Not a Comedy of Error

Robertson J has overturned the Registrar’s decision to cancel a number of trade mark registrations for VOKES[1] as errors wrongly made in the Register and ruled they were properly registered in Laminar’s name.

Until 2001, Vokes was the registered owner of the trade marks.

On 15 August 2001, it applied to the Registrar under s 216 to have the name of the registered owner changed to AES Environmental Pty Ltd.

On 12 October 2005, Laminar submitted to the Registrar an assignment of the trade marks from AES to it and Laminar became the registered owner.

In December 2014, Vokes applied to the Registrar under s 81 to have the registration in the name of Laminar cancelled and the registrations restored into Vokes’ name.

The application under s 216 in 2001 had not been made because Vokes changed its name to AES. Rather, it seems Vokes had assigned the trade marks to BTR in 1998 and BTR wanted to assign them in 2001 to AES. There were no assignment documents, or at least none were submitted to the Registrar. So, it seems Vokes / BTR / AES were trying to use s 216 as a kind of short cut. AES subsequently assigned the trade marks to Laminar.

The Registrar pointed out that there was authority that s 216 could not be used to register transfers by assignment , it was only for situations where there had been a change in the name of the entity on the Register.[2] Accordingly, the Registrar held that the registration of the trade marks in the name of AES had been wrongly made and so ordered that change of name of the registered owner to be rectified.

Laminar appealed.

Robertson J clearly thought it a bit rich for Vokes to be coming back to correct the Register some 13 years after its own ruse.

HIs Honour held that the power to correct “errors or omissions” under s 81 was not triggered by the events in 2001. On the basis of the information then before the Registrar, there had been no error.

At [60], his Honour said:

There was no finding by the delegate that in August 2001, and by reference to what the Registrar then knew, there had been an error made by the Registrar. The error was on the part of the person submitting the form in circumstances where there had not, in truth, been a change of name and address: as found by the delegate, Vokes had not changed its name. This was not brought to the Registrar’s attention, so far as the delegate found, before December 2014 when Vokes made its application under s 81.

And then, by way of further explanation, at [65]:

Contrary to the conclusion of the delegate in the present case at [23], in my opinion there was no jurisdictional error on the part of the Registrar in 2001. It is true that there was not a change in the name of the registered owner of the registered trade marks but the Registrar did not know that nor should she have known it: the submission was not pressed before me that it was plain on the face of the form that there was no change of name in the registered owner. If there were no jurisdictional error then it follows that the decisions to record changes of the owner’s name on the Register were not decisions which “had no legal foundation and are no decisions at all” as found by the delegate as a consequence of his conclusion that the decisions were tainted by jurisdictional error.

Therefore, the power under s 81 was not enlivened.

In any event, Robertson J ruled that, if he were wrong in that conclusion, the intervening events (i.e., the assignment from AES to Laminar) meant that the Registrar’s power under s 81 was no longer available. A “person aggrieved” had other remedies they could pursue.

The decision in Mediaquest, which had been relied on by the Registrar, was distinguished. That case involved an application to record an assignment where the objection to the registration of the assignment was made within one month of the assignment being recorded.

Laminar Air Flow Pty Ltd v Registrar of Trade Marks [2017] FCA 1447


  1. There were also registrations for UNIVEE and VOKES VEE-GLASS.  ?
  2. Citing the continuing effects of Crazy Ron’s at [123].  ?

Don’t file in the wrong applicant’s name

Because, if you do, the Full Court has definitively ruled that the error cannot be rectified and any resulting registration will be irredeemably invalid.

This is the first of at least two rulings departing from the trial judge’s reasons which the Full Court made in the course of dismissing Pham Global’s appeal from the decision to revoke its trade mark registrations and find it infringed Insight Clinical Imaging’s trade marks. So Pham Global still lost, but with ramifications for us all.

Some background

Since 2008, Insight Clinical Imaging has been using the name INSIGHT and its composite mark for its radiology services largely in Perth, WA.[1]

Mr Pham is a radiologist and the sole director of the company through which a radiology business is conducted in NSW. Originally, the company was called AKP Radiology Consultants Pty Ltd. In December 2011, however, Mr Pham applied to register the Insight Radiology mark as a trade mark for radiology services.

Insight Clinical’s trade mark is below on the left. On the right below is the trade mark applied for by Mr Pham.

In March 2012, AKP Radiology Services first started using the Insight Radiology mark for its business.[2]

On 6 June 2013, Insight Clinical lodged its opposition to Mr Pham’s application.

On 17 June 2013, Mr Pham’s company changed its name from AKP Radiology Services to Insight Radiology Pty Ltd.[3] Then, on 1 July 2013, Mr Pham sought to assign the trade mark application to his company.

