Invalidity cross-claim blocks interlocutory injunction

The Full Court has upheld Burley J’s refusal to grant Sanofi-Aventis an interlocutory injunction over Alphapharm’s SEMGLEE insulin solution for an injector pen. The significance here is that this is an unusual case where the (alleged) infringer’s cross-claim has negatived the patentee’s prima facie case of infringement. The Full Court also affirmed his Honour’s approach to balance of convenience issues.

Burley J found a clear case that Alphapharm’s product fell within claim 1 of Sanofi-Aventis’ patent. His Honour found, however, that Alphapharm’s cross-claim that the patent was invalid for lack of novelty was sufficiently strong that “it was doubtful” Sanofi-Aventis had made out a prima facie case of infringement.

Since the Interpharma case, cross-claims by alleged infringers that the patent is invalid have not enjoyed much success as the Court has approached matters on the basis that it is the patentee’s “title” to interlocutory relief which is in issue.

What was different here was that the invalidity cross-claim was not “merely” a triable issue. It was of such strength that Burley J considered (provisionally) the patent was invalid. The Full Court explained the correct approach at [14]:

…. A case for invalidity which is merely arguable, of itself, does not undermine the existence of a prima facie case of infringement which has otherwise been found to exist. However, a sufficiently strong case of invalidity may well qualify the conclusion that there is a prima facie case of infringement at all. Far from reasoning contrary to the approach in Interpharma and Janssen, the primary judge was applying the same reasoning, albeit with an outcome not to Sanofi’s liking because his Honour was satisfied that Alphapharm’s case on invalidity was sufficiently strong to qualify (indeed, virtually to negate altogether) Sanofi’s prima facie case of infringement. Further, it is Sanofi’s submissions which have conflated the relevance of the competing cases on invalidity. What is relevant is the strength of the case that the claim or claims said to be infringed are invalid. The primary judge at [118] found that “the lack of novelty case advanced by Alphapharm is sufficiently strong (at the provisional level) to qualify (in the sense contemplated in Interpharma at [17]) the conclusion that Sanofi has a probability of success”. ….

Sanofi-Aventis argued that the weight of the balance of convenience in its favour was a factor in considering its prima facie case of infringement. This argument failed both at the level of principle and on the facts.

First, the Full Court accepted that the strength of a plaintiff’s prima facie case is relevant to consideration of the balance of convenience. Balance of convenience, however, did not affect the assessment of the strength of the prima facie case of infringement. At [8], the Full Court explained:

…. The strength of the prima facie case is relevant to the balance of convenience, but the weighing process involved in evaluating where the balance of convenience lies does not affect the assessment of the existence or strength of the prima facie case. As was said in Samsung at [59] “[t]he critical integer in the test …is the need for the Court to assess the strength of the probability of ultimate success on the part of the plaintiff. The strength of that probability will depend upon the nature of the rights asserted and the practical consequences likely to flow from the grant of the injunction which is sought”. ….

Secondly, Burley J had apparently considered the respective losses relatively finely balanced on the question of balance of convenience, but had ultimately considered the difficulties of calculating Alphapharm’s losses outweighed the difficulties in calculating Sanofi-Aventis’.

In particular, the Full Court considered that Burley J had not inappropriately undervalued Sanofi-Aventis’ position as a long standing incumbent. For example at [51], their Honours explained:[1]

… Sanofi had not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success in all of the circumstances to justify the preserving of the status quo. Each case turns on its own facts so it is not the point that in GenRx and Warner Lambert the preservation of the status quo was given considerable weight. In neither case was the strength of the prima facie case undermined in the same way as in the present case. In neither case was there a suggestion of market circumstances similar to the present case given the primary judge’s reference in [174] to the real possibility of Alphapharm’s prospective market disappearing as a “significant aspect” of this matter. Faced with the primary judge’s reasons, Sanofi’s submission that his Honour failed to take into account the disruption of the status quo as a material consideration is untenable. His Honour weighed all those matters but the balance favoured Alphapharm not Sanofi.

Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH v Alphapharm Pty Ltd [2019] FCAFC 28 (Jagot, Yates and Moshinsky JJ)


  1. One can only speculate how the 1336 paragraphs Jagot J had to write to work out the quantum on an undertaking as to damages in Sigma v Wyeth concentrated her Honour’s appreciation of this issue!  ↩

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.

Section 105(1A) passes its test

While some of us have been sweltering on the beach or disporting in the northern snows, Beach J has granted Branhaven’s application to amend its patent application for compositions and methods of inferring bovine traits following Meat & Livestock Australia’s opposition.

You will recall that Beach J had earlier rejected MLA’s attack based on manner of manufacture, novelty and inventive step. However, his Honour upheld the challenges based on lack of clarity and, to an extent, utility.

Branhaven applied to amend under s 105(1A) of the Patents Act 1990.

MLA opposed; in broad terms arguing that Branhaven was too late, there was no power to amend at this stage; the amendments were not permissible in any event and, as a matter of discretion, should not be allowed even if the Court did have power.

Prior to the Raising the Bar Amendments, the Court had power under s 60(4) to hear an appeal from the Commissioner’s decision in an opposition. The Court was restricted, however, to dealing with the application in the form the subject of the opposition before the Commissioner. If the opposition was successful but on grounds that could be cured, any application to amend had to be remitted to the Commissioner.[1] Two of the amendments introduced by Raising the Bar were s 105(1A) and s 112A. Section 105(1A) provides:

If an appeal is made to the Federal Court against a decision or direction of the Commissioner in relation to a patent application, the Federal Court may, on the application of the applicant for the patent, by order direct the amendment of the patent request or the complete specification in the manner specified in the order.

MLA argued that, after such a hotly contested ‘appeal’ and detailed reasons, Beach J was in effect functus officio. Amongst other things, MLA’s application was not made during the appeal and the Court therefore had no power to deal with the amendment application.

Beach J has rejected all these attacks. In the course of doing so, his Honour recognised it would not be appropriate to remit the matter to the Commissioner (even if there were power). His Honour also found that s 105(1A), like s 105(1) but unlike the Commissioner’s powers under s 60, was discretionary. His Honour’s reasons also explored the types of considerations that might affect the exercise of that discretion in the context of an application instead of a granted patent.

At this stage, it is not known if MLA will seek to appeal.

Meat & Livestock Australia Limited v Cargill, Inc (No 2) [2019] FCA 33

A computer related invention is patentable

Robertson J has allowed Rokt’s appeal and held that its ‘computer implemented method for linking a computer to an advertising message by way of an intermediate engagement offer ….” was a manner of manufacture and so patentable subject matter.

The Commissioner had found (and here) that Rokt’s patent was not a manner of manufacture as required by s 18(1)(a) and so refused grant.

On the appeal, Robertson J found Rokt’s claims were patentable subject matter in application fo the principles from Research Affiliats and RPL Central on the facts.

Crucial to his Honour’s decision was evidence that computer systems at the priority date in December 2012 did not work in the way claimed, which was not just a routine use of the technology.

In response to the Commissioner’s argument that the method was just a business method, Robertson J said at [205]:

The invention solved not only a business problem but also a technical problem. As to the latter, it provided a single platform in which user engagement data could be coupled with transactional data and user context data to provide a personalised ranking of engagement offers to the user. This technical problem of providing this single platform was solved by introducing the tracking database and the objects database and designing the ranking engine and the engagement engine which accessed and manipulated the data in the two databases to rank and select engagement offers. The ranking engine optimised the personalised output for the consumer.  Critically, the ranking engine implemented a ranking algorithm which ranked the retrieved object by a combination of an engagement score and revenue score. I also accept the evidence Professor Verspoor gave, which is summarised at [46]-[54], [104]-[107], [134]-[135] and [145] above.

On the evidence, Robertson J found that known, exiting components were integrated into a new system in an innovative and previously unknown way. At [213], his Honour explained:

Taken in isolation, a database, a client-server architecture, the running of the Javascript program on a publisher’s website and the creation of a ranking engine to rank abstract data to achieve an ordered list were each known as at December 2012 but, in combination, the distinction between engagement offers and general advertising, coupled with the algorithms making use of background data for personalisation and ranking was a new combination of new and previously existing components and a new use of computer technology.

