Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

How much did Bugatchi get Bugatti-ed?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Last October, Tracey J found that Shine Forever had infringed Bugatti’s registered trade mark (for BUGATTI) by selling clothing and accessories under the trade mark BUGATCHI and BUGATCHI UOMO. Now Tracey J has ordered that Shine Forever pay Bugatti $551,159.39 plus costs on an indemnity basis.

Apart from the magnitude of the amount, the decision illustrates the onus the court places on an infringer, once found to infringe, and the latitude afforded a trade mark owner confronted by a recalcitrant infringer.

In addition to an injunction to stop the infringing conduct, like most intellectual property statutes, the relief one can get for infringement of a registered trade mark includes damages or, at the trade mark owner’s option, an account of profits.[1]

To assist Bugatti in choosing between these two options, Shine Forever was ordered to provide an affidavit deposing to how many goods it had sold bearing the infringing trade mark, the price(s) they were sold for, the costs incurred in acquiring and selling the goods and the estimated profit it made.

Shine Forever was dilatory in complying with this order and there were serious doubts about the genuineness of its compliance. For example, it was claimed in Shine Forever’s “election” affidavit that the total sales were $198,407.39 worth of goods “through the BUGATCHI UOMO branded store” while total outgoings were $157,680 so that, after adjustments, there had in effect been no profit. However, in the course of the liability proceedings, Shine Forever had filed a profit and loss statement for the first 8 months of the infringing period showing total sales of $370,440.10. This profit and loss statement had been audited and certified by Shine Forever’s external accountants.

Shine Forever did not seek to explain the disparity between these two sets of figures. In fact, it failed to turn up to the hearing for the account at all.

Bugatti pointed out that the audited figures for only 8 months of the 24 month period of infringement far exceeded the amount admitted for the whole period in the “election” affidavit. The audited figures showed sales of $46,000 per month. If it were assumed that Shine Forever continued to make sales of $46,000 per month for the whole infringing period, total sales would have been $1,129,440.10. Bugatti then applied a series of assumptions and discounts, including using the costs estimated in the “election” affidavit (not the certified profit and loss statement) to arrive at the figure $551,159.39.

Tracey J recognised that Bugatti’s approach was far from ideal, but was prepared to adopt it as the best available course given the limited and imperfect information available – information which only Shine Forever could supply and which it had manifestly failed to do:

20 This process of calculation is far from ideal. It is beset by many difficulties. These include the need to make assumptions because business records which should have been produced by Shine Forever, pursuant to Court order, were not provided. Of particular concern is that …. This concern is alleviated, to some extent, by the applicant’s willingness to make a number of allowances in Shine Forever’s favour in other aspects of the calculations. ….

21 The evidence before the Court does not enable me to determine, with precision, the actual profit which Shine Forever derived from its infringement of the applicant’s marks. It is to be borne in mind that the difficulties to which I have adverted have, in large measure, been created by the failure of Shine Forever to comply with the Court’s orders and its failure to appear and make submissions on the amount to be awarded as an account of profits. The applicant should not be prejudiced by these failures.

22 The applicant has proposed a plausible method of calculating sales revenue during the relevant period by assuming that the average monthly sales figure in the first eight months of the period continued for the next 16 and a half months. In the absence of audited figures for the latter period this approach is not unreasonable and may be regarded as the best available option. Once the sales revenue figure was established, Shine Forever bore the burden of persuading the Court, by evidence, what costs should properly be deducted in order to determine the profit which it made from selling clothing and accessories bearing the infringing marks. This, Shine Forever has manifestly failed to do. ….

His Honour then awarded Bugatti its costs on an indemnity basis because of Shine Forever’s dismal failure to comply with its obligations to the Court.

Bugatti GmbH v Shine Forever Men Pty Ltd (No 2) [2014] FCA 171


  1. The two are alternatives: damages compensate the trade mark owner for the loss it has suffered as a result of the infringement; an account of profits strips the infringer of the profits it has made by reason of the infringement.  ?
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Software patents in the USA

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument on the question of the patentability of Alice Corporation’s software system for a method of payment, in denying the validity of which 10 judges of the Federal Circuit famously came up with 7 different opinions.

Several patents and claims are in issue, all relating to a computerized trading platform used for conducting financial transactions in which a third party settles obligations between a first and a second party so as to eliminate “counterparty” or “settlement” risk.

The question presented:

Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions-including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture-are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 101 as interpreted by this Court?

As petitioner, the patentee (Alice Corp) will argue first. Respondent’s time will be split between CLS Bank and the US Government who has filed an amicus brief highlighting a misguided argument that “the abstract idea exception is patent law’s sole mechanism for excluding claims directed to manipulation of non-technological concepts and relationships.”

