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

IP Amendment (Productivity Commission Part 1 …) Bill – exposure draft

IP Australia has released an exposure draft bill and regulations to implement some of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations from its Intellectual Property Arrangements report. Intended to be the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2017.[1]

According to the news release, the amendments will:

  • commence the abolition of the innovation patent system (PC recommendation 8.1)
  • expand the scope of essentially derived variety declarations in the Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) Act (PC recommendation 13.1)
  • reduce the grace period for filing non-use applications under the Trade Marks Act (PC recommendation 12.1(a))
  • clarify the circumstances in which the parallel importation of trade marked goods does not infringe a registered trade mark (PC recommendation 12.1(c))
  • repeal section 76A of the Patents Act, which requires patentees to provide certain data relating to pharmaceutical patents with an extended term (PC recommendation 10.1)
  • allow PBR exclusive licensees to take infringement actions
  • allow for the award of additional damages, under the PBR Act
  • include measures intended to streamline a number of processes for the IP rights that IP Australia administers,

and everyone’s favourite “a number of technical amendments”.

On the parallel imports front, the bill would introduce a new s 122A to replace s 123(1) with the object of overruling the Federal Court’s case law severely restricting the legality of “parallel imports” since the 1995 Act came into force. It’s a “doozy”.

For example, it attempts to reverse the onus of proof that the courts have imposed on parallel importers by providing that

at the time of use, it was reasonable for the [parallel importer] to assume the trade mark had been applied to, or in relation to, the goods by, or with the consent of, a person who was, at the time of the application or consent (as the case may be):

(i) the registered owner of the trade mark; or

(ii) an authorised user of the trade mark; or

(iii) a person authorised to use the trade mark by a person mentioned in subparagraph (i) or (ii), or with significant influence over the use of the trade mark by such a person; or

(iv) an associated entity (within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001) of a person mentioned in subparagraph (i), (ii) or (iii).

 

I suppose “reasonable to assume” does at least require some objective support for the “assumption”.

The second part – (iii) and (iv) above – is trying to deal with the situation where the registered owner assigns the trade mark to someone in Australia, but with the capability of calling for a re-assignment.[2]

This will require considerable flexibility by the Courts in interpreting “significant influence”.

If you have made such and assignment, or your client has, you had better start re-assessing your commercial strategy, however. The transitional arrangements say the amendment will apply to any infringement actions brought after the section commences. Moreover, this will be the case even if the “infringing act” took place before the commencement date.

Comments should be submitted by 4 December 2017.

Exposure draft bill

Exposure draft EM

Exposure draft regulations

Exposure draft explanatory statement


  1. Seems like the “short title” of bills are reverting to the old form “long” titles!  ?
  2. For example, Transport Tyre Sales Pty Ltd v Montana Tyres Rims & Tubes Pty Ltd [1999] FCA 329.  ?

Henley Arch v Lucky Homes – part 2

You will recall that Beach J ordered Lucky Homes and the Mistrys to pay Henley Arch $34,400 by way of compensatory damages and Lucky Homes to pay $25,000 and Mr Mistry $10,000 by way of additional damages for infringing Henley’s copyright in its Amalfi plan. An earlier post looked at the Mistry’s claim to apportion liability (refused) and their cross-claim against Lucky Homes for misleading or deceptive conduct. This post adds some comments on the damages awards.

Some background

You will recall that the Mistrys had their first house built for them by Henley according to one of Henley’s designs. When they came to build their next, “dream” home, they began negotiating with Henley to use its Amalfi design. Just before they signed up with Henley, however, they met with Lucky Homes. Within a very short space of time, the Mistrys signed up with Lucky Homes to have it build for them what was in effect an Amalfi home with “some” changes.[1] The changes did not avoid copyright infringement.

Innocent infringers

The Mistrys claimed they were ‘innocent infringers’ and invoked the protection of s 115(3) which provides:

Where, in an action for infringement of copyright, it is established that an infringement was committed but it is also established that, at the time of the infringement, the defendant was not aware, and had no reasonable grounds for suspecting, that the act constituting the infringement was an infringement of the copyright, the plaintiff is not entitled under this section to any damages against the defendant in respect of the infringement, but is entitled to an account of profits in respect of the infringement whether any other relief is granted under this section or not.

