamp, ARD 302359, and a triple lens lamp, 302360 (links to those decisions via here). Well, LED fell out with its Chinese manufacturer, Valens, and found itself a new supplier. Valens, however, didn’t take things lying down and started supplying another of LED’s competitors, Baxter.
As in the earlier case, Baxter challenged the validity of the earlier design; this time arguing that the Statement of Newness and Distinctiveness was unclear and also relying on some different prior art.
The first objection failed.  The perspective view for the two-lens design looks like this:

 

ARD 302359

The Statement of Newness etc. etc. read:

Separate clip in lenses. Base to take a variety of 2, 3 or 4 combination of lenses for stop, tail, indicator, reverse LED lenses, no visible screws.

At [85], Finkelstein J accepted that the Statement of Newness etc. etc. could have been “better expressed”, but it sufficiently clear and succinct:
…. In my view the statement indicates clearly to the relevantly informed addressee (and probably to anyone familiar with the English language) that the base could be manufactured to take a number of lenses. Reference to “separate clip in lenses”, when read with the phrase “no visible screws”, indicates that the lenses clips in and are not held in place by screws. There is nothing relevantly uncertain contained in the statement. 

There were important visual differences between LED’s designs and the closest prior art. For example, at [104]:
the base of the Rubbolite lamps appeared to provide individual frames for each lens, which is not a feature of the registered designs. … the corners of the Rubbolite lens appeared sharper or squarer than the registered designs but said the difference was minor. … there was a noticeable ledge or lip around the lens (which he referred to as the “lens housing”) which was not shown on the registered designs. The ledge or lip around the lens on the Rubbolite lamps tapered inwards which made it substantially different in appearance when looked at from the side. 

Hence, the registered designs were valid.
Unfortunately (for LED), before Valens started supplying Baxter, it had made some changes to the product. As a result, the products supplied to Baxter were not substantially similar in overall impression to the registered designs. Finkelstein J accepted [105] that there were similarities between the products imported by Baxter and the registered design.  Many of them, however, “were common in the prior art”. Moreover:
[106] There are, to my mind, several important features that lead me to the conclusion that the Baxters lamps are not substantially similar in overall impression to the registered designs. The key features are the prominent cut out pattern on the underside of the designs, which is to be contrasted with the flat closed backs of the Baxters lamps, and the square lenses of the designs having a wide landing between them while the Baxters lights have no landing. Of less significance are the long sides of the frames of the registered designs which have raised edges resulting in a counter-sunk appearance, which is not present on the Baxters lamps. As well, the short sides of the frames of the registered designs are raised at their outer portions and dip down in the central portion, which is not a feature of Baxters’ design. 

[107] Moreover, in my view, it is these features that distinguish the registered designs from the prior art such as to admit of the conclusion that the registered designs are new and distinctive. 

Inducing breach of contract

An interesting twist to this case, was that LED also tried to “get” Baxter for inducing the (ex-) Chinese supplier, Valens, to breach its contract with LED.

Essentially, LED argued it had agreed with Valens that Valens would not supply anyone else in Australia or New Zealand with products made using the moulds for the products supplied to LED. The evidence on this point was less than ideal, with the judge being rather critical of the witnesses. There was also a dispute between LED and Valens over who owned what. Ultimately, his Honour accepted that there was a deal that LED would be supplied exclusively for Australia and New Zealand so the supply of products to Baxter was in breach of the agreement. However, Baxter itself did not procure the breach: Baxter did not know Valens was re-using the moulds: to the contrary, it was paying Valens for new moulds.

It is rather hard to reconcile the story in Elecspess on how the designs came into existence and came to be manufactured with the evidence in this case. Of course, as the parties in the two cases are different, each must be decided on its own evidence. I guess, in terms of ownership of the registered designs, there is commonality in that LED’s principal, Mr Ottobre, was the author of the original conception. Matters get rather murky after that.  At [30], LED apparently started selling the lamps made by Valens in “early 2004”, but the priority date of the designs is 22 June 2004.

LED Technologies Pty Ltd v Roadvision Pty Ltd [2011] FCA 146

Apple v Samsung

Nilay Patel at Thisismynext.com has embarked on an in depth examination of Apple’s new court action against Samsung.

Unlike the spectacularly unsuccessful war against Windows (based on copyright and ‘look and feel’), this action involves:

* patents;

* design patents; and

* trade dress.

The “thing that distinguishes this case from Apple’s other actions against other Android products is the trade dress component (and the piquancy of Samsung being a supplier of major components for the iPhone and the iPad).

Read Nilay’s take here. Marty’s view

Now, this case is not being brought in Australia but, if it were, one would wonder about the trade dress prospects given the clear Samsung branding in light of Parkdale v Puxu and its progeny such as Playcorp v Bodum. The only case where the trade dress got up in the face of clear branding is really the Jif Lemoncase, in which there was survey evidence showing an overwhelming preponderance of supermarket shoppers declaring they had bought a Jif Lemon, notwithstanding the swing tags and other clear branding.

