Is there a copyright work and who owns it?

Rees J, sitting in the NSW Supreme Court, had to grapple with some unusual, but basic, issues in finding that Metstech owned copyright in a range of works made by a Mr Chou. However, it did not own copyright in software made by Mr Martin; instead having an exclusive licence over that copyright including the right to access and modify the source code.

Some background[1]

Metstech designs and distributes telecommunications systems for underground mines. (The specific technology was a ‘leaky feeder system’ which allowed two way radios and mobile phones to communicate over long distances underground where ordinarily such radio communications were not possible.[2])

Image of an axial cable layout with a headend controller at one end, bidirectional amplifiers at various intervals and and a splitter adding a branch line
Leaky Feeder System

Metstech was formed by four individuals including Jefferson, Park and Chou. They or their family companies were the shareholders. Jefferson was the CEO and Park the General Manager. Park and Chou had experience in electrical engineering and had ideas about how a new and improved system to replace the poorly functioning existing systems. Jefferson provided the funding, to the tune of $700,000 over time.

In addition to being a founding director, Chou became an employee and was paid a salary after a short initial period when Metstech did not have funds. Part of Chou’s job included placing orders for the manufacture of Metstech’s products which he arranged through a family company and his company was permitted to charge a marked-up price to Metstech over the price charged by the manufacturer.

Although Martin was offered initial shares in Metstech and an employment contract, he did not take up either offer due to legal issues he was experiencing at the time. Nonetheless. in 2018, Martin designed the Raspberry Pi Software controlling the Metstech system. He was not paid for this work. He provided it to Jefferson including access to the source code for use by Metstech including permission to modify it.

Later, in 2019, Martin did become an employee of Metstech and made some further modifications of the Raspberry Pi Software at that time.

In addition to the funding provided by Jefferson, another company, Challenger, eventually contributed a further $750,000 towards funding the product development in return for the promise of a 20% shareholding and a nominee on the board of directors.

The development of Metstech’s products proceeded well and substantial orders were coming in. Jefferson came into dispute with the other directors over repayment of his funding and their demands for increased salaries. Challenger also became frustrated with the delays in issuing its shares.

Park, Chou and some associates “staged a coup” and replaced Jefferson as CEO excluding him from access to the company’s bank accounts. To fend off Jefferson and Challenger, they also engaged in a number of schemes to transfer Metstech’s assets and related IP to a “phoenix” company. In addition, in the process of decamping they deleted from the Metstech Google Drive accounts all the data and documents relating to PCB assemblies, source code, concept designs, PCB schematics and PCB layouts, firmware source code, manufacturing files, bills of materials and test results.

After Jefferson and Challenger got wind of some of the conduct, they initiated a deed of company arrangement and, after regaining control of Metstech, brought these proceedings seeking orders relating to its ownership of the copyright, remedies for breaches of obligations of confidence and tortious conspiracy to injure the plaintiffs by unlawful means.

The plaintiffs largely succeeded on their copyright claims and breach of confidence. The claims for tortious conspiracy to injure by unlawful means failed however.

Copyright in the Metstech “products”

The plaintiffs claimed copyright in various designs for printed circuit board (PCB) assemblies as artistic works[3] and, as either original literary or artistic works, PCB schematics, manufacturing documentation – source code, concept designs, PCB schematics and PCB layouts, firmware source code, manufacturing files, bills of materials and test results – and Metstech “firmware” which was installed in micro-processor units in various components.

A graphical representation of a circuit board layout on the left and on the right a photograph of printed circuit board showing various electrical components interconnected by metal strips

(A graphical representation of a PCB layout (on the left) and the corresponding PCB (on the right))

The plaintiffs also claimed ownership of the copyright in the Raspberry Pi software and later revisions.

Were there copyright works

It will be recalled that the defendants had deleted all the data and documents from their Google Drive accounts when decamping and, it appears, none of them produced anything by way of discovery or otherwise in evidence. According to the defendants, or at least Park and Chou, they did not have any documents because the products had been designed by the third party manufacturer.

The first problem confronting the plaintiffs, therefore, was that they did not have copies of the works over which they claimed ownership. Who was the designer, and hence the author of the works, was the second problem.

Rees J was prepared to infer (at [591] to [603]) that there had been original works made by Chou in which copyright subsisted:

  • Metstech led expert evidence about the process and steps involved in designing and manufacturing products such as the PCB Assemblies including the need to document things such as functional specification, electrical schematic, PCB layout and manufacturing files, firmware code listing and compiled version of the firmware code (if applicable), bill of materials, assembly and testing instructions, troubleshooting guide, service manual, packaging information, data sheets and sales brochures. Much of this documentation would be required by the manufacturer to make such complex products
  • the design and specification of such PCB assemblies also required the use of specialised computer software such as Altium Designer and RhinoCAD. Metstech had bought or reimbursed Chou for purchases of this software and Chou was at all times anxious to ensure he had properly licensed copies of this software
  • Metstech bought or reimbursed Chou for the tools and equipment that would be used in developing and constructing models and prototypes.

Accordingly, at [603] Rees J held:

…. The disputed works must have been created and insofar as they are original literary or artistic works (or both) and that to the extent that they still exist, the employer owns them. ….

I am not sure about her Honour’s limitation “to the extent that they still exist”. Under the Act, the requirement is that the work be made in the sense of reduced to writing or some other material form.[4] The continued existence of the documents, however, would be relevant to orders for delivery up and provision of access.

Who was the author

As noted above, Park and Chou claimed that the PCB assemblies and other products were designed by the manufacturer and so, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary or assignment, any copyright belonged to the manufacturer.

