IPwars.com

Mainly intellectual property (IP) issues Down Under

Contributory patent infringement

The High Court has allowed the Northern Territory’s appeal against the finding that it infringed the Collinses’ patent under section 117 of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) by granting a statutory licence to ACOG to harvest certain trees from Crown land.  It was alleged ACOG then used oil extracted from the trees to make blue cypress oil by a process protected by the Collinses’ patent.

From a quick skim of the judgments (there are several), it appears that the Northern Territory escaped liability because the trees were a staple commercial product and so it was necessary to show that the Northern Territory had given instructions or inducements to use the product by means of the patented process (not merely ‘facilitated’ it).

It also looks like the High Court rejected the Northern Territory’s argument that Rescare set out the correct interpretation of s 117; not Bristol-Myers Squibb v Faulding.

Northern Territory v Collins [2008] HCA 49.

3 helpful iPhone apps for Australians

AroundMe

Metro Public Transport (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth) a free and paid version for Melbourne

Pocket Weather AU (like the great widget, but you have to pay)

Another 5 another lawyer likes.

The three I mention can be (are) Australian specific information services.  These work well because they relate to location specific things which the iPhone can retrieve.  Most of the other apps I find useful really need to sync with my computer; first, because it’s easier to enter the data on the computer and, secondly, because you don’t want to be entering things twice or three times or ….

Unfortunately, the way the iPhone is designed to work means that most of these apps – sugarsync, Evernote etc. – work “in the cloud” (Our ABC here). They must be stored on the internet or pass through an internet host. That has potential security and privacy concerns (assuming the technology works).

That feeds into a different concern raised by Jonathan Zittrain in The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it. We are being present with a range of proprietary offerings that are acting a bit like gated communities in which you only get what the provider is willing to offer. Prof. Zittrain contrasts that to his view of the way the Web has worked till now: someone provided the underlying technology and hosts of people came along with hosts of customised solutions that you could choose to use.

Android? Well, it seems potentially to be much more open than the iPhone. Hopefully, it will force a lot more open-ness through competition but, of course, Google has its own “cloud”.

WIPO and traditional knowledge and folklore

WIPO’s committee on traditional knowledge etc. has before its meeting later this month, 2 papers identifying the gaps in protection for traditional knowledge and folklore.

Intellectual Property Watch has links and some analysis here.

Lessig on copyright reform

Prof. Lessig has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal outlining his ideas on what needs to be done to put copyright “right”.

Read it here.

Many owners of copyright no doubt will not agree.

Copyright liability for hosting material posted by others

Section 116AE of the Copyright Act 1968 (Category C activity) provides for a limitation on the liability of hosting services for material posted by others.  Think, for example, of YouTube or those websites that ISPs provide their subscribers. The broad conditions for the protection to apply are set out in s 116AH. Copyright Regulations reg. 20A to 20X provide more detailed requirements, including the notice and take down procedures.

Apart from the failed attempts of pretty much naked infringers to rely on these provisions, we don’t have much case law on how these provisions apply.  See Cooper and KaZaa.

The provision is closely modelled on §512(c) of the US Copyright Act (putting to one side the problematical “carriage service provider” criterion).

Therefore, you might find a US case, Io v Veoh, in which the host successfully relied on the defence worthwhile reading.  

Prof. Goldman has an excellent discussion here.

One of Prof. Goldman’s points is the problem of the relationship of the ‘safe harbours’ to liability for secondary infringement (the nearest analog in Australia being liability for authorising copyright infringement).

That could be an issue here too on the Moorhouse principles, but it has always seemed to me that, before this safe harbour was introduced, the web host had an even more direct exposure for direct infringement by reproduction and, possibly, communication. I wonder if the US Second Circuit’s approach in Cartoon Network v Cablevision (Aug. 4) has potential here?

Troubles with the grace period

The Patents Act was amended (in relatively controversial circumstances) to include a 12 month grace period (somewhat a la the USA) so that use or publication of the invention in the 12 months before the complete specification was filed could not be relied on to destroy validity: see s 24(1)(a) and reg.s 2.2(1A) and 2.3.

Assume that a complete application for a standard patent was filed on 13 May 2005.  Then a complete application for an innovation patent, as a divisional from the standard, was filed on 22 November 2006.

Assume further that the first publication of the invention the subject of both applications was in October 2004.

Which complete application does time run (backwards) from?

If the standard application, the innovation patent will be valid; if not, it will be invalid.  If time runs from the date of the complete application for the innovation patent, however, the divisional status of the innovation application will not have all the usually expected effects.

Stone J has found that the relevant application, on the basis of the specific wording of the legislative provisions, is the complete application for the innovation patent:

10 There does not appear to have been any previous judicial consideration of the present question. Both parties submit that, having regard to the context in which they appear, the ordinary and natural meaning of the provisions supports the construction for which they respectively contend. For reasons given below I have concluded that the construction for which the respondent contends is correct, namely, that where the specification filed in respect of a parent application discloses the invention claimed in a divisional application based on the parent, the “complete application” to which cl 2.2(1A) refers is the divisional application. Consequently I would answer the question for determination as follows:

For the purpose of determining the validity of the Australian Innovation Patent No 2006100978 (Innovation Patent), and on the facts stated in the orders made by Bennett J on 11 December 2007, “the filing date of the complete application” within the meaning of reg 2.2(1A) of the Patents Regulations 1991 (Cth) is the filing date of the complete application for the Innovation Patent on 22 November 2006.

28 I reject the applicant’s argument that the respondent’s construction creates an anomaly by providing the innovation patent with the benefits of divisional status whilst depriving it of the grace period benefits otherwise accruing to that status. As the respondent correctly submits, the consequence of its view is that the grace period simply runs from a later date, which may or may not extend past the priority date based on the filing of the parent application. This is said to reflect:

… a decision not to allow divisional applications to benefit more than they already do from the earlier priority date in circumstances where the divisional application is filed more than a year after the parent application.

Be very, very very careful if you have to rely on the grace period!

Mont Adventure Equipment Pty Limited v Phoenix Leisure Group Pty Limited [2008] FCA 1476.

Patent application searching

IP Australia and the US PTO have reached agreement to permit some international searching for US patent applications to be undertaken by IP Australia.

According to IP Australia:

The arrangement, which comes into effect on 1 November 2008, will allow applicants from the US to choose IP Australia to undertake the initial search and examination of their patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Applications that may not be covered under the arrangement are certain international applications relating to particular mechanical engineering or analogous fields of technology.

The arrangement starts on 1 November 2008.

A bit more detail here.  Nothing on USPTO site as yet.

Manner of manufacture

The hyper-driven David Brennan is also doing a free lunch time presentation at Allens Arthur Robs in Melbourne on 14 November.

Registration and more details here (pdf).

Attempt to patent the new (?) science of subronics here and check out Prof. Lemley’s take on the issue or bone up on the ACIP review via here.

In-house trade mark lawyer awards

The World Trademark Review has issued a call for nominations for its industry awards.

The nominations are sought for in-house trade mark lawyers and departments.

Further details here and last year’s awards here (pdf).  Have your say (nomination form) here.

the value of copyright: determining shadow prices

Ass. Prof. David Brennan and Dr Rhonda Smith will talk for IPRIA about how to determine a fair price for using IP where the IP owner can’t demonstrate any real harm.

I think a situation like this is where an infringer makes sales of the infringing product, but the IP owner wouldn’t have made those sales and so didn’t “lose” anything.

The talk if at Blake Dawson in the city on 18 November at 6.00 pm.

Registration is free via here.

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