Insight Clinical Imaging’s opposition was successful before the Office and Mr Pham’s company appealed unsuccessfully. In accordance with the trial judge’s orders, Mr Pham’s company then changed its name to Pham Global Pty Ltd and sought leave to appeal.

While leave was granted, the appeal was dismissed.

Who is the applicant

The trial judge found that the Insight Radiology mark was designed for, and used by, Mr Pham’s company. It even paid the designer.

Mr Pham, however, maintained that it had not been a mistake that the application was made in his name rather than the company’s. There was no evidence that Mr Pham ever actually licensed his company to use the trade mark. Moreover, Mr Pham’s explanation for why he decided to assign the application to his company – “I just did it” – was not accepted. He explicitly rejected the proposition that he made the assignment in response to Insight Clinical’s opposition to registration of the trade mark or that it was a result of a mistake.

Accordingly, her Honour held that Mr Pham was not the owner of the application when it was made, his company was. In line with the decisions in Mobileworld and Crazy Ron’s, however, her Honour found that the assignment of the application to the company before the trade mark was actually registered rectified the error.

On appeal, the Full Court noted that Mobileworld and Crazy Ron’s were both obiter on this point.

The Full Court then noted that longstanding precedent required that grounds of opposition were assessed at the date the application was filed. That meant that, where the ground of opposition was under s 58 that the applicant was not the owner of the trade mark,[4] the applicant when the application was filed had to be the owner of the trade mark. At [32], the Full Court said:

Once it is understood that the legislative scheme operates in the context of established principle that the alternative sources of ownership of a trade mark are authorship and use before filing an application for registration or the combination of authorship, filing of an application for registration and an intention to use or authorise use, the relationship between s 27 and ss 58 and 59 of the 1995 Act becomes apparent. The grounds of opposition in ss 58 and 59 reflect the requirements of s 27. Only a person claiming to be an owner may apply for registration. That claim may be justified at the time the application is made based on either alternative source of ownership. But if the claim is not justified at that time, ss 58 and/or 59 are available grounds of opposition. Moreover, if the applicant is not the owner of the mark at the time of the filing of the application, the assignment provisions in ss 106 – 111 do not assist because they authorise the assignment of the mark and thus pre-suppose, consistent with established principle, that the applicant owns the mark.

Well, it’s a nice simple rule; should be pretty straightforward to apply in practice shouldn’t it? Of course, it does mean that the law for trade marks is way out of step with the law for patents and registered designs, sections 22A and 138(3)(4).[5]

When time permits, I shall try to do a post on the new law of substantial identity.

Pham Global Pty Ltd v Insight Clinical Imaging Pty Ltd [2017] FCAFC 83 (Greenwood, Jagot and Beach JJ)


  1. It did not apply to register its trade mark until October 2012.  ?
  2. On 17 June 2013, Mr Pham caused AKP Radiology Consultants to change its name to Insight Radiology Pty Ltd. As a consequence of the first instance decision, however, the name of the company was changed again – to Pham Global Pty Ltd.  ?
  3. Mr Pham’s company also made a further application to register the words INSIGHT RADIOLOGY alone. Insight Clinical has also opposed it, but it appears to be stayed pending the outcome of the court case. (There was also an earlier application in 2008, TM Application No 1236945 for INSIGHT IMAGING / INSIGHT RADIOLOGY. This application was made by a Daniel Moses and a Jason Wenderoth, but lapsed after acceptance without ever becoming registered.)  ?
  4. The same principle applies under s 59, which was also in play.  ?
  5. Foster’s Australia Limited v Cash’s (Australia) Pty Ltd [2013] FCA 527.  ?

Not “hired to invent” so no entitlement – Merial v Intervet

In Australia, we are often told our US clients get title through the “work made for hire” or the “hired to invent” doctrines under US law. Intervet has failed in its attempt to rely on the latter doctrine in its unsuccessful attempt to patent a “soft chew” medicament for pets. Moshinsky J also accepted Merial’s opposition on grounds of lack of inventive step. This post will deal with the entitlement issue. Lack of inventive step case, based on the 2001 amendments, will be the subject of a later post.

Some background

In 2002, Intervet was part of the Akzo group. Most of its R & D activities were carried out at its plant in Delaware. However, a Ms Cady was based in New Jersey and had responsibility for developing formulations for commercialisation. She did not, however, have a laboratory. She had worked with a Mr Pieloch of Pharma Chemie to develop products before. Ms Cady engaged Pharma Chemie to develop a palatable “soft chew” dosage form for companion animals such as horses and dogs.