In this case, the evidence showed that the use of computers was integral to the invention, not just incidental. At [208] – [210], Robertson J said:

The use of computers was integral, rather than incidental, to the invention in the sense that there is an invention in the way in which the computer carries out the business scheme: see RPL Central at [107]. It was not feasible to store and manage large amounts of tracking data collected from real-time interactions with digital devices and manipulate large quantities of data for context-sensitive decision-making without the use of computers. The data bank that was the source of engagement objects and historical/tracking data was a critical component of the invention. I accept the applicant’s submission that the computer was not merely acting as an “intermediary” but that the substance of the invention involved the new functioning given to the computer. I accept Professor Verspoor’s evidence summarised at [55]-[57] above.
Storage and manipulation of data at the magnitude and speed that was required to implement the method could only be done on a computer or computers. The data analysis claimed in the patent could not be performed without a computer or computers, particularly having regard to the gathering, manipulation and subsequent use of the data by the engagement engine.
The user interactions took place on the user’s computer and it was integral to the invention that data be collected, and engagement offers presented, through that computer. The transmission and receipt of data over the internet to and from the advertising system could also only be done using computers.

Rokt Pte Ltd v Commissioner of Patents [2018] FCA 1988

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.

GSK’s extended release paracetamol patent 2

In addition to dismissing GSK’s appeal against the construction of “basket” (noted here), the Full Court also dismissed Apotex’ cross-appeals on fair basis and best method.

Fair basis

Apotex and Generic Partners also lost their appeals against the trial judge’s ruling that GSK’s patent was fairly based and there had been no failure to disclose the best method.

On fair basis, the claims were consistent with the consistory clauses, but Apotex argued the body of the specification showed that the invention was narrower than the broad consistory clauses. This appears to have been an attempt to read the claims down to two specific formulations discussed in the specification, Formulations C and D.

A key point was whether the trial judge had impermissibly taken into account information in an FDA report to ascertain if the claims travelled beyond the disclosure in the specification. Apotex argued this was excluded by the High Court’s decision in the first Lockwood decision, where it had said at [48]:

If all that is essential in assessing a fair basing objection is recourse to the contents of the specification, there is no call, for example, for an examination (except on construction questions) of common general knowledge (which is essential when considering an objection based on want of an inventive step), or of prior art (which is essential when considering novelty (s 7(1))) …

The Full Court, however, rejected this attack; concluding that the information in the FDA Report (which was common general knowledge) informed how the skilled addressee would understand the claims. At [166], the Full Court said:

What is critical to the pharmacokinetic behaviour of the many formulations within the claims is the dissolution profile (or release rate) of the formulation. The primary judge accepted that the FDA Report recognised that a variation of ±10% percentage points in the release rate was acceptable to the FDA even where no IVIVC had been established. This provides evidentiary support for the finding that the skilled addressee would know that various formulations within the claims apart from Formulations C and D were likely to have similar pharmacokinetic properties. This also provides a complete answer to Apotex’s argument that the skilled addressee (equipped with the common general knowledge) would approach the Patent with an understanding that there would be no reason to think that other formulations within the claims would have a similar pharmacokinetic profile to Formulations C and D in the absence of any established IVIVC.

The Full Court also rejected Apotex’ argument that a claim could not be fairly based unless the specification explained why the claims worked. Making it clear that they were dealing only with the position before the Raising the Bar Act reforms, the Full Court said at [170]:

Of course, it is important to note that s 40(2)(a) requires that the complete specification “describe the invention fully”. A complete specification may still “describe the invention fully” without explaining why the invention works. After all, the inventor, who presumably believes that the invention described works, may not understand why it works. But this does not prevent him or her from obtaining patent protection for the invention.

Best method

For best method, the argument built on the Servier ruling to argue there had been a failure to disclose the best method because the specification did not disclose the particular grade or viscosity of the high viscosity HPMC or the granulation end points used to make Formulations C and D.

