Copyright And Computer Software

McDougall J, in the New South Wales Supreme Court, has dismissed mployeeIFY’s claims that 3DSafety infringed copyright in the “look and feel” or structure of EIFY’s website. If you are preparing terms and conditions for website use, you should read that part of his Honour’s decision too.

Amongst other things, EIFY provides web-based induction services for construction sites. Apparently, before a new employee or contractor can enter a building site and start work, he or she must undergo an induction process and pass certain tests. Historically, these induction processes were conducted “face to face” when the employee or contractor arrived on site for the first time. EIFY developed a web-based service for people to work through before they attended on site. The service included online tests to ensure that the worker had assimilated the required knowledge.

In 2011, EIFY and 3DSafety entered into a joint venture to integrate their respective systems. The joint venture vehicle was “Group”. However, the joint venture fell over fairly quickly and apart from some work for existing clients was inactive.

3DSafety subsequently secured contracts to provide web-based induction processes for Thiess and Mirvac. EIFY had evidence that at least two of the principals of 3DSafety had accessed sites prepared by EIFY repeatedly during the design process for the resulting websites. EIFY sued 3DSafety and those principals for breach of confidential information, breach of contract (the terms on which a browser was permitted to access EIFY’s website) and copyright infringement.

The copyright claims

In the end, EIFY claimed copyright in 5 types or categories of works in 8 different versions of its system:

  1. the structure or sequence or organisation of each System;
  2. the layout, format and “look” of the web pages implementing the System;
  3. the source code for the web pages;
  4. the object code for the web pages; and
  5. 34 images reproduced on 3DSafety’s websites for Thiess and Mirvac.

In the result, each claim failed.

Source code and object code

EIFY’s claims failed because there was no attempt in its evidence to compare the source code, or the object code, in the 3DSafety product to any version of EIFY’s product. There was also no evidence that 3DSafety ever had access to the source code or object code for any of the EIFY products.

At [410], McDougall J explained:

The high point of the evidence is an assertion by Professor Braun that “[i]n cases where the screens are very similar, the underlying Object Code in the Video RAM is also very similar”. Even assuming the requisite degree of similarity (and Professor Braun’s evidence, to the extent it was admitted, does not prove this), it does not follow that the object code underlying the screens in the 3D Safety online induction system (or any other functional part of that system) results from any act that could constitute an infringement of any copyright that subsists in the object code underlying the screens in any versions of the e-Induct System.

Seventeen years into the 21st century, if you want to prove infringement of the copyright in a computer program, you really do need to compare the code said to infringe to the code you are claiming copyright in.[1]

The structure, sequence or organisation of the EIFY System

McDougall J understood this to be a claim to copyright in the EIFY System as identified in paragraph 33AB of EIFY’s pleading which defined that structure in the following terms:

33AB The plaintiff’s expression of the Concept is by means of the following structure (or sequence or organisation):

(a) the preparation of a data base structure to cater to the requirements of the system;

(b) the creation of a system of modules and elements written in computer code to produce object code which creates the user interface in the appropriate sequence for the logical process;

(c) the inclusion in the user interface of digitized images to either provide information to the user for the particular stage of the induction process or to illustrate or enhance the induction procedure;

(d) a user registration process by the user entering personal information into a web interface backended by a data base to store the information, to link the employee to an employer;

(e) the acquisition of an access code (token) by the user or their employer;

(f) the collection of data and other information particular to the user as required for access to the workplace site to which the induction refers;

(g) the validation of the user’s ability to undertake the induction by verifying the existence of a pre-existing access code (token) and verification of the user’s identity;

(h) the commencement of the induction process once the token or access code is verified;

(i) a two factor authentication to confirm the user’s identity, via text message to a mobile phone or mobile device;

(j) the inclusion of user selectable actions to permit the user to move through the induction process and voiceover with relevant controls;

(k) the inclusion of safeguards at each stage of the induction process to ensure the user has correctly assessed the information, risks and requirements of each stage of the induction process, and to prohibit the user moving forward from one stage to the next without successfully completing a prior stage; and

(l) a final result screen to illustrate the final result of the induction procedure undertaken by the user, and including an option such as printing out a certificate or induction card

As with novels, plays and films, McDougall J accepted that “textual” infringement was not the only way copyright could be infringed. At [412], his Honour cited Arnold J’s decision in SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd [2010] EWHC 1829 (Ch) to that effect:

…. I accept that copyright protection is not limited to the text of the source code of the program, but extends to protecting the design of the program, that is, what has been referred to in some cases as its “structure, sequence and organisation”. …. But there is a distinction between protecting the design of the program and protecting its functionality. It is perfectly possible to create a computer program which replicates the functionality of an existing program, yet whose design is quite different.

McDougall J also accepted that the application of the “structure, sequence, organisation” approach poses particular problems in the context of computer programs because it was perfectly possible to emulate the functionality of a computer program, even its ease of use, without copying (or even access) to the underlying code.[2] His Honour accepted Jacob LJ’s summation in Nova Productions Ltd v Mazooma Games Ltd [2007] EWCA Civ 219 at [52]:

Pumfrey J in Navitaire was quite right to say that merely making a program which will emulate another but which in no way involves copying the program code or any of the program’s graphics is legitimate.