A formulation was developed. Intervet made a provisional application in the USA, naming a Mr Huron, Ms Cady and Mr Pieloch as inventors.[1] Like Ms Cady, Mr Huron was an employee of Intervet. When the PCT came to be filed on 13 August 2003, Mr Huron, Mr Pieloch and Ms Cady were named as the inventors.

Intervet’s in-house patent attorney sent a copy of the PCT specification to Mr Pieloch was a request to sign a declaration acknowledging that Intervet owned all the rights. Pharma Chemie and Mr Pieloch rejected the request, asserting through their lawyers:[2]

It is our client’s position that Pharma Chemie invented the soft chew technology as described in the above-referenced patent application in 1992, and continued its work on the technology through the 1990’s and into the new millenium [sic]. All of the work on this technology was completed prior to Pharma Chemie’s entry into the Manufacturing and Supply Agreement with Intervet in 2002. Pharma Chemie also invented the manufacturing procedure described in the patent application cited above, and provided Formax with this information well prior to its entry into the development agreement with Intervet in 2002.

Pharma Chemie is therefore the owner of the technology described in the above-referenced patent application, not Intervet. For this reason, Mr. Pieloch will not agree to sign the Declaration and Power of Attorney for this application. ….

Intervet made various attempts to prosecute the US application without Mr Pieloch’s signature. These did not progress, however, and the application in the USA ultimately lapsed. The Australian application, the subject of Merial’s opposition, was at least a divisional from the original PCT application.

Claim 1 of the patent application was for:

A soft chew formulation for oral administration comprising a pharmaceutical for control of a parasite of Equidae, Canidae, Felidae, Bovidae, Ovidae Capridae, or Suidae organisms in a soft chew formulation, a flavouring component, a starch component, a sugar component, an oil component and an emulsifying agent that acts as a forming agent, wherein the moisture content of the composition is between 5.0 and 7.5 percent wt, the soft chew formulation is formed by knockout and the soft chew formulation is not an extrudate.

Merial has lost its opposition to the application before the Commissioner and appealed to the Court. Both Mr Huron and Ms Cady had left Intervet by this time, and Ms Cady was one of the witnesses for Merial.

Entitlement

Section 15 requires that the grantee of a patent derive its title ultimately from all of the inventors. Although Intervet had identified Mr Pieloch as one of the three inventors, Merial’s opposition succeeded because Intervet could not claim title from Mr Pieloch whom Moshinsky J found was the sole inventor.

Moshinsky J accepted Mr Pieloch’s evidence that he had developed the technology used for Intervet’s product through his company, Pharma Chemie, before Ms Cady engaged Pharma Chemie to develop Intervet’s product. Pharma Chemie had used its own technology to make a “soft chew” which used Intervet’s additive. So, at least as claimed in Intervet’s application, Pharma Chemie was the inventor of the relevant technology.[3] Mr Pieloch was careful to eschew any claim to the specific product which embodied Intervet’s additive, but the claims were very much broader than that.

Intervet argued it was nonetheless entitled to the invention through an assignment in a Manufacturing and Supply Agreement under which Pharma Chemie developed the product. Alternatively, Intervet argued the assignment was implied under the US “hired to invent” doctrine.

Manufacturing and Supply Agreement

Intervet’s main problem with this argument was that it could not produce the agreement. Instead, it relied on evidence of other agreements with Pharma Chemie (after the event and relating to other projects) which did include express assignments and the importance to companies like Intervet of ensuring they had the rights to their products locked down.

Moshinsky J was not persuaded:

a) Mr Pieloch was adamant that Pharma Chemie had already developed the technology the subject of the application before the projects with Intervet and had even applied for a patent over it.

b) In re-examination, Mr Pieloch expressly denied that he had ever signed an assignment in the terms claimed by Intervet over the relevant technology (as opposed to the specific product using Intervet’s additives).

c) In 2003 in correspondence about the PCT application, Pharma Chemie’s lawyers had explicitly denied there was any such term and Intervet had not challenged that denial then or until the present proceedings.

d) If there had been such an express assignment, Intervet would have taken steps to keep it safe and secure and would have asserted it aginst Pharma Chemie when Pharma Chemie’s lawyers denied the assignment as long ago as 2003.

Hired to invent

Intervet next argued that US law implied a term to assign into the agreement by which Pharma Chemie developed the products for Intervet.

As foreign law, whether or not US law would in fact imply such a term was a question of fact to be determined on the evidence. Both Intervet and Merial advanced lawyers’ opinions on this question.