Those cases did not, of course, involve design registrations as well (or the functional patents). And, even on trade dress, Apple’s complaint is at great pains to point out the level of detail at which resemblances can be drawn.

I guess we’ll see.

Draft Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011

A few weeks back now, IP Australia released a draft Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011 (pdf) and draft Explanatory Memorandum (pdf).

You can probably guess its overall objective from the exposure draft bill’s longer short title. The range of matters covered extends across 6 schedules:

  • Schedule 1- Raising the quality of granted patents
  • Schedule 2– Free access to patented inventions for research and regulatory activities
  • Schedule 3– Reducing delays in resolving patent and trade mark applications
  • Schedule 4- Assisting the operations of the IP profession
  • Schedule 5- Improving mechanisms for trade mark and copyright enforcement
  • Schedule 6 – Simplifying the IP system

Of the many things that struck my eye, the proposals:

  • seek to introduce the diligent searcher standard for testing the obviousness of patents;
  • seek to have patent applications and oppositions (but not, so far, trade mark oppositions) tested on the balance of probabilities instead of being practically certain not to be valid
  • introduce the new statutory experimental use defence;
  • seek to introduce a presumption of registrability for trade mark applications;
  • introduce the patent opposition “pleading” system to trade mark oppositions; and
  • confer original jurisdiction in trade mark and registered design mattters on the Federal Magistrates Court.

As IP Australia’s announcement says:

Bill does not deal with gene specific issues, rather it seeks to raise patentability standards across all technologies. Gene specific issues are being considered separately by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, and by the Government in its response to the Senate Community Affairs Committee’s Gene Patents report.

Over at Patentology Dr Mark Summerfield gives very detailed consideration to the pros and shortcomings of the obviousness reform, the changes to the requirement that patents be useful,  the attempt to fix the law of fair basis (at least insofar as provisional specs are concerned), the new enablement requirement. Dr Summerfield seems to be on a roll, so there may well be more to come.

Comments and submissions should be provided by 4 April 2011.

Entitlement to a design

The Federal Court, Spender J, has allowed Courier Pete’s appeal from the Registrar’s ruling that, while Courier Pete owned ARD 310528, ARD 312217 and 312218 were owned by Metroll.

Section 13 of the Designs Act 2003 prescribes who is entitled to a design.

Collymore was employed by Metroll as its factory foreman making water tanks and the like. The Registrar found that it was no part of his duties to be creating new designs for rainwater tanks and Collymore had in fact made the first design on his own time at home. Hence, following an assignment to Collymore’s own company, Courier Pete, Courier Pete was the owner. However, the Registrar found that Collymore made the two later designs pursuant to an order from his boss at Metroll, Mr Harland. Thus, the Registrar found that Metroll was the owner.

Spender J upheld the Registrar’s finding in relation to the first design. (A significant factor in this was Metroll’s failure to call the other members of the tank making team to back up Mr Harland’s claim that the team was working on the design before the application to register the first design was lodged.)

Spender J considered that Mr Harland’s direction to Mr Collymore to make up what became the second and third designs had to be considered in all the circumstances. On the evidence, his Honour found that Mr Collymore had made it clear before he agreed to carry out Mr Harland’s direction that he, Collymore, would do so only on condition that he retained ownership in the designs and Mr Harland accepted that a royalty would be payable on use of the design. Thus, he retained ownership.

Courier Pete Pty Ltd v Metroll Queensland Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 735

2003 Designs Act appeal

The Full Federal Court (Emmett, Besanko and Jessup J) has dismissed Elecspess’ appeal from Gordon J’s ruling that it had infringed LED Technologies’ registered design for combination LED lights used as rear lights for trailers, trucks, buses, caravans and other vehicles. I think this is the first substantive decision by a Full Court on the new regime introduced by the Designs Act 2003.

From a very quick skim, it seems that the approach taken in the Review cases (here and here) by Kenny J and Gordon J below appears to be largely endorsed but the decision runs for 447 paragraphs, with each Judge giving a separate judgment, so rather closer examination will be required. At least in respect of Elecspess and the corporate infringers, Jessup J agreed with Besanko J’s reasons; Emmett J also gave extensive reasons.

The vexed question of the liability for contributory infringement of individual officers or employees also receives extremely extensive consideration. Jessup J agreed with Emmett J’s reasons for finding that a Mr Keller was not individually liable as a joint infringer. Besanko J also found Mr Keller was not liable.  Jessup J agreed with Besanko J that a Mr Armstrong also was not jointly liable, but for different reasons.

Working out the ramifications of the differences between their Honours should prove quite diverting.

The Court also upheld Gordon J’s refusal to award damages, or an inquiry into damages, for infringing conduct between the date of trial and the making of final orders. This should not be a problem where an undertaking or injunction restraining the respondent’s conduct is in place pending trial.  Where no undertaking or injunction is in place, however, it would appear that the Court considers it imperative to establish at trial that the infringer is continuing their infringing conduct, notwithstanding the court action,  to provide a foundation

Keller v LED Technologies Pty Ltd [2010] FCAFC 55 (Emmett, Besanko and Jessup JJ)