Transcript here. Some extracts here

One interesting point: the questioning of the advocates about which of the competing options proposed by the amici they preferred as solutions to the issue.

Summary of briefs with links to the briefs

Washington Post preview

Our own battles in this front are still proceeding with a decision awaited in the Research Affiliates appeal and RPL Central.

Meanwhile the USPTO has issued revised guidelines: 2014 Procedure For Subject Matter Eligibility Analysis Of Claims Reciting Or Involving
Laws Of Nature/Natural Principles, Natural Phenomena, And/Or Natural Products
.

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Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2014

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

After the consultation, the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2014 has been introduced.

  • Schedules 1 and 2 aim to implement the TRIPS Protocol:

    According to the EM:

    Under the new scheme, Australian laboratories will be able to apply to the Federal Court for a compulsory licence to manufacture generic versions of patented medicines under specific conditions, and export these medicines to developing countries. Adequate compensation for the patent holder will be negotiated, to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by the arrangements.

    Schedule 1 introduces provisions to implement the “interim waiver” agreed in the Doha Declaration 2001; Schedule 2 implements the TRIPS Protocol regime agreed in 2003 (or, I think, 2005).

    According to the EM, only one licence has been issued under these regimes – Canada in 2007. Apparently, Canadian generics would like to engage in further licensing, but the procedures are too complicated. Also, Least Developed Countries do not need to provide patent protection until 2016 and there is said to be a lack of awareness of the regime.[1]

  • Schedule 3 confers jurisdiction over plant breeder’s rights matters on the Federal Circuit Court (in addition to the Federal Court)
  • Schedule 4:
    • introduces the “single examination” model for patent applications in Australia and New Zealand;[2]
    • the single regulatory regime for patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys in both countries – the so-called trans-Tasman regulatory regime; and
    • provides for a single address for service in either Australia or New Zealand to be used under the patents, trade marks, registered designs and plant breeder’s rights legislation.
  • Schedule 5 is headed “Technical Amendments” which include repealing “unnecessary document retention provisions” and addressing “minor oversights in the drafting of” the Raising the Bar Act. These include:
    • amending s 29A so that an international applicant under the PCT cannot require anything to be done in Australia until the application enters the national phase;
    • amending s 29B so that only the prescribed period under s 38(1A) applies to Paris Convention applications;
    • amending ss 41 and 43 in relation to disclosure requirements for micro-organism inventions
    • amending s 43 to permit reference to the combination of prescribed documents, not just to individual prescribed documents alone
    • the defence in s 119(3)(b) will be amended to bring it into line with the amended form of s 24(1)(a)
    • amending s 191A so that the requirement for the Commissioner to hear both parties prescribed in s 191A(4) applies only in entitlement disputes.

Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2014

Explanatory memorandum


  1. The Regulatory Impact Statement included in the EM estimates that 63 in-house legal professionals and 128 patent attorneys in external firms will need to familiarise themselves with these changes for a total start up cost to business of $13,782.60 and an ongoing annual cost of $105. These costs include allowance for savings in legal costs because it will be possible to bring proceedings for infringement of plant breeder’s rights in the Federal Circuit Court, rather than the Federal Court. Perhaps confusing costs with earnings, the Regulatory Impact Statement relies on the ABS Employee Earnings and Hours Survey to estimate the average cost of patent and trade mark attorneys as $50 per hour (junior solicitors $60 per hour, IP attorneys $74.10 per hour and barristers $92.70 per hour, after including a 50% loading for overheads). The Statement does recognise that charge out rates “for lega”for legal professionals can range from $120 per hour to $800 per hour or more, viewed on 4 December 2013 at http://www.legallawyers.com.au/legal-topics/law-firm-sydney/solicitor-prices/. These costs do not reflect the opportunity cost of labour.” You may also be interested to know that the Regulatory Impact Statement estimates the costs of an application to the Federal Court for a licence at around $21,650 for the applicant.  ?
  2. The substance of the two countries’ respective patent laws is not being harmonised (yet).  ?
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An oro stamp and cinque stelle (or maybe not)

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

The Full Federal Court found that Cantarella Bros’ trade mark registrations for ORO and CINQUE STELLE, being “gold” and “five stars” in Italian, lacked any inherent capacity to distinguish coffee in Australia.

Last Friday, 14 March, the High Court granted Cantarella special leave to appeal from that decision.