At [192], the Full Court accepted that there could be a failure of best method if information was withheld even though it could be ascertained by routine experiment. The Full Court rejected the best method attack, however, finding that the information omitted was inessential manufacturing and production information. According to the Full Court at [201]:

It does not follow merely because the patent applicant uses a particular manufacturing process or a particular excipient in formulating its commercial embodiment that it will form part of the best method. The patent applicant may have adopted a particular process, or used a particular excipient, for reasons that are associated with its own particular circumstances rather than because it believes that they reflect the best method. The best method known to the patent applicant may be one that allows for the optimisation of a formulation by the skilled addressee rather than one that adheres to one specific formulation that the patent applicant seeks to commercialise.

Those preparing specifications might want, first, to note the reservation that the Full Court was not dealing with the “new” post-Raising the Bar regime. Secondly, [192] appears to carry with it the warning that, if one leaves something out, one does so at one’s own peril.

 

 

A Basket Is Still Not A Cylinder

Glaxo has lost its appeal against Beach J’s ruling that Apotex and Generic Partners did not infringe its sustained release paracetamol patent. In a battle between what the skilled addressee would understand and the plain, literal wording of the claim, the lawyers won out.

Interpreting the claim

Claim 1 of the patent is for a pharmaceutical composition with a bilayer tablet having both an immediate release phase of paracetamol and a sustained release phase wherein:

said composition has an in vitro paracetamol dissolution profile (as determined by the USP type III apparatus, reciprocating basket, with 250ml of 0.1M HCl at 37C set at a cycle speed of 15 strokes/min) with the following constraints:

(a) 30 – 48% released after 15 minutes,

(b) 56 to 75% after 60 minutes and

(c) more than 85% after 180 minutes.

The problem was in that reference to a “reciprocating basket”, as a USP type III apparatus had a reciprocating cylinder, not a basket.

At the relevant time, there were four types of apparatus for testing dissolution – a USP type I apparatus, a USP type II apparatus, a USP type III apparatus and a USP type IV apparatus. The four types of machines provided different hydrodynamics which, in turn, meant the user would obtain different dissolution results. If one used a different apparatus, therefore, one might get a different dissolution profile.[1]

As already noted, the USP type III apparatus did not have a reciprocating basket. “Pharmaceutical scientists” generally referred to the USP type 1 apparatus as a “basket”, the type II apparatus as a “paddle”, the type III apparatus as a “reciprocating cylinder” and the type IV apparatus as a “flow through cell”.

This reflected the different construction and working of the machines. To test dissolution using a type I apparatus, the composition was placed in a cylindrical mesh basket which was then placed inside a cylindrical vessel containg the dissolution medium. The basket then rotated around inside the cylindrical vessel.

In a type III apparatus, the composition is placed inside a glass reciprocating cylinder which is then moved up and down in a glass vessel containing the dissolution medium.

Apparently, it would be possible to modify a type III apparatus to use a “basket”, but there was no evidence anyone had ever done so.

Against this background, the evidence established that the skilled addressee would recognise that the reference to “basket” in the claim was a mistake.

The question is then how is the claim to be interpreted. GSK argued that the skilled addressee would simply read the reference to a “reciprocating basket” as a reference to the reciprocating cylinder that type III apparatus used. The Full Court considered that this went beyond a purposive construction and would involve impermissibly rewriting the claim.

After referring to Catnic[2] and Kirin-Amgen, the Full Court said at [109]:

It is important to note that Lord Hoffman [in Kirin-Amgen at [34]] was referring here to the meaning conveyed to the skilled addressee by the language used and was not directing himself to a situation in which the skilled addressee deduced that the language of the claim, although conveying to him or her a particular meaning, could never have been intended to mean what it conveyed.

Here, the skilled addressee knew what the term “basket” meant, but “deduced” it couldn’t be intended to mean that.

The Full Court then emphasised a point made in many cases: a patent is a document prepared by the patentee “in words of the patentee’s own choosing” and “the words will usually have been chosen upon skilled advice.”

First, if a mistake had been made, there was a procedure for amendment – which GSK had not invoked in this case. The availability of that procedure had the further significance that [s 115][s115] provided alleged infringers with some protection from damages before the amendments were allowed.