This “defence” has both a subjective element and an objective element. The Mistrys had to prove that they were not actually aware what they did was an infringement and they had no reasonable grounds for suspecting it was.

These are not easy tests to satisfy and it is very rare for them to be invoked successfully.

The Mistrys failed to satisfy the objective requirement. The pre-contract documents they signed with Henley included clauses stating that the information they were provided with was confidential and the exclusive property of Henley. Further, the pro forma plans and the plans prepared specifically for their land each included a copyright notice: “© Henley Arch P/L”. Beach J considered at [193] these clauses and notices would have put reasonable persons in the position of the Mistrys on notice that Henley claimed copyright and its permission was required to use them. That is, the Mistrys could not show they had no reasonable grounds for suspecting they would infringe copyright.

His Honour went further. At [194], Beach J considered that a reasonable person in the Mistrys’ shoes, about to spend $250,000 on a new build would not have acted on Lucky Homes’ assurances that it would change the plans sufficiently to avoid infringement “without checking with a lawyer” first. His Honour explained:

the assurances given by Mr Shafiq that only 15 to 20 changes were required ought not to have been relied on by persons who were proposing to spend nearly $250,000 based on that assurance, without checking it with a lawyer, particularly in the light of the specific acknowledgements set out in the various versions of the tender documents that they had notice of. The fact that the Mistrys did rely upon Mr Shafiq’s representations does not establish the objective limb of “no reasonable grounds”. Moreover, to say that they relied upon Mr Shafiq’s statements does not necessarily entail that they had no suspicions about whether they could use the Amalfi Avenue floorplan. In my view, whatever Mr Shafiq said, the Mistrys had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the use of that floorplan constituted an infringement. At the least, they have not discharged the onus of proving that they had no reasonable grounds for suspecting.

S 115(2) damages

Damages under s 115(2) are in the alternative to an account of (the infringer’s) profits. S 115(2) damages are compensatory; they are to put the copyright owner back in the position it would have been in if there had been no infringement (so far as a monetary award can do that).

Beach J considered that the “lost profits” method was the appropriate measure in this case. That is, the profit Henley lost on the Amalfi house it would have built if the Mistrys had gone ahead was the appropriate measure.

As the “lost profit” here was the loss of a chance or opportunity, Beach J noted that there were two steps to the inquiry. First, a determination whether there had in fact been a lost opportunity. Then, secondly, the value of that opportunity. His Honour explained at [213]:

where one is utilising the lost profits method based upon the loss of a chance or opportunity, there are two questions to consider. The first question is whether there has been such a lost opportunity. This is determined on the balance of probabilities. The second question is what is the value of that lost opportunity. That is to be decided on the possibilities or probabilities of the case (Sellars v Adelaide Petroleum NL (1994) 179 CLR 332 at 355 per Mason CJ, Dawson, Toohey and Gaudron JJ and at 365 to 368 per Brennan J). But some estimation or even educated guesswork under either question may be required and is justifiable.

The Mistrys of course said they never would have contracted with Henley. They had become too frustrated with delays and the price for the house with the facade they really wanted was too high ($10,000 higher than the more basic option).

Beach J rejected this claim. His Honour pointed out that, until they met with Lucky Homes, the Mistrys had been anxiously pressing Henley to finalise the contract documentation, even demanding it move up the settlement date. His Honour also rejected the Mistrys’ complaints about the delays in process as “implausible”. Amongst other things, Henley couldn’t finalise the buidling contract until the certificate of title to the land had issued to the Mistrys and that had occurred only a week or two before the Mistrys were introduced to Lucky Homes. This was to be the Mistrys’ “dream home”. They were anxious to get its construction underway. If Lucky Homes hadn’t turned up, Beach J did not think it realistic that the Mistrys would have abandoned the process with Henley and start all over again.

However, Beach J also rejected Henley’s argument that it was practically certain the Mistrys would have bought the house from Henley. Instead, at [221], his Honour considered the profit Henley would have made needed to be discounted by 20% “to reflect some aspect of uncertainty as to whether the Mistrys would have proceeded with Henley Arch absent the infringing conduct.”

On the question of quantum, Beach J considered that EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) was the appropriate measure.

When it comes to calculating profits, there is usually a ding dong battle over how much should be excluded from the gross profits to allow for overheads. Beach J side-stepped that fight here. In a context where Henley was building about 1,000 homes a year, it was unlikely that there would have been any increase in its overheads building the home for the Mistrys, a single house.