From the transcript, it appears that neither side disputes the basic test to be applied:

[T]he question whether a mark is adapted to distinguish [is to] be tested by reference to the likelihood that other persons, trading in goods of the relevant kind and being actuated only by proper motives - in the exercise, that is to say, of the common right of the public to make honest use of words forming part of the common heritage, for the sake of the signification which they ordinarily possess - will think of the word and want to use it in connexion with similar goods in any manner which would infringe a registered trade mark granted in respect of it.

Canatarella’s complaint seems to be that the Full Court found the words lacked capacity to distinguish even though it did not overturn the trial judge’s finding that the words had no meaning to the general public. That is, the question seems to be in applying that test, particularly in the context of foreign language words, must the word(s) have a descriptive meaning to the consuming public (as opposed to the traders in the goods).

  1. Cantarella Bros Pty Limited  v Modena Trading Pty Limited (S202/2013)

Transcript of special leave application here.

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Trade mark excellence

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

“Dental Excellence” vs “south perth dental excellence”

A rare case of IP in a court other than the federal courts. Guess who didn’t win?

Dr Agapitos has operated a dental surgery under the name Dental Excellence from Mt Hawthorn in Perth since 2002. In (or from) 2010, he secured registration, TM No. 1388792, for Dental Excellence in respect of “dentistry” in class 44. The provisions of s 41(5) were applied.

Dr Habibi had 3 dental practices in various parts of Perth. Then in 2007, she bought from Dr McNeil his dental practice in South Perth, McNeil’s Dental Care, which promoted its services with the slogan (or tag or strap line) ‘Excellence in Dental Care’. In 2010, when Dr Habibi was updating the signage at the South Perth practice, she changed the name to South Perth Dental Excellence. It was accepted on both sides that Dr Habibi did not know of Dr Agapitos’ practice when she settled on her name. (According to Google Maps, they are about 12.5km apart or somewhere between 13 and 20 minutes drive.)

Dr Agapitos took umbrage and sued for infringement of his trade mark. Dr Habibi counter-claimed for revocation on the basis that “Dental Excellence” wasn’t capable of distinguishing “dentristy”.

Le Miere J applied the standard test from Clark Equipment Co v Registrar of Trade Marks:

The applicant’s chance of success in this respect (i.e. in distinguishing his goods by means of the mark, apart from the effects of registration) must, I think, largely depend upon whether other traders are likely, in the ordinary course of their businesses and without any improper motive, to desire to use the same mark, or some mark nearly resembling it, upon or in connexion with their own goods.

to find that Dental Excellence lacked any capacity to distinguish. So at [39] his Honour said:

other service providers are likely, without any improper motive, to desire to use the words ‘dental excellence’ in connection with their own services. An honest dentist may want to use the word ‘excellence’ on or in connection with ‘dental’ to indicate, or at least claim, that they provide dental services of a superior quality. ‘Dental Excellence’ may not be words which are commonly used by somebody outside the calling of dentistry but that is not the point. The point is that a dentist may well want to use the words ‘dental excellence’ to identify the services they provide and the quality of those services. The name ‘dental excellence’ at the date of filing had a sensible meaning that was descriptive of the plaintiff’s designated services. The name was apt to describe the provision of dental services of superior quality.

What is more, there was evidence that other dentists did in fact use the phrase in relation to their businesses.

Dr Agapitos could not save his registration on the basis of acquired distinctiveness under s 41(6). He put on the usual types of evidence of advertising and promotion. There was also evidence from 3 customers and a dental nurse who had gone to Dr Habibi’s practice by mistake. There was also some evidence of “licensing” of practices in other states, albeit the licences were created some two years after the trade mark was applied for. Jacobs J’s warning from British Sugar about use not equalling reputation was applied: in this case, the evidence of use, by what appears to have been a suburban dental practice, was too slight to overcome the evidence of other users.

Le Miere J finished off by (perhaps surprisingly[1]) finding that Dr Habibi did not use “dental excellence” as a trade mark and so s 120 was not infringed. In any event, she had adopted her sign in good faith and so qualified for the defence under s 122(1)(b).

The CJEU on the revocation of a trade mark on the basis that it no longer distinguishes the relevant goods or services (genericide) – Kornspitz. Of course, they do things differently in America: Living Proof is apparently distinctive, but Perfect Hair Day is not.[2]

Agapitos v Habibi [2014] WASC 47 (Le Miere J)


  1. Compare cheezy twists in Aldi v Frito-Lay.  ?
  2. Well, we do have Sheer Relief and, of course, Tub Happy.  ?
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The (online) price of things in Australia

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Last year, a Parliamentary Committee discovered that Australians pay much higher prices for software and other technology than consumers in other countries.[1]

Now (well, last month), the Fairfax media claimed that Australians are paying much higher prices  for fashion from overseas chains than they charge in their online stores too. Apparently, up to 35% more – although, looking at the unit prices, I wonder if that is before or after postage or delivery has been included.


