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Mainly intellectual property (IP) issues Down Under

Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2012 – exposure draft

IP Australia has released for public comment an exposure draft of the proposed Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2012. The Bill has 2 purposes:

  1. to amend the Patents Act 1990 in light of the DOHA Declaration / TRIPS Protocol; and
  2. to confer original jurisdiction in matters arising under the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 on the Federal Magistrates Court in addition to the Federal Court’s existing jurisdiction.

DOHA Declaration[1] / TRIPS Protocol

Article 31 (scroll down) of the TRIPS Agreement permits members of the WTO to permit the use of patented inventions without the permission of the rightholder in the circumstances set out in the article.

The HIV/Aids crisis in Africa revealed a problem in this regime in that a number of countries which needed to rely on these provisions did not have the infrastructure, or were otherwise unable effectively, to take advantage of this regime. The basic idea underlying, first, the DOHA Declaration and, then, the TRIPS Protocol is to enable such countries to take advantage of the facilities and expertise in other countries by having the relevant drug made under compulsory licence in the foreign country.

So far, only Canada has notified the WTO pursuant to the DOHA Declaration that it has granted a compulsory licence to Apotex to export TriAvir[2] to Rwanda.[3]

Following on from consultations begun in 2010, the Government announced its intention to amend the Patents Act to implement the DOHA regime in March last year. The object of the proposed amendments is to introduce a regime for the grant of compulsory licences of pharmaceutical products on public health grounds for export to least-developed or developing countries (to be defined in the Bill as “eligible importing countries”).
As the TRIPS Protocol is not yet in force,[4] schedule 1 of the Bill is intended to implement the interim regime adopted under the DOHA Declaration. When the TRIPS Protocol does come into force, the regime in schedule 1 will be superseded by the regime to be enacted by schedule 2 of the Bill.

In either case, the regime will be separate from, and independent of, the existing compulsory licensing regime relating to domestic non-use which is currently the subject of a reference to the Productivity Commission.

As with the existing “non-use” regime, any compulsory licences would be granted only on application to the Federal Court, and not the Commissioner of Patents. If the patents in question are innovation patents, it would be necessary to apply for certification (where that has not occurred already).

Federal Magistrates Court

The extension of jurisdiction over PBR matters to the Federal Magistrates Court, which “is designed to deal with less complex matters more quickly and informally than the Federal Court”, follows several years experience with copyright matters and the extension of jurisdiction over patent, trade mark and registered design matters enacted by the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012, which comes into effect on 15 April 2013.

Onus in trade mark oppositions

I wonder why the bill doesn’t fix up the onus for oppositions to the registration of trade marks to the “balance of probabilities” standard in line with the amendments – see Part 2 – that will apply in patent oppositions from 1 April 2013?

Submissions should be made by 1 October 2012.

Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2012 – exposure draft

Exposure draft Explanatory Memorandum

IP Australia’s Home Page for the exposure draft process.


  1. This is not strictly accurate terminology: I am using it as shorthand to refer to the WTO Council decision in December 2003 on paragraph 6 of the DOHA Declaration made in 2001. The WTO’s overview page is here.  ?
  2. A fixed-dose combination product of Zidovudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine, according to Rwanda’s notification: see View Notifications.  ?
  3. The compulsory licence was issued by the Commissioner of Patents on 19 September 2007 for a period of 2 years: click on View notifications.  ?
  4. Australia has already accepted the TRIPS Protocol, but it does not come into force until two thirds of WTO’s 155 members accept it. If one counts the EU as “one” member – not sure on the politics of this as there are currently 27 members of the EU, as at May this year 44 members had accepted the TRIPS Protocol.  ?

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.

Google v ACCC

Following on from yesterday’s post, @davidstarkoff points out that:

  • the transcript of the special leave application can be found here; and
  • in due course, the submissions will appear here.

The hearing of the appeal has been fixed for 11 September 2012.

ACCC v Google

Apparently, back on 25 June the High Court granted Google special leave to appeal from the Full Federal Court’s ruling that Google is liable for the misleading ads placed by advertisers.

Maybe the internet will be able to keep working in Australia after all.

Austlii is only up to 20 June, at the time of posting.

Lid dip “Law Geek Down Under

ACTA in trouble in Australia

The Age is reporting that a Parliamentary committee has “struck down” Australia’s signing of ACTA.

