PC Implementation 1 Bill To Be Passed

The Senate’s Economics committee has unanimously recommended that the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 be passed.

The Committee received submissions only on the proposed reform of the parallel import provision for trade marks – clause 122A – and issues relating to plant breeder’s rights.

The Committee considered no changes were required. In relation to the parallel imports question and the concerns that the defence of “reasonable inquiries” will lead to a pirate’s charter, the Committee said:

The committee notes that key parts of the bill originate from recommendations made by independent reviews, and that the provisions of the bill have been subject to extensive consultation. In particular, the committee commends IP Australia for its thoughtful response to the public consultation on the exposure draft of the bill which ultimately led to provisions of the bill being altered in important aspects.

and went on to find the test in the legislation appropriate.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the Committee started its analysis at paragraph 1.6 by endorsing the key points advanced by the Productivity Commission:

• Australia’s IP arrangements fall short in many ways and improvement is
needed across the spectrum of IP rights.

• IP arrangements need to ensure that creators and inventors are rewarded for
their efforts.

• Australia’s patent system grants exclusivity too readily, allowing a
proliferation of low-quality patents, frustrating follow-on innovators and
stymieing competition.

• Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed—innovative
firms, universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost.

• Timely and cost effective access to copyright content is the best way to reduce
infringement.

• Commercial transactions involving IP rights should be subject to competition
law.

• While Australia’s enforcement system works relatively well, reform is needed
to improve access, especially for small and medium sized enterprises.

• The absence of an overarching objective, policy framework and reform
champion has contributed to Australia losing its way on IP policy.

• International commitments substantially constrain Australia’s IP policy
flexibility.

• Reform efforts have more often than not succumbed to misinformation and
scare campaigns. Steely resolve will be needed to pursue better balanced IP
arrangements.

As the Committee acknowledged at 1.7, even the Government’s response did not go that far!

Senate Economics Legislation Committee Intellectual Property Laws Amendment
(Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 [Provisions]
June 2018

Parallel imports – repackaging Down Under

Scandinavian Tobacco Group Eersel (STG) is the world’s largest manufacturer of cigars and pipe tobacco. Three of its brands include CAFE CREME, LA PAZ and HENRY WINTERMANS; each of which is registered in Australia as a trade mark for tobacco products.

Trojan bought up stocks of genuine STG cigars in Europe in their original packaging. STG had placed the relevant trade marks on the cigars or their packaging.

The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act, however, precludes the sale of such cigars in Australia in their packaging. Trojan took the cigars out of the packaging which STG sold them in and put them in the drab, khaki packaging with gruesome pictures and health warnings as required under the TPPA. It also placed on the new packaging the relevant trade mark in the plain font and type size in the limited places that the TPPA allows.

STG sued for infringement unsuccessfully. Trojan did use the trade marks as trade marks within the meaning of s 120, but the defence provided by s 123(1) applied.

Allsop CJ held that use of the trade mark by an importer on genuine goods was use of the trade mark “as a trade mark” and so would infringe if done without consent or other defence. While appearing to express some doubts, his Honour considered that 4 Full Courts[1] required him to find that the 1995 Act changed the law so that Champagne Heidsieck[2] was no longer good law. Accordingly, subject to the s 123 defence, Trojan would have infringed.

Section 123(1) provides:

In spite of [section 120][s120], a person who uses a registered trade mark in relation to goods that are similar to goods in respect of which the trade mark is registered does not infringe the trade mark if the trade mark has been applied to, or in relation to, the goods by, or with the consent of, the registered owner of the trade mark.

This seems like a pretty straightforward application of s 123(1). STG argued, however, that the application of the trade mark which Trojan had to show STG’s consent was the application to the plain packaging by Trojan, not the application of the trade mark to the original packaging by STG.

Allsop CJ short circuited that argument. His Honour got STG to agree that a retailer could rely on s 123(1) to avoid infringement if it printed the trade mark on a purchase receipt. One would hope that proposition was not controversial. At [82], his Honour developed the ramifications:

During argument, I posited to Mr Heerey, counsel for STG, an example: a tie with
trade mark Z woven into the tie, in a pink box with trade mark Z embossed on the box. Both trade marks have been applied by the registered owner. The shop owner advertises his stock of Z ties with a sign outside bearing trade mark Z and invoices customers with a document bearing the same mark. Mr Heerey accepted that there would be no infringement in the use of the advertising and invoices even though such use would be use as a trade mark because of the operation of s 123: Facton Ltd v Toast Sales Group Pty Ltd [2012] FCA 612; 205 FCR 378 at 398–404 [112]-[145]. (It is to be noted, and Trojan emphasised this point in its submissions, that Middleton J in Facton said at [132] that “a natural reading of the words used in s 123 suggest that the only time at which the issue of consent is to be assessed is the time of the application of the trade mark to goods.”) I then posited a change to the facts. The
shop owner preferred selling the tie in a blue box (fitting in with a blue theme to his shop) upon which he faithfully and accurately placed the trade mark Z. The tie was taken out of the pink box (which was discarded) and put in the blue box for display and sale. STG submitted that the step of placing the Z trade mark on the blue box would not be protected by s 123, but accepted that the sign and invoices remained protected. That was so, it was submitted, because of an implied consent by the registered owner of the trade mark to the advertising and invoices in the light of the trade mark on the tie. Yet, should the difference be governed by the existence of weaving on the tie? Has not the trade mark already been applied in relation to the good (the tie) by embossing on the pink box?

