Posts Tagged ‘Design’

Securities over IP

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

IP Australia has published a reminder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

IP Australia’s media release.

IP Australia’s general overview of PPS

PPS R.

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Designs Act 2003 review

Friday, September 6th, 2013

In May 2012, ACIP was directed to investigate the effectiveness of the Designs Act 2003 which commenced operation on 17 June 2004.

Now ACIP has published an issues paper.

Chapter 3 sets out 22 questions ACIP is seeking answers to. However, ACIP does also say:

the main purpose of the paper is to provoke discussion and any other relevant comments are very welcome.

The topics identified (so far) for comment include:

  • Duration of design protection
  • Grace period
  • Statement of Newness and Distinctiveness
  • Publication
  • Unregistered Designs Rights (UDRs)
  • Harmonisation with international practices (i.e. The Hague Agreement)
  • Border Protection Measures
  • Design overlap with other IP rights
  • Threshold of registrability
  • Confusion regarding the registration/publication/examination process;
  • The (potential) impact of new technologies, such as 3D printing technologies and graphical user interfaces.

There are some interesting statistics:

  • about 6,000 design applications filed each year (the Germans do 50,000+ a year, the Chinese are a whole order of magnitude bigger)
  • 90% proceed to registration (wonder how the other 10% manage to stuff up filling in the form?)
  • 20% of registrations have examination requested (so you can sue someone for infringement or try and revoke them)
  • 10% of those examined fail (i.e., 90% get certified)

Table 4 sets out the classes in which most applications are being made and Table 5 outs those who file the most applications.

The closing date for submissions is 31 October 2013.

Download the issues paper from here (pdf).

Lid dip: Janice Luck

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A lamp lens too far

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The fifth decision under the “new” Designs Act 2004 illustrates the operation of that old principle: in a crowded field, small differences may be enough to confer validity, but equally small differences in the accused products will be sufficient to avoid liability.
You will recall that LED Technologies successfully sued Elecspess (and others) for infringing LED’s registered designs for a dual lens lamp, ARD 302359, and a triple lens lamp, 302360 (links to those decisions via here). Well, LED fell out with its Chinese manufacturer, Valens, and found itself a new supplier. Valens, however, didn’t take things lying down and started supplying another of LED’s competitors, Baxter.
As in the earlier case, Baxter challenged the validity of the earlier design; this time arguing that the Statement of Newness and Distinctiveness was unclear and also relying on some different prior art.
The first objection failed.  The perspective view for the two-lens design looks like this:

 

ARD 302359

The Statement of Newness etc. etc. read:

Separate clip in lenses. Base to take a variety of 2, 3 or 4 combination of lenses for stop, tail, indicator, reverse LED lenses, no visible screws.

At [85], Finkelstein J accepted that the Statement of Newness etc. etc. could have been “better expressed”, but it sufficiently clear and succinct:
…. In my view the statement indicates clearly to the relevantly informed addressee (and probably to anyone familiar with the English language) that the base could be manufactured to take a number of lenses. Reference to “separate clip in lenses”, when read with the phrase “no visible screws”, indicates that the lenses clips in and are not held in place by screws. There is nothing relevantly uncertain contained in the statement. 

There were important visual differences between LED’s designs and the closest prior art. For example, at [104]:
the base of the Rubbolite lamps appeared to provide individual frames for each lens, which is not a feature of the registered designs. … the corners of the Rubbolite lens appeared sharper or squarer than the registered designs but said the difference was minor. … there was a noticeable ledge or lip around the lens (which he referred to as the “lens housing”) which was not shown on the registered designs. The ledge or lip around the lens on the Rubbolite lamps tapered inwards which made it substantially different in appearance when looked at from the side. 

Hence, the registered designs were valid.
Unfortunately (for LED), before Valens started supplying Baxter, it had made some changes to the product. As a result, the products supplied to Baxter were not substantially similar in overall impression to the registered designs. Finkelstein J accepted [105] that there were similarities between the products imported by Baxter and the registered design.  Many of them, however, “were common in the prior art”. Moreover:
[106] There are, to my mind, several important features that lead me to the conclusion that the Baxters lamps are not substantially similar in overall impression to the registered designs. The key features are the prominent cut out pattern on the underside of the designs, which is to be contrasted with the flat closed backs of the Baxters lamps, and the square lenses of the designs having a wide landing between them while the Baxters lights have no landing. Of less significance are the long sides of the frames of the registered designs which have raised edges resulting in a counter-sunk appearance, which is not present on the Baxters lamps. As well, the short sides of the frames of the registered designs are raised at their outer portions and dip down in the central portion, which is not a feature of Baxters’ design. 