Rees J rejected this claim. A number of factors led her Honour to this conclusion including:

  • Metstech’s products were original and not mere copies of existing products: [585]
  • Chou had the necessary skills to design the products: [583]
  • it was Chou who came up with the idea for the various products: [584]
  • there was voluminous correspondence describing Chou as the designer or in which he claimed to be the designer or attending to the design: [571] – [586]
  • Chou also spent hours explaining the intricacies of the system and the products to others: [586]
  • the purchase of the specialised software and the provision of the tools and equipment such as Altium Designer and RhinoCAD
  • Park and Chou first claimed that the manufacturer was the designer only when Metstech first went into administration. Prior to that, the voluminous contemporaneous correspondence such as emails repeatedly referred to Chou as the designer
  • not a single document was produced identifying the manufacturer as the designer.

Who was the owner

Rees J noted that it was not sufficient for Metstech to establish that Chou was the author and an employee. As the terms of s 35(6) make clear, Metstech also had to establish that Chou made the works in pursuance of his employment and not in the course of some extracurricular activities; at [564] adopting the question posed by Moore J in EdSonic v Cassidy:

did the employee make the work because the contract of employment expressly or impliedly required or least authorised the work to be made.

The volume of material referred to by her Honour in concluding that Chou was the designer left Rees J at [587] in “no doubt” that the answer to that question was “yes”.

There was one qualification to this conclusion at [588] – the work designing a splitter which Chou had done before he became a full-time employee being paid. While Chou was a director, Rees J doubted he qualified as an employee for the purposes of s 35(6) at that time.

However, Rees J held Chou was estopped from denying that Metstech was licensed to use these materials having regard to the circumstances in which he made the design and continued to develop the design for Metstech’s use after he became an employee.

A final issue insofar as the works made by Chou are concerned was whether Metstech or Metstech IP Pty Ltd (one of the defendants) owned the copyright.

In a not uncommon arrangement, the directors of Metstech, including Jefferson, Park and Chou, had set up Metstech IP to hold the intellectual property. The directors and shareholders of both companies were the same. Metstech IP had applied for R & D grants in respect of the development of the Metstech technology and, in the books of the companies, Metstech charged Metstech IP a fee for the development work. While that fee was not paid, Metstech IP had remitted tax rebates to Metstech.

While Metstech IP had been set up to hold the intellectual property, however, there was no formal assignment of intellectual property rights in writing from Metstech to Metstech IP. As Chou had made the works as an employee of Metstech (and not Metstech IP) and in the absence of a signed, written assignment in conformity with s 196(3), Rees J held at [606] that Metstech was the owner of the copyright.

Copyright in the computer software made by Martin

The Raspberry Pi Software was a different case. When Martin wrote it, he was not an employee and had chosen not to become a director or shareholder. Nor was he paid for his work although he believed (at [106]) that “one day I might be compensated by the company if and when it was successful.”

When pressed by Jefferson, Martin transferred a copy of the source code and other documentation into a Metstech account and agreed that Metstech could amend the software as required.

Although Martin had not been engaged for reward to write the software, Rees J found ([231] – [233]) the circumstances gave rise to an implied unlimited and exclusive licence in Metstech’s favour which included the right to alter the software as need. (See also [161 and [623]])

Later, in July 2019, Martin was allotted 5% of the shares in both Metstech and Metstech IP. Jefferson and Park both considered this allocation was to secure the intellectual property in the software. Martin denied this.

As there was no written agreement formally recording the assignment, Rees J considered at [320] that s 196 precluded an assignment under the Act. Rees J also rejected at [324] Metstech’s argument that Martin understood the shares were in compensation for the transfer of ownership in the software. Her Honour appears to have considered the allotment was consistent, or at least equally consistent, with a payment to secure Martin’s continued involvement in the business.

Martin did become a full-time employee of Metstech and, in the course of his employment, he later made some further modifications to the software.

Distinguishing J R Consulting, Rees J held that the computer programs in this amended form were not new copyright works in which copyright subsisted. Martin’s evidence was that the changes were only “bug-fixes and minor enhancements”. Although the change logs showed 21 changes were made to the software in the relevant period, Metstech did not satisfy her Honour that they were more than trivial. At [620], her Honour explained:

The plaintiffs submitted that the changes made by Mr Martin were more than trivial, I am in no position to say one way or the other. I note that 21 changes were made from July 2019 to July 2020. Beyond that, I do not know. I am not satisfied that the changes made to the software after Mr Martin commenced his employment with Metstech were “original” in the requisite sense such that copyright in new versions of the software are a new work in which copyright subsists and is held by his employer, Metstech.

Thus, Metstech was left with its exclusive licence. However, this was enough for her Honour to direct that Martin continue to provide Metstech with access to the source code under the exclusive licence.

Confidential information and Conspiracy to injure

Rees J found misuse of Metstech’s confidential information on conventional grounds.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants (other than Metstech IP) had engaged in a tortious conspiracy to injure the plaintiffs and Metstech IP by unlawful means.

Rees J dismissed this claim, however, not as a result of any exoneration of the defendants’ conduct. Rather, damages are the gist of the action. Thus it is necessary for the plaintiff to plead that it has or will suffer pecuniary loss as a result of the conspiracy.

While the alleged conspiracy was pleaded at length, damages were neither alleged nor particularised. Nor did the plaintiffs’ evidence establish any pecuniary loss. Accordingly, at [659] her Honour dismissed the claim.

Her Honour’s decision serves as a useful warning about the risks of not documenting transfers of intellectual property in writing. That is not necessary in the case of an employee if you can prove they did the work in the course of their employment. The decision also provides a range of indications to consider if it becomes necessary to try to prove the existence and authorship of copyright works in the absence of documentary evidence.