Secondly, in describing the device used for dissolution testing, GSK (at least on its case) was not trying to identify something new. So, the difficulties of describing something which had not existed before would not arise.[3]

Thirdly, the words had to have been put there to mean something. At [138]:

GSK’s infringement case can only succeed if the words “reciprocating basket” are either interpreted to mean “reciprocating cylinder” or simply ignored. Either approach involves an impermissible re-writing of the relevant claims.

And, really, that is the Full Court’s point. Athough one is supposed to interpet the claim through the eyes of the skilled addressee, reading claim 1 the way the skilled addressee apparently would have done did not make proper allowance for the function of the claims. At [139]:

This is a case in which the skilled addressee’s understanding of the claims, as found by the primary judge, does not make proper allowance for the function of the claims in defining the invention. Ultimately, it is for the court to decide the meaning of the claims. This is a case in which we think the language of the claim must be understood to mean what it actually says.

So, although the patent specification is addressed to, and to be understood through the eyes of the person skilled in the art, the Full Court qualified that approach in light of other policies gleaned fron the Act.

Fair basis

Apotex and Generic Partners also lost their appeals against the trial judge’s ruling that GSK’s patent was fairly based and there had been no failure to disclose the best method.

On fair basis, the claims were consistent with the consistory clauses, but Apotex argued the body of the specification showed that the invention was narrower than the broad consistory clauses. This appears to have been an attempt to read the claims down to two specific formulations discussed in the specification, Formulations C and D.

A key point was whether the trial judge had impermissibly taken into account information in an FDA report to ascertain if the claims travelled beyond the disclosure in the specification. Apotex argued this was excluded by the High Court’s decision in the first Lockwood decision, where it had said at [48]:

If all that is essential in assessing a fair basing objection is recourse to the contents of the specification, there is no call, for example, for an examination (except on construction questions) of common general knowledge (which is essential when considering an objection based on want of an inventive step), or of prior art (which is essential when considering novelty (s 7(1))) …

The Full Court, however, rejected this attack; concluding that the information in the FDA Report (which was common general knowledge) informed how the skilled addressee would understand the claims. At [166], the Full Court said:

What is critical to the pharmacokinetic behaviour of the many formulations within the claims is the dissolution profile (or release rate) of the formulation. The primary judge accepted that the FDA Report recognised that a variation of ±10% percentage points in the release rate was acceptable to the FDA even where no IVIVC had been established. This provides evidentiary support for the finding that the skilled addressee would know that various formulations within the claims apart from Formulations C and D were likely to have similar pharmacokinetic properties. This also provides a complete answer to Apotex’s argument that the skilled addressee (equipped with the common general knowledge) would approach the Patent with an understanding that there would be no reason to think that other formulations within the claims would have a similar pharmacokinetic profile to Formulations C and D in the absence of any established IVIVC.

The Full Court also rejected Apotex’ argument that a claim could not be fairly based unless the specification explained why the claims worked. Making it clear that they were dealing only with the position before the Raising the Bar Act reforms, the Full Court said at [170]:

Of course, it is important to note that s 40(2)(a) requires that the complete specification “describe the invention fully”. A complete specification may still “describe the invention fully” without explaining why the invention works. After all, the inventor, who presumably believes that the invention described works, may not understand why it works. But this does not prevent him or her from obtaining patent protection for the invention.

Best method

For best method, the argument built on the Servier ruling to argue there had been a failute to disclose the best method because the specification did not disclose the particular grade or viscosity of the high viscosity HPMC or the granulation end points used to make Formulations C and D.

At [192], the Full Court accepted that there could be a failure of best method if information was withheld even though it could be ascertained by routine experiment. The Full Court rejected the best method attack, however, finding that the informatin omitted was inessential manufacturing and production information. According to the Full Court at [201]:

It does not follow merely because the patent applicant uses a particular manufacturing process or a particular excipient in formulating its commercial embodiment that it will form part of the best method. The patent applicant may have adopted a particular process, or used a particular excipient, for reasons that are associated with its own particular circumstances rather than because it believes that they reflect the best method. The best method known to the patent applicant may be one that allows for the optimisation of a formulation by the skilled addressee rather than one that adheres to one specific formulation that the patent applicant seeks to commercialise.