Both parties’ witnesses agreed that, under US law, a court could imply a term requiring an assignment. Intervet’s independent expert’s, a Mr Blackburn’s, evidence was that:

US law generally permits a court to imply a contract term in appropriate circumstances to handle developments and contractual gaps; one application of this principle is the “employed to invent” or “hired to invent” doctrine, which requires or obligates an inventor to assign an invention resulting from the development of a product that it was engaged to perform where the inventor was hired specifically to make the invention; while there is no binding precedent directly on point holding that a non-employee or independent contractor can be employed to invent or hired to invent, the reasoning of Standard Peeks and Dubilier suggest that the substance of the relationship between the parties and how the invention is made is the controlling factor.[4]

Merial’s expert, Mr Kowalski, contended that the case law relied on by Mr Blackburn applied only to the employer-employee relationship and did not extend to agreements with independent contractors.

Moshinsky J accepted that the cases relied on by Intervet dealt only with situations involving the employer-employee relationship, but his Honour was not satisfied that they were necessarily so limited. Moshinsky J had earlier noted that Mr Kowalski was Merial’s lawyer and had been involved in the preparation of Mr Pieloch’s affidavits for Merial. At [48(e)], his Honour considered that Mr Kowalski’s evidence at times appeared to be an exercise in advocacy and therefore generally preferred the evidence of Mr Blackburn where there were differences between them.

Having decided to proceed on the basis “that the “hired to invent” doctrine is capable of application notwithstanding that Pharma Chemie is a corporate entity and independent contractor rather than an employee”, Moshinsky J nonetheless held at [127] that no term to assign should be implied:

…. Mr Blackburn emphasised that what “controls” is the nature of the contractual relationship between the parties and how the invention was made; and that the critical fact is whether the contract specifically required the invention to be made. In the present case, I have found that Pharma Chemie was not engaged by Intervet Inc to develop a soft chew dosage form; it was engaged, rather, to incorporate Intervet Inc’s active ingredients into a formulation, using Pharma Chemie’s soft chew technology (see [89] above). Further, I have found that the Manufacturing and Supply Agreement referred to in Ms Marsh’s letter dated 16 September 2003 related to the development projects referred to in these reasons as the Horse Project and the Dog Project (see [75] above). It appears from the 16 September 2003 letter that the agreement contained (in paragraphs 1.4 and 9.3) express provisions relating to the assignment of intellectual property rights to Intervet Inc subject to prescribed conditions. In light of these express provisions, there is no room to imply a term (in this or any other agreement relating to the Horse Project or the Dog Project) requiring Pharma Chemie to assign to Intervet Inc any invention resulting from the projects. I have also found above that there was no response to the 16 September 2003 letter (see [80] above). If Intervet Inc had had a basis to contend that, contrary to the propositions set out in the letter, it acquired rights to an invention under the Manufacturing and Supply Agreement (or any other agreement) it is likely that it would have responded. This provides further support for the proposition that a term is not to be implied in the Manufacturing and Supply Agreement or any other agreement to the effect that Pharma Chemie was required to assign to Intervet Inc any invention resulting from the projects.

Accordingly, although the “hired to invent” doctrine could apply in principle, it did not apply on the facts.

It is worth contrasting the approach taken by Moshinsky J based on the application of US law to the arrangements between Intervet and Pharma Chemie with that applied in copyright by the Full Court in Enzed Holdings. In Enzed Holdings, the Full Court held that ownership of copyright in an artistic work in Australia fell to be determined according to Australian law. So, even though the artistic work in question was created in New Zealand, it was irrelevant that under New Zealand law ownership vested in the commissioning party not the author.[5] This approach would not have saved Intervet in this case, however, as the reasons Moshinshky J found to reject the “hired to invent” argument should lead to the same conclusion under Australian law.

Merial, Inc. v Intervet International B.V. (No 3) [2017] FCA 21


  1. By the time of the trial, both Mr Huron and Ms Cady worked for competitors of Intervet and gave evidence for Merial.  ?
  2. 16 September 2003 letter from Pharma Chemie’s lawyer to Intervet’s inhouse patent attorney.  ?
  3. Patents Act 1990 s 15.  ?
  4. Referring to Standard Parts Co v Peck, 264 US 52 (1924) and United States v Dubilier Condenser Corp, 289 US 178, 187 (1933).  ?
  5. In contrast to Enzed Holdings, the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals applied the law of the place where the work was made to determine entitlement to copyright in the USA in *Itar-Tass v Russian Kurier Inc (1998) 43 IPR 565.  ?

Assigning rights in future copyright – Bollywood style

Typically, a composer or lyricist who becomes a member of a performing right society (well, at least a performing right society in the British tradition) assigns the copyright insofar as it relates to “performing rights”[1] to the collecting society including all rights to Works they might make in the future.