Metstech Pty Ltd v Park [2022] NSWSC 1667


  1. As her Honour’s narration of the facts is some 550 paragraphs, this is necessarily a very “potted” outline.  ?
  2. The system consisted of long lengths of coaxial cable (serving as the antenna) strung along the shafts, with a headend controller (a Raspberry Pi computer), a number of bi-directional amplifiers (BDAs) and splitters, the BDAs (at least) including printed circuit boards (PCBs) custom-designed for the system).  ?
  3. At [551], her Honour identified the claim as being to PCB assemblies as artistic works and, at [558], her Honour noted that text and numerals on the a PCB, in engineering drawings and installation instructions could be both artistic works and, “to the extent the figures are deployed”, literary works citing Lumen Australia Pty Ltd v Frontline Australasia Pty Ltd [2018] FCA 1807; (2018) 137 IPR 189 at [206]-[209] (per Moshinsky J); Anacon Corp Ltd v Environmental Research Technology Ltd [1994] FSR 659 (per Jacobs J) (circuit diagram). The parties do not appear to have raised issues about the exclusion of circuit layouts from the definition of artistic work in s 10 of the Copyright Act 1968 or of “corresponding designs” under s 74 and the copyright / design overlap provisions of the Copyright Act or of the effect, if any, of the exclusion by Designs Act 2003 s 43 (but not in reg. 4.06) from registration of integrated circuits as a design although, from the description of the PCB assemblies in the judgment, it would appear they did not constitute “integrated circuits” on the reasoning of Moshinsky J in Lumen Australia Pty Ltd v Frontline Australasia at [298] – [311] and of course, as Moshinsky J found, the copyright / design overlap provisions do not apply to literary works.  ?
  4. Copyright Act 1968 s 32 and s 22(1)  ?

Is there a copyright work and who owns it? Read More »

ToolGen’s CRISPR/Cas9 patent application rejected

Nicholas J has ruled that ToolGen’s application for a patent, AU 2013335451, for “what is now a well-known gene editing system known as the CRISPR/Cas9 system” for editing target DNZ sequences in eukaryotic cells. His Honour has allowed ToolGen until 11 August 2023 to bring any application for leave to amend pursuant to s 105(1A).

As the complete specification was filed after 15 April 2013, the Patents Act in the form amended by the Raising the Bar Act applied.

The matter came before his Honour on ToolGen’s “appeal” from an opposition in which the Commissioner’s delegate found that all but one of the claims should be refused but allowed ToolGen 2 months to amend.

At [13], Nicholas J summarised his Honour’s findings:

For the reasons that follow I have concluded:

(a)          None of the claims are entitled to priority based on P1 (s 43(2A)). 

(b)          All of the claims lack novelty or do not involve an inventive step (s 18(1)(b)).

(c)          The complete specification does not provide an enabling disclosure of the invention (s 40(2)(a)).

(d)          The claims are not supported by matter disclosed in the specification (s 40(3)).

(e)          Claim 19 lacks clarity (s 40(3)).

More detailed consideration will have to wait for another day.

ToolGen Incorporated v Fisher (No 2) [2023] FCA 794

ToolGen’s CRISPR/Cas9 patent application rejected Read More »

Apologies

I am afraid some “switch” or something got toggled yesterday when I uploaded my latest post. This apparently converted everything into a subscriber only view. That seems to have been corrected now so you should be able to view the latest post in full: The Agency Group v The North Agency: How to Deal with Self Care v Allergan

Please let me know if you are still having difficulties.

In the meantime, sorry!

Apologies Read More »

The Agency Group v The North Agency: How to deal with Self Care v Allergan

Jackman J has dismissed The Agency Group’s claims of trade mark infringement and misleading or deceptive conduct / passing off against The North Agency. In doing so, his Honour directly confronted the problem arising from the High Court’s reasons in Self Care v Allergan.

Some facts

The Agency Group is a real estate agency that operates nationwide including, amongst other places, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. It services the Northern Beaches from offices in Manly and Neutral Bay.

In the 12 months or so up to 31 March 2023, between them the two offices sold more than 190 properties, with some 40 others up for sale. They had also leased over 300 properties, with another 17 still up for rent. The Agency Group had spent over $4.4 million on advertising its Northern Beaches properties on <realestate.com.au> and <domain.com.au>. In the 12 months to 31 March 2023, the properties serviced by the Neutral Bay and Manly offices had attracted 1,868,000 property views on <realestate.com.au> alone.[1]

And, from February 2017 to March 2023, the two offices had generated almost $40 million in revenue.

H.A.S. Real Estate Agency began trading in the Northern Beaches area in March 2023 from offices in Dee Why, also in the Northern Beaches region. From the start, the business operated as “The North Agency”. Its two directors had been working in real estate in the area since 2007 and 2008.

Screenshots of the businesses’ respective websites before his Honour showed:

[2]

The Agency Group also had two registered trade marks for real estate services in class 36:

A figurative trade mark consisting of the words The Agency in which the letter "A" is presented as an inverted "v" over a horizontal bar

(TM 1836914) and a second registered trade mark for the figurative letter “A”.

The respondent of course also used “The North Agency” in plain text to refer to itself and in the URL for its website and email addresses etc.

The Self Care v Allergan “problem”

There have been a number of first instance and Full Court decisions since Self Care v Allergan but Jackman J’s decision is the first to confront what the High Court said and what it actually did directly.