Henley’s evidence was that the total profit after allowing for variable (direct) costs it would have made was $48,231.83 (ex GST). There were some evidential disputes about this, but his Honour considered it was reasonable. At [235], Beach J declared it should be reduced by 10% to allow for contingencies and to reflect the uncertainty in the estimates advanced, and rounded that calculation down to $43,000.

That had to be further discounted by 20% to reflect his Honour’s finding that there was only an 80% chance the Mistrys would indeed have bought the house from Henley. Thus the award of $34,400.

Additional damages

Unlike damages under s 115(2), damages under s 115(4) may include a punitive element – to punish the wrongdoer and to deter others.

Henley contended that $250,000 would reflect the culpability of Lucky Homes and $75,000 that of Mr Mistry. Beach J considered these amounts wholly disproportionate. Accepting the degree of culpability involved and, amongst other things, taking into account the (un)likelihood of repetition of the conduct and the parties’ respective abilities to pay, his Honour ordered that Lucky Homes pay $25,000 by way of additional damages and Mr Mistry $10,000.

You will remember that, on the Mistrys’ cross-claim, Beach J ordered that Lucky Homes only had to be accountable for 50% of the additional damages awarded against Mr Mistry. This was because Mr Mistry’s participation in Lucky Homes’ creation of a copy of Henley’s pro forma plan without Henley’s copyright notice and his unsatisfactory approach to giving evidence meant Mr Mistry should bear some proportion of the sanction himself.

Beach J did not consider Mrs Mistry’s involvement in the infringing conduct warranted any award of additional damages.

Henley Arch Pty Ltd v Lucky Homes Pty Ltd [2016] FCA 1217


  1. The infringing conduct came to light because the Mistrys sued Henley in VCAT to recover their deposit!  ?

$150,001 damages for infringing compatibility chart

Tonnex was found to have infringed Dynamic’s copyright in its printer cartridge compatibility chart. That finding was upheld on appeal. Now, Yates J has ordered Tonnex to pay Dynamic $150,001.00 in damages. The damages are comprised of compensatory damages under s115(2) of $1.00 and $150,000 by way of additional damages under s115(4).

The $1.00 nominal damages was agreed by the parties before the hearing. Interestingly, Yates J did not comment on this.[1]

Dynamic had argued for an award of additional damages of $400,000; Tonnex, while denying any award should be made, argued for an amount in the “tens of thousands”. Yates J arrived at $150,000 in the exercise of his Honour’s evaluative judgment.

Yates J’s reasons contain a useful summary of the applicable principles for the court to decide whether it is appropriate to award additional damages at [37] – [53].

Recognising that flagrancy is not required before an award of additional damages can be made, his Honour nonetheless found that the infringement was deliberate and studied. Although Tonnex’ directors denied knowledge of the copying and gave evidence that they had specifically instructed there was to be no copying,[2] the knowledge and acts of the employees involved – who included the National Marketing Manager – were at [101] relevantly the acts and knowledge of Tonnex. Further, Tonnex’ position throughout had not just been reliance on legal advice that copyright could not subsist in such a compilation. It had hi-handedly denied any copying at all.

Yates J also noted that, even if the directors were innocent of infringing knowledge, the situation should have changed after detailed particulars of infringement had been served (albeit late in the picture). Those particulars appear to have identified mistakes and other typographical peculiarities in the Tonnex catalogue which were really consistent only with copying from Dynamic. In other words, the directors were put on inquiry.

Instead, Tonnex sent out 38,000 emails with links to its infringing catalogue after Dynamic notified its infringement claims to it; only stopping just before the liability trial:

…. The cessation of Tonnex’s conduct was taken at a time of its own choosing, without regard to Dynamic’s rights. Regardless of Mr Solomon’s and Mr Kozman’s state of knowledge in that period, by reason of Mr Rendell’s knowledge, Tonnex must be taken to have known the true position regarding its copying of Dynamic’s Compatibility Chart. With that knowledge, it undoubtedly took commercial advantage of its wrongful conduct.

Tonnex did introduce an approvals process to vet material before it was published in future. Yates J was not particularly satisfied by this. His Honour was also concerned that Tonnex’ witnesses did not really exhibit appropriate contrition, but rather saw the litigation as a tactic by Dynamic rather than vindication of its rights.