Messrs Salim and Suleiman Merchant are apparently renowned composers of music for the soundtracks of Bollywood movies. In 1996 and 1998, respectively, they became members of the Performing Right Society, the PRS, the collecting society in the UK. As part of the terms of becoming members, they each agreed to assign to the PRS:

“absolutely for all parts of the world the rights which belong to you on the date of this Agreement or which you may acquire or own whilst you remain our member”.

However, in 2008, they signed up to compose the music for a film called Kurbaan. One of the terms of their contract with the producers, Dharma Productions Private Limited, was that all copyright in any music they wrote vested in Dharma Productions on creation.

Kurbaan was subsequently broadcast on B4U, apparently a broadcaster that specialises in all things Bollywood, including the Merchants’ music composed for the film. B4U refused to pay licence fees to the PRS.

B4U’s argued that the terms of the agreement with Dharma Productions meant that s 11 of the CDPA 1988[2] operated so that the Merchants never became the owner of any copyright in the Kurbaan music since it vested eo instanti on creation in Dharma Productions. Therefore, the Merchants never had any copyright in the music which could be assigned to the PRS.

Nice try!

The Court of Appeal said that the assignment to the PRS, being the first in time, took priority so s 91 of the CDPA[3] operated to assign the copyright to the PRS, on creation, and the Merchants had nothing to assign to Dharma.

Formally, the Court of Appeal focused on the wording in the PRS agreement that assigned any copyright that the composer may acquire while a member. Moses LJ treated this as sufficient to cover situations where, but for the agreement with Dharma Productions, the Merchants would have acquired copyright.

B4U Network (Europe) Limited v Performing Right Society Limited [2013] EWCA Civ 1236

Lid dip: Peter Clarke


  1. The APRA membership form defines these, with some exceptions, as the right to perform the work in public and to communicate it to the public.  ?
  2. Corresponding in effect to s 35(6) of our Act.  ?
  3. Corresponding to s 197 of our Act.  ?

A couple of other points from Insight on appeal

Following on from the earlier post, the Full Court did, however, dismiss ACER’s appeals against Besanko J’s rulings that:

  1. Dr Hart owned the copyright in the SOQH, even though it was created while he was employed by the Department of Education; and
  2. The assignment of the right to sue for past infringements was valid.[1]

The ruling on the right to sue for past infringements is particularly important as it is the first substantial appellate consideration of the question. It is all the stronger because it was executed some 2 years after the assignment of copyright but Besanko J and the Full Court found there was sufficient nexus with the copyright assignment to support its validity.

Insight SRC IP Holdings Pty Ltd v Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd [2013] FCAFC 62


  1. Bit more on the ownership, assignment and additional damages questions here. ?

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].  ?

Mediaquest v Registrar

It turns out that the Registrar does have power to undo an assignment of a registered trade mark that has been registered wrongly.

A Mr Brailsford was the registered owner of the Peel Away trade mark for paint stripping preparations, TM No. 741047. He died in 2008.

On 23 Setember 2010, trade mark attorney McInnes filed an application to register an assignment of the trade mark to Mediaquest.

On 8 October 2010, the Registrar registered the assignment and Mediaquest became the owner of TM No. 741047.

On 12 November 2010, trade mark attorney Wilson wrote to the Registrar complaining about the registration of the assignment without notification to him and challenging it. Mr Wilson was acting for Mr Brailsford’s heirs and had been the address for service entered in the Register when the application to register the assignment was lodged.[1]

On 22 November 2010, the Registrar wrote to Mr McInness stating that the documentation relied on to establish the assignment was inadequate and so the Registrar intended to cancel the registration of assignment pursuant to s 81. Mediaquest objected to this and pointed out, amongst other things, that it had withdrawn a pending non-use action once the assignement was registered.

Further correspondence took place and, in due course, a hearing at which the delegate concluded Mediaquest had not established its entitlement to be registered as the assignee. Mediaquest appealed.

On appeal, Emmett J held that:

1 Mediaquest was not entitled to an assignment; and
2 the Registrar did have power to cancel the registration of the assignment.

Ownership

Mediaquest claimed it had an assignment from CRT. Mr Brailsford was the president and a director of CRT. Mediaquest sought to argue that his registration of TM No 741047 in Australia was in breach of his duties to CRT as a director and consequently the trade mark belonged in equity to CRT and, as a result of an assignment from CRT to Mediaquest, to it.

It seems Mr Brailsford may well have coined the mark and used it in the USA. At one point, the US mark was owned by another of Mr Brailsford’s companies, Pilgrim. In November 1992, Pilgrim assigned all its rights to Mr Brailsford and, in August 1993, Mr Brailsford assigned all his (US)[2] rights to CRT. It was after this, in 1997, that Mr Brailsford applied to register what became TM No. 741047 in Australia in his own name. In 1998, CRT applied to register a patent in the UK, identifying Mr Brailsford as the inventor and claiming entitlement through agreement with him.[3]

Emmett J found Mr Brailsford was entitled to register TM No. 741047 in his own name:

  • CRT was clearly the owner of the US trade marks;
  • both Pilgrim and CRT were creatures of Mr Bailsford;
  • while CRT was incorporated in Jersey in the Channel Islands, there was no evidence that it had ever traded anywhere other than in the USA or the UK.