At [55], Jackman J distilled helpfully 12 principles from Self Care v Allergan. Then at [56] to [58] his Honour considered a further principle: noting that the High Court at [29] and [33] stated as a matter of principle that trade mark infringement is concerned with a comparison of the two trade marks and is not looking at the totality of the respondent’s conduct as would be the case in passing off or for misleading or deceptive conduct. His Honour observed that:

(1) At [29] footnotes 67 and 68, the High Court expressly endorsed the Full Federal Court’s proposition in MID Sydney Pty Ltd v Australian Tourism Co Ltd (1998) 90 FCR 236 at 245, “that it is irrelevant that the respondent may, by means other than its use of the mark, make it clear that there is no connection between its business and that of the applicant”;

(2) “On the same page, their Honours said that the comparison is between marks, not uses of marks, and hence it is no answer that the respondent’s use of the mark is in all the circumstances not deceptive, if the mark itself is deceptively similar”;

(3) Also, the High Court approved Gummow J’s statement in the Moo-Moove case that disclaimers are to be disregarded as are price differences, colour and target audiences;[3] and

(4) At [33], the High Court stated “the court is not looking to the totality of the conduct of the defendant in the same way as in a passing off suit” and cited numerous authorities in footnote 81 endorsing that proposition.

At [59], however, Jackman J recognised that, in explaining why PROTOX was not deceptively similar to BOTOX the High Court in fact took into account additional “matter” extraneous to the two trade marks such as a disclaimer on the PROTOX website that “PROTOX has no association with any anti-wrinkle injection brand”.

His Honour, with respect, rightly pointed out it is impossible to reconcile the principles declared by the High Court with what the High Court actually did. In those circumstances, Jackman J proposed to apply the principles declared by the High Court and disregard what the High Court actually did at [70] and [71] of Self Care v Allergan. Jackman J explained at [60]:

With the greatest respect, those passages are impossible to reconcile with the Court’s approval of the authorities referred to above which state that such additional material used by the respondent is irrelevant to the issue of trade mark infringement. The internal contradiction places a trial judge in an awkward dilemma, which I propose to resolve by simply disregarding the passages quoted above from [70] and [71] as unfortunate errors. On the High Court’s own reasoning, it would be a fundamental error of longstanding legal principle if I were to adopt their Honours’ mode of analysis in [70] and [71] by taking into account on the question of deceptive similarity, for example, that the use by H.A.S. Real Estate of “THE NORTH AGENCY” was typically accompanied by the distinctive N Logo, thereby implicitly disavowing any association with the applicants or their services.

It can be hoped that other judges will also follow this brave course.

It has to be acknowledged, however, that the the High Court went on in [33] after footnote 81 to say:

…. In addition to the degree of similarity between the marks, the assessment takes account of the effect of that similarity considered in relation to the alleged infringer’s actual use of the mark[82], as well as the circumstances of the goods, the character of the likely customers, and the market covered by the monopoly attached to the registered trade mark[83]. Consideration of the context of those surrounding circumstances does not “open the door” for examination of the actual use of the registered mark, or, as will be explained, any consideration of the reputation associated with the mark[84].

But, as the cases cited by the High Court show, those decisions were not engaged in the whole circumstances type of inquiry which characterises claims under the ACL and in passing off.

Why The North Agency did not infringe

The issue here is whether the respondent’s use of The North Agency was deceptively similar to The Agency Group’s registered trade mark.

Even on the “traditional” trade mark infringement analysis, Jackman J found that The North Agency was not deceptively similar to The Agency Group’s trade mark.

First, at [69] – [71], the inclusion of “North” in the respondent’s trade mark was a signficant differentiating factor. It was larger and more prominent in advertising material such as the website. But even in plain use such as the website URL and email addresses where “The North” was not given any particular prominence, it remained a striking aspect. As his Honour explained at [76] in rejecting the brand extension or franchising risk, “the Agency” and “the North Agency emphasised different businesses.

Secondly, at [62], Jackman J noted that TM No. 1836914 was not a word mark but a composite mark consisting of words and device elements. This was important as it meant that a trade mark consisting of a number of elements had to be considered as a whole. Moreover, where a trade mark consisted of words and other device elements, care needed to be taken before characterising the words as an essential feature lest what was distinctive because it was a composite mark be converted into “something quite different”.

Thirdly, that was important in this case as (at [63] and [72] – [74], [76]) the word “Agency” was commonly used by real estate agents to describe their businesses. This evidence of trade usage was admissible. It meant that the word itself had less distinctive force. Instead, it was the combination as a whole which operated as the badge of origin.

It is respectfully submitted his Honour’s approach to the significance of the commonality of the word “agency” in both the registered trade mark and the alleged infringement is the sort of contextual significance that the traditional case law has taken into account; assisting the Court to determine what the essential, memorable features of the trade mark are for the purposes of imperfect recollection.

It was the public’s familiarity with “Chifley” as a surname (including a prime minister) and as geographical places that meant The Chifley and Chifley on the Wharf were not deceptively similar to The Chifley Tower in Mid Sydney v Australian Tourism Co. For similar reasons, the High Court had ruled in the Mond Staffordshire case that Mulsol did not infringe Mondsol, way back in 1929 – “sol” and “ol” being commonly used in germicidal and medicinal preparations.

So, if this is the way the Courts will deal with the dilemma posed by Self Care v Allergan, we can probably breathe a sigh of relief (except when acting for a respondent!).

Jackman J went on to reject the claim of infringement of TM by the “N” logo. His Honour considered the slant of the “N” logo coupled with the degree symbol reinforced the idea of a compass pointing north in contrast to a stylised representation of a house.

For completeness, Jackman J did acknowledge at [60] that there would be even less prospects for deceptive similarity if one were to take into account the extraneous considerations referenced by the High Court in Self Care v Allergan and, consequently, the claims under the ACL and for passing off failed too.