Those preparing specifications might want, first, to note the reservation that the Full Court was not dealing with the “new” post-Raising the Bar regime. Secondly, [192] appears to carry with it the warning that, if one leaves something out, one does so at one’s own peril.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Investments (Ireland) (No 2) Limited v
Generic Partners Pty Limited
[2018] FCAFC 71 (Middleton, Nicholas and Burley JJ)


  1. At [50], the Full Court explained, “There is no established correlation between dissolution results measured using the different USP apparatus. Sometimes small differences are measured, other times the measured differences are large. Differences in measured dissolution profiles as between each of USP type I, II and III apparatus may not be predictable.”  ?
  2. Catnic Components Limited & Anor v Hill & Smith Limited [1982] RPC 183 (HL).  ?
  3. Referring to another aspect of the construction problem adverted to by Lord Hoffmann at [34] in Kirin-Amgen. Leading of course to the irony that GSK did in fact describe something new!  ?

Patent cases in the Federal Court

Kelvin Tran from Litimetrics has published some fascinating statistics about patent litigation in the Federal Court of Australia.

For example, since 2010, 472 cases have been commenced in the Federal Court involving patent issues. Mr Tran points out that number “compares” to 160,000 granted standard patents and 1,400 certified patents.

The publication also includes a breakdown of numbers by registry, length of proceedings, time to resolution and the average number of typical events such as directions hearings, interlocutory applications and the like. They may be useful if you have to prepare a budget or a costs disclosure statement. To view Mr Tran’s statistics, you should go here.

ESCO’s patent did not make a composite promise and so is not invalid afterall

ESCO has won its appeal from the ruling that its patent lacked utility because the claims did not fulfill all promised advantages.

The Patent

ESCO’s patent relates to a wear assembly for securing a wear member to excavating equipment. Think of it as a way of attaching “teeth” to an excavating bucket and for a design of the “teeth” themselves.

There are 26 claims.

Claim 1 (and its dependent claims)[1] are for a wear member:[2]

a wear member for attachment to excavating equipment. The wear member comprises:
(a) a front end (to contact materials being excavated and to protect the excavating equipment);
(b) a rear end;
(c) a socket that opens in the rear end of the wear member (to receive a base fixed to excavating equipment);
(d) a “throughhole” in communication with the socket;
(e) a lock “integrally connected” in the throughhole and movable without a hammer;
(f) between a “hold position” and a “release position”;
(g) the lock and the throughhole being cooperatively structured to retain the lock in the throughhole in each of the hold and release positions;
(h) irrespective of the receipt of the base into the socket of the wear member or the orientation of the wear member;
(i) a “hold position” (where the lock can secure the wear member to the base); and
(j) a “release position” (where the wear member can be released from the base).

Claim 13 (and its dependent claims)[3] are for the wear assembly:[4] essentially, a wear assembly designed to enable the attachment of the wear member of claim 1 to the bucket.

You may get some idea of what is claimed from these figures. The wear member is 28, shown fitted to the base 15 of the wear assembly.

Utility

The trial Judge

Paragraph 6 of the Specification was the first paragraph under the heading “Summary of the Invention”:

The present invention pertains to an improved wear assembly for securing wear members to excavating equipment for enhanced stability, strength, durability, penetration, safety and ease of replacement. (Full Court’s emphasis)

As to which the expert evidence was:

In relation to enhanced strength, none of the claims would achieve this advantage.

In relation to enhanced stability, claims 3 and 5 may provide a minor stability advantage as set out in paragraphs 14–21 of my first affidavit. ….

In relation to enhanced durability, none of the claims would achieve this advantage.

In relation to enhanced penetration, none of the claims would achieve this advantage.

In relation to enhanced safety, claims 1, 11, 13, 21, and 22 would achieve this advantage.

In relation to enhanced ease of replacement, claims 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 19, 22, and 25 would achieve this advantage.

In light of this evidence, the trial Judge had found ESCO’s patent invalid because the claims did not achieve all six of benefits promised by paragraph 6 of the Specification.