At [34]:

The contention advanced on behalf of Mediaquest is that Mr Brailsford acquired the opportunity to register the Peel Away Mark in Australia by reason of his being a director of CRT. However, that can only be an inference. The circumstance that Mr Brailsford had dealings with the Peel Away mark before CRT was incorporated gives rise to a contrary inference. That is to say, it does not necessarily follow that the opportunity of registering the Peel Away mark in Australia was one that came to Mr Brailsford by reason of his being a director of CRT. Rather, an inference is at least available, and may perhaps be more easily drawn, that CRT acquired whatever opportunity it had to exploit the Peel Away Mark, and associated technology and knowhow, because Mr Brailsford chose to make it available to CRT. (emphasis supplied)

In these circumstances, his Honour concluded at [36] that the opportunity to register the trade mark in Australia did not come Mr Brailsford’s way because of his role in CRT and so CRT was not entitled to the trade mark in equity.

Power to cancel

Section [88(2)(e)] provides a power to rectify the Register on the basis that an entry in the Register “was made, or has previously been amended, as a result of fraud, false suggestion or misrepresentation.” This power, however, is conferred on the Court, not the Registrar.

Emmett J noted that under s 109 and s 110 the Registrar only had power to register an assignment of a trade mark. Whether there had been a valid assignment was a jurisdictional fact and, if there had not been a valid assignment, there was no power to register the assignment. In such a case, therefore, the Registrar had power to cancel the erroneous entry. As a result at [54]:

There was no actual assignment of the Registered Mark to Mediaquest, either from Mr Brailsford or from his executors. Accordingly, the Registrar’s decision of 8 October 2010 to record the assignment in the Register was tainted by jurisdictional error and was no decision at all. It was therefore open to the Registrar to reconsider whether the duty imposed by s 110 had been enlivened, by revisiting the question of whether there was an actual assignment or transmission of the Registered Mark to Mediaquest. Having determined that there was no actual assignment or transmission, it was open to the Registrar to take steps to cancel the earlier action. There is nothing in the Act to indicate that a decision of the Registrar under Part 10 that was affected by jurisdictional error should continue to have legal effect. Indeed the considerations outlined above suggest the contrary.

In answer to Mediaquest’s concerns about the uncertainty this would give rise, Emmett J pointed out at [56] that:

the scheme of the Act is not proprietorship by registration but registration of proprietorship. Registration under the Act is only prima facie evidence of ownership, as is provided by s 210. The registered owner is always susceptible to action being taken under Part 8 to revoke a trade mark that should never have been registered, or to substitute the true owner of the trade mark for that of a wrongful claimant. True ownership of a trade mark is a defence to infringement proceedings brought under the Act.

That is, registration was only prima facie evidence of ownership. Accordingly, all registrations were subject to an inherent level of uncertainty.

One interesting aspect of his Honour’s approach is that it does not appear to be based on the power conferred by s 81. Rather, it seems to have a much more fundamental underpinning in “jurisdictional error”.

No doubt, there is a sense here that the Court is not interested in technicalities that would force all of these types of disputes to be brought before it rather than knocked on the head in the Office. One might wonder, however, why the Registrar does not require documentation signed by the assignor as well as the assignee in the first place. This may well become more of an issue with the recordal of security interests as the Registrar’s practice is apparently to allow an interest to be recorded by the person claiming to have taken out a security interest alone.

Mediaquest Communications LLC v Registrar of Trade Marks [2012] FCA 768


  1. At the moment, as a result of Emmett J’s decision, Mr Brailsford is shown as the owner, but (presumably) Mr McInnes’ firm is shown as the address for service.  ?
  2. It is not clear from the judgment whether the agreement was in terms limited expressly to the US rights or this is an inference from the limited rights then existing.  ?
  3. The nature of the agreement is not specified in the judgment.  ?

Ramifications of IceTV

Last February, Gordon J ruled that there was no copyright in White Pages subscriber listings and (perhaps more surprisingly) Yellow Pages listings. Now, Stone J has applied IceTV (here and here) to find that copyright did not subsist in medical records held by a range of general practitioners.