The Agency Group Australia Limited v H.A.S. Real Estate Pty Ltd [2023] FCA 482


  1. The Agency Group’s figures nationally were $2, 788.5 million in sales revenue and, in the 12 months ending on 31 March 2023, there had been 8,748,102 views of its properties on <realestate.com.au> from NSW and a further 15,246,484 page views from the rest of Australia.  ?
  2. The Agency Group’s Neutral Bay office had a profile page on Domain: The Agency North but the applicant was not allowed to run a case of misleading or deceptive conduct based on that as a matter of pleadings (@ [104]) and, in any event, (@ [105]) there was not sufficient evidence to support a claim for reputation in the absence of evidence of how many page views there had been of the profile page or other use of the phrase.  ?
  3. See Self Care v Allergan at [33] footnotes 81 and 84.  ?

The Agency Group v The North Agency: How to deal with Self Care v Allergan Read More »

Designs law reform

IP Australia has published 3 consultation papers on proposed reforms to registered designs law:

  1. Public consultation of Protection for Virtual Designs
  2. Public consultation on Protection for Partial Designs; and
  3. Public consultation on Protection for Incremental Improvements of Designs

There are also 3 one page “fact” sheets to go with them:

(a) Virtual Designs;

(b) Partial Designs;

(c) Incremental Improvements,

but you probably want to read the consultation papers proper to understand them.

Incremental improvements

The idea here is that a designer may file a low-cost preliminary design and within 6 months file the “main design”. The priority date of the “main” design would be the preliminary design’s priority date. The “main” design may include “incremental” improvements over the preliminary design. This apparently means the “main” design must still be substantially similar in overall impression to the design disclosed in the preliminary design.

The term and rights to sue for infringement would run from the “main” design. Prior user rights, however, would end with the filing of the preliminary design.

In addition, after the “main design” has been registered, subsequent applications for “incremental” improvements may be linked to the registered main design. The “main” design and the preliminary design would not form part of the prior art base for the linked design. As with the preliminary design and the “main” design, it is proposed that a subsequent design must be substantially similar in overall impression to the “main” design. It is also proposed that “linking” could be requested during certification if the “main” design is cited against a later design application by the design owner.

According to the consultation paper, the term of the subsequent design would start from the filing date of the subsequent, linked design but end on the expiry of the maximum term (i.e. currently 10 years) of the “main” design.

Virtual designs

The consultation proposes to amend the definition of “product” from “a thing that is manufactured or handmade” to include virtual designs and to define a virtual design as “an intangible thing, the use of which results on the display of visual features through electronic means” and would make it clear it includes images only temporarily displayed on a screen.

It appears it is still contemplated that the virtual design would have to be registered for specific products – so the consultation paper gives the example that a graphical user interface (GUI) could be registered as a user for a coffee machine but not simply as just a “user interface”.

The consultation paper discusses a number of other issues including, in particular, how the copyright / design overlap provisions (Copyright Act 1968 ss 74 to 77A) and, especially, the concept of “industrially applied” would operate in this brave new world.

I guess one could ask, if X registers a design for a GUI, or icon, for a smartphone, does X just lose the ability to sue for copyright infringement in smartphones, or tablets and watches as well, or only after the expiry of the design for smartphones or not lose rights to enforce copyright at all?

Partial designs

This consultation looks at a range of amendments required to permit design registration for partial designs: that is, for parts only of a product. An obvious example is the handle of a cup rather than just the cup as a whole.

The consultation paper contemplates that products for this purpose may be physical products or virtual products or composites. One example given by the consultation is the protection of the pattern and ornamentation of a logo. However, the consultation paper contemplates that the logo would not provide protection for all products but would still need to be registered in respect of particular products such as travel bags, shoes, wallets etc. – that could mean a lot of registrations would be required!

The consultation paper discusses a range of other considerations and, in addition to welcoming general comments asks:

>1. Do you support IP Australia’s approach (outlined in this paper) to implementing partial designs protection in Australia? If not, why not? 

>2. Would you register your partial designs using the proposed system? If not, why not? 

>3. Are there any particular risks or unintended consequences that would arise from this proposal? 

>4. Would the copyright/design overlap provisions have any adverse effect on how design businesses commercialise their partial designs? 

Submissions

Submissions are due by 8 August 2023.

The consultation process landing page, with links to the documents etc. is here.

Designs law reform Read More »

Zarya of the Dawn – copyright and an AI

Those of you who heard Shira Perlmutter, the US Register of Copyright, on her Australian tour last year will recall the US Copyright Office had withdrawn and was reconsidering the copyright registration for Zarya of the Dawn.[1] On 21 February 2023, the US Copyright Office announced the outcome of that review. While the Copyright Office allowed registration of some aspects, it rejected the claim to copyright in the images created by Midjourney, an AI.

Image of a young feminine looking person with golden skin, dark brown eyes and dark brown hair in corn rows - against a teal background
Zarya of the Dawn – Cover Page

The work(s)

Zarya of the Dawn[2] is a comic consisting of images and text depicting Zarya’s adventure to different worlds to collect mental health tools to handle their emotions, thoughts as a non-binary person.

A page with 4 comic images; the first of which is a postcard of some otherworldly place. The young, feminine looking person reads the card addressed to 'My Dearest Zarya'. They wonder if they are Zarya and why they cannot remember their name
Page 2 of the Zarya of the Dawn comic book

The Copyright Office accepted that the applicant, Ms Kristina Kashtanova, was the author of both the text and the selection and arrangement of the text and images. However, the Copyright Office refused registration for the images themselves on the grounds that they were generated by Midjourney and did not have a human author.