In the absence of analysis of the code, McDougall J concluded that EIFY’s case confused the functionality of the respective programs with the protectable elements of the design of EIFY’s software. At [423], McDougall J said:

Returning to the distinction that Arnold J drew in SAS Institute at [232][110] , 3D Safety’s online induction programs for Thiess and Mirvac may well have replicated the functionality of EIFY’s existing online induction program. It does not follow that 3D Safety has thereby copied the design of EIFY’s program, and such other evidence as there is does not prove copying of design as opposed to replication of functionality.

One might add, if one turns to the definition of “computer program” in the Copyright Act 1968:

“computer program ” means a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result.

it would seem to follow that one should be comparing the structure, sequence and organisation of the set of statements or instructions constituting the program.

“look and feel”

McDougall J noted there was already Australian authority rejecting protectability of the “look and feel” of a computer program.[3]

EIFY, however, argued that American case law provided for such protection and so StatusCard should not be followed. McDougall J rejected this submission for two reasons.

First, at [428] – [429] McDougall J pointed out that the US Copyright Act defined copyright subject matter differently to the approach taken in the Australian Act. Under the Australian Act, s 31 requires identification of something which fits within the specific category of a “literary work” – the pigeonhole approach. §102 of the US Act, however, defines copyright subject matter inclusively, not exhaustively.

Secondly, McDougall J pointed out at [430] that cases in the US subsequent to Whelan v Jaslow had questioned, or even refused to accept, that copyright extended to the “look and feel” of a program.

Turning to EIFY’s case, McDougall J held at [431] – [432] that the “Structure” of its System as defined was not itself a literary work. Further, its case impermissibly sought to conflate the “structure, sequence or organisation” of the System with those elements of the underlying program. Accordingly, this part of EIFY’s case failed too.

The 34 Images

There doesn’t seem to have been much debate that the 34 images in question were copies of the images EIFY claimed copyright in. The problem was that EIFY did not own copyright in the images.

It turned out that the original images had been created either by Group or by an entity called Clearsite, for Mirvac when Group was operating and had a contract to create a web-based induction service for a Mirvac site. Group of course was not EIFY, being the failed joint venture vehicle.

The evidence showed that employees of Clearsite had created a number of the images in question. Clearsite had been commissioned to create the images by Group, not EIFY, had invoiced Group and had been paid by Group.

Clearsite did execute an assignment of its copyright to EIFY. This did not help for two reasons.

First, at [446] – [448] the terms of the assignment defined the intellectual property assigned as the intellectual property resulting from the provision of consultancy services by Clearsite to EIFY. The images in question, however, had been created in the course of providing consultancy services to Group, not EIFY.

Secondly, the assignment was made on 14 May 2015. The allegedly infringing use of the images took place before that date. The assignment, however, did not include an assignment of the rights to sue for past infringements.

There may be a short post on a couple of points arising from the dispute over the “terms of use” later in the week.

 

EIFY Systems Pty Ltd v 3D Safety Services Pty Ltd [2017] NSWSC 1310 (McDougall J)


    1. There are now more recent cases, but really you can’t go past Ibcos Computers Limited v Barclays Mercantile Highland Finance Limited [1994] FSR 275; 29 IPR 25 for a comprehensive tutorial on proving ownership, copying and substantial part.  ?
  1. At [414 – [420] citing in particular Navitaire Inc v Easyjet Airline Co [2004] EWHC 1725 (Pumfrey J).  ?
  2. Referring to StatusCard Australia Pty Ltd v Rotondo [2009] 1 Qd R 599 at [87].  ?

My Angel is a …*

Rares J has ordered that Centrefold Entertainment’s trade mark registration for CENTREFOLD, No 1695466, be expunged from the Register on the grounds that it is not capable of distinguishing “Entertainment’s” services.

Both Entertainment and Metro are in the business of providing “promo models” and adult entertainment services.[1] Metro promoted its services under the sign “Centrefold Strippers”. Having secured its registration for CENTREFOLD, Entertainment sued Metro for infringement. Things did not turn out how it hoped!

Entertainment argued that CENTREFOLD was a “covert and skilful allusion to its services, not descriptive of them.” It argued that the ordinary meaning of the word was of a person or the particular pages in particular types of magazine.

Rares J rejected this argument on the grounds that the word registered was a “noun” and not an adjective. However, Entertainment used the word in an adjectival sense as part of the composite mark “Centrefold Entertainment”. Hmmm.

Perhaps more compellingly, his Honour pointed out at [93] that there were at least three businesses in the adult entertainment field using names which included CENTREFOLD: Centrefold Lounge, Centrefold Strippers (i.e., Metro) and Centrefold Entertainment itself.

Also, the evidence showed that models who had achieved the status of being Centrefolds, promoted themselves as such and could often command a premium for their services.