Primary Health Care (PHC) is a publicly listed company that has been buying up medical practices. As part of the purchase, the medical practitioner contracted to work at the new practice for a period. The vendor practice’s patient records consisting of (1) consultation notes, (2) prescriptions and (3) referral letters were transferred to the new PHC practice. PHC claimed deductions from its income tax for depreciation of the value of the copyright said to subsist in the patient records and the Commissioner disallowed the claim.

Stone J accepted that copyright subsisted in the sample patient referral letters written by the medical practitioners and one sample consultation note (the so called di Michiel patient 6), but rejected the claim to copyright in all the other sample patient records. Her Honour did note that her ruling was not a finding that copyright could never subsist in any patient records, only that it did not subsist in the particular samples addressed in the case.

The case could easily become a ready instructional tool for students and “new” intellectual property lawyers.

The consultation notes

Each practice maintained a file for each patient. The file usually consisted of a summary sheet which contained information such as the patient’s name, address, age, medicare number and, sometimes, important medical issues. This information was usually taken down by the receptionist or other clerical staff. In addition, there were cards, or sheets of paper, or in some cases electronic records containing a series of notes entered sequentially about each consultation with the patient.

All the notes recorded for di Michiel patient 6 were in fact made by Dr di Michiel himself. In the case of all the other samples tendered in evidence, however, the individual notes were made by different practitioners: sometimes the principal, sometimes an employee, sometimes a locum and sometimes another partner in the practice.

This led to PHC’s first problem.

Stone J held that the consultation notes where the entries were made at different times by different practitioners were not works of joint authorship. Her Honour did accept that that, at least in some cases, the consultation notes for each patient could be seen as a continuous narrative. They were not, however, the fruits of a collaborative effort in which the contributions of each author could not be distinguished. To the contrary, each individual contribution could be simply identified by looking at the different handwriting for each entry. (Hmm. I wonder what would happen if all the entries were made electronically and it was not possible to identify who made them?)

A first consequence of this conclusion was that large swathes of many of the consultation notes fell out of consideration as, following IceTV, (1) the person who had actually written them – the author – had not been identified and (2) nor was it established that those unidentified individual authors were “qualified persons” as defined in s 10(1).

The principals of the sample practices (well, some of them) were able to identify various individual entries in particular consultation notes that they had written. That, however, led to the second problem.

Some entries were simply listings of medical conditions. Three examples particularly relied on by PHC by 3 different doctors for 3 different patients were given in [127]:

(a) Triferne 28 Microgynon 20 C&N
(b) H/T, NIDDM, Asthma
(c) Hypertension, Uterine Fibroids, Pagets D, Lumbar Disc Deg

While these entries conveyed information, her Honour held that such clinical data and the names of particular medications did not originate with the doctor who recorded them.

Some were more developed – 3 further entries for 3 different patients:

7kg – growing well. On fresh milk and vitamins

Now c/o diarrhoea – possibly antibiotic induced …

Last 2/12 notices wheezy breathing if lies flat – associated with dry irritant cough – Says doesn’t feel SOB

These too “were not sufficiently substantial to qualify as works the product of independent intellectual effort directed at expression.” Stone J explained at [133]:

None of this denies the intellectual effort and professional skill needed to form the diagnoses, to select methods of treatment or to understand the significance of clinical data that is recorded, however, copyright protects a form of expression not this underlying expertise.

On the other hand, Dr di Michiel patient 6 record, which did constitute a continuous and single work as a whole, was an original work.

Sample prescriptions

The sample prescriptions [113]-[114] and summary notes were at [135] similarly too insubstantial to qualify “as original literary works embodying independent intellectual effort directed towards expression.”

A problem of assignment

A further problem for PHC was that only one of the sale  agreements included an express assignment of copyright. Stone J refused to infer an intention to assign the copyright, as distinct from the property in the physical record, from the sale of the medical practice as a going concern. It simply wasn’t necessary to infer such a term. The lack of such necessity was supported both by the fact that PHC did not claim copyright in third party documents forming part of the patients’ medical records, such as x-rays and letters from specialist consultants, and a consideration of how the records were in fact used after the sale.

No use of copyright

As to the second point, while PHC claimed that the copyright was used after the sale, most of the evidence was not consistent with this. In one case, her Honour accepted that the records had been transferred into a computerised database (and so the copyright was used) but, in the other cases, the most that could be said was that some information only had been used.

Primary Health Care Limited v Commissioner of Taxation [2010] FCA 419

Kookaburra gets the Vegemite sandwich

Jacobson J has upheld Larrikin’s claim to be the owner of copyright in Kookaburra sits in the Old Gum Tree,  which means, at least, that Larrikin has standing to sue Men at Work et al. for infringing copyright in that music.

Larrikin alleges that Men at Work’s Down Under (you know, unfurl the Boxing Kangaroo, declare a national holiday and have a beer with Bondy) infringes the copyright in “Kookaburra”.