How Midjourney generated the images

As described by the Copyright Office, Midjourney generates an image in response to instructions (called “prompts”) input by the user. The Copyright Office illustrated this process by the prompt:

/imagine cute baby dinosaur shakespeare writing play purple

which generated the images below:

4 images generated by Midjourney of purple coloured, baby dinosaurs each holding a pen and working over a manuscript. In 2 images, the dinosaur looks to the right bottom corner; in the other two, to the right bottom corner
Baby dinosaur writing a play

The user could click on the blue “recycle” image to generate four new images. The user could also refine the images regenerated by providing URLs of images to be used as models or by providing more detailed instructions.

This was not authorship for copyright purposes

For copyright to subsist in original works such as text (literary works) or images (artistic works), US law, like Australian law (see further below), requires the work to be original. That requirement in turn requires the work to be made by a human who is an author. And, according to the Copyright Office, an author is the person “who has actually formed the picture,” the one who acts as “the inventive or master mind.”

At least in theory, if someone gave a draftsperson sufficiently detailed instructions about what a drawing should depict, they rather than the draftsperson may be the author.[3]

The Copyright Office, however, found that the instructions Ms Kashtanova gave to Midjourney did not make her the author of the resulting images. This was because it was not possible to predict the outcome resulting from her prompts:

A person who provides text prompts to Midjourney does not “actually form” the generated images and is not the “master mind” behind them. Instead, as explained above,[4] Midjourney begins the image generation process with a field of visual “noise,” which is refined based on tokens created from user prompts that relate to Midjourney’s training database. The information in the prompt may “influence” generated image, but prompt text does not dictate a specific result. See Prompts, MIDJOURNEY, https://docs.midjourney.com/docs/prompts (explaining that short text prompts cause “each word [to have] a more powerful influence” and that images including in a prompt may “influence the style and content of the finished result”). Because of the significant distance between what a user may direct Midjourney to create and the visual material Midjourney actually produces, Midjourney users lack sufficient control over generated images to be treated as the “master mind” behind them.

The Copyright Office recognised that additional prompts could be applied to initial images to influence subsequent images, however, the process was not controlled by the user as it was “not possible to predict what Midjourney will create ahead of time.”

The Copyright Office contrasted the way Midjourney works with the way an artist might use Photoshop or other tools:

The fact that Midjourney’s specific output cannot be predicted by users makes Midjourney different for copyright purposes than other tools used by artists. See Kashtanova Letter at 11 (arguing that the process of using Midjourney is similar to using other “computer- based tools” such as Adobe Photoshop). Like the photographer in Burrow-Giles, when artists use editing or other assistive tools, they select what visual material to modify, choose which tools to use and what changes to make, and take specific steps to control the final image such that it amounts to the artist’s “own original mental conception, to which [they] gave visible form.”15 Burrow-Giles, 111 U.S. at 60 (explaining that the photographer’s creative choices made the photograph “the product of [his] intellectual invention”). Users of Midjourney do not have comparable control over the initial image generated, or any final image. (emphasis supplied) (footnotes omitted)

Ms Kashtanova also contended that her modifications in Photoshop to some images constituted authorial contribution to support her claim to copyright. From the description in the Copyright Office’s decision, some of the work seems more like touching up or editing rather than authorship. As the material before the Copyright Office did not include the “before” and “after” images, however, the Copyright Office was not include to accept those claims either.

An Australian perspective

Australian courts have also ruled that an author must be a human. Applying the IceTV case, the Full Federal Court has ruled that the processing of telephone subscriber name, address and phone number details into a directory by a computerised database did not qualify as an original copyright work as there was no human author. In the first Telstra v PDC case, Perram J explained at [118] – [119]:

The Act does not presently deal explicitly with the impact of software on authorship (although this is not so in the United Kingdom: s 9(3) Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (UK)). But a computer program is a tool and it is natural to think that the author of a work generated by a computer program will ordinarily be the person in control of that program. However, care must taken to ensure that the efforts of that person can be seen as being directed to the reduction of a work into a material form. Software comes in a variety of forms and the tasks performed by it range from the trivial to the substantial. So long as the person controlling the program can be seen as directing or fashioning the material form of the work there is no particular danger in viewing that person as the work’s author. But there will be cases where the person operating a program is not controlling the nature of the material form produced by it and in those cases that person will not contribute sufficient independent intellectual effort or sufficient effort of a literary nature to the creation of that form to constitute that person as its author: a plane with its autopilot engaged is flying itself. In such cases, the performance by a computer of functions ordinarily performed by human authors will mean that copyright does not subsist in the work thus created. Those observations are important to this case because they deny the possibility that Mr Vormwald or Mr Cooper were the authors of the directories. They did not guide the creation of the material form of the directories using the programs and their efforts were not, therefore, sufficient for the purposes of originality.

The consequence of those conclusions is that the directories were not copied from elsewhere but neither were they created by a human author or authors. Although humans were certainly involved in the Collection Phase that process antedated the reduction of the collected information into material form and was not relevant to the question of authorship (other than to show that the works were not copied). Whilst humans were ultimately in control of the software which did reduce the information to a material form, their control was over a process of automation and they did not shape or direct the material form themselves (that process being performed by the software). The directories did not, therefore, have an author and copyright cannot subsist in them. (emphasis supplied)

See also Yates J at 169.

This appears to be consistent with the approach taken by the US Copyright Office although both Perram J and Yates J recognised that whether some particular claimed work falls on the “copyright” or “not copyright” side of the line is a question of judgment and degree.