The need to mark the court’s disapproval of Tonnex’ conduct and signal to the community that it was not alright to copy others’ property with impunity (i.e. deterrence) also played roles.

Dynamic Supplies Pty Limited v Tonnex International Pty Limited (No 3) [2014] FCA 909


  1. Contrast the apparent questioning of the practice raided by French and Kiefel JJ in [Venus Adult Films v Fraseride][venus] at [94].  ?
  2. it is fair to say his Honour expressed a degree of scepticism towards this evidence at esp. [102] and [103].  ?

Additional damages are procedural …

In June, Perram J awarded the Halal Certification Authority $10 nominal damages and $91,005.00 by way of additional damages for trade mark infringement pursuant to s 126(2).

Section 126(2) was inserted in the Act by the Raising the Bar Act and commenced operation on 15 April 2013.

The conduct which attracted the award of additional damages, however, occurred between August 2012 and September 2013. So, Quality Kebabs came back to argue that the award should be reduced to (about) $35,000; arguing that the Court could only award additional damages for the period from 15 April 2013.

Noting that the right to seek damages had been in place throughout the period and viewing s 126(2) as affecting the quantum only, Perram J rejected this argument. His Honour considered the situation was more like those cases where the amendment was treated as ‘procedural’ rather than ‘substantive’ and so could apply to all the conduct.

His Honour did note, however, that Quality Kebabs made no argument that additional damages were punitive in nature and so should be treated as a penal law – which would presumably not be permitted to have retrospective effect.

Hmm …. additional damages (at least in the context of copyright) are (at least in part) intended to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.[1] So this debate may well arise again.

The reasons also have a short determination on the form the corrective advertising for contravention of the ACL should take.

Perram J was able to entertain Quality Kebabs’ application because, the corrective advertising order not having been finalised, the decision was still interlocutory and not final.

Halal Certification Authority Pty Limited v Quality Kebab Wholesalers Pty Limited (No 2) [2014] FCA 840


  1. See the discussion in Facton v Rifai [2012] FCAFC 9 at [33] – [37] (Lander and Gordon JJ) and Vaysman v Deckers Outdoor Corporation [2014] FCAFC 60 at [23] – [31] (Besanko J). Of course, s 115(4) of the Copyright Act does have all those “extra” paragraphs, but they are probably equally applicable to the Trade Marks Act and the Patents Act too.  ?

Carving up an uncertified halal butcher

Perram J has awarded $10 nominal damages for trade mark infringement against each of Scadilone, White Heaven and Quality Kebabs, but $91,015 additional damages against Quality Kebabs.

The Halal Certification Authority does just that: it certifies that food has been prepared according to the relevant Islamic (halal) requirements. It has a registered trade mark for the use of which, like other such schemes, you pay appropriate licence fees and comply with the standards set.

TM 1005647
TM 1005647

Quality Kebabs makes and sells at wholesale meat products. It supplied some of its products to 2 kebab houses: Scadilone and White Heaven. The employee/sales rep. also provided them with certificates bearing HCA’s trade mark. Unfortunately, Quality Kebabs was not certified by HCA and it had not paid the licence fees.

HCA had sought compensatory damages based on its lost licence fees: about $5000 for a year’s licence from each of the kebab shops and roughly $60,000 from Quality Kebabs because its conduct occurred over parts of 2 different annual licensing periods. Accepting that a lost royalty or licence fee could be appropriate, Perram J refused this.

Damages under s 126(1) are compensatory. There was no likelihood that any of the infringers would have contemplated entering into a licence at those prices so there were no “lost” licence fees. The kebab houses did want assurance that the meat was halal, but that did not necessarily mean they wanted to promote their shops, as opposed to the meat, as halal certified. Perram J found that, if Quality Kebabs had known HCA’s trade mark was registered and licence fees were payable, it would not have used the trade mark. Instead, it would have copied someone else’s certificate. Therefore, there was no basis to infer that HCA had been deprived of its licence fee.

There was also no order for damages for reputational damages. The signs were displayed in only 2 shops for limited periods. There was no evidence that anyone had seen them or even whether or not the meat was in fact halal.

Perram J considered that the additional damages contemplated by s 126(2) were intended to have a deterrent effect.