The trial was supposed to start in June, but wasn’t ready so Jacobson J heard, as a preliminary question, Men at Work’s defence that Larrikin didn’t own the copyright.

How did this come about?

Margaret Sinclair wrote “Kookaburra” back in 1934 and submitted it into a competition being run by the Girl Guides for “A Singing Round with Music”. The published terms of the competition were:

RULES for ENTRY.
(a) The entrance fee for each entry in any of the Competitions to be 6d.
(b) A prize of 10/6 to be given to the winner of each section.
(c) The Competitions to be open to all enrolled members of the Guide Association in Australia.
(d) All matter entered to become the property of the Guide Association.
(e) The decision of the Judges to be final.
(f) All entries to be accompanied by the entrance fee of 6d. also name and address of entrants.
(g) All entries to be in by July 31st.

(my emphasis)

Miss Sinclair’s entry was the winner!

Larrikin, however, didn’t claim title from the Girl Guides. Rather:

  1. in 1987, shortly before her death, Miss Smith donated some manuscripts, including an adaptation of Kookaburra for violin, to the State Library in South Australia and there was an accompanying form which said all copyright “owned by me” in the deposited documents shall vest in the Library on my death; and
  2. by her will Miss Sinclair left to the Public Trustee in South Australia all her estate and assets.

Larrikin obtained assignments from first the Public Trustee (for the princely sum of $6,100 through public auction) and, later, the Library.

Jacobson J held that Men at Work hadn’t proved that Miss Sinclair assigned the copyright in Kookaburra to the Girl Guides back in 1934, so (although Men at Work argued the terms of the assignments were  defective for reasons which his Honour is not alone in having trouble following) one or other of the assignments from the Public Trustee or the Library did the job.

The first problem for Men at Work was that there was no assignment in writing to the Girl Guides with Miss Sinclair’s signature on it. There was a manuscript with her signature and initials, but that was equivocal; it might have just been to identify the manuscript as hers and not some other entrant in the competition.

Similarly, Jacobson J considered it was pure speculation to assume that there must have been a signed entry form. Miss Sinclair was closely involved in the Girl Guides movement and it could not simply be assumed that she had submitted a form – she was well-known to the Guides – or even that she was aware of the terms of the competition.

Further, Jacobson J considered that clause (d) set out above was insufficient to do the work of an assignment. It might have just referred to property in the manuscript. Afterall, when you buy a book from your local (or online) bookseller, you get ownership of the physical copy, not the copyright.

Finally, there was evidence of conduct after the competition which indicated to Jacobson J that Miss Sinclair had never intended to assign her copyright. For example, in 1934 and 1935 she had donated to the Guides royalty payments she received from sales of printed copies of Kookaburra. The Guides, in turn, had thanked her for her generous gifts. They also sought permission from her in later years to reprint the music.

Where does that leave the case?

Well, first, it is interesting that Men at Work had to prove the assignment to the Guides and not Larrikin having to disprove it. I suppose that is because Larrikin was relying on the assignments from the Public Trustee and the Library so Men at Work had the burden of showing those documents didn’t work.

Secondly, presumably, it is yet to be decided whether or not some part of Down Under does actually reproduce the whole or some substantial part of Kookaburra. That would have been part of the postponed trial.

Then, there will be the question – assuming infringement be established – of how damages or profits are payable and whether or not the “innocence” defences in 115(3) and 116(2) are available.

The terms of the assignments set out in the judgments don’t appear to include assignments of the right to sue for past infringements. However, the assignments themselves should be sufficient to cover the 6 years before the proceedings commenced.

Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited [2009] FCA 799

Lid dip: Peter Nicholas

A little bit of trivia: Men at Work, with Down Under, are one of 9 pop acts that have achieved simultaneous No. 1s in both the UK and USA, according to Wikipedia.

Wonder whether anyone from Men at Work will be appearing on Spicks and Specks now?

Assigning copyright and material breach reversions

The author’s of “songs” assigned their respective copyrights to Rive Droite with the latter having an obligation to pay royalties. The assignments included a clause providing that, if Rive Droite remained in material breach for x days after notice, the copyright reverted to the assignor. There was also one of those nice clauses that defined the assignee to include its successors and assigns.

Rive Droite assigned the copyright to Crosstown.

Disputes arose, however, about non-payment of royalties by Rive Droite.

The author assignors gave notice of material breach and Mann J (in the Chancery Division) upheld the automatic reversion of the copyright to them.

Crosstown Music Company v Rive Droite Music Ltd and others [2009] EWHC 600 (Ch) – lid dip IPKat who notes the impact of the reversion clause on the separate and independent national copyrights.