In these circumstances, the word was not metaphorical or allusive. At [101], his Honour explained:

“Centrefold” is an ordinary English word that is apt to describe the kinds, qualities and characteristics of performers, models and others, as persons who appear, or have appeared or are prepared to appear, nude or scantily clad before strangers and in pages of magazines. Any supplier of adult entertainment services of the kind comprised in the designated services, without improper motive, might desire to use the word “centrefold” to describe that supplier’s services. That is because of the ordinary signification of the word: Cantarella 254 CLR at 358 [58].[2]

Next, his Honour held that Entertainment’s use of “Centrefold” was not sufficiently substantial to warrant registration under (the “new” version of) s 41(4).

Bear in mind that the trade mark was registered from 22 May 2015.

It appears to have been common ground that Entertainment had not used “Centrefold” alone before it applied to register its trade mark.

Secondly, until about March 2014 (i.e. just over a year before the filing date of the trade mark), the principal of Entertainment had been running two businesses, “XXX Princess” and “Centrefold Entertainment”. XXX Princess was the business promoting the adult entertainment services – by reference to XXX Princess. As part of a deliberate strategy, Centrefold Entertainment’s website and Facebook page did not explicitly promote adult entertainment services. It was only from March 2014 that Entertainment’s website explicitly promoted adult entertainment services by reference to its composite mark (see below). In that period (March 2014 to May 2015), the evidence showed Entertainment had only 2,000 customers. Rares J ruled at [107]:

It is unlikely that the limited use of “centrefold” in Entertainment’s dealings with perhaps, at maximum, the 2,000 individuals who made the bookings (but none of whom, on the evidence, ever received a tax invoice), would have brought its name to their attention, or that of others who may have telephoned the business, as a brand or trade mark rather than, if at all, as a mere reference to a business name. This limited usage would not have brought into the public consciousness the use of “centrefold” as a brand or trade mark in association with the designated services of Entertainment.

The evidence also showed that neither Entertainment nor Metro spent much (if anything) by way of Google AdWords on “centrefold”, focusing their expenditure instead on “strippers” and “waitresses”. There was also evidence a mere 0.39% of hits on Metro’s “Centrefold Strippers” website came via “centrefold”.[3]

Now that all seems uncontroversial. There are some potentially problematic issues.

First, here is one of Entertainment’s Facebook posts from 6 May 2013:

It appears that that was essentially the form of Entertainment’s page from at least early 2012.

One might think that was use of the composite mark as a trade mark for adult entertainment services, albeit not use of the trade mark as registered alone. It seems that the phone number appearing in the ads was a common phone number for XXX Princess and Entertainment and, as already noted, Entertainment’s case seems to have been that the performers were actually arranged by “XXX Princess”. That said, I am rather mystified what Entertainment’s page was doing.

Secondly, there was some evidence of a period late in 2012 where the principal of Entertainment answered the telephone to those calling in to book a performer “Centrefold Entertainment”. It appeared likely that, if the caller was surprised they had not reached XXX Princess, that some business patter was deployed to dispel any confusion. His Honour unsurprisingly, with respect, characterised that use in effect as de minimis.

Thirdly, Entertainment’s evidence was that from September 2012, invoices to all customers were sent out under the composite mark. There was a glitch in the system, however, so it appears no-one received them. Somehow, the performers and Entertainment got paid.

There was also evidence from at least one of the performers that she sent (at least) one invoice for her services into Entertainment by reference to the composite mark. Rares J, however, discounted this as evidence of use on the basis that which entity they were billing was hardly of any moment to the performers and they were rather confused about which company or website they were providing their services through.

The passing off and ACL claims by each party against the other failed on a straightforward application of the Hornsby Building Information Centre case.

By reference to the use of the word “may” in s 126, Rares J considered that the power to grant an injunction was discretionary. If his Honour had not found the trade mark invalid, Rares J would have refused an injunction on the basis of “lack of clean hands”. In promoting its services on the web, Entertainment used photographs of scantily clad young ladies. 90% of the photographs, however, were not of any of its models. They were photographs found on the Internet, including from sources such as “Sports Illustrated”. The Court would not condone such deceptive practices through the coercive power of an injunction.

Metro Business Centre Pty Ltd v Centrefold Entertainment Pty Ltd [2017] FCA 1249

  • with apologies to Seth Justman and the J Geils Band.

  1. Apparently, a “promo model” is someone who provides his or her services to promote a business by, for example, handing out advertising or business cards in a public venue, or acting as an adornment at an event, such as appearing in a manufacturer’s clothing or livery at a trade or motor show. They do not appear naked, or partially naked and get paid $20 – $30 per hour. An adult entertainer (or, often, a “stripper”) would perform naked or partially naked and could earn 10 to 20 times that for a 20 – 30 minute show.  ?
  2. Entertainment’s case was no doubt “assisted” by its principal’s evidence to the effect that he had never heard the term being used to describe “centrefolds”!  ?
  3. The Google Analytics report showed almost 830,000 hits on the website for the relevant period.  ?

Primary Health Care

The Full Court has dismissed Primary Healthcare’s appeal from the decision rejecting its attempt to register “Primary Health Care” for medical services.

The judgment is 438 paragraphs long; Greenwood J providing 77 paragraphs on aspects of s 41 (old form), Katzmann J providing 80 paragraphs and the balance being the leading judgment of Rangiah J.

While Greenwood J and Katzmann J agreed generally with Rangiah J on s 41 (old form), it appears there are some nuances to consider! Katzmann J disagreed with Rangiah J about the application of s 43.

Primary Health Care Limited v Commonwealth of Australia [2017] FCAFC 174

AIPPI Sydney

Over the weekend, I shall be attending the annual Congress of AIPPI in Sydney.

Lots of interesting sessions and practitioners from all round the world

If you are attending or in the vicinity, say “hello”.

ALDI lookalike survives moroccanoil, but is not natural

Morroccanoil Israel Ltd (MIL) has successfully obtained injunctions against some of Aldi’s lookalike products, but only on the basis that the marketing misrepresented they were “natural” products and further that their argan oil content conferred certain “performance” characteristics. MIL’s claims that the products infringed its trade marks and “passed off” failed. MIL did successfully appeal the Registrar’s refusal to register “Moroccanoil” as a trade mark and fended off Aldi’s attempt to have MIL’s trade marks removed on the grounds that they were not capable of distinguishing.

Katzmann J’s decision runs to 741 paragraphs, so there is a lot more ore to be mined than I shall cover in this blog post.

MIL has two registered trade marks in Australia1 in respect of, amongst other things, hair care products:

TM 1221017
TM 1375954

 

 

 

 

 

Although its get up varied over time, you can get a good idea of how it sold its products in Australia from the following:

Aldi (Like Brands, only cheaper) introduced its own range of Moroccan Argan Oil products such as:2

 

The Trade Mark Infringement Claim

MIL put its case on trade mark infringement on Aldi’s use of Moroccan Argan Oil, not the get up of any product packaging.

Despite Aldi’s reliance on the presence of the PROTANE (or PROTANE Naturals) or VISAGE house brands, Katzmann J had little difficulty despatching the claim that Aldi did not use Moroccan Argan Oil as a trade mark over the fence for six. The term was not purely descriptive; argan oil was only one ingredient of many and only the 11th or 12th ingredient in terms of volume. Viewed objectively, it clearly presented as a badge of origin, especially when depicted with oil drops instead of “o”.

However, Katzmann J held that Moroccan Argan Oil was not deceptively to either trade mark. A central consideration was that each of MIL’s trade marks was a composite mark. “Moroccanoil” was a prominent feature, but the prominent “M” was an equally prominent feature.3

Further, by the time Aldi came to adopt “its” trade mark, there other players in the market using the expression “Moroccan Argan Oil”.

Treating “Moroccanoil” as the relevant essential feature of MIL’s trade marks, Katzmann J accepted that the interposition of “Argan” between “moroccan” and “oil” may well not interrupt the recall of the brand moroccanoil but nonetheless went on to hold at [220]:

…. In my view, there is no real, tangible danger that an ordinary or reasonable consumer with an imperfect recollection of one or other or both those marks or, as was argued, the name “Moroccanoil”, would wonder whether a mark called “Moroccan Argan Oil” is or is associated with either of the composite marks that are the First and Second Trade Marks.  Ignoring similarities in the get-up of the respective products, including the colour-scheme and packaging, I am not satisfied that the hypothetical consumer would mistake the Aldi “Moroccan Argan Oil” mark for the First or Second Trade Marks or wonder whether the Aldi product is made by the owner of the First and Second Trade Marks.  Considering each of the First and Second Trade Marks as a whole, I find that the Aldi mark is not deceptively similar to either of the MIL marks.

Four other points

First, MIL placed heavy reliance on what it said was evidence of 58 consumers being confused that Aldi’s product was MIL’s. These included reports of people who said, or were reported to have said, that they had bought MIL’s products in Aldo’s stores although, of course, MIL’s products were not available in Aldo’s stores.

Only one of those consumers gave direct evidence and Katzmann J considered there were sufficient deficiencies in her evidence to regard her as an unreliable witness.

For example, the witness had a clear recollection of seeing different Aldi products displayed together although it appears to have been accepted they were only displayed in different parts of the store, she referenced MIL’s get up rather than its trade mark, she admitted to being distracted by a distressed child and it emerged that she had not disclosed her previous experience working in advertising as the basis for concluding Aldi’s product was some kind of brand extension.

All the other evidence was the more typical hearsay evidence of employees of MIL and its distributor and stockists about what customers told them. Katzmann J accorded this evidence no weight. Her Honour’s reasons warrant very careful consideration, especially as this type of evidence (if not its scale) is very typical.

206 That is because the evidence largely consists of reports given to others in a way that makes it impossible to decide what was responsible for the confusion. Certainly, there is nothing to suggest that any deceptive similarity arising from the get-up of the products or aspects of it were disregarded. The evidence provides either no or no sufficient foundation for the conclusion that any purchase of an Aldi product was made because of the deceptive similarity of the respective marks.

The indirect nature of the evidence was critical as it meant there was no context to assess the conduct:

207 …. Matters such as the following are often left unclear, or are completely unexplained: whether the person was aware of MIL’s products when they encountered the Aldi products, and if so to what extent; which Aldi product(s) were in issue; in what circumstances the alleged confusion occurred, including what level of attention the person gave to the Aldi products at the time; whether there were other factors at play that might have led to the person acting in the way that they did; and any other relevant circumstances. It would be essential to understand these matters in order to accord any weight to the evidence.

208 In view of the way in which the evidence was adduced (predominantly through witnesses to whom the reports were either directly or indirectly made by anonymous consumers), and in the absence of contemporaneous records, it was not possible for these matters to be explored in cross-examination.

209 Furthermore, even at face value a number of the reports do not bespeak of confusion, let alone deception. In one case, reported by Ms Williamson, the consumer said that she had bought products at Aldi that “look like” MIL’s products. While this is illustrative of similarity, it does not denote deceptive similarity. Some of the evidence consists of second-hand hearsay, such as the complaints received by Thierry Fayard. As a matter of common experience this evidence is unreliable ….

Secondly, MIL sought to rely on Aldi’s alleged intention to trade on MIL’s reputation in its trade marks. There does not seem to have been any real dispute on the evidence that Aldi had set out to “benchmark” its products at least partly on MIL, but also partly on another competing product by Organix:

214 Ms Spinks’4 evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that by the choice of the name “Moroccan Argan Oil” Aldi set out to mislead consumers into thinking that the Aldi brand was moroccanoil. No precise evidence was led as to how Aldi settled on the name “Moroccan Argan Oil” and no questions on this subject were asked in cross-examination. If its object were as alleged, then one would think it would call its products “Moroccan Oil”. The name Aldi chose was different. The name Aldi chose —“Moroccan Argan Oil” — was the name then used by Organix, whose products Aldi had used as the “benchmark” for its shampoo and conditioner. Further, the ultimate product was not taken to market before Aldi had received advice as to compliance with Australian laws. Ms Spinks said that an organisation known as “Silliker” (Silliker Australia Pty Ltd) was retained to undertake “due diligence checks” to ensure that proposed product packaging and labelling complied with relevant “regulations” and the Australian Consumer Law. She was not challenged about this evidence in cross-examination.

A third aspect is that MIL also sought to lead evidence of 13 other major brands which Aldi was said to have knocked off “lookalikes”. MIL wanted to use this evidence as tendency evidence under s 97 of the Evidence Act to show that Aldi deliberately copied product get ups to take advantage of their reputation.

Katzmann J accepted that could potentially be relevant evidence. MIL’s application failed, however, because its notice was not sufficiently specific to comply with the stringent requirements for the admissibility of such evidence and it was given too late. Moreover, the evidence would not carry matters further than the direct evidence of Ms Spinks. At [129]:

… tendency evidence is generally used to prove, “by a process of deduction, that a person acted in a particular way, or had a particular state of mind, on a relevant occasion, when there is no, or inadequate, direct evidence of that conduct or that state of mind on that occasion”: …. Here, however, there was direct evidence from Ms Spinks of the development process in relation to the goods in question. The evidence MIL wished to adduce as “tendency evidence” consisted merely of samples and images of other, unrelated products. It did not include any evidence as to how or why the get-up for the particular products was selected. It takes the evidence given by Ms Spinks no further. Consequently I am not persuaded that the evidence in question has significant probative value.

Even if the tendency evidence had been admitted, it would not have helped on the trade mark case as it was evidence of a tendency to adopt features of get up, not the trade mark itself.

Finally on this part of the case, Katzmann J held that Aldi’s hair brushes and dryers etc. were goods of the same description as the hair care products in class 3 covered by MIL’s registrations. As with Aldi’s own hair care products, however, there was no likelihood of deception or confusion so s 120(2) did not come into play.

The ACL claims

MIL brought three claims under the Australian Consumer Law alleging that Aldi had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by:

  1. misrepresenting that its products were MIL’s products or in some way sponsored or associated with MIL (i.e., a passing off type claim);
  2. misrepresenting that its products were made from, or substantially from, natural ingredients; and
  3. misrepresenting that the argan oil in the products gave the products performance benefits which they did not in fact have.

As noted above, MIL succeeded only on the latter two claims.

In relation to the passing off claim, Katzmann J accepted that Aldi had modelled the get up of some of its products on MIL’s get up5 and sought to appropriate some of the reputation of MIL’s products to its own benefit. At [380]:

Aldi unquestionably modelled its Oil Product on the MIL Oil Treatment. Ms Spinks referred to it as “the benchmark” product. Aldi copied several of its “diagnostic cues”, including the use of a bottle very similar in style, size, shape, and colour, the same pump mechanism for the extraction of the oil from the bottle, the use of a cardboard box, and the prominent use of a similar colour for both the bottle’s label and the box. Ms Spinks accepted in cross-examination that Aldi’s object was to achieve an exact colour match with the bottles and conceded that consumers would associate the colour of the bottle and the type of packaging with the MIL product. ….

and

384 The evident purpose of copying important features of the MIL Oil Treatment was to remind consumers of that product. It would be naïve to believe that in doing so Aldi was not seeking to capitalise on MIL’s reputation and attract to itself some of its custom. I find that in adopting the particular get-up for the Aldi Oil Treatment bottle and box, Aldi copied from the get-up of the MIL Oil Treatment and box and that it did so in order to appropriate part of MIL’s trade or reputation or the trade of MIL’s authorised distributors and resellers.

That was not sufficient in itself for a finding of misleading or deceptive conduct. The question was whether or not Aldi had sufficiently distinguished its products from MIL’s.

Katzmann J considered that, if regard were paid only to the similarities between the respective get ups, there would have been a likelihood of deception. However, it was necessary to have regard to the respective get ups as a whole. When considered as a whole, there were important differences which served sufficiently to distinguish Aldi’s products:

  • first, ALDI’s products were prominently branded with its well-established house brands PROTANE or VIGOUR;
  • secondly, MIL’s products featured the very prominent large “M”, which was not replicated in ALDI’s get up;
  • thirdly, in MIL’s products “moroccanoil” appeared vertically, while Aldi used “moroccan argan oil” horizontally only;
  • fourthly, there were significant differences in the packaging, especially the shampoo and conditioner which were closer to the Organix product than to MIL’s;
  • fifthly, the closest products – the competing oil treatment products – were sold by MIL in a glass bottle, but Aldi had used a plastic bottle only;

Her Honour considered that none of these differences were concealed and were at least as conspicuous as the similarities. Further, viewed as a whole, the Aldi range was cheaper and the use of the house mark clearly marked the products out as a different brand. Further, the two businesses marketed their products through completely different trade channels and at very different price ranges.

MIL’s heavy reliance on the similarity of the turquoise colours used did not avail:

413 Colour-blind, inattentive consumers, and consumers with an imperfect recollection of the MIL products might confuse the colours. I accept Professor Quester’s evidence that consumers are unlikely to detect subtle differences in colour between two sets of products as they would not ordinarily engage in a side-by-side comparison. Indeed, I am prepared to accept that a not insignificant number of consumers might think the colours are the same. On the other hand, as Ms Spinks’ evidence shows, at the time Aldi entered the market with “Moroccan Argan Oil”, at least one other company, Organix, was selling hair care products in turquoise containers and also under the name “Moroccan Argan Oil”. Other products, like Pure Oil of Marrakesh, were sold in cartons, bottles and other containers featuring various shades of blue.

414 Knowledge of third-party usage of a particular get-up or name can affect the chances that a consumer might be misled or deceived.

As in Cadbury v Darrell Lea, MIL did not have a monopoly in the colour.

MIL also failed in its attempt to rely on the printing of “Moroccan Oil” on (at least) some Aldi receipts. At [428], they were issued after purchase, which was too late.

As one would expect, the failure of this part of MIL’s ACL claim was also fatal to its passing off claim.

Natural products

I don’t propose to go into the detail of why the use of the brand name Protane Naturals was misleading or deceptive other than to record that Katzmann J did find the brand name deceptive since the relevant products were not substantially “natural” products. There is some quite involved evidence about what a “natural” product is or may be if you are going to get into that sort of thing.

Performance representations

Some of Aldi’s products claimed on their packaging to “helps strengthen hair” and “helps protect hair from styling, heat and UV damage” and similar claims.

Katzmann J rejected Aldi’s argument that this was a reference to the capabilities of the product as a whole rather than as a result of the use of moroccan argan oil. Apart from the presentation on the packaging and the prominence given to that oil, Aldi’s own internal documents claimed it was the argan oil that conferred these attributes.

MIL’s scientific evidence established, however, that there was too little argan oil (which is apparently very expensive) in Aldi’s products to have the desired effects. Needless to say, the expert evidence dealing with this part of the case is also rather involved.

Wrap up

Overall and barring the outcome of any appeal, this seems like a rather Pyrrhic victory for MIL. I don’t have any idea how much damages will flow for the breaches of the ACL. Nonetheless, here is plenty of scope for Aldi to continue using its lookalike get up; the prevention of which was surely the point of the exercise. What is more, the result was achieved only after a very lengthy trial including, amongst other things, eight experts: 2 lexicographers, four marketing experts and two chemists!

Moroccanoil Israel Ltd v Aldi Foods Pty Ltd [2017] FCA 823

  1. Following her Honour’s decision (and barring any appeal), it will have three including TM No. 1463962 “moroccanoil” in respect of Hair care products, including oil, mask, moisture cream, curly hair moisture cream, curly hair mask, curly and damaged hair mask, argan and saffron shampoo, hair loss shampoo, dandruff shampoo, dry hair shampoo, gel, mousse, conditioner and hair spray in class 3. ?
  2. In addition to hair “lotions” such as shampoo, Aldi also marketed hair brushes and powered hair dryers and the like. ?
  3. Those of you who read 140 year old case law might also be thinking about the striking colour scheme. Katzmann J, citing the 5th edition of Shanahan and the Office Manual, held that MIL’s trade marks were not limited to the specific colours as there was no endorsement under s 70 and so the marks were taken to be registered for all colours. One could be forgiven for thinking this approach renders the Register seriously misleading at times. ?
  4. The Aldi employee charged with introducing the range. ?
  5. The Aldi shampoo and conditioner products were “benchmarked” on Organix’ get up, not MIL’s. ?

Government response to Productivity Commission IP report

The Government has published its response to the Productivity Commission’s Intellectual Property Arrangements – Final Report.

Further comment will have to await. In the meantime, the media release notes:

A key priority will be to align Australian inventive step law with international best practice to ensure that the necessary protections are available to deserving inventions. The Government has also accepted the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to phase out the Innovation Patent System.

and, in not accepting the proposal to adopt a general “fair use” defence to copyright:

It is important copyright reform is considered in a holistic context rather than focused on individual issues. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders over the next 12 months to develop effective options for copyright reform.

The Australia Copyright Council is very pleased.

There will also be a new IP Policy Group (within government) to, er, monitor IP policy!

According to the Government’s Media Release, the Government is still considering the merits of a number of other proposals and “will work on these further”.

Australian Government Response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements (pdf)

Media release 25 August 2017

More third party website blocking injunctions

Nicholas J has granted another round of injunctions ordering ISPs to block access to offshore copyright infringing sites.

Having established the ground rules in the earlier applications (here and here), the ISPs didn’t turn up; essentially just filing submitting appearances and agreeing to be bound by the orders.

According to this News report, once these orders are implemented a total of “65 piracy sites and 340 domains” will be blocked in Australia. That is claimed to be “95 per cent of the criminal trade blocked”.

Apparently, the film companies:

plan, later this year, to sue any individual that continues to download pirated content.

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Limited [2017] FCA 965

Shape shopped

Mortimer J has dismissed Shape Shopfitters claims against Shape Australia for misleading or deceptive conduct, passing off and trade mark infringement.

Much of the focus of the decision is on the misleading or deceptive conduct claim (and will have to be the subject of a future post). This post will look at the trade mark infringement claim.

Shape Shopfitters has registered Trade Mark No. 1731525 for shopfitting, construction and advisory services relating to construction in class 37 for this trade mark:

TM No. 1731525

It alleged that Shape Australia infringed that trade mark by using these signs:

Shape Australia provided construction services, apparently on a much larger scale, but was not specifically engaged in shopfitting – sub-contracting out those parts of its jobs. Also, Shape Australia did not provide its services to the particular people who were customers of Shape Shopfitters.[1]

Mortimer J found that Shape Australia’s trade marks were not deceptively similar to Shape Shopfitters’. Her Honour considered that the imperfect recollection of the relevant public would recall not just the word SHAPE, but also its collocation with the word Shopfitters (albeit it was subsidiary) and the distinctive “bottle cap” shape of the border.

Of the four elements comprising Shape Shopfitters’ trade mark (apart from the blue colouring), Mortimer J explained:

  1. The use of capitals for the word “SHAPE” in the applicant’s Mark is, I accept, a feature likely to be recalled. In part, it is the use of capitals which is likely to make the word “shape” stick in the memory, as well as its proportionate size in the Mark. It is also correct that the word “Shopfitters” is much smaller, as is “Est 1998”. I see no basis to find that the latter phrase would be generally recalled, however I consider the word “Shopfitters” may well be recalled in conjunction with the word “SHAPE”. There is an alliterative effect between the two words, as well the positioning of “Shopfitters” underneath the word “SHAPE”. An industry participant’s eye (to take the applicant’s wider class of people) will, in my opinion, be drawn to that word as well and what is just as likely to be recalled is the phrase “SHAPE Shopfitters”, rather than just the word “SHAPE”.

As a result, the prospect that the word mark would be deceptively similar was roundly dismissed. The two devices with the word in a circle were closer, but the absence of the word Shopfitters and the difference between a circle and the “bottle cap” border were decisive.

  1. The Circle Mark and the Transparent Mark have a closer similarity, because of – in combination – the use of capitals of the word “SHAPE”, the placement of that word inside a circle, and the use of a circle itself. However, as I have set out, in my opinion even imperfectly, a reasonable industry participant of ordinary intelligence and memory is likely to recall the word “Shopfitters” in conjunction with the word “Shape”, especially because of the alliteration involved. I also consider such a person will recall the applicant’s Mark has a distinctive border that is not a smooth circle.
  2. I do not consider the evidence about several industry participants referring to the applicant as “SHAPE” affects these findings in a way which means that word would be recalled as the only essential feature of the applicant’s Mark. Rather, that evidence is evidence of the contraction of the applicant’s business and trading name in ordinary speech, and such a contraction does not necessarily carry over to what a reasonable person is likely to recall of the applicant’s Mark. It goes only to how industry participants might refer to the applicant in conversation.