Scadilone, White Heaven and their principals escaped liability for additional damages as they were innocent infringers. They had simply put up the certificates they were given and removed them, more or less promptly, when complaint had been made.

Quality Kebabs was a different case, however. Having reviewed the factors set out in s 126(2),[1] Perram J held this was an appropriate case for an award of additional damages:

…. If the damages were to be fixed at the level of the applicant’s wholesale licence fee this would strip Quality Kebabs of the benefit it has received of using the trade mark without having to pay for it but it would not, in my opinion, be a sufficient deterrent. It would mean that an infringer could acquire, in effect, a compulsory licence to use a trade mark subject only to paying for it. It would create a ‘use now’ and ‘pay later’ state of affairs. That situation would eliminate the capacity of the trade mark owner to control who used its trade mark.

To achieve the deterrent effect and having regard to the other factors, Perram J increased the damages by a factor of 50% over the applicable licence fees. Thus, about $60,000 for the licence fees that should have been paid for the two years in which the infringements occurred plus a further $30,000.[2]

There was no award for damages under the ACL. Although the conduct was plainly misleading, Perram J found there was no evidence that HCA’s reputation had suffered any damage.

Halal Certification Authority Pty Limited v Scadilone Pty Limited [2014] FCA 614

Lid dip: James McDougall


  1. S 126(2) is in similar, but not identical, terms to s 115(4) of the Copyright Act 1968.  ?
  2. … the applicant’s fee in those years was an annual one of $27,090 and $33,580 respectively. Although Quality Kebabs only used the trade mark for the 13 month period between August 2012 and September 2013 I do not think that these fees should be subject to a pro rata reduction. Had Quality Kebabs followed the correct path of obtaining the applicant’s permission it would have had to have paid both annual fees in full.  ?

The Corbys have copyrights

Various members of Schapelle Corby‘s family, like most other people who take photographs, do own copyright in the photographs they have taken and Allen & Unwin, which published 5 of their photographs in The Sins of the Father, has to pay damages for the unauthorised use of those copyrights.

Buchanan J awarded:

  • between $500 and $5,000 compensatory damages pursuant to s 115(2) for each photograph; and
  • $45,000 by way of additional damages pursuant to s 115(4) for the deliberate and studied disregard of the applicants’ copyrights.

Allen & Unwin has also been ordered to remove the photographs from its existing stocks and not to reproduce them again.

The evidence disclosed that some 44,000 copies of the book had been sold up to March 2013, from several print runs, including print runs after the proceeding commenced. The larger amounts reflected his Honour’s perception of greater commercial significance largely indicated by the accompanying text in the book. The $5,000 award was for the last photograph of Ms Corby with her father in Australia and, in addition to being used in the book, was reproduced on the back cover with relevant text.

Given the (reported) content of the book, it might seem surprising that the main defence was licence. The photographs had been given to Fairfax, not Allen & Unwin, for publication in relation to one or another newspaper article. Buchanan J found at [85]:

whatever photographs had been given by any member of the Corby family to media organisations for some other purpose, photographs had never been given by any member of the family to the respondent to reproduce. [The respondent’s publisher] accepted that no member of the Corby family had granted permission to the respondent to reproduce the photographs. It is clear that the respondent had never sought any such permission.

There was no attempt to justify any publication through a fair dealing defence but, on the other hand, Buchanan J expressly rejected any insult to the Corby family as relevant to the calculation of additional damages:

120   In the present case, I do not regard as relevant to the assessment of additional damages any criticism of the Corby family, its individual members and its associates (actual or presumed) which is to be found in the book. Those damages will not be fixed to address any perceived insult to the Corby family or any of its members but will be fixed having regard to the seriousness, amongst other things, of the studied disregard of the regime of copyright protection established by the Copyright Act. In my view, the present case suggests a need to deter the respondent and others from conduct of a similar kind.

Contrast von Doussa J’s approach to personal and cultural harm in the Milpurrurru case from [146]ff.

The decision is also our third (?) moral rights case: the authors’ moral rights of attribution being infringed. Buchanan J, however, did not award damages for this having regard to s 195AZGG(3), the unlikelihood that any of the author’s would want to have been identified as participating in the production of the book and the damages awarded for copyright infringement.

Corby v Allen & Unwin Pty Limited [2013] FCA 370

The defamation action arising from the book’s publication is still making its way through the NSW courts.