The Full Court

On appeal, the Full Court accepted the basic premise applied by the trial Judge: a claim is bad for inutility if following the teaching in the Specification does not lead to the promised result. There has been a failure of consideration. So, the Full Court explained at [208]:[5]

first, provided the results promised by the specification can, on the evidence, be achieved and, second, provided that those results can be applied to at least one useful purpose, the patent for the claimed invention does not fail for inutility. If, however, the promised results are unfulfilled or unrealised, the patent for the claimed invention will be bad for inutility

Further, if the Specification properly understood contained a “composite” promise, any claim which failed to achieve any one of the elements of that composite promise would be bad for inutility. At [239]:

We therefore accept that if para 6 of the Patent Application, properly understood having regard to the whole of the Specification including the claims, contains a “composite” promise for the described invention, a failure to attain any one of the elements of the composite promise in any claim defining the invention renders the invention so far as claimed in any claim, inutile.

The question then is – what is the promise of the invention?

It followed from the requirements of s 40, which required the specification to describe the invention fully and claims to define the invention,[6] that identification of the “promise” of the invention required consideration both of the body of the specification and the claims.

That consideration led the Full Court to conclude either that paragraph 6 of the Specification was not the “promise” of the invention. Or, alternatively, if it were, the several elements in paragraph 6 were to be read disjunctively rather than, as the trial Judge had done, conjunctively. In either case, ESCO’s patent was not bad for inutility.

The central consideration here was that the claims were directed to two related, but different entities: claims 1 to 12 being directed to the “wear member” only; claims 13 to 22 being directed to the “wear assembly”. Correspondingly, paragraphs 7 to 20 of the specification dealt with various “aspects” of the invention and, in doing so, paragraphs 15 and 16 identified the “promises” of the invention.

The Full Court considered paragraph 5 of the specification as reciting historical attempts “to enhance the strength, stability, durability, penetration, safety and/or ease of replacement of “such wear members” … with varying degrees of success.” The Full Court then characterised paragraph 6 as continuing that discussion to open the summary of the invention.

Paragraphs 15 and 16 of the specification said:

In one other aspect of the invention, the lock is integrally secured to the wear member for shipping and storage as a single integral component. The lock is maintained within the lock opening irrespective of the insertion of the nose into the cavity, which results in less shipping costs, reduced storage needs, and less inventory concerns.

In another aspect of the invention, the lock is releasably securable in the lock opening in the wear member in both hold and release positions to reduce the risk of dropping or losing the lock during installation. Such an assembly involves fewer independent components and an easier installation procedure. (Full Court’s emphasis)

So, at [291], the Full Court explained:

It seems to us that the language of para 6 consisting of a single sentence under the heading “Summary of the Invention” is not, properly construed, the language of “promises” (as Ronneby would have it) for the invention described in the Specification as a whole, including the 22[7] claims, some of which are concerned only with the wear member and others with the wear assembly. Rather, the language of para 6 is seeking to do something less than that. The language of para 6 resonates with para 5 and seems to be used in the sense of reciting those things to which the invention relates having regard to the design efforts that went before, and thus the relationship between “the invention” and those things recited in para 6 is one of identifying the topics or subject matter to which the invention relates (rather than “promises” for the invention), which, having regard to paras 7 to 20 “describing” the invention (including the best method in conformity with s 40(2)(a)), may or may not find expression in the claims “defining” the invention for the purposes of s 40(2)(b). In that sense, the fully described invention may go beyond the scope of that which is actually claimed. Thus, it is necessary to identify the “teaching” of the Specification and the relationship between the teaching and the claims. Rather, the promises for the invention so far as claimed in, at least, Claim 1 and the dependent claims, are to be found in paras 15 and 16 of the Specification as we explain later in these reasons.

The two different targets of the two sets of claims were also significant for the alternative conclusion that the list of achievements in paragraph 6 should be read disjunctively. The Full Court accepted that the language of paragraph 6 of the specification was appropriate for the claimed wear assemblies achieving all 6 listed benefits. However, the Full Court considered that the language of paragraph 6 was incompatible with the idea that each claim for the wear member must satisfy all 6 promises.

Accordingly, paragraph 6 of the specification should be read disjunctively and the claims were not bad for inutility.

