CLIPSO CLIPSAL-ed

You may not be surprised to read that Perram J has found that CLIPSO is deceptively similar to CLIPSAL for electrical goods in class 9. This had the consequence that Clipso’s registration for “CLIPSO” was expunged from the Register and CLIPSO itself was found to infringe prospectively. Clipsal’s trade mark registration for the shape of its ‘dolly switch’, however, was not infringed by Clipso’s products.

A significant issue in the case was whether Clipso’s principal, a Mr Kader, was to be believed about how he came up with the mark. Perram J found he was not. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the case, however, is the market by which the issues fell to be assessed.

Some background facts

Clipsal has registered CLIPSAL as a trade mark in respect of all goods in class 9. While it and its predecessors claim to have been using the mark since the 1920s, the registration it relied on in this proceeding dates from 1989. It currently markets some 14,668 electrical products under the trade mark and, in 2011, its annual sales exceeded $500 million. Clipsal had some 77% of the market; its nearest competitors having only 11% each. Clipsal also has a shape mark registered for the shape of its dolly switch:

Clipsal’s Dolly Switch trade mark

in respect of ‘electrical wiring accessories which incorporate a rocker switch … including dimmer switches….’

Mr Kader had been importing electrical accessories since about 2005. The CLIPSO mark came into use, however, in 2008 and Clipso achieved its registration in respect of a range of class 9 goods, principally electrical switches and the like, from October 2008.

The market by which deceptive similarity assessed

Many of Clipsal’s products, and most if not all Clipso’s, are what is known in the trade as ‘Bakelite’. These are (generally) plastic products such as switches, power points and other electrical products. A significant feature of these products is that by law they can be installed only by licensed electricians. Thus, a key plank of Clipso’s defence was the nature of its goods which, it said, were essentially bought by electrical wholesalers and electrical tradies, who were not confused by the two trade marks. CLIPSAL, it was argued, was so famous that no reasonable tradie would mistake CLIPSO for it.

Perram J began by noting trade mark authority had held that an infringer’s conduct fell to be assessed in light of its effect on ordinary purchasers of the products in suit. His Honour noted that misleading or deceptive conduct under the ACL fell to be assessed by reference to the ordinary and reasonable consumer.[1] Acknowledging that other cases may lead to different conclusions, however, in the context of this case Perram J considered that Clipso’s conduct fell to be assessed under all heads according to its impact on the ordinary and reasonable consumer.

Perram J accepted that a large part of the market for Clipsal’s products were electrical wholesalers and electrical installers. For many people having a home or office built, the issue was whether there were light switches, their positioning and number. The actual purchasing decision was left to the builder or contractor. However, Perram J found that there was a (relatively small) but not insignificant section of the general public who were interested in such matters and did take into account the trade source of the products that were being installed in their building and so specified the products they wanted their contractors to install, non-purchasing end-consumers.[2]

A key factor in his Honour’s conclusion on this point was the extent and length of Clipsal’s marketing efforts directed to the general public, not just the trade. In addition to the usual forms of advertising, this included a software program, Cipspec, which Clipsal installed in showrooms and its consultants used to work through with customers the placement and appearance of various CLIPSAL products. At [122] and [123] of his Honour’s reasons, Perram J accepted:

However, the evidence of these witnesses (the marketing director, Mr Quinn, a store manager of an electrical wholesaler, Mr Kalimnios and the electrical wholesaler, Mr Micholos) nevertheless persuades me that the applicants’ efforts in bringing end-consumers into the process as part of its supply chain strategy are likely to have had some success. The evidence of Mr Kalimnios and Mr Micholos (referred to later in these reasons) was attacked on the basis that the firm for which they worked, P&R Electrical, was not independent of the applicants. It is not surprising that an electrical wholesaler might have a substantive commercial relationship with the market leader in electrical accessories, but I would not describe such a relationship as lacking independence. In any event, I do not think that the evidence of either man was adversely affected by this matter.

One is left in the situation then that the only evidence of the success of the strategy of seeking to increase demand at the consumer end of the market is the existence of the strategy itself. Although I am prepared to accept that some end-consumers do indeed purchase switches and sockets themselves, I do not accept that generally these are the same people who are involved in, or the targets of, Mr Quinn’s supply chain strategy. As best I can surmise, they are instead a small group of people who decide to buy Bakelite products to have an electrician install them, or possibly even a smaller group of unlawful renegades who buy Bakelite products to install themselves.

His Honour was unable to quantify how significant the involvement of such end-users in the market was, but at [129] considered it was not de minimis:

… one is still left with little compelling evidence that any of the end-consumers targeted by the strategy exist beyond the strategy itself and the amount spent on it. I have no particular difficulty describing the strategy as plausible. One can well see that there are likely to be some people who care very much about what the light switches and sockets installed in their homes are to be, whilst there will be others who are benignly indifferent. Amongst the first class, it requires no great mental athleticism to see that their fascinations are likely to be with the Bakelite products at the premium end of the market. Can I infer from these observations that such a class exists and in numbers which are significant? I believe that I can and I do. The widespread fascination with home renovations in some quarters is reflected in the programming that appears on popular television every week. I do not believe that Mr Quinn’s strategy of creating demand and driving it back up the supply chain is some quixotic venture which is pointless. To the contrary, I am prepared to infer that a significant portion of persons building a new house or renovating an existing dwelling do care about which Bakelite products are used.

It was not necessary that these end-users be the people who actually bought the goods in question; it was sufficient that they gave instructions for them to be purchased such as through their contractors. The size of this segment of the market was sufficient to qualify as ‘substantial’. The relevant market, therefore, was a segmented one consisting of electrical contractors, electrical wholesalers and ‘non-purchasing’ end-consumers.

One consequence of this conclusion was that Perram J considered the parts of the market consisting of electrical contractors and wholesalers was a specialised market which would require expert evidence about the conduct and purchasing habits of people in those trade channels. That was not be the case for that part of the market comprised of end-users.

For that part of the market, Perram J went on to hold that CLIPSO was deceptively similar to CLIPSAL. Perram J considered that the two words shared the same root and had very similar pronunciation – the primary stress would fall on the first syllable and the final syllable of both words would be unstressed. There was also expert evidence that some people might perceive CLIPSO as an hypocristic” for CLIPSAL.[3]

As noted above, Clipso argued that CLIPSAL was so well-known in the trade that there would be no confusion. Perram J rejected this on several grounds. First, in the context of s 44 resort could not be had to reputation except where the mark was so well-known as to be ubiquitous and, notwithstanding its market penetration, Perram J was not prepared to find CLIPSAL fell into that exceptional category.[4] Secondly, as his Honour had already held, the market was not limited to those in the trade but also included ordinary (non-purchasing) consumers. Thirdly, there was in any event evidence from people in the trade (well, at least one) that, while they were not necessarily confused, they were caused to wonder whether there was some connection between the two trade marks.[5] Consequently, CLIPSO was deceptively similar to CLIPSAL even for the segments of the market comprised of those in the trade.

Cancellation

These findings together with Perram J’s rejection of Mr Kader’s claims about how he chose the name CLIPSO meant that the CLIPSO registration was cancelled pursuant to s 44, s 60 and s62A.

Mr Kader had claimed that he chose the name while leafing through the list of goods in class 9 in the International Classification and noticing some references to “clips”. He also claimed that he knew very little if anything about CLIPSAL when he applied to register CLIPSO. Perram J found Mr Kader was lying about this based on a number of factors including the strength of Clipsal’s position in the market, Mr Kader’s involvement in the market for at least 3 years and, amongst other things, the fact that each day his trip to work involved passing a very large CLIPSAL hoarding.

Infringement

As s 122(1)(e) provides a defence to trade mark infringement when the sign used is itself a registered trade mark and is being used in respect of the goods for which it is registered, Clipso could not in fact infringe until Perram J’s orders cancelling the registration of CLIPSO were effected on the Register. Therefore, injunctions only would be available.

However, Perram J did go on to find that Clipso’s use of CLIPSO also contravened the prohibitions on misleading or deceptive conduct under the ACL and passing off, but only insofar as the public consisted of (non-purchasing) end-consumers. As Perram J considered those actually engaged in the trade would not be misled or deceived, but only caused to wonder if there was a connection, there was no contravention in respect of those segments of the market.

Use of a shape trade mark

Perram J found that Clipso’s dolly switch very closely resembled Clipsal’s dolly switch which was depicted in its registered trade mark. Nonetheless, his Honour considered Clipso did not use its dolly switch as a trade mark. Perram J accepted that there were many shapes a dolly switch could take so that Clipso’s dolly switch was not dictated by function. Nonetheless, it was not used as a trade mark. At [154], his Honour explained:

Be that as it may, I still do not think that the first respondent was using the switch as a trade mark. Generally speaking, Clipso products were packaged in plastic sleeves emblazoned with the Clipso logo, and then placed in a cardboard box also emblazoned with the Clipso logo. There is no doubt that the word CLIPSO was being used as a badge of origin, which rather detracts from the idea that the switch located within the packaging could also have been operating as a badge of origin.

Perram J was not prepared to find that the shape of the dolly switch itself conveyed an association with Clipsal based on the sheer volume of sales of the product. This was so even though Clipsal’s packaging often included a statement that “The shape of this dolly switch is a trade mark of [Clipsal]”.

Clipsal Australia Pty Ltd v Clipso Electrical Pty Ltd (No 3) [2017] FCA 60


  1. Perram J noted that there could be subtle differences also between passing off and the ACL, but it was sufficient to proceed in this case on the basis that the same test applied for both actions notwithstanding their different bases.  ?
  2. There were also end-consumers who actually bought the products themselves, but they were considered too small a segment to qualify as ‘substantial’.  ?
  3. Apparently, this refers to the practice, particularly prevalent amongst Australians, of modifying words colloquially to suggest familiarity such as “kiddo” for “kid”.  ?
  4. Bridling at [179] – [180] against even that scope for reputation permitted by Henscke.  ?
  5. Relying on the Full Court in Vivo v Tivo.  ?

$3 million!

Last year, we looked at the ACCC’s successful prosecution of Valve (provider of the online gaming platform, Steam) for breach of the consumer guarantees in the ACL. Valve’s contracts for example provided that all fees were payable in advance and not refundable. Valve’s main line of defence was that it was in the US state of Washington and so not bound by the ACL.

On 23 December 2016, the Court fined Valve $3 million for its breaches: $2.2 million for the contraventions involving the Steam Subscriber Agreement and $800,000 for the contraventions involving the Steam Refund Policy.

This was in a context where, while,the number of accounts developed over the 3 year period of the misconduct, Valve had some 2.2 million Australian accounts (I.e, about $1.36 per account) and had received communications about refunds from over 21,000 accounts. What is more, despite its no refunds policy wording, it had actually paid refunds to some 15,000 accounts. Another factor was Valve’s high-handed approach to its legal position in Australia; apparently deciding it had no liability as a matter of policy without reference to Australian legal advice.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Valve Corporation (No 7) [2016] FCA 1553 (Edelman J)

Third party website blocking Down Under – second look

Following up last week’s quick note, a closer look at Nicholas J’s decision in Roadshow Films v Telstra ordering the ISPs to block access to a number of offshore websites on the basis that they were primarily sites which infringe, or facilitate the infringement of, copyright (which unhelpfully didn’t publish last year on schedule)Oh well, hopefully better late than never!

There were two separate actions: one brought by Roadshow Films and the second brought by Foxtel. Both proceedings sought orders against essentially three groups of ISPs: Telstra, Optus and TPG. Roadshow also sought orders against M2. Roadshow was seeking orders under s115A compelling the ISPs to block their subscribers’ access to a number of SolarMovie sites (which in the end resolved back solarmovie.ph). Foxtel was seeking the injunctions to block access to various Pirate Bay, Torrenz, TorrentHound and IsoHunt websites.

The ISPs did not contest the injunctions, but there were disputes about some of the terms.

The injunctions

Nicholas J therefore ordered that each of the ISPs take reasonable steps to disable access to “the Target Online Location”. By way of example, the Target Online Location in the Roadshow matter was defined as the online location or online locations known as “SolarMovie” that are or were accessible:

(A) at the following URLs:

  (I) https://www.solarmovie.is

  (II)    http://www.solarmovie.com;

  (III)   http://www.solarmovie.eu; and

  (IV)    https://www.solarmovie.ph;

  (together, the Target URLs);

(B) at the following IP Addresses:

  (I) 185.47.10.11;

  (II)    205.204.80.87;

  (III)   188.92.78.142; and

  (IV)    68.71.61.168;

  (together, the Target IP Addresses);

(C) at the following Domain Names:

  (I) solarmovie.is;

  (II)    solarmovie.com;

  (III)   solarmovie.eu; and 

  (IV)    solarmovie.ph.

Order 3 then provided that the ISP would be deemed to have taken reasonable steps if it took any one or more of the following steps:

(a) DNS Blocking in respect of the Target Domain Names;[1]

(b) IP Address blocking or re-routing in respect of the Target IP Addresses;[2]

(c) URL blocking in respect of the Target URLs and the Target Domain Names;[3] or

(d) any alternative technical means for disabling access to a Target Online Location as agreed in writing between the applicants and a respondent.

It seems from his Honour’s reasons that the ISPs expect to use DNS Blocking.

After the hearing in June, the particular Solarmovie sites went offline. Nicholas J was satisfied, however, that s 115A still permitted him to make orders blocking access. In contrast, his Honour did not consider there was sufficient evidence to block access to some of the Pirate Bay URLs associated with “CloudFlare”, but which had always been inactive. Nichols J accepted that these websites gave rise to “suspicion”, but it was not strong enough to warrant ordering an injunction.

Landing pages

Nicholas J further ordered that the ISPs must redirect communications attempting to view the “blocked” websites to a landing page. The ISP could choose to set up its own landing page but, if it did not wish to incur those costs, it was required to notify the relevant applicant. Once notified, the relevant applicant had to set up a landing page stating that access to the website had been disabled because the Court has found that it infringes, or facilitates the infringement of, copyright.

Whack-a-mole

Given the ease with which a website can be shifted to a new address, Roadshow and Foxtel sought orders that they add to the list of blocked addresses by letter to the ISPs.

Unlike the English courts, Nicholas J considered that an extension of the orders to other websites should require the involvement of the Court. Accordingly, his Honour ordered that applications to extend the orders to new iterations should be made to the Court on affidavit with proposed short minutes of order to extend the injunctions. This imposes some constraint on the use of such injunctions by enabling the ISPs to object.

How long

Nicholas J ordered that the scheme set in place should run for an initial period of 3 years. Six months before that expiry, however, the applicants can provide affidavit evidence to set out their case for an extension. The ISPs then have an opportunity to object or, if no objection is forthcoming, the Court may order an extension.

Costs

Roadshow and Foxtel did not seek costs. The respondents did.

Nicholas J considered that the costs of the ISPs incurred in setting up the technical requirements for the scheme to operate were simply costs of doing business and so to be borne by them. They were costs that would have to be incurred independently of these particular actions.

However, his Honour ordered that each ISP could charge $50 for each domain name included in the orders. His Honour considered that, as each ISP proposed to use DNS Blocking, a uniform figure should be used. $50 was a bit lower than some ISPs wanted and a bit higher than others.[4]

Nicholas J also ordered that the applicants pay the ISPs costs of the proceeding relating to the method for extending the regime to new iterations of a website and compliance costs.

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd [2016] FCA 1503 (Nicholas J)


  1. Nicholas J defined DNS Blocking as “a system by which any user of a respondent’s service who attempts to use a DNS resolver that is operated by or on behalf of that respondent to access a Target Online Location is prevented from receiving a DNS response other than a redirection as referred to in order 5.” Apparently, at [13], “ISPs can block access to specific online locations entered into the address bar of the Internet browser, by configuring their DNSS to either return no IP Address so that an error message is displayed to users or so that users are directed to a predetermined IP Address that differs from that designated by the specific online location’s IP Address.”  ?
  2. At [15], his Honour explained that IP Address Blocking involves the ISP not routing outbound traffic to the specified address. This apparently can be problematic as it can also block access to other websites stored on the server with the specified address. Hello ASIC, anyone?  ?
  3. At [14], Nicholas J described URL Blocking as comparing the destination address specified in a “packet” of data being routed across the internet to a list of addresses to be blocked and, if there is a match, blocking transmission.  ?
  4. This amount is an interesting contrast to the figures quoted by the Court of Appeal in the Cartier case in England at [19] which ranged from (in GBP) three figures to six figures each year. See also [129] – [150] of Cartier.  ?

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.  ?

Henley Arch v Lucky Homes – part 2

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

Some background

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

Innocent infringers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S 115(2) damages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional damages

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

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

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

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

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


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

Two points about exclusive licences of patents in Australia

The Full Court has upheld Rares J’s decision that Novartis was an exclusive licensee with standing to sue for patent infringement. However, its sub-licensee was not.[1]

Under the Patents Act 1990, only the patentee and an exclusive licensee have standing to sue for infringement: s 120. For this purpose, the licensee must be the exclusive licensee of all the rights to exploit the patent.[2]

In its initial licence, Orion had reserved to itself the right to manufacture the relevant drugs; granting Novartis the exclusive rights to import, use, offer to sell and sell the drugs. Orion also had rights to introduce its own generic product if a generic producer entered the market.

Following the Full Court’s ruling in BMS v Apotex (Aripiprazole), those terms meant that Novatis was not an “exclusive licensee” as (at the least) the grant did not include also the exclusive right to make the drugs.

Following Aripiprazole, however, Orion and Novartis amended the terms of the licence. Under the terms of the new licence, Orion simply granted Novartis the exclusive licence to exploit the patent in Australia “to the exclusion of all other persons”. In clause 2, however, Novartis undertook to buy all its requirements for the licensed products from Orion. There was also a side agreement that Novartis’ exclusive licence terminated if its rights under another, umbrella agreement[3] terminated.

As Actavis did not contend that the new arrangements were a sham, the Full Court affirmed Rares J’s conclusion that the new arrangements superseded the previous arrangements in which Orion had reserved rights of manufacture. Further, the agreement to buy all its requirements for the patented products did not undercut that exclusivity.

There were textual arguments to support that conclusion, such as recognition that Novartis could apply to IP Australia to register its status as exclusive licensee. Perhaps, the key point is that an exclusive licensee could, if it so wished, contract with some other person for that person to make the products for it. The fact that the “other person” was the patentee did not undermine that proposition.

We are persuaded that the primary judge’s analysis of the relationship between clause 1 and clause 2 is correct. Although it is true to say that the two clauses are connected, we think that the primary judge was correct to conclude that they represent separate promises in the sense that clause 1 creates the plenary rights of an exclusive licensee and clause 2 reflects the agreement between the parties as to how Novartis will exercise its rights. We do not think that clause 2 acts as some exclusion clause or limitation clause in the way in which the appellants contend, such as to cut down the legal effect of the rights granted by clause 1.

The sub-licensee

Novartis itself had granted an exclusive sub-licence of its rights under the exclusive licence to Novartis Australia.

The Full Court rejected the argument (and Novartis itself did not try to defend it) that there had been an assignment of its rights to Novartis Australia.

The Full Court ruled that s 120 is mandatory and not permissive only. That is, only a patentee or an exclusive licensee had standing to sue for infringement. As Novartis Australia was only a sub-licensee, therefore, it had no standing to sue for infringement.

As a sub-licensee, however, Novartis Australia had sufficient interest to have standing as a proper party to the cross-claim for invalidity under s 139.

It is difficult to imagine that in this case this delicate footwork will have much reflection in who pays whose costs. One point where it could have a real impact, however, could be on what damages, if any, were payable. It might well not be possible to claim damages for sales lost by Novartis Australia, if it did in fact lose any sales, as Novartis Australia did not have standing to sue for infringement.[4]

Actavis Pty Ltd v Orion Corporation [2016] FCAFC 121 (Allsop CJ, Nicholas and Yates JJ)


  1. There are 193 paragraphs before the discussion of this issue, dealing with questions of validity and infringement (which seem to turn mainly on points of construction).  ?
  2. From the Dictionary: “exclusive licensee ” means a licensee under a licence granted by the patentee and conferring on the licensee, or on the licensee and persons authorised by the licensee, the right to exploit the patented invention throughout the patent area to the exclusion of the patentee and all other persons.  ?
  3. A so-called Rest of the World Agreement, setting out arrangements between the parties except for the USA and the European Union.  ?
  4. In Insight SRC v ACER, however, a Full Court held that a copyright owner could recover damages for sales lost non-exclusive licensees who did not have standing to sue for infringement.  ?

The patent was not infringed

Thank you to all those readers who expressed a view in last Tuesday’s poll. The good news is that better than 80% of you answered correctly. According to the traditional view, recently applied by Rares J, there would be no infringement in Australia in the circumstances outlined.

On the traditional view, a patent (like any other intellectual property right in Australia) is a territorial right. A patent, of course, confers the exclusive right to exploit the claimed invention in the patent area. Exploit in this context meaning:

(a) where the invention is a product–make, hire, sell or otherwise dispose of the product, offer to make, sell, hire or otherwise dispose of it, use or import it, or keep it for the purpose of doing any of those things; or

(b) where the invention is a method or process–use the method or process or do any act mentioned in paragraph (a) in respect of a product resulting from such use.

Under the old form of the patent grant, the patentee was granted the exclusive right to make, use, exercise and vend the invention. In BASF v Hickson, the House of Lords ruled that a defendant in England, who entered into a contract with another party to make some goods for that third party in Switzerland and deliver them to that third party in Switzerland, did not infringe even though the third party subsequently imported the goods into England.[1] Lord Davey said:[2]

It must be such a vending as will be in a sense a working or use and exercise of the invention in this country or an appropriation by the vendor of some advantage which the patentee can derive from such use and exercise. A contract to deliver the goods abroad does not in any way interfere with the patentee’s rights to work and utilize his invention in this country. It is a contract to do a perfectly lawful act, and whether the contract be made in this country or abroad does not in itself affect the patentee’s monopoly of working his invention. Nor is it material to consider whether or when the property in the goods passed to the purchaser. It is lawful to be the owner of the goods if made and situate abroad, and neither the vendor nor the purchaser in my opinion thereby infringes the patent. The goods may or may not be afterwards brought into this country, and a different question will then arise, but that is no concern of the vendor after he has parted with them. I am of opinion that “vending the invention” in the common form of patent is confined to selling goods made or brought into this country ….

Load and Move has a patent in Australia for spreaders and tipplers, which are apparently used in the loading and tipping of shipping containers. CTS, another Australian company, entered into a contract with a mine in Eritrea to supply the mine with spreaders and tipplers which Load and Move considered would infringe its patent. However, CTS agreed to have the spreaders and tipplers made in China and delivered to the port in China FOB or ex works for delivery directly to the mine in Eritrea. The spreaders and tipplers would never come into Australia.

Load and Move was seeking preliminary discovery from CTS to establish whether payments for the contract with the Eritrean mine were received in Australia.

Rares J has refused preliminary discovery.

One of the conditions that must be established to obtain preliminary discovery is that the applicant reasonably believes it has a right to obtain relief against a prospective respondent.[3]

Rares J began by pointing out that a subjective belief that one’s right was being infringed was not enough; the belief had to be reasonably held. That required the existence of facts from which a reasonable person could form the required belief. That is, the belief was tested objectively.

Here, the question was whether there were facts from which a reasonable person could conclude that Load and Move’s patent was being infringed in Australia. In light of BASF v Hickson, however, Rares J held that a reasonable person could not hold such a view.

Load and Move Pty Ltd v Container Rotation Systems Pty Ltd
[2016] FCA 843

ps Sorry no post on Friday: let’s just say there was a synchronisation glitch.


  1. The third party would infringe by importing.  ?
  2. Badische Anilin Und Soda Fabrik v Hickson [1906] AC 419 at 422 – 423 cited by Rares J in Load and Move at [26].  ?
  3. FCR r 7.23.  ?

Chemist Warehouse dismissed

While we are on the subject of misleading or deceptive conduct, the Full Court has dismissed “Chemist Warehouse”‘s appeal from Middleton J’s dismissal of its claim that stores like these:

Another view
Another view
Direct Chemist Outlet
Direct Chemist Outlet

misrepresented an association of some sort with stores looking something like this:

Some Chemist Warehouse storefronts
Some Chemist Warehouse storefronts

image022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were some 19 grounds of appeal which the Full Court worked their way through in detail. The central problem for Chemist Warehouse was that Full Court said there was no error in Middleton J’s finding that the predominantly yellow colouring of the exterior of the Chemist Warehouse outlets was not distinctive – the distinctive feature was the “Chemist Warehouse” logo:

no error has been shown in his Honour’s findings that the primary colour palette used by Chemist Warehouse was not distinctive. First, there was considerable variability in the nature of the Chemist Warehouse get-up. The primary judge distinguished other authorities where secondary branding had been accepted on the basis of a consistent presentation of colours in a particular juxtaposition. Second, the colours had a functional aspect. Colour can be used for its practical or functional utility, for example, high visibility for a road sign. In the present case his Honour appears to have accepted that the colour yellow was used to take advantage of the attributes of visibility and its association with discount value; but such a function could apply to any type of discount goods, not just pharmacy goods. The use of yellow to create the so-called “yellow box” was also to draw the attention of potential consumers on the street; it cannot be said that the use of the colour yellow in that way denoted trade origin. His Honour accepted the functionality of yellow (see at [9], [10], [12], [14] and [100]). He also accepted that the yellow, blue and red combination served a functional purpose (see at [240]). No error is demonstrated in any of these findings.

Fourth, the dominant and distinctive “Chemist Warehouse” logo was the only consistent branding element across the appellants’ stores prior to May 2006 ….

The fact that other stores, like JB Hi-Fi and Ted’s Camera’s used a predominantly yellow background to attract attention was also not irrelevant to whether its use on pharmacies was distinctive.

Moreover, even if the get-up had been distinctive, there would have been no misrepresentation:

in any event, even if a colour-based reputation could have been shown, that would not have answered the question of whether there had been misleading or deceptive conduct or a misrepresentation.  The respondents had a different get-up with different distinguishing features.  Indeed the primary judge had distinguished the respondents’ stores by not only the “Direct Chemist Outlet” trade mark but also the different distinctive logo, cleaner appearance and lifestyle photographs.  None of these were part of the appellants’ pleaded get-up.  The respondents’ schedules two and three to its closing submissions, by reference to the primary evidence before his Honour consisting of the relevant photos, well summarise the variability in get-up used at the DCO stores and the Chemist Warehouse stores, and relevant differences.

The Full Court pointed out that proof DCO had copied elements of its get-up from Chemist Warehouse was not sufficient to invoke the principle from Australian Woollen Mills that someone who sets out to deceive will be presumed to have succeeded. For that principle to apply, it was necessary to show not just copying but also a subjective intention to mislead or deceive – to appropriate part of the trade or reputation of the competitor.

Finally (for the purposes of this note), the Full Court accepted Middleton J’s view that the appropriate time to assess whether DCO’s conduct was misleading or deceptive was when DCO first commenced use of its present get-up. Chemist Warehouse argued, in the alternative, that Middleton J should have made the assessment for each individual DCO store at the time it opened – the so-called geographical approach. Middleton J pointed to a number of problems with this approach. One problem was that there were some areas where the Chemist Warehouse store opened after the DCO store – who would be making the misrepresentation then. Further:

… if the Applicants and Respondents were concurrently trading and building independent reputations in separate areas, it may have been the case that it was not the Respondents’ conduct that was misleading or deceptive at that later time.

For example, the Lalor DCO store opened in 2014, well after 26 May 2006. Both parties had advanced their own reputations by that time. What is the Court to conclude is the position of the competing parties in that particular area and at that particular time? It is to be recalled that since 26 May 2006 both businesses involved in this proceeding have increased their respective exposure to the relevant consumers by opening many new stores. There has been co-existence in the market place for approximately eight years prior to litigation commencing. Further, stores have opened in numerous locations, and Chemist Warehouse stores have opened in close proximity to existing DCO stores (as in the case of the Warrnambool store, for example).

In any event, his Honour considered that the DCO get-up sufficiently distinguished its stores from Chemist Warehouse stores that no misrepresentation was likely to arise.

The Full Court considered Middleton J’s analysis was “unremarkable” and no error was identified.

Verrocchi v Direct Chemist Outlet Pty Ltd [2016] FCAFC 104

A “new” Act designs case!

Nicholas J has ruled that by selling its Razor fan Martec has infringed Hunter Pacific’s registered design for a ceiling fan hub, ADR No. 340171.

On the right below are two of the representations in the design:[1]

ADR 340171 perspective
ADR 340171 perspective
796.12
Martec’s Razor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADR 340171 hub
ADR 340171 hub

 

Martec's Razor hub
Martec’s Razor hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and on the left above are corresponding views of Martec’s infringement.

On the s 19 analysis mandated by s 71, Nicholas J recognised a number of obvious differences between the registered design and the Razor. However, the overall impression conveyed was one of similarity. In particular, the lower “hubs” were similarly proportioned and conveyed a generally sleek and flat appearance. This was particularly important as this was the feature which contributed most to the informed user’s assessment of the design. As Hunter Pacific’s expert pointed out, that was significant as a ceiling fan hub would be viewed from underneath, looking up. Thus, his Honour concluded:

Although they exhibit a number of obvious differences in shape and configuration, these differences are in my view insufficient to displace what I consider to be significant and eye-catching similarities that create an overall impression of substantial similarity.

It is a bit difficult to tell as images of the prior art are not included. That said, the verbal descriptions suggest that the Razor was much closer to the registered design than any of the prior art. The number of prior art advanced by Martec served to emphasise that there were many different ways to achieve the same functional outcome. Accordingly, while the designs were to some extent dictated by function, there was no significant restriction on the designer’s freedom to innovate.

Nicholas J did not explicitly take sides on the debate about who was the informed user, simply restating the statutory test.[2] His Honour did follow Yates’ J lead, however, in emphasising that the impression that the informed user would form was not based on a fleeting or casual inspection. Rather, it required a careful and deliberate visual inspection.

Hunter Pacific International Pty Ltd v Martec Pty Ltd [2016] FCA 796


  1. The annotations were marked up by one of the witnesses.  ?
  2. Contrast the “Review” approach vs Multisteps discussed by Yates J at [57] – [71].  ?

Omnibus claims: substantially the same

In partly allowing Glaxo’s appeal, the Full Court (Allsop CJ, Yates and Robertson JJ) has ruled against an expansive interpretation of omnibus claims.

You may recall (here and here) that Reckitt Benckiser has a patent protecting its bottle / syringe combination for dispensing Panadol to children aged between 1 – 5 years old.[1]

Claim 1 claimed:

A liquid dispensing apparatus comprising a bottle, a bottle neck liner and a flat-nosed syringe having a plunger and a barrel, the barrel terminating at its distal end in a generally flat face having a diameter corresponding to the diameter of the syringe barrel and being perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the barrel, the bottle having a bottle neck in which is located the bottle neck liner having a cylindrical body sealingly engaged inside the bottle neck such that liquid cannot flow between the bottle neck liner and the bottle neck, the bottle neck liner comprising a sleeve comprising at its lower end an inward step located within the bottle neck, an aperture being defined inwardly of the inward step, wherein the cylindrical body and the sleeve are connected together with a web of material only at the upper end of the cylindrical body and of the sleeve, wherein the sleeve is formed with a flared portion at its upper end into which the distal end of the syringe barrel passes; wherein when the syringe barrel is inserted into the sleeve the inward step prevents the syringe barrel from protruding past the step and liquid cannot flow between the sleeve and the barrel, but can leave the bottle only via the aperture and thence the syringe. (emphasis supplied)

and claim 9 was an omnibus claim:

A liquid dispensing apparatus, substantially as described with reference to the drawings and/or examples.

Glaxo marketed two different versions of its competing product:

Glaxo Version 1
Glaxo Version 1
Glaxo Version 2
Glaxo Version 2

The trial Judge held that Version 1 infringed claim 1 but, because it had a narrower nozzle section at the spout[2] and so the barrel was not uniform along its length, Version 2 did not. The barrel of Version 2 did not terminate “at its distal end in a generally flat face having a diameter corresponding to the diameter of the syringe barrel”. The trial Judge, however, then went on to find that Version 2 infringed the omnibus claim because it functioned substantially in the same way as described in the patent:

The alternate syringe has exactly the same function as that described in the patent and the drawings. The alternate syringe is a flat-nosed syringe that has a distal end that fits into the liner and achieves a good seal with it so that it can draw up liquid without leaking from the bottle or the syringe. The mere fact that there is a corresponding tip on both the barrel and the reciprocating plunger used in the alternate syringe in the second product complained of should not be allowed to disguise that that product has taken the substantial configuration resulting from the patentee’s invention and its character for the dispensing of liquids from bottles without mess using an apparatus with a flat-nosed syringe: Radiation 60 CLR at 52; Raleigh 65 RPC at 160. The alternate syringe, as incorporated into the second product complained of, is not a substantially new or different combination

The Full Court dismissed the appeal from the trial Judge’s finding that Version 1 did infringe claim 1 and Version 2 did not. Importantly for present purposes, it allowed Glaxo’s appeal from the finding that Version 2 nonetheless infringed claim 9, the omnibus claim:

[79] … contrary to the conclusion of the primary judge, the use of the word “substantially” in claim 9 in the expression “substantially as described with reference to the drawings and/or examples” does not extend the definition of the invention to “the substantial idea” disclosed by the specification and shown in the drawings.

[80] The word “substantially” provides no warrant for departing from what the specification itself mandates to be the essential features of the invention. A flat-nosed syringe dimensioned as described in the consistory statement is one of the essential features of the invention. Thus, whatever work the word “substantially” is to perform in claim 9, it cannot transform a feature made essential by the description of the invention into one that is now inessential. Put another way, an embodiment that does not possess the essential features of the invention as described, cannot be one that is “substantially as described”. Thus, the word “substantially” in claim 9 does not do the work which the primary judge held that it did.

The Full Court pointed out that the description and drawings were a particular form of the first embodiment in the patent. It was plain from the consistory clause describing the embodiment and claim 1 that a barrel of uniform diameter throughout its length was an essential feature of the invention. All claims apart from the omnibus claim were dependent from claim 1. Claim 1 was the widest form of the claimed invention. Accordingly, the omnibus claim, which is a more narrowly defined claim, could not be wider than claim 1.[3]

Perhaps continuing the swing of the interpretation pendulum back towards the ‘literal meaning’ approach, their Honours also warned against too ready an assumption that some wording in a claim was just “a slip of the pen” rather than a carefully chosen limitation.

ps As Dr Patentology points out, s 40(3A) bans (or tries to ban) the use of omnibus claims in patents the subject of the new rules under the Raising the Bar regime; i.e., in broad terms, patents the subject of an application filed on or after 13 April 2013 or, if filed earlier, which had not been the subject of a request for examination before 13 April 2013.[4]

If you have a comment or a question, please feel free to post it in the comments section or, if you would prefer, email me.

GlaxoSmithKline Australia Pty Ltd v Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd [2016] FCAFC 90

[lewis]:


  1. Australian Patent No. 2003283537 (the patent) entitled “Improvements in and relating to liquid dispensing”.  ?
  2. In expert witness legalese, “the indented section at the distal end”.  ?
  3. As the High Court explained in [Radiation]: “But it is said that the words in the claim. “ substantially as described,” tie the claim to the particidar form of construction illustrated in the drawings. The effect of the words depends upon the construc­ tion of the claim as a whole, but “ in general the words exercise a limiting effect by tying ” the claim “ more closely to the preceding description ” (See Fletcher Moulton on Patents (1913), p. 128). They do not, however, limit the claim to the precise construction shown in the drawings but rather to the kind of apparatus mentioned and the method described in the specifications and illustrated in the drawings.”.  ?
  4. Someone made a more detailed attempt to explain the transition provisions in Lahore, Patents, Trade Marks & Related Rights at [12,000].  ?