Zarya of the Dawn (Registration # VAu001480196)


  1. No, as I am sure you know, you do not have to register your claim to own copyright in Australia. Registration of copyright is just one of the way Americans are different to most of the rest of us. In Australia copyright comes into existence automatically by the act of creating the material (and not slavishly copying it from some pre-existing material). There is no need to register it. Who the owner of the copyright is will depend on a number of factors such as the type of material – a literary or artistic work or an audio-visual work such as a film or a sound recording or broadcast; whether or not the work was made in the course of employment and whether there has been a written assignment or other contractual arrangement. (That is the sort of thing that requires advice based on the specific individual circumstances.)  ?
  2. This is a link to the donationware download but the Copyright Office’s decision includes images of the cover and page 2.  ?
  3. While the creation of an artistic work raises rather more challenges, an obvious illustration of this theory is the case of someone who dictates a letter or a book to an amanuensis.  ?
  4. Earlier the Copyright Office had explained: ‘… Midjourney “does not understand grammar, sentence structure, or words like humans,” it instead converts words and phrases “into smaller pieces, called tokens, that can be compared to its training data and then used to generate an image.” … Generation involves Midjourney starting with “a field of visual noise, like television static, [used] as a starting point to generate the initial image grids” and then using an algorithm to refine that static into human-recognizable images.’  ?

Zarya of the Dawn – copyright and an AI Read More »

GIs, free trade, Australia and the EU

With the closing stages of the negotiations between Australia and the EU over the proposed free trade agreement almost upon us, the EU has proposed a list of 55 further wine geographical indications it wants to protect.[1] Amongst others, the list includes “prosecco” and “vittoria”. The Department of Agriculture is holding a Public Objections Process to assess the impact of accepting these names.

There are four grounds for potential objection (and only four):

  1. The EU GI name is used in Australia as the common name for the relevant good, including as a type or style of wine.
  2. The EU GI name is used in Australia as the name of a grape variety, plant variety or an animal breed.
  3. The EU GI name is identical to, or likely to cause confusion with, a trade mark that is registered in Australia or the subject of a pending application made in good faith in Australia. Confusion may be likely where a trade mark consists of, or contains, the EU GI name or something so nearly resembling it.
  4. The EU GI name is identical to, or likely to cause confusion with, an unregistered trade mark that has acquired rights through use in good faith in Australia. Confusion may be likely where a trade mark consists of, or contains, the EU GI name or something so nearly resembling it.

You can see what the problem is with a name like “prosecco” as there are lots of Australian producers of wines under that name, all the more so when the grape variety formerly known (or thought to be known) as prosecco was renamed in 2009 by an Italian government decree as “glera”.

SBS Italian published an article (in Italian) looking at the issue.[2]

I also wonder about “Vittoria”, especially if the EU is pressing for protection not just against use of the name itself but terms and expressions which “evoke” that. There are, afterall, lots of wines which are made in a place called “Victoria”.

Whether Australia agrees to these names or not, Australian producers using these names are effectively giving up the potential to sell in the EU (unless they go to the trouble and expense of different labelling).

The consultation process has been running since late March and closes at 12 NOON AEST Friday 21 APRIL 2023. If you want to lodge an objection (good luck!), you must make your submission via here. Be warned: this is a “hard” deadline; finalisation of the deal is that close.

If you are feeling a little bit like “deja vu”; you’re right, there was a whole round of consultations about a much more extensive range of names two years ago.


  1. The full list of the new wines is Appendix A to the Public Objections Process: EU Wine Geographical Indications also available here (pdf).  ?
  2. If like me your Italian is not up to that here’s a link to Google Translate’s interpretation. Lid dip (for the article in the original) Dr Paula Zito.  ?

GIs, free trade, Australia and the EU Read More »

Self Care v Allergan – Part 2

Previously on IPwars.com we looked at why the High Court held PROTOX did not infringe BOTOX. The High Court also ruled that “instant BOTOX® alternative” did not infringe and overturned the Full Court’s ruling that the phrase was misleading or deceptive contrary to the ACL.

A recap

You will recall that Allergan has registered BOTOX as a trade mark for “[p]harmaceutical preparations for the treatment of … wrinkles” in class 5. The product Allergan makes and sells under the BOTOX trade mark is an injectable pharmaceutical which must be administered by a health professional. One treatment of BOTOX preparation can last for up to several months.

Because of its “overwhelming” and “ubiquitous” reputation in BOTOX, however, Allergan has also achieved registration of BOTOX in class 3 for anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams.

The second FREEZEFRAME product Self Care sells is INHIBOX. The INHIBOX product is a cream which the user can apply themselves at home and which lasts for up to a few hours to reduce the visible signs of ageing.

The INHIBOX product was sold in two forms of packaging:

Old packaging – Packaging A

Image of INHIBOX packaging showing FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX trade marks, instant Botox® alternative and explanatory text on back

New packaging – Packaging B:

Image of INHIBOX packaging showing FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX trade marks, instant Botox® alternative and explanatory text on back

Both forms of packaging included the phrase “instant BOTOX® alternative”. You will also notice that the back of both forms of packaging includes a longer declaration: “The original instant and long term Botox® alternative”.

Why “instant Botox® alternative” did not infringe

Self Care’s INHIBOX product being an anti-wrinkle cream falling squarely within the scope of Allergan’s BOTOX registration in class 3, the High Court had identified at [22] that the trade mark owner had to prove two things to establish trade mark infringement under s 120(1):

  1. that the impugned sign was being used as a trade mark; and
  2. that the impugned sign was substantially identical or deceptively similar to the registered trade mark.