In the course of its lengthy historical review, the Full Court did note that s 7A now required the Specification to disclose a specific, substantial and credible use for the claimed invention for it to be useful. Section 7A had been introduced into the Act by the Raising the Bar Act[8] and so was not relevant to ESCO’s patent. The Full Court noted, however, that s 7A was intended to add additional requirements to the test of utility, not displace the old requirements. Thus, at [231], the Full Court commented:

Rather, the invention [subject to the Raising the Bar Act amendments] must meet the new test and meet the requirements of the existing law: EM p. 44.

I am guessing we shall see significantly more patent specifications in the future which claim that it is “an object of the invention to …” or, perhaps, the invention achieves “one of more of ….” Might be a bit tricky to amend assertions in a patent first filed overseas.

Novelty

ESCO’s novelty appeal was also successful. It was essentially an exercise in construction, turning on whether the locking mechanism in the prior citation was “integral” and moved between two defined points- a “hold position“ and a ”release position”.

ESCO Corporation v Ronneby Road Pty Ltd [2018] FCAFC 46 (Greenwood, Rares and Moshinsky JJ)


  1. Strictly speaking, claims 5, 6 and 9 are independent claims, but nonetheless are for “wear members”.  ?
  2. The explanatory interpolations are the Full Court’s.  ?
  3. Claim 19 is also an independent claim for a wear assembly.  ?
  4. A wear assembly for attachment to excavating equipment comprising: (1) a base fixed to the excavating equipment; (2) a wear member including a front end to contact materials being excavated and protect the excavating equipment, and a rear end to mount to the base fixed to the excavating equipment; and (3) a lock integrally connected to the wear member and movable without a hammer between a hold position where the lock contacts the base and the wear member to secure the wear member to the base and a release position where the wear member can be released from the base, wherein the lock remains secured to the wear member in the release position. (My numbering to deal with formatting limitations)  ?
  5. Citing amongst others LaneFox v Kensington and Knightsbridge Electric Lighting Co (1892) 9 RPC 413.  ?
  6. ESCO’s patent being a pre-Raising the Bar patent, s 40 in it earlier form applied.  ?
  7. Presumably, a typo.  ?
  8. By which I of course mean schedule 1 of the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012.  ?

Enforcing foreign judgments – consultations

The Commonwealth government is participating in negotiations for a new Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Now it is seeking public input on a range of outstanding issues.

One of the general issues on which input is sought is the extent to which and the nature of problems experienced in trying to enforce a judgment in a foreign country.

Intellectual property issues are high on the list of matters being debated. Chapter 5 of the consultation paper is directed to intellectual property rights’ issues.

The issues include whether or not intellectual property rights should even be included in the judgments covered by the Convention. So draft article 2(m) proposes to exclude judgments about intellectual property rights from the Convention altogether; alternatively, articles 5 and 6 proceed on the basis that intellectual property rights are included. Which approach should it be?

If included, the basic idea is that a judgment on subsistence, ownership or infringement of an intellectual property right made by a Court in the country which granted the right could be enforceable under the proposed Convention to the extent that the judgment dealt with the subsistence, ownership and infringement of the right in that country.

It is proposed to treat judgments about the subsistence, ownership and infringement of registered rights granted by the country where the judgment is made as falling exclusively under the Convention. Judgments about unregistered rights, such as copyright and unregistered designs, would not be exclusive.

According to the consultation paper, one consequence of this arrangement would be that judgments involving “multi-state IP infringements” of registered rights will be enforceable under the Convention only to the extent that the judgment relates to infringements in the country/jurisdiction issuing the judgment.

No doubt for sound philosophical rationalising, trade secrets do not count as intellectual property rights under the draft Convention. Practically speaking from a business’ perspective, however, one might wonder why confidential information should be treated differently to unregistered “rights”.

Another area of issues raised in the consultation paper is the extent to which awards of damages, especially additional or exemplary or otherwise punitive damages, should be capable of enforcement under the Convention.

As the next (and possibly final) meeting of the commission preparing the draft for a Treaty conference is on 24 – 29 May 2018, the deadline for submissions is COB 27 April 2018.

Hague Conference Judgments Project: Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments