The Hague Agreement: a cost benefit analysis

IP Australia has published a cost benefit analysis for Australia joining the Hague Agreement for registration of designs.

You are no doubt thinking that sounds very exciting (not). But, even if you are not into registered designs, you SHOULD READ IT. This is the Government’s first attempt at applying the Productivity Commission’s call for any proposals to reform intellectual property laws to be economically justified. As the Report says in the first paragraph of the Executive Summary:

The report assesses the impacts [i.e., the costs and benefits to Australia of joining the Hague Agreement] with reference to the Productivity Commission’s (PC) guiding principles of effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability and accountability. This report is intended to form part of the evidence base in relation to whether Australia should join the Hague Agreement.

So, unless it involves an acronym that is like TPP, this could well be a harbinger of things to come.

And what does it conclude find:

  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net benefit for Australian designers is $1.7 million;[1]
  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to Australian consumers from higher prices resulting from the longer term of design protection is $58 million;[2]
  • to add a little bit more spice to the debate, IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to Australian IP professionals is $2.5 million;[3] and
  • IP Australia’s best estimate of the net cost to the Australian government of implementing new systems etc. to comply with Hague is $2.8 million.[4]

The big question IP Australia is asking you is how realistic are these estimates?

Now, in arriving at these numbers, the Report does include quite a lot of hard data.
For example, most Australians who file designs overseas do so in the EU, the USA, NZ and China. On the other side of the coin, most incoming design registrations were from the USA, the EU, Japan, NZ, Switzerland and China.[5]

On the other hand, the Productivity Commission reported that less than 20% of registered designs are renewed beyond the first 5 year term.[6] According to IP Australia, however, approximately half of all design registrations are renewed for the second 5 year term and non-residents are more likely to renew than Australians.[7]

Will we become better at designing if we “stick” with our current settings – 19th out of the top 40[8] – or should we “twist” and sign up? Of course, there is an anterior question: do we even care about good design in the first place?

IP Australia is seeking feedback on its cost-benefit analysis and its proposed methodology to elicit additional evidence and views with the aim of finalising the analysis in 2018. You should get your say in by 31 May 2018.

The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs: A cost-benefit analysis for Australia March 2018


  1. This represents the costs savings from the simplified application procedure and the increased profits from taking new designs overseas. IP Australia estimates the range of benefit is from $0.03 million to $6 million.  ?
  2. This represents how much Australian consumers would pay to overseas owners of registered designs if the term of a registered design was extended from 10 years (currently) to the minimum 15 years required under Hague. IP Australia estimates a resulting range of net outflows from $23 million to $114 million.  ?
  3. IP Australia anticipates that “IP professionals” will garner some extra work at the examination stage but will lose work at the filing stage as the Hague Agreement provides for one central application to WIPO rather than multiple individual application to each separate jurisdiction. IP Australia estimates a range from a benefit of $0.3 million to a cost of $12 million.  ?
  4. The Government (presumably that means IP Australia) will incur costs between $2.3 and $3.4 million in upgrading its IT systems.  ?
  5. Report p. 10. It’s not clear from this part of the Report whether Australian applicants filed in all, some or only one of those destinations.  ?
  6. Productivity Commission, Intellectual Property Arrangements: Final Report, p. 337. These were the figures from ACIP as at 2013.  ?
  7. Report p. 11. In 2010, 66% of non-residents renewed. How the discrepancy between the Productivity Commission’s figures (i.e.,
    ACIP’s figures) came about is not clear.  ?
  8. Report Appendix 3 table 4.1.  ?

Cutting the costs of designs litigation

Justice Carr in the UK has weighed into case management of design infringement cases in a big way.

Clingabeez[1] are apparently the runaway toy of the last year or so, being the Activity Toy of 2016 in the UK. They are the subject of a Registered Community Design. So, when what they allege are “copycats” hit the market, the letters of demand started flying. “Bunchem[2] is one such competitor.[3] It sued for unjustified threats and challenges the validity of the Registered Community Design. “Clingabeez” cross-claimed for infringement and denied invalidity.

At the initial case management conference, Clingabeez estimated a six-day trial and £776,000 costs; Bunchem estimated a four day trial and £360,000 costs.

Justice Carr considered both estimates were well out of order. His Lordship considered that a case relating to a registered design for a consumer product should be much simpler, largely dependent on the Court’s visual assessment of the evidence. In line with Court of Appeal decisions,[4] at [6], Justice Carr said:

(i) Registered design cases are concerned with the overall impression of the registered design, the alleged infringement and the design corpus. It is easier to see this than to describe it in words.

(ii) Admissible evidence in such cases is very limited, and is most likely to comprise technical evidence about design constraints. Such evidence is unlikely to require substantial cross-examination. It should be possible to decide a registered design case in a few hours.

(iii) If permission for expert evidence is to be given, then the precise ambit of that evidence should be defined. The expert should be told what question to address and the evidence should be confined to those questions.

(iv) It is clear law that whether the defendant has copied is irrelevant. It is equally irrelevant for the defendant to prove or to give disclosure about how his design was arrived at.

On the question of admissible evidence and further discovery, Justice Carr excluded evidence going to copying at this stage. Copying was not relevant to the question of infringement. However, it could be relevant to the remedy of additional damages. Accordingly, his Lordship postponed discovery and any evidence directed to that issue to any subsequent hearing on remedies if the trial on liability and validity resulted in a finding of infringement.

Both parties had already filed detailed particulars of, respectively, differences and similarities. Justice Carr did not consider the parties’ requests for further information about these matters would be helpful. However, his Lordship directed that each side should exchange concurrently enlarged photographs of the products alleged to infringe marked up to indicate the points it relied on.

His Lordship limited the expert evidence to the following matters;

There are very limited issues upon which expert evidence is admissible. The issues on which I intend to allow expert evidence are as follows. First, are any of the features listed in subparagraphs (1) to (9) of paragraph 6.5 of the Amended Particulars of Claim features of appearance of a construction toy such as Bunchems which are solely dictated by its technical function? Second, to what extent, if any, is the degree of freedom of design limited by the functional nature, if any, of the features of subparagraphs (1) to (9) of paragraph 6.5 of the Amended Particulars of Claim?

Bunchem” was happy with its expert evidence being limited to 10 pages and two pages (excluding exhibits) directed to the design corpus. “Clingabeez”, having asked for 20 pages, was permitted 15.

Justice Carr fixed the trial duration at three days including reading time, and did not think it would be necessary for any adjournment for preparation of final written submissions. His Lordship then set out at [23] eight “lessons for the future” to achieve shorter trials more expeditiously in such matters:

(i) The parties should, in appropriate cases, produce images at an early stage to show the differences or similarities upon which they rely, and in the case of the defendant, those features which are wholly functional or in which design freedom is said to be limited. Requests for further information are unlikely to be helpful.

(ii) Claimants should not try to introduce or seek disclosure in relation to copying. The parties should carefully consider why, if at all, disclosure is necessary, rather than agreeing to standard or even issue based disclosure.

(iii) Expert evidence as to whether the alleged infringement produces on the informed user the same or a different overall impression as the registered design should not be included in cases concerning consumer products.

(iv) The parties should try to limit the length of expert evidence to an agreed number of pages.

(v) If any evidence of fact is to be introduced, the court will need to be satisfied of its relevance.

(vi) The parties should be prepared at the pre-trial review to identify issues on which cross-examination is necessary, and to explain why.

(vii) Where multiple designs, or multiple infringements, are alleged, the parties should each select a limited number of samples on which the issues can be tested.

(viii) The parties should give careful thought to those issues which can be postponed to a damages enquiry, which will only need to be considered if liability is established.

Justice Carr’s approach would no doubt commend itself to Justice Finkelstein, were he still on the bench. It may also be rather more difficult for an Australian court to exclude evidence going to the “ultimate question”, given section 80 of the Evidence Act and the first Cadbury/Darrell Lea appeal. On the other hand, the relevance of copying is exactly the same.[5] Nonetheless, as both the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court are striving to make litigation more costs effective,[6] there may well be considerable interest in exploring Justice Carr’s admonitions DownUnder.

Spin Master Limited v PMS International Group [2017] EWHC 1477 (Pat)


  1. Otherwise known as PMS International Group.  ?
  2. Spin Master Limited.  ?
  3. Indeed, a Google search or visit to Youtube might see the two brand names used interchangeably. For example  ?
  4. Procter & Gamble Co v Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Limited [2007] EWCA Civ 936; [2008] Bus LR 801 and repeated and expanded by the Court of Appeal Dyson Ltd v Vax Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1206; [2013] Bus LR 328  ?
  5. Review 2 Pty Ltd v Redberry Enterprise Pty Ltd [2008] FCA 1588.  ?
  6. See also chapter 19 of the Productivity Commission’s Intellectual Property Arrangements – Final Report.  ?

Court of Appeal orders ISPs to block access to trade mark infringing websites

The Court of Appeal[1] has confirmed that the court’s general power to grant injunctions can be invoked by trade mark owners to get orders against ISPs to block internet access to website that have infringing content.

The interesting point (for Australians) is that, like Australia, UK law has a specific statutory power authorising injunctions against ISPs to block access only to websites that infringe copyright. There is no corresponding provision in the Trade Marks Act 1994 (UK). Instead, section 37(1) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (previously the Supreme Court Act 1981) provides:

The High Court may by order (whether interlocutory or final) grant an injunction … in all cases in which it appears to be just and convenient to do so.

The IPKat has a preliminary summary here.

The main question the Court of Appeal’s decision raises for us is whether an Australian court might be persuaded to make similar orders against ISPs to block access to website which infringe trade marks (or other IP). Australian courts have powers to grant injunctions corresponding to s 37 of the Superior Courts Act.[2]

On the other hand, Parliament has also only recently introduced the specific statutory provision in the context of copyright infringement and that provision is tightly focused for policy reasons against overseas websites which have infringement as their primary focus.

And, it appears that the Court of Appeal was heavily influenced by the obligations imposed on national law by art. 11 of the EU’s Enforcement Directive to require ISPs to take steps to stop infringing activity. That specific legislated obligation does not apply here. That there may be different philosophies at play may also be seen in what appears to be the different approach in the EU to the liability of market operators for infringing conduct by stall holders.[3]

A second point emerging from a very quick skim of the 214 paragraphs is that Kitchin and Jackson LJJ held that the ISPs should be liable for the costs of implementing and maintaining the blocks. Briggs LJ dissented on this point insofar as it required the ISPs to bear the costs of complying (apart from designing and installing the software). As Jackson LJ pithily put it in agreeing with Kitchin LJ, that is “part of the price which the ISPs must pay for the immunities which they enjoy”. This may point up another difference in the legal environment: ISPs in the EU have assumed obligations to block access to websites such as those dealing in paedophilia. In addition, the safe harbours regime for ISPs applies generally, not just for copyright infringement as in Australia.

Finally, so far, there haven’t been any orders in the site blocking cases brought under s 115A yet.

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.

Cartier International AG v British Sky Broadcasting Limited [2016] EWCA Civ 658


  1. For England and Wales, not New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland or ….  ?
  2. Australian courts have corresponding powers: for example, s 23 of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1977 provides “The Court has power, in relation to matters in which it has jurisdiction, to make orders of such kinds, including interlocutory orders, and to issue, or direct the issue of, writs of such kinds, as the Court thinks appropriate.” There are, of course, counterpart provisions in the Federal Circuit Court Act and the State Supreme Court Acts: see Victoria and NSW.  ?
  3. Compare this CJEU decision to Dowsett J’s decision at first instance.  ?

Are innovation patents going?

Last year, ACIP ducked the question of keeping or abolishing the controversial innovation patent system. Last week, ACIP issued an “updated” statement in which it recommended abolition of the innovation patent system.

What happened?

According to ACIP, in the intervening period, IP Australia’s Chief Economist took advantage of data that became available through the Government’s Intellectual Property Government Open Data (IPGOD) “to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of the innovation patent system”. That study disclosed:

The great majority of Australian SMEs and private inventors appear to gain little benefit from the system… Only 23 SMEs have become moderate users of the innovation patent system … The average SME or private inventor files once and never again (74%), does not receive any enforceable right (83%) and lets their patent expire early because they see its value at less than the $110-$220 cost of renewal (78%).

Further

While 94% of innovation patent applications are made by private inventors or SMEs and they incur 95% of the regulatory costs of the system, larger firms who are already well served by the standard patent system tend to reap a disproportionate share of the benefits.

Taking into account regulatory costs and costs to public welfare generally, ACIP considers that the costs of the innovation system outweigh the benefits and so recommends abolition.

ACIP Review of the Innovation Patent System: Final Report May 2015 (updated to include new statement) (pdf)

The Statement

At the time of writing, the link to the comprehensive analysis of the economic data does not appear to be working.

Dr Summerfield takes a different view.

More contempts

Bob Jane and his trading companies were found to be infringing the BOB JANE and JANE FLEET trade marks and had, amongst other things, injunctions ordered against them to stop, to change the various company names and transfer two domain names.

They didn’t.

This time, Besanko J has imposed fines of $25,000 and $15,000 on Mr Jane for his contempts, $25,000 and $15,000 on Bob Jane Global Tyre Corporation (Hong Kong) Limited, $20,000 on Bob Jane Southern Motors Pty Ltd and $2,000 fines on corporate respondents for other contempts. The respondents were also ordered to pay 80% of the applicants costs on an indemnity basis.

Bob Jane Corporation Pty Ltd v ACN 149 801 141 Pty Ltd [2014] FCA 637

Abstract principle, fine art or just unknowable

Mr Lisica applied for a patent, claim 1 of which reads:

An auscultative method that expounds upon the Natural Harmonics Series (NHS) and Mr Svetko Lisica’s Scientific Theory for Music’s decipherability and attunement, from the Invention’s Programmatic Specificity in a soniferous or visual realm for a new, useful, innovative and original Composition Engine and via its computations, providing the compositional harmonic materials that are put in the states of being manifested by the Invention’s unprecedented and original Musical Instrument and Sonic Biodynamical Brain Entrainment Bridge for Binaural Beats, into a stable unit of measure in exactitude for a tuning medium, herewith this Invention is the state or fact of existence, a practical Universal Intonation System that belongs with Music, The Absolute and The Beyond.

(The other claims are all dependent.)

Despite submissions to the Examiner, the Delegate at a hearing and an appeal to the Court, no-one (apart from Mr Lisica) really has any idea what the claimed invention is.

The Delegate rejected Mr Lisica’s application on the grounds that it was not a manner of manufacture and contravention of s 40(2) – the old form.[1]

Jessup J found only one objection was necessary: non-compliance with s 40(3) (in its old form):

The claims are, of course, critical to the exercise in which the court is now involved. It is here that the applicant encounters what is, for a court operating without the assistance of expert evidence, a fundamental difficulty. In my view, Claim 1, set out above, is not clear and succinct, as required by s 40(3) of the Patents Act. As a statement marking out the area of the public monopoly which the applicant seeks, the claim falls well short of the standard of clarity required. The ground of objection referred to in s 59(c) is substantiated in relation to the claim. I do not, therefore, consider that there is no lawful ground of objection of the kind referred to in s 49(1)(b). I would exercise the discretion arising under s 49(2) adversely to the applicant.

The Commissioner (or, rather, her officers) were a bit naughty. Mr Lisica had submitted 6 files in support of his application. The Examiner and the Delegate only opened and read 2 of them. Apparently, the other files were in SCM format, which the Patent Office couldn’t open.[2]

The naughty bit: no-one told Mr Lisica that the Patent Office didn’t read the files (because they couldn’t open them) until everyone got to Court for the trial. As Jessup J explained:

It may have required a modicum of ingenuity to open the SCM files – in a demonstration in court, the applicant himself did so. But the troubling aspect of the omission referred to above is not whether it was reasonable of the applicant to have expected the examiner and the delegate to open the files, but that the applicant was never informed of the difficulty which they were, apparently, experiencing, nor invited to remedy it. The examiner’s report was supplied to the applicant in the normal course, and it gave him no reason to suspect that four out of the six files which he had submitted had not been viewed or considered for such assistance as they may have provided in conveying the nature of the invention and how it was best performed. In that state of ignorance, the applicant made his submissions to the delegate, and he too dealt with the problems which the application involved without viewing all the files which constituted the application.

(His Honour did note that he was not suggesting any different result might have occurred if the correct process had observed.) Jessup J seems to be contemplating not allowing the Commissioner her costs:

In the orders which accompany these reasons, I shall lay out a timetable for the making of written submissions on costs. I shall, of course, consider any submission which the Commissioner makes in that regard, but I think I should say at this stage that one issue upon which I would expect to be addressed in that submission is whether the circumstances most recently discussed above in these reasons should be considered relevant to such entitlement to costs as the Commissioner might otherwise have as the successful party in this appeal.

Lisica v Commissioner of Patents [2014] FCA 433


  1. Relying amongst other things on Research Affiliates.  ?
  2. His Honour drily noted, even a file in .doc format does not comply with the Commissioner’s requirements.  ?

3 stripes v 4 stripes: the remedies

4 stripes 3 stripes now the remedies

Following the decision a couple of months back that 3 of 12 Pacific Brands’s shoes had infringed adidas’ 3-stripes trade mark, Robertson J has now:

  1. made a declaration that Pacific Brands infringed;
  2. granted an injunction permanently restraining Pacific Brands from making or selling etc. 2 of the 3 shoes found to infringe;[1]
  3. awarded $20,000 damages; and
  4. ordered Pacific Brands to pay 30% of adidas’ costs.

The amount of damages was resolved between the parties. There are a couple of points of interest in the terms of the injunction and the costs order.

First, in relation to the injunction, adidas had sought an injunction which restrained Pacific Brands both in relation to the specific shoes found to infringe and also “from otherwise infringing” the 3-stripes trade mark. Robertson J refused this wider injunction. The practical reality of 9 styles either abandoned or found not to infringe served a telling warning against the injunction sought:

because, as these proceedings have shown, such an order would lack sufficient clarity and definition and the Court should not make an order in relation to conduct where a person would not readily know whether or not its proposed conduct breached the order. What is the appropriate relief must depend on the facts and on the underlying dispute and I do not derive much assistance from the form of relief granted in trade mark cases which concerned primarily words because infringements by words are generally clearer than by designs.[2]

His Honour also refused to include one of the 3 infringing styles in the order because the shoe had been taken off the market 7 years earlier and there was no sufficient risk of its reintroduction. While the other 2 infringing shoes had been taken off the market in 2009, an injunction was warranted. First, no unconditional undertaking had been given in relation to them. Secondly, while a broad undertaking had been given, his Honour considered the sale of these 2 styles after that undertaking was in place breached it. His Honour also considered that the evidence that Pacific Brands’ Global Trading division – the “division” which had sold the shoes – had been closed down was not “sufficiently cogent” to persuade him that there was no sufficient further risk of infringement.

Thirdly, the terms of the injunction extend also to authorising, directing or procuring other to make or sell the infringing shoes.

On the costs question, Robertson J considered the “old” rules which included an automatic one third reduction to the costs where less than $100,000 was recovered were applicable as the action started before the new, 2011, rules came into force. However, his Honour exercised his discretion not to apply that rule. The Federal Court was an appropriate forum to have brought the action in and damages were not the primary relief being sought. The costs were reduced, however, to reflect the degree of adidas’ success, particularly bearing in mind it had pursued 12 styles of shoe as part of an overall strategy to obtain broad injunctive relief. The little weight accorded to the survey having regard to the substantial amount of evidence it involved, in the face of Pacific Brands’ objections, was also a factor in the reduction of costs.

Adidas AG v Pacific Brands Footwear Pty Ltd (No 4) [2013] FCA 1335


  1. The terms of the injunction were:  ?

    The respondent, whether by its servants, agents or otherwise, be permanently restrained from:

    (a) manufacturing, procuring the manufacture of, importing, purchasing, selling, offering to sell, supplying, offering to supply or distributing footwear in the form depicted in any of Exhibits K or L in these proceedings, being the footwear depicted in Annexures B and C to these Orders;
    (b) authorising, directing or procuring any other company or person to engage in any of the conduct restrained by sub-paragraph (a).

  2. This may be contrasted with the typical injunction in a patent case that thou shalt not infringe the patent; leaving the infringer to run the gauntlet.  ?

Costs, (no damages) and IP cases

The Full Federal Court (Finn, Sundberg and Edmonds JJ) has clarified how FCR O62 r 36A operates in IP infringement cases.

FCR O62 r36A provides that the costs of a successful applicant which obtains an order for damages less than $100,000 will be reduced by one third, unless the Court otherwise orders.

Nokia had sued Liu for trade mark infringement arising from a customs seizure. The proceedings settled by consent, with injunctions and delivery up. Nokia pursued damages, but obtained only nominal damages as it was unable to obtain discovery of importation in significant quantities. The trial judge refused to allow Nokia any costs of the damages inquiry.

The Full Federal Court has allowed an appeal, awarding Nokia its (taxed) costs up to the consent judgment and completion of discovery about damages; thereafter costs were at the reduced rate.

The Full Court considered that costs of the trial up to and including the consent orders should be at the usual taxed rate, without the 1/3 reduction because it was common in IP cases for trials to be split – a trial on liability and (if successful) an injunction and a subsequent trial about damages (or an account) and  applicants were required to particularise only a single instance of infringement. The Full Court considered the remedy of injunction “indispensable”. It was also appropriate for the proceedings to be brought in one of the “prescribed courts”, customarily the Federal Court and it was not apparent that it would have been sensible for the matter to be referred down to the Federal Magistrates Court (unlike in copyright proceedings where the Federal Magistrates Court has direct jurisdiction).

Nokia was also entitled to costs of the damages inquiry at least until completion of discovery as it was legitimate and, until it had discovery, it could not have known of the futility. Once discovery was completed, it knew the risks it was running and, given the amount recovered, it was inappropriate to exercise the discretion not to limit the costs of that part of the proceeding by 1/3.

Nokia Corporation v Liu [2009] FCAFC 138

Re-examining a patent

VIP Plastic Packaging is suing BMW Plastics for infringing the former’s standard patent for a “Variable-length dip tube for a fluid transfer container”.

BMW Plastics denies infringement and has counter-claimed for invalidity.

Now, Kenny J has refused BMW Plastics’ attempt to get an order to have the Commissioner re-examine VIP Plastic Packaging’s patent.

Section 97 provides for re-examination of a standard “patent” in 3 situations:

  1. following acceptance, but prior to grant;
  2. following grant (when no other relevant proceedings are on foot in the Court); or
  3. following a direction from the Court in the course of relevant proceedings.

In the first situation, the Commissioner can refuse to grant the patent following re-examination. In the second, the Commissioner can revoke. In the third, the Commissioner just prepares a report which (presumably) forms part of the evidence before the Court.

As reported by her Honour, BMW Plastics’ thinking was that the Commissioner could provide the benefit of technical expertise which the Court might otherwise not have and there might be a costs saving. To this end, it was prepared to undertake not to contest the findings of the Commissioner’s report. VIP Plastic Packaging refused to reciprocate and, rather heroically, BMW Plastics contended that Court should order VIP Plastic Packaging to be bound too.

Kenny J was (with respect) justifiably sceptical about the costs savings that might flow:

I doubt that the provision of a report by the Commissioner after re-examination would reduce the cost of this proceeding and expedite its determination. First, the Commissioner’s report after re-examination is not binding on the Court. In the absence of an undertaking of the kind sought by B.M.W. Plastics from VIP Plastic, the provision of a report under s 100 will not necessarily relieve the Court of the task of deciding the issues of novelty and lack of inventive step by reference to the admissible evidence. If the Commissioner’s report were unfavourable to VIP Plastic, it would desire to put on evidence and dispute the report. There may be additional issues for the Court to determine if it receives such a report. Further, both parties said that, regardless of the lack of novelty and inventive step grounds, there will be a need for evidence, including expert evidence, to be adduced before the Court on various other issues. In the circumstances, I am not persuaded that re-examination by the Commissioner would be most expeditious or reduce costs.

(my underlining)

VIP Plastic Packaging Pty Ltd v BMW Plastics Pty Ltd [2009] FCA 593