  1. The [Copyright Society of Australia][csa] held a seminar on the report, the transcripts of which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Copyright Reporter.  ?
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The statutory right to terminate a patent licence

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Section 145 provides the licensee of a patent with a statutory right to terminate the licence on 3 months’ written notice after the patent has expired. What happens, however, if more than one patent has been licensed?

MPEG LA is the patent pool vehicle which licenses the essential patents for the production of DVDs, DVD players and some other video codecs.[1] It granted a licence of a number of patents to Regency Media. In June 2012, after some, but not all, of the patents had expired, Regency Media sent a notice seeking to exercise its right to terminate under s 145. By the trial, some other patents had expired, but some of those licensed were still extant.

Section 145 provides:

Termination of contract after patent ceases to be in force

 (1)  A contract relating to the lease of, or a licence to exploit, a patented invention may be terminated by either party, on giving 3 months’ notice in writing to the other party, at any time after the patent, or all the patents, by which the invention was protected at the time the contract was made, have ceased to be in force.

(2)  Subsection (1) applies despite anything to the contrary in that contract or in any other contract.

The short answer: according to Flick J it appears the licensee has to wait until all the licensed patents have expired before the licensee can exercise the right under s 145.

A bit longer answer: Acknowledging the force of Regency Media’s argument that each patent could be described as being for a patented invention (a term not otherwise defined in the Act), Flick J accepted MPEG LA’s argument. According to MPEG LA, the licence granted rights over three groups of technologies:

  • the MPEG–2 Decoding Products;
  • the MPEG–2 Encoding Products; and
  • the MPEG–2 Packaged Medium,

each of which groups constituted a patented invention for the purposes of s 145 and so s 145 could not be triggered until all had expired.

At [40], Flick J appears to arrive at this conclusion because each of the three groups constituted a “manner of manufacture” in the NRDC sense irrespective of how many patents fell within the particular group. His Honour also thought s 145 was drafted before modern licensing administrators came on to the scene and so may well be inaptly worded to deal with such creatures. However, his Honour considered at [43]:

A court, should be slow to prefer a construction which would permit the termination of an agreement in respect to patents which have not ceased to be in force and which would deny to a patent holder the benefit of the payment of royalties in amounts that have been the subject of agreement. Section 145 manifestly does not permit a contract to be terminated where “all of the patents, by which the invention [is] protected” have not ceased to be in force.

MPEG LA, L.L.C. v Regency Media Pty Ltd [2014] FCA 180


  1. A modern day American antitrust miracle: the official version; Wikipedia’s version.  ?
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Nappyland, Nappy Land and napplyland.com.au

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Flick J has provided a timely reminder that a registered trade mark does not always trump common law rights in passing off or under the Australian Consumer Law, in finding that Nappy Land and nappyland.com.au passed off Nappyland’s rights in NSW.

Mr Ngo and Mr Ho (through his company Powerware) started off in business together in 1997 as Nappy Land in New South Wales. Mr Ho also incorporated National Australian Nappies in 1997.  Mr Ngo and Mr Ho fell out in 1999 and Mr Ngo seems to have bought out Mr Ho’s share in Nappy Land when Mr Ngo and his wife became the owners of the business name in NSW. They appear to have carried on the business in NSW through his company CI JI Family. At some point, CI JI Family started using the following (unregistered) trade mark:

get_tmi_image-1.pl

By late 2000, Mr Ho through National Australian Nappies had registered Nappy Land as a business name in Victoria and appears to have been trading throughout Australia except NSW. From February 2002, National Australian Nappies secured registration of TM 902900

get_tmi_image.pl

It seems like Mr Ngo and Mr Ho had very different views about who bought what when their partnership came to an end. Be that as it may, there doesn’t appear to have been any real dispute that Mr Ngo and CI JI Family were operating throughout the period in NSW as effectively Nappyland or that National Australian Nappies was operating outside NSW as Nappy Land.

At some point, it appears in or about 2013, however, National Australian Nappies, started attempting to enter the market in NSW. CI JI Family and Mr Ngo sued seeking interlocutory relief, but secured a speedy trial instead.

National Australian Nappies and Mr Ho sought to rely on their registered trade mark to fend off the action on the basis that s 20 of the Trade Marks Act confers on the owner the exclusive right to use the trade mark as a trade mark in Australia for the relevant goods/services. (Section 122(1)(e) also provides a defence to trade mark infringement.) However, s 238 s 230 (of course; thanks: Tim Golder) provides:

Passing off actions

             (1)  Except as provided in subsection (2), this Act does not affect the law relating to passing off.

             (2)  In an action for passing off arising out of the use by the defendant of a registered trade mark:

                     (a)  of which he or she is the registered owner or an authorised user; and

                     (b)  that is substantially identical with, or deceptively similar to, the trade mark of the plaintiff;

damages may not be awarded against the defendant if the defendant satisfies the court:

                     (c)  that, at the time when the defendant began to use the trade mark, he or she was unaware, and had no reasonable means of finding out, that the trade mark of the plaintiff was in use; and

                     (d)  that, when the defendant became aware of the existence and nature of the plaintiff’s trade mark, he or she immediately ceased to use the trade mark in relation to the goods or services in relation to which it was used by the plaintiff.

The fact of the trade mark registration therefore provided no protection against either the passing off or ACL claim. Despite aspects of the evidence being less than satisfactory, Flick J held there was sufficient evidence that the public in NSW was being misled or deceived and so s 18 of the Australian Consumer Law was contravened and there was a passing off.

His Honour went on to award damages of $25,000 as an exercise in “judicial estimation” rather than impermissible “imagination” with further orders to be decided at a later hearing. Presumably, unless bought out, CI JI Family will seek injunctions to stop further use in NSW of Nappy Land unless some form of disclaimer can be arrived out which prevents the misrepresentation. We shall have to wait and see.

CI JI Family Pty Limited v National Australian Nappies (NAN) Pty Limited [2014] FCA 79

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Attorney-General on copyright reform DownUnder

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Yesterday, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, who has portfolio responsibility for copyright in Australia, gave an important speech at the opening of the Australian Digital Alliance forum.

Some things that caught my eye:

The Copyright Act is overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic.

Can’t argue with that: s 195AZGF or s 135ZZZZA, anyone? So, we are going to embark on a process to reform copyright. Bearing in mind that the ALRC has just had its report tabled:

I remain to be persuaded that [adopting 'fair use'] is the best direction for Australian law, but nevertheless I will bring an open and inquiring mind to the debate.

and

First, when this process is finished, and it will be a through and exhaustive exercise in law reform, the Copyright Act, will be shorter, simpler and easier to use and understand.

Secondly, the Act will be technology neutral – no more amusing references to videotapes as we find in current section 110AA.

Thirdly, we will pay careful regard to the broader international legal and economic context ….

In carrying out this work:

The challenge for us today is how to balance the benefits for creators against a range of other public interests including the interests of users, educators and other important public goods.

….

Nonetheless, the fundamental purpose of copyright remains unchanged – to ensure that those who take on the risks of creation are appropriately rewarded for their abilities and efforts.

On the subject of online piracy:

the High Court’s decision of 2012 in the iiNet casechanged the position. The Government will be considering possible mechanisms to provide a ‘legal incentive’ for an internet service provider to cooperate with copyright owners in preventing infringement on their systems and networks.

Options the Attorney identified for fixing this include ‘graduated response’, third party injunctions against ISPs or maybe just facilitating self-regulation.

Read the Attorney General’s speech in full.

Lid dip: Peter Clarke

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Securities over IP

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

IP Australia has published a reminder:

The transitional period to register any securities (charges, mortgages etc.) you may have taken out over IP ( registered trade marks, patents, designs etc.) on the Personal Property Securities Register expires on 31 January 2014.

The Personal Properties Security Register is a national register of claims to security interests over personal property (which includes our imaginary subject matters) in essence to provide a one stop shop for notice about such claims.

If you (or your client) has taken out a security over someone else’ intellectual property or where the other person’s intellectual property is being used as collateral for repayment, the security should be registered on the Personal Property Securities Register. In very broad terms: if the security isn’t registered in the Personal Property Securities Register, its claim to priority over any later security or even enforceability could be lost.

IP Australia’s warning points out that it is not enough to have registered the security interest in a register of IP such as the Trade Marks Register, the Patents Register, the Register of Designs or the Register of PBR. These registrations will not be transferred automatically to the Personal Property Securities Register. Morever, registration of the security interest on one or more of those IP Registers will not take priority over a later registration on the Personal Property Securities Register.

So, if you or your client have taken out such a security and haven’t registered it in the Personal Property Securities Register yet, ‘hurry, hurry, hurry; quick, quick, quick’ (with apologies to Alexis Jordan).

Although IP Australia’s warning relates specifically to the registered IP it administers, the legislation also applies to unregistered IP such as copyright.

IP Australia’s media release.

IP Australia’s general overview of PPS

PPS R.

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