Allsop CJ considered that the plain, natural meaning of the statutory language led to the answer “Yes” and was to be preferred.

In this case, there was no question about the quality of the goods once Trojan had repackaged them. Section 123(1) arguably does not concern itself with such matters. Nonetheless, the approach under the Australian Act contrasts starkly with the convoluted regime applicable in the EU which even requires the parallel importing repackager to give the trade mark owner advance notice of its nefarious plans.[3]

Scandinavian Tobacco Group Eersel BV v Trojan Trading Company Pty Ltd [2015] FCA 1086


  1. The famous four: Transport Tyre Sales Pty Ltd v Montana Tyres Rims & Tubes Pty Ltd [1999] FCA 329; 93 FCR 421 at 440 [94]; [Paul’s Retail Pty Ltd v Sporte Leisure Pty Ltd [2012] FCAFC 51; 202 FCR 286 at 295 [66]; Paul’s Retail Pty Ltd v Lonsdale Australia Limited [2012] FCAFC 130; 294 ALR 72 at 82 [65] and E & J Gallo Winery v Lion Nathan Australia Pty Ltd [2009] FCAFC 27; 175 FCR 386 at 403–404 [57]- [58]. The two Paul’s Retail cases, of course, did not involve genuine goods and the High Court in Gallo refrained from deciding this point while overtuning the Full Federal Court’s decision.  ?
  2. Champagne Heidsieck et cie Monopole Society Anonyme v Buxton [1930] 1 Ch 330.  ?
  3. See for example Case C–143/00 Boehringer Ingelheim KG v Swingward Ltd and Dowelhurst Ltd [2002] ECR–1 at [61] – [68].  ?

Parallel imports

Well, it seems the 10th anniversary of IPwars has come and gone! Yes, the first IPwars blogpost (on the now defunct iBlog system) was back on 4 October 2004, inspired by Marty Schwimmer, Denise Howell, Evan Brown, Ernie the Attorney and others who were originally “Between Lawyers” but have since moved on to podcasting, video casting and other, bigger things.

In the meantime, my article on Trade Marks and Parallel Imports has been published in Volume 22 No. 1 of the Competition & Consumer Law Journal starting at p. 54. It is essentially an overview of the Federal Court’s case law on s 123(1) to date.

In the same issue of the CCLJ, you will also find articles by:

  • David Brennan “Shifting shades of grey – International price discrimination and Australian copyright” law starting at p. 1; and
  • Matthew Taylor and Arlen Duke “Refocussing the parallel import debate” starting at p. 54.

I am afraid the online versions of these papers are behind the LexisNexis paywall.

Happy anniversary! and thanks for stopping by, especially those of you who have left a comment.

The price of digital downloads in Australia

Big week for parallel imports last week:

(1) the US Supreme Court declared US law applies a doctrine of international exhaustion for copyright material

(2) Adobe, Apple and Microsoft fronted the Australian Parliament to explain why digital “things” cost so much more in Australia than elsewhere (i.e., the USA).

Apple’s defence said, amongst other things, it was the price it had to pay to the owners of Australian copyright – lovely chart here. Other reports (with more analysis) here and here (which may be challenges Apple’s explanation a bit for its own products).

That didn’t really work as an explanation for Adobe, which gets lambasted here.

Perhaps, just maybe, treating digital downloads as a single global market might lead to some lowering of prices, but the beauty of digital delivery (from the content owner’s perspective) is that you can set your price and the customer can buy or not.

Is there a link between (1) and (2)?

In his analysis, Prof. Goldman sets out a number of reasons why he thinks Kirtsaeng, while it may provide some good news in terms of lower prices, will have only a short term effect.

(I suppose we can trumpet the fact that our technological protection measure protections don’t extend to protecting region coding (here and here), although I do wonder how one would prove that was the purpose of the (ac)tpm.)

Parallel imports and UPC codes

Marty (The Trademark Blog) extracts from the 11th Circuit’s ruling in Davidoff v CVS, where the parallel importer was found liable for infringement by removing the UPC codes (which, of course, are not put there to detect parallel import leaks, but in case of product recall requirements).

He appends the text of the decision.

Off the top of my head, I don’t think that argument would help Davidoff down here as s 123 operates on consent in respect of ‘similar goods’. The 1994 Act, which never came into force and was repealed by the 1995 Act did make an attempt to deal with quality issues in s , but that ultimately fell be the wayside.

What chance of arguing misleading or deceptive conduct under s 52?