[107] Moreover, in my view, it is these features that distinguish the registered designs from the prior art such as to admit of the conclusion that the registered designs are new and distinctive. 

Inducing breach of contract

An interesting twist to this case, was that LED also tried to “get” Baxter for inducing the (ex-) Chinese supplier, Valens, to breach its contract with LED.

Essentially, LED argued it had agreed with Valens that Valens would not supply anyone else in Australia or New Zealand with products made using the moulds for the products supplied to LED. The evidence on this point was less than ideal, with the judge being rather critical of the witnesses. There was also a dispute between LED and Valens over who owned what. Ultimately, his Honour accepted that there was a deal that LED would be supplied exclusively for Australia and New Zealand so the supply of products to Baxter was in breach of the agreement. However, Baxter itself did not procure the breach: Baxter did not know Valens was re-using the moulds: to the contrary, it was paying Valens for new moulds.

It is rather hard to reconcile the story in Elecspess on how the designs came into existence and came to be manufactured with the evidence in this case. Of course, as the parties in the two cases are different, each must be decided on its own evidence. I guess, in terms of ownership of the registered designs, there is commonality in that LED’s principal, Mr Ottobre, was the author of the original conception. Matters get rather murky after that.  At [30], LED apparently started selling the lamps made by Valens in “early 2004”, but the priority date of the designs is 22 June 2004.

LED Technologies Pty Ltd v Roadvision Pty Ltd [2011] FCA 146

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Apple v Samsung

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Nilay Patel at Thisismynext.com has embarked on an in depth examination of Apple’s new court action against Samsung.

Unlike the spectacularly unsuccessful war against Windows (based on copyright and ‘look and feel’), this action involves:

* patents;

* design patents; and

* trade dress.

The “thing that distinguishes this case from Apple’s other actions against other Android products is the trade dress component (and the piquancy of Samsung being a supplier of major components for the iPhone and the iPad).

Read Nilay’s take here. Marty’s view

Now, this case is not being brought in Australia but, if it were, one would wonder about the trade dress prospects given the clear Samsung branding in light of Parkdale v Puxu and its progeny such as Playcorp v Bodum. The only case where the trade dress got up in the face of clear branding is really the Jif Lemoncase, in which there was survey evidence showing an overwhelming preponderance of supermarket shoppers declaring they had bought a Jif Lemon, notwithstanding the swing tags and other clear branding.

Those cases did not, of course, involve design registrations as well (or the functional patents). And, even on trade dress, Apple’s complaint is at great pains to point out the level of detail at which resemblances can be drawn.

I guess we’ll see.

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2003 Designs Act appeal

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The Full Federal Court (Emmett, Besanko and Jessup J) has dismissed Elecspess’ appeal from Gordon J’s ruling that it had infringed LED Technologies’ registered design for combination LED lights used as rear lights for trailers, trucks, buses, caravans and other vehicles. I think this is the first substantive decision by a Full Court on the new regime introduced by the Designs Act 2003.

From a very quick skim, it seems that the approach taken in the Review cases (here and here) by Kenny J and Gordon J below appears to be largely endorsed but the decision runs for 447 paragraphs, with each Judge giving a separate judgment, so rather closer examination will be required. At least in respect of Elecspess and the corporate infringers, Jessup J agreed with Besanko J’s reasons; Emmett J also gave extensive reasons.

The vexed question of the liability for contributory infringement of individual officers or employees also receives extremely extensive consideration. Jessup J agreed with Emmett J’s reasons for finding that a Mr Keller was not individually liable as a joint infringer. Besanko J also found Mr Keller was not liable.  Jessup J agreed with Besanko J that a Mr Armstrong also was not jointly liable, but for different reasons.

Working out the ramifications of the differences between their Honours should prove quite diverting.

The Court also upheld Gordon J’s refusal to award damages, or an inquiry into damages, for infringing conduct between the date of trial and the making of final orders. This should not be a problem where an undertaking or injunction restraining the respondent’s conduct is in place pending trial.  Where no undertaking or injunction is in place, however, it would appear that the Court considers it imperative to establish at trial that the infringer is continuing their infringing conduct, notwithstanding the court action,  to provide a foundation

Keller v LED Technologies Pty Ltd [2010] FCAFC 55 (Emmett, Besanko and Jessup JJ)

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Who can enforce a release

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Global Brands is still suing YD Pty Ltd. The trial on quantum for infringement of registered design was almost due to start when YD applied to amend.