Given these findings, it was unnecessary for her Honour to express an opinion on whether the registration of Shape Shopfitters’ trade mark with the blue background imposed a limitation on the scope of the registration.[2]

Mortimer J’s conclusions do not explicitly turn on the fields of activity of the respective parties, apparently a closely fought battle in the context of the misleading or deceptive conduct case. Indeed, at [258] her Honour expressly said it made no difference whether the relevant public was defined as the “buyers” of construction services or participants in the commercial construction industry.

Shape Shopfitters Pty Ltd v Shape Australia Pty Ltd (No 3) [2017] FCA 865


  1. Although Shape Australia was much larger than Shape Shopfitters, you might recall that for much of its life it had operated under the name ISIS Group Australia and had changed its name after Shape Shopfitters came on to the scene and the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess took on some rather unfortunate (to say the least) connotations.  ?
  2. Referring to s 70 read with the definition of “limitation” provided by s 6.  ?

Should Michelin’s X block Continental’s Xking?

Over at the IPKat, there is a report about a CJEU decision upholding Michelin’s opposition based on its “X” trade mark to the registration of Continental’s “XKING” mark (below on the right), both in respect of tyres.

Michelin X v Continental Xking

You should read the report, if for no other reason, than the revelation of the EU’s “scientific” approach to trade mark conflicts.

Putting to one side the peculiar procedural posture the CJEU seems to take in these kinds of ‘appeals’, Merpel quite rightly thunders about scope afforded to ‘descriptive’ marks. After pointing out that it has taken 5 years to get to this point, Merpel says:

The end result here is that one trader with a weakly distinctive trade mark for the single letter X, distinguished from the letter of the alphabet only by the merest stylisation, can prevent the registration (and potentially use) of a stylised mark XKING. It must also follow that the same trader can prevent other X-formative marks, especially if the other element is in some way laudatory (and the word “king” is hardly at the top of the laudatory scale). Might it be said that this hands too strong a right to the trader?

Merpel makes a cogent case for the rejection of the opposition. What I wonder about, however, is what is the ordinary consumer likely to recall imperfectly? Would the ordinary consumer recall the mark is just an “X” alone so that the inclusion in Continental’s mark of rather bland “KING” is sufficient to dispel any potential for confusion? Or is the putative consumer likely to be struck by the common use of the hollow (or white) X? Under our version of trade mark law, all that is required is a (significant?) number of people being caused to wonder and the nature of the recollection is explained by Latham CJ:[1]

They will compare the actual mark which they see upon goods which are offered to them with the memory of the other mark, which they will retain in a more or less distinct form… The court must endeavour to put itself in the position of ordinary purchasers of goods who have noticed a trade mark as being distinctive of particular goods, but who have not compared that mark with any other mark, and who are quite probably not aware of the fact that another more or less similar mark exists.

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  1. Jafferjee v Scarlett [1937] HCA 36; 57 CLR 115 at 122.  ?

No damages for unjustified threats

Following on from the Full Court’s warnings in Australian Mud Company v Coretell, Dowsett J has now dismissed Morellini’s claim for damages for unjustified threats. This is a short point, but it bears notice as people often come to me thinking it is enough to show there has been an unjustified threat – it isn’t, if you want monetary compensation.

Mizzi and Morellini are both in North Queensland and came up with machines for planting sugar cane. Mizzi patented his. Dowsett J found that Morellini’s machine did not infringe Mizzi’s patent and Mizzi had made unjustified threats of patent infringement. On appeal, the Full Court also ruled that Mizzi’s patent was invalid for false suggestion.

There was no dispute that Mizzi had made unjustified threats. On 5 April 2010, it had caused to be published in the Canegrower trade magazine a notice about its pending patent and an article by “Invention Pathways” about the consequences “[i]f the patent owner decides to pursue his rights ….” Then in June 2011, Mr Mizzi made oral threats to a Mr Girgenti about the use of a Morellini machine.

The problems for Morellini were essentially two fold. First, much of the evidence about people’s reluctance to deal with Morellini related to things which happened before the threats were made or in circumstances where Dowsett J could not attribute them to the actual threats as opposed to just rumours circulating in the industry:

There is no direct evidence that anybody declined to deal with Mr Morellini as a result of the threats. It seems that even before the newspaper article on 5 April 2010, there was a degree of reluctance concerning any such dealings. That reluctance cannot have been attributable to the threats. Mr Morellini has not demonstrated that any adverse effect resulted from either of the threats.

Secondly, Dowsett J accepted that damages could be available for lost sales opportunities and delayed sales, if they could be linked to the threats. However, Morellini did not provide detailed evidence about how he would have exploited his machine commercially and why he had not been exploiting it “in more recent times”. That is, Dowsett J wanted to know what was Morellini’s plan (if he had one) for exploiting his machine commercially and why he had not been doing so.

Mizzi Family Holdings Pty Ltd v Morellini (No 3) [2017] FCA 870