No damage for infringing copyright in questionnaire

Besanko J has awarded Insight SRC $32,510.00 for the infringements of its copyright in the School Organisational Health Questionnaire by the Australian Council for Educational Reseaarch (ACER). The award consisted of $10 nominal damages and $32,500 by way of additional damages. There are some interesting points about ownership, assignment and damages.

The questionnaire consisted of 57 questions arranged under 12 headings or modules. ACER reproduced some 25 of these questions from 5 modules between 2006 and October 2009 as part of a project with Independent Schools Victoria.

There was no dispute that copyright subsisted in the questionnaire or that ACER had reproduced a substantial part. Rather, ACER disputed Insight SRC’s title to the copyright and whether Insight SRC had suffered any damage.

Ownership

ACER’s basic point was that, as Dr Hart made the questionnaire in the course of his employment by the Victorian Department of Education, the Department (or the Crown) and not Dr Hart was the owner of the copyright pursuant to s 35 or the Crown Copyright provisions (here and here) of the Copyright Act 1968. If Dr Hart was not the original owner of the copyright, Insight SRC had no title since its rights depended on a chain of assignments starting with Dr Hart and not involving the Department (or the Crown).

Besanko J agreed with ACER that Dr Hart had created the questionnaire while employed by the Victorian Department of Education. However, his Honour found that Dr Hart and the Department (through Dr Hart’s superior) had agreed Dr Hart would retain ownership of the copyright and so s 35(6) and s 176 were excluded by the operation of s 35(3) and s 179.

The interesting point here is that the agreement between Dr Hart and his superior was purely oral but, as Besanko J pointed out, unlike the case with assignments pursuant to s 196 or s 197, there was no requirement for an agreement which excluded the operation of s 35(6) and s 176 to be in writing.

Besanko J did also find that s 176 would not have applied as Dr Hart, although an employee of the Department, was not acting under the control or direction of anyone in the Department in creating the questionnaire.

Assignment

Insight SRC claimed to be the owner of the copyright in the questionnaire by assignment. The assignment of copyright to it was made on 1 October 2009; that is, after ACER had ceased its infringing conduct.[1]

The main point of interest is that prior to 12 May 2011, none of the assignments – to Hart Cultural Lodges or Insight SRC – included the right to sue for past infringements. Deeds assigning the right to sue for past infringements from Dr Hart to Hart Cultural Lodges and then from Hart Cultural Lodges to Insight SRC were executed only on 12 May 2011.

After a review of the case law, including Trendtex and the High Court’s ruling in Equuscorp v Haxton, Besanko J accepted that Australian law now permitted the assignment of “bare” rights to litigation provided the assignee had a pre-existing genuine commercial interest in enforcing the claims of the assignor:

…. It must now be taken to be established in Australia that the circumstances in which a bare or mere right of action may be assigned include a case where the assignee has a pre-existing genuine commercial interest in enforcing the claims of the assignor.

While Besanko J was somewhat bemused why there was an assignment to Hart Cultural Lodges, his Honour considered that the ownership of the copyright in the questionnaire was a sufficient pre-existing genuine commercial interest to validate the late assignment of the right to sue for past infringements.

Damages

ACER generated some $213,000 in revenue from its infringing use of the questionnaire. Independent Schools Victoria in turn earned some $807,000 from supplying the questionnaire to its associated schools in infringement of the copyright.

Besanko J refused to award Insight SRC general damages; his Honour awarded nominal damages of $10 only.

The basis for this refusal to award general damages was that all Insight SRC obtained through the assignment of the right to sue for past infringements was whatever rights Dr Hart had to assign. Dr Hart himself had no right to general damages because:

118 …. Dr Hart was not personally conducting a business involving the use of the [questionnaire] between the beginning of 2006 and 1 October 2009 and it has been no part of their case before me that Dr Hart personally would have exploited any commercial opportunities with ISV. Furthermore, Dr Hart did not claim that he could recover any such loss as the major shareholder of Insight SRC and that the Court could lift the corporate veil. On the other hand, what Dr Hart did have as the copyright owner was a right to nominal damages for infringement of copyright and a right to claim additional damages under subs 115(4). An award of nominal damages is appropriate to vindicate the invasion of a copyright owner’s proprietary right….