After YD admitted it had infringed Global Brands’ registered design, YD discovered, over 9 months earlier, that Global Brands had entered into a settlement agreement with Pegasus/Coastal relating to Global Brands allegations that Pegasus/Coastal had infringed the same registered design. The settlement agreement was in fairly typical terms:

the parties (and any related body corporate as that term is defined in s 9 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Related Bodies Corporate) hereby permanently release and forever discharge each other, their Related Bodies Corporate, directors, customers, servants and agents from and against all and any claim cause of action liability suit or demand which the parties … have or but for this deed may have had against each other…their customers servants or agents prior to the date of this deed for or in respect of or arising out of the subject matter or the conduct of the proceeding and the cross claim.

YD claims that Pegasus/Coastal supplied the infringing products to it and so it was a customer within the terms of the release. Pegasus/Coastal apparently did not want to become embroiled in the litigation. The amendment was to join Pegasus/Coastal as a respondent and to rely on the release.

Dodds-Streeton J has granted leave to amend, finding that YD although not a party to the settlement deed could rely on it as a special exception to the rules on privity, so long as Pegasus/Coastal was joined as a respondent.

Aon Risk Services was distinguished:

In all the unusual circumstances of this case, including:
the existence of the release, its apparent relevance as the basis for an arguable claim; its relatively circumscribed scope; the respondents’ belated knowledge of the deed and their conduct thereafter; the impact of the decision in Airberg only recently appreciated by the respondents’ counsel; the applicants’ preference that the quantum trial should not proceed if the amendments be allowed; the fact that although the proceeding has been long on foot, there has already been one trial and the parties have apparently acquiesced in various stages of non-progression:
in my opinion, weighing all relevant matters, including the nature and importance of the amendment to the respondents, notwithstanding the delay, wasted costs and prejudice to the applicants (which may not be wholly compensable by a costs order) the respondents’ applications to amend and to join Pegasus should be allowed.

Global Brands apparently denies that YD is a “customer” and, in any event, apparently intends seeking rectification to exclude the term as a “mistake”.

All this has led to the vacating of the trial date.

Global Brand Marketing Inc v YD Pty Limited [2010] FCA 323

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Infringing a registered design

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Back in October, Jessup J found Chiropedic’s design for a mattress and base (registered under the 1906 Act) valid and infringed, by only 2 of a number of Radburg’s competing mattresses.

The first point of interest is the impact of a statement of novelty. A second point of interest is the impact of trade variants or “features commonly used in the trade”. Thirdly, his Honour ruled on the costs to be taken into account in the course of an account of profits.

This was the representation in the design (ADR 127723)

2009_116300.jpg

There was the usual statement of monopoly, limiting the design to the features of shape or configuration.

Unusually, there was also a statement of novelty:

Novelty is claimed in the shape and configuration of the upper layer of the mattress portion of the mattress and base as indicated by the beading as shown in the representations.

Chiropedic (the design owner) contended that novelty or originality of its design was not limited by this statement and, even if it were, validity and infringement still fell to be assessed by consideration of the design as a whole citing, in support, the judgment of Davies and Whitlam JJ in Richsell v Khoury at [7].

Jessup J reviewed the cases referred to in Richsell, but discovered that they did not actually deal with it. His Honour found considerably greater assistance in the Franki Report which had led to the introduction of the concept:

On the other hand we were of the opinion that the Registrar should be given power to require a ‘statement of novelty’ to be lodged. By ‘statement of novelty’ we mean a statement dealing with the features of a design that may be said to provide the basis for the design being new or original. For example, if in a design for a chair the significant feature is in the shape of the two front legs and attention is drawn to this fact in a statement of novelty, while there would be no infringement of the design unless the infringing article satisfied the tests for infringement of the chair as a whole, nevertheless it is reasonable to assume that, in testing the novelty and originality of the design, attention would be directed to the two front legs and that this feature of the design would be given particular weight in testing infringement, although an infringement could not be proved unless the relevant tests were satisfied in respect of the whole chair. (my emphasis)

and Slade LJ’s consideration in Sommer Allibert of the similar concept in the UK legislation (the latter of which had not been referred to in Richsell or Polyaire). Accordingly, Jessup J held:

[22] …. The argument which Davies and Whitlam JJ rejected in that case was that, in making the comparison required by s 17(1), one should look only at the features for which novelty had been claimed. It is one thing to say that the registered owner should not be permitted to use his or her own statement of novelty for the purpose of shutting the court’s eyes to the appearance of a complete design, and to do so to his or her own advantage. It is another thing altogether to say that the registered owner should not be held to such a statement of novelty when the court comes to consider what aspects of the registered design are new or original. The court’s eyes would then be open to the complete design, of course, but it should, in my view, assess that design against the prior art with a particular emphasis upon those features that the registered owner himself or herself, at the point of registration, considered to be novel.

Paying particular attention to the features identified in the Statement of Novelty, his Honour went on to find the design valid over the prior art. For example, it had a relatively square look where the horizontal surface met the upper line of beading, while the prior art was relatively curved. Similarly, the proportion of the upper layer to the lower lower of the mattress was significant over the prior art.

These findings had particular significance when it came to considering infringement. One of Radburg’s designs was found to be identical to the registered design. A second was an obvious imitation. A number of others, however, escaped liability as they either had similar convex curvature to the prior art rather than the square look of the registered design or the upper layer of the mattress was a significantly smaller proportion of the mattress; many of them also had quite different ribbing.

One striking visual difference was discounted in the comparisons: the mattresses in some of the prior art had three layers, not two; so that the mattress could be flipped over and used. The evidence established, however, that the omission or inclusion of the bottom or third layer was a variant commonly resorted to in the trade. Another feature, an “inward set” was apparently visible to those in the trade on fastidious inspection, but his Honour found it did not strike the eye and was an immaterial variation.

Finally, on the principles to be applied in the account, Jessup J ruled that the respondent’s bills of materials should be used (where available) on the principle that they reflected as closely as possible the actual costs incurred and so, where the evidence showed that margins earned on different product lines were not uniform, the respondent would not generate a windfall profit.

Chiropedic Bedding Pty Ltd v Radburg Pty Ltd [2009] FCA 1163

So far as I can see, no application for leave to appeal has been filed.

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Down the proverbial Technicon

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Technicon has lost its appeal from trial findings that it infringed both Caroma’s registered design for a toilet pan and the copyright in drawings in technical specifications.

This was a case under the old (1906) Act rules. The trial judge found there were sufficient differences to avoid liability for obvious imitation. However, there was a strong finding of fraudulent imitation. The trial judge found that Technicon at least had reason to believe or strongly suspect that Caroma’s product was protected by a registered design:

  • Caroma’s brochures for its product range included warnings that the products depicted in the brochure were protected by design registration
  • As reported, there seems to have been fairly strong evidence that Technicon based its product on Caroma’s design
  • Technicon was familiar with the design registration process and had used it itself
  • Technicon’s product development appeared to have skipped the usual detailed design drawing/prototype process.

Technicon did not challenge these findings on appeal. Rather, it sought to persuade the Court that the differences in appearance were sufficiently substantial that the product was not an imitation. The Full Court gave this argument very short shrift.

The details on copyright infringement are a bit sketchy. It seems that section 77A would not have protected Technicon because its drawings were made before 17 June 2004 and so before s 77A took effect (see item 19). I will have to think about that further.

Given the finding of design infringement and the rejection of the claim to additional damages for copyright infringement, the point may well be rather academic.

Technicon Industries Pty Ltd v Caroma Industries Ltd [2009] FCAFC 76

and at first instance: Caroma Industries Ltd v Technicon Industries Pty Ltd [2008] FCA 1465

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Review cases handed down

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

On Friday, Kenny J handed down the 2nd and 3rd substantive design cases under the new Act:

  • in Review v Redberry [2008] FCA 1588, her Honour found the design valid but not infringed;
  • in Review v New Cover [20089] FCA 1589; valid and infringed including $85,000 damages (of which $50,000 were for additional damages).

The judgments will no doubt be up on Austlii soon but, until then, students can download pdfs from the links below:

review-v-redberry-judgment

review-v-new-cover-judgment

Lid dip, Sue Gatford.

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Designs Act 1906

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The Designs Act 2003 is online for free at Austlii, here. (Updated to fix link.)

Succor is also available for those looking for a downloadable online version of the Designs Act 1906 (as at the date of repeal on 17 June 2004) and the Regs.

Thanks, Thomas and Michael.

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