As it turns out, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has unanimously recommended that Australia should not ratify ACTA at this time. Recommendation 8 states:

That the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement not be ratified by Australia until the:

  • Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has received and considered the independent and transparent assessment of the economic and social benefits and costs of the Agreement referred to in Recommendation 2;
  • Australian Law Reform Commission has reported on its Inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy; and
  • the Australian Government has issued notices of clarification in relation to the terms of the Agreement as recommended in the other recommendations of this report.

Recommendation 9 goes on to exhort any future Committee on Treaties to take into account what is happening with ACTA in other jurisdictions including the EU and the USA.

Recommendations 3 to 7 relate to more specific matters such as, for example, a need to clarify the meanings of ‘aiding and abetting’ and ‘commercial scale’.

Apart from specific matters of particular detail, the Joint Standing Committee seems to have had two main concerns about ratification:

First, the Treaty was tabled in Parliament with a National Interest Assessment  (NIA). However, the NIA did not include an analysis of the economic impact that ratifying ACTA would have on Australia.

One reason why there was no economic analysis feeds into the Joint Standing Committee’s second major concern: the NIA stated that ACTA would not require any changes to existing Australian law. The benefit of ratifying ACTA (early) was that it would give Australia influence:

2.13 The NIA encourages the early ratification of ACTA, so as to enable Australia to play an influential role in the ACTA Committee, which will consider, inter alia, rules and procedures for reviewing the implementation and operations of ACTA.

In the absence of an economic assessment, however, the Joint Standing Committee noted there was an absence of reliable evidence that there is a “problem” that needs to be addressed. See [3.6] and reference to the concerns expressed, amongst others, by the US Government Accountability Office.

Secondly, the Joint Standing Committee received a number of submissions which challenged the view that no changes would be required to Australian law. For example, what does “aid and abet” or “commercial scale” mean? To what extent, if at all, are patents caught up in what is counterfeit?

How valid those concerns are may require further investigation but, as As. Prof. Weatherall pointed out, the ACTA Committee will have a role in developing more detailed enforcement mechanisms. The Joint Standing Committee also noted in several places that ACTA does not include the defences or exceptions expressed in TRIPS.

So far as I can work out (it is a long time since I studied constitutional law so let me know if you know better), the Joint Standing Committee has not in fact “struck down” ACTA or Australia ratifying it. The Committee’s recommendations do not constitute a resolution of a House of Parliament and ACTA is not a legislative instrument subject to disallowance on such a resolution.

As a treaty, ACTA would become part of our domestic law only if Parliament passed a statute to implement it. The Government could still ratify ACTA but the Joint Standing Committee’s recommendations are the unanimous recommendations of a cross-party committee so they plainly reflect a level of disquiet with ACTA within Parliament at a high level: a level of disquiet which appears to be felt even within the EU (one of the IP-exporting parts of the world one might think likely to support such a regime).

Download copies of the Committee’s report from here (pdf).

Does anyone think Google is advertising the sponsored links?

The Full Federal Court in Australia does.

The ACCC has successfully appealed the Google Adwords case for misleading and deceptive conduct.

So, for example, Alpha Dog Trainging has been operating a dogtraining business for 12 years. Dog Training Australia (Ausdog) bought ads on the keywords Alpha Dog Training through Google’s Adwords program. One ad generated was:

Alpha Dog Training 
DogTrainingAustralia.com.au All Breeds. We come to you. No dog that can’t be trained. 

Instead of being taken through through to Alpha Dog Training’s website, however, a user who clicked on the ad was taken through to Ausdog’s website.

A clear case of misleading or deceptive conduct by Ausdog.

Because of its role in “selecting” which ads got placed in what order, Google has also been found liable.

Prof. King, formerly an ACCC commissioner, highlights why and thinks the Court got it seriously wrong.

Did we just kill the Internet in Australia?

ACCC v Google Inc. [2012] FCAFC 49 (Keane CJ, Jacobson and Lander JJ)

Another round in the plain packaging tobacco war

This is a bit behind as it happened over the break:

The “tobacco plain packaging” legislation became law last December and, as you will recall, Philip Morris Asia has initiated an arbitration proceeding under the Australia-Hong Kong Investment Treaty.

Australia filed its “defence” late in December, alleging that Philip Morris Asia bought the assets in question after the Government’s plans were known and so hasn’t lost any value:

Prof. Davison has a typically wry report

Philip Morris’ complaint and Australia’s “defence” are available via here.

 

Australia signed up to ACTA

Last Saturday, while half of us were trying not to watch Meat Loaf earn a reported $500,ooo (here, here or here) or tweeting, the Minister for Trade travelled to Japan to sign ACTA (the Department’s home page currently has a photograph of the actual signing).

According to the Minister’s Press Release:

The implementation of ACTA will not require legislative changes in Australia. Rather, trading partners will adapt their laws to the high standards of IP enforcement that already apply in Australia.

According to the USTR, no changes would be required to US law either.

The Minister for Trade’s Press Release states that Australia is one of 10 countries attending the signing + the EU. Howard Knopf reports that those signing included Australia, Canada,  Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, (South) Korea & USA, but the EU didn’t. According to ZDNet, the EU still working on it. So this may be a bit “optimistic”.

According to the USTR, the EU, Mexico and Switzerland did attend and “confirmed their continuing strong support for and preparations to sign the Agreement as soon as practicable”.

Lid dip @howardknopf

A fairly close look at ACTA

Terry Hart embarks on a fairly detailed comparison of (what was known about the draft) ACTA and US copyright law to see how much would need to change “ACTA: Thought for FUD” in 4 parts

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

One might well be very sceptical about something being negotiated “in private”. Nonetheless, if you get past the reliance on proposed art. 1.2 as “not requiring new laws”, it is definitely worth a read. If nothing else, you will come away very much better informed.

Lid dip: Ben Sheffner

Injurious falsehood and also passing off

The tort of injurious falsehood (sometimes called malicious falsehood or even trade libel) has been largely superseded (but not totally extinguished) by passing off and the modern wrongs against misleading or deceptive conduct. In a helpful, practical primer, Jagot J has had to explore its operation as one of the issues in the Jack Brabham Engines case. There is also an elementary lesson to learn in passing off.

In overview, the case concerned 2 rival businesses engaged in developing car engines. They agreed to pool their resources and develop technologies through a new corporate vehicle, Jack Brabham Engines (JBE). The principals in the competitors became directors and shareholders and the great man himself was a shareholder. Things didn’t work out and one of the principals, Mr Beare, who had secured patents for technology he had developed earlier decided to invest elsewhere in competition with JBE.

Amongst other things, he published statements on his website and in ASIC documents which the applicants complained were injurious falsehoods. Jagot J rejected these allegations.

Her Honour pointed out at [246] that the tort required proof of 3 ingredients: proof that (1) the respondent has made a false statement, (2) that the respondent made the statement maliciously and (3) as a result the applicant has suffered actual damage.

Her Honour quoted Gleeson CJ on the difference between the tort and defamation:

The tort of defamation protects reputation, and it does so in a manner that involves a balancing of various considerations including the right of free speech. The tort of injurious falsehood protects against provable economic loss resulting from false and malicious statements.

Jagot J at [247] also endorsed the statement in Halsbury’s Law of Australia as a convenient summary of what is required for the statement to be malicious:

The false publication must have been made maliciously. A person who acted in good faith is therefore not liable. Malice is a question of motive, intention or state of mind and involves the use of an occasion for some indirect purpose or indirect motive such as to cause injury to another person. Malice may exist without an actual intention to injure. Malice may not be inferred from the fact of publication but will be inferred where the false publication was made with:
(1) an intent to injure without just cause;
(2) knowledge of their falsity; or
(3) reckless indifference to its truth or falsity.
No action will lie where the false publication was made with mere lack of care or with an honest belief in its truth. An honest belief in the truth of the statement will rebut any inference of malice.

The applicants failed on all heads for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the statements were not even pleaded. The applicants failed to prove that others were even false and, at every turn, the statements were not shown to be malicious because they were the honest beliefs or opinions of Mr Beare. There was also no proof of damage.

The difficulties of proving malice in particular highlight why, if the conduct is in trade or commerce, the tort has largely been supplanted by the fair trading laws such as  s 52 (in the case of corporations) and s 9 / s 42 (in the case of individuals).

The applicants also alleged passing off from use of the names “Beare Technology Engine” and “Beare Head Technology”. The names were not registered as trade marks, hence any rights had to arise at common law.

The problem for the applicants here was that Mr Beare had used these names in his business before JBE was incorporated and, while he or his company had authorised JBE to use the names, JBE was unable to identify any assignment of the earlier business and its goodwill to JBE. As a result, JBE did not own the relevant reputation.

Jack Brabham Engines Limited v Beare [2010] FCA 872