That is, as Dr Hart was not himself in the business of selling the questionnaire, he could not claim the profits lost on the sales made by an infringing “competitor” – he was not in competition with ACER.

If general damages had been available, Besanko J would have assessed them at $130,000. Rather questionably (with respect),[2] his Honour started with the revenue earned by ACER and reduced that amount by its costs to reflect the profits it made.

Besanko J would not have made any allowance for the revenues made by Independent Schools Victoria as that was not how Insight SRC put its case. The judgment does not explain why Insight SRC did not pursue such a claim. Presumably, it would not have claimed a share of Independent Schools Victoria’s revenues if it [or its exclusive licensee, rather] had secured the contract instead of ACER.

Additional damages

Besanko J found that ACER’s infringement was flagrant and awarded $32,500 by way of additional damages pursuant to s 115(4). ACER had a permissions unit to secure copyright licences where necessary and well knew of its obligations not to use copyright for commercial purposes without an appropriate licence. The fact that the officer in charge of ACER’s program did acknowledge Dr Hart’s authorship in footnotes did not save ACER either.

The amount of any additional damages is highly discretionary and notoriously difficult to predict. Given his Honour’s finding that ACER made $130,000 profit[3] and the permissibility of taking into account that profit in assessessing the amount of additional damages,[4] the award may seem surprisingly low given his Honour’s characterisation of the infringement as flagrant.

Insight SRC IP Holdings Pty Ltd v The Australian Council for Educational Research Limited [2012] FCA 779


  1. The situation was rather more complicated: Dr Hart had assigned, or purported to assign, his copyright in the questionnaire to Hart Cultural Lodges (Dr Hart’s family trust) by two deeds, both dated 30 June 2009 and Hart Cultural Lodges in turn assigned its interests to Insight SRC by deed dated 1 October 2009. Dr Hart was the director and major shareholder of Insight SRC. To complicate matters further, Insight SRC granted an exclusive licence to another “Insight” company of which Dr Hart was also the director and major shareholder. That other Insight company having been the operating entity between 2006 and 2009, but not having a written agreement in place to qualify it as an exclusive licensee in terms of the Act.  ?
  2. See Aristocrat Technologies v DAP Services (Kempsey) [2007] FCAFC 40 at [3], [18]-[20].  ?
  3. At [190] in the face of ACER’s claim at [151] that it made no profits at all.  ?
  4. See Aristocrat Technologies v DAP Services (Kempsey) [2007] FCAFC 40 at [48]-[54] and Facton Ltd v Rifai [2012] FCAFC9 at [40]–42] and [48].  ?

Penalties and additional damages for trade mark infringement

IP Australia has issued an options paper reviewing the criminal penalties and whether or not additional damages should be available for trade mark infringement in Australia.

Some of the considerations for reforming the criminal penalties under the Trade Marks Act relate to the wide ranging reform of the criminal penalties structure in the Copyright Act effected by the amendments in 2006 and a perception that Australia’s penalties may be out of line with other countries’ approaches.  (No mention of the behind the scenes ACTA negotiations is made).  A key issue emerging from the paper, however, is that IP Australia is seeking to quantify the extent of counterfeiting activity in Australia – the paper suggests that the empirical evidence available to IP Australia does not seem to support the anecdotal claims.

Unlike copyright, patents and registered designs, additional damages are not available for infringement of registered trade marks.  The options paper questions whether this should still be the case.

Apart from the anomalous treatment of trade marks compared to the other main statutory rights, I would have thought the US Free Trade Agreement (art. 17.11.7) leaves room for debate only about whether there are additional damages or statutory damages.  May be there’s a transitional provision or side agreement that someone can point me to which makes this optional?

Written comments are required by 27 February 2009.

The options paper is here (pdf).  ACIP’s earlier report here (pdf).

Review cases handed down

On Friday, Kenny J handed down the 2nd and 3rd substantive design cases under the new Act:

  • in Review v Redberry [2008] FCA 1588, her Honour found the design valid but not infringed;
  • in Review v New Cover [20089] FCA 1589; valid and infringed including $85,000 damages (of which $50,000 were for additional damages).

The judgments will no doubt be up on Austlii soon but, until then, students can download pdfs from the links below:

review-v-redberry-judgment

review-v-new-cover-judgment

Lid dip, Sue Gatford.