At [23], a sign is being used as a trade mark when it is being used as “a badge of origin” to indicate a connection between the goods and the user of the mark.[1]

And whether that is the case is to be determined objectively in the context of the use without regard to the subjective intentions of the user. To repeat the High Court’s explanation at [24]:

Whether a sign has been “use[d] as a trade mark” is assessed objectively without reference to the subjective trading intentions of the user[50]. As the meaning of a sign, such as a word, varies with the context in which the sign is used, the objective purpose and nature of use are assessed by reference to context. That context includes the relevant trade[51], the way in which the words have been displayed, and how the words would present themselves to persons who read them and form a view about what they connote[52]. A well known example where the use was not “as a trade mark” was in Irving’s Yeast-Vite Ltd v Horsenail[53], where the phrase “Yeast tablets a substitute for ‘Yeast-Vite’” was held to be merely descriptive and not a use of “Yeast-Vite” as a trade mark. Therefore, it did not contravene the YEAST-VITE mark. (citation omitted)

Applying that test, the High Court held that Self Care was not using “instant Botox® alternative” as a trade mark. There were a number of reasons contributing to this conclusion.

First, Self Care did not present the phrase in a consistent style.

Secondly, the phrase was presented alongside two obvious trade marks – FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX – so that the phrase was less likely to be taken as a trade mark.

And thirdly, while FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX were presented as trade marks, the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” was a descriptive phrase which in context was used only with that descriptive purpose and nature.

As to the first consideration, the High Court explained at [55]:

The presentation of “instant Botox® alternative” was inconsistent in size, font and presentation on each of Packaging A, Packaging B and the website, indicating “instant Botox® alternative” was not being used as a badge of origin to distinguish Self Care’s goods from those dealt with by another trader[126]. On Packaging A the phrase was presented vertically, marked out by four vertical lines separating each of the words. On Packaging B and on the website the phrase was presented horizontally without any lines separating the words. The arrangement of the words differed. On the packaging, each word in the phrase occupied its own line. On two website pages the phrase occupied a single line. On two other website pages the words “Instant” and “Botox®” shared a line and the word “ALTERNATIVE” appeared on the next line. The font was inconsistent. The packaging used a different font to the website pages, and one website page used a different font to the other website pages. The capitalisation was inconsistent. Three different forms were adopted: “instant Botox® alternative” on the packaging, “INSTANT BOTOX® ALTERNATIVE” on one website page and “Instant Botox® ALTERNATIVE” on three other website pages.

Then, the High Court explained at [56] that the likelihood “instant Botox® alternative” would be taken as a trade mark was diminished because its use was not as dominant as the use of FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX:

…. This diminishes the likelihood that the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” could be objectively understood to indicate origin in itself[127]. This is because its use was not as dominant as the use of the other signs, FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX. This is most evident on the packaging. On both Packaging A and Packaging B, “instant Botox® alternative” appeared only once, on the front of the box, in much smaller font than FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX. FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX were also featured prominently on the left and right sides of each box. Further …. (citations omitted)

At [57], the High Court recognised that a sign can be both descriptive and used as a trade mark (see also [25]) but the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” was not in this case:

The FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX script style and presentation is also significant. FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX were both distinctive and stylised signs that were apt to be perceived as brands. In contrast, “instant Botox® alternative” was a descriptive phrase that had an ordinary meaning and included within it the trade mark BOTOX (identified as such with a ® symbol). It was descriptive of the product to which it was attached as an alternative product. While a sign can both be descriptive and serve as a badge of origin, the better view is that the use of the phrase, consistent with its ordinary meaning, had only a descriptive purpose and nature[128]. As the primary judge found, the phrase amounted to “ad?speak”. (citation omitted)

As the phrase was not used as a trade mark, there was no need to consider whether it was deceptively similar to Allergan’s trade mark.

Some aspects of the High Court’s reasons

In reaching its conclusions, the High Court drew on three different uses – the two forms of packaging and the website collectively. At [54], the High Court said it was permissible “to address them together, identifying relevant similarities and differences in use.”

In this case at least, there appears to have been some overlap between Self Care’s use of Packaging A and Packaging B – the latter being introduced on the market in September 2016, the former still being on the market until February 2017. The website of course was contemporaneous with both.

Nonetheless, it might be thought a bit odd that generally the old form of packaging informed the understanding of the new form of packaging. And, if the question is whether or not the particular use on the packaging is use as a trade mark, one might wonder about the relevance of use elsewhere. It must also be acknowledged that the form of use was one only of the factors contributing to the conclusion.

The High Court’s approach therefore reinforces INTA’s longstanding message that the trade mark owner should ensure it presents its trade mark consistently. Giving this consideration too much weight in isolation, however, risks creating some sort of pirate’s charter.

Ultimately, it might be thought the result is not too surprising. Afterall, phrases like this have not been considered to be trade mark use since the House of Lords’ decision in 1934 that “Yeast tablets a substitute for Yeast-Vite” did not infringe the registered trade mark YEAST-VITE.

In explaining why the Full Court wrongly found use as a trade mark, however, the High Court advanced a very different explanation why “instant Botox® alternative” was not use as a trade mark. The Full Court had impermissibly conflated the tests of use as a trade mark and deceptive similarity. At [60], the High Court then said:

Conflation of those elements is not uncommon. As Shanahan’s Australian Law of Trade Marks & Passing Off observes, “[t]here is a common misconception that an infringer uses a sign as a trade mark if the use indicates or is likely to indicate a connection between the infringer’s goods and the owner of the registered mark”[129]. However, “factors relevant to whether there is a misrepresentation or likelihood of deception have no role to play in deciding the question of what constitutes ‘use as a trade mark’”[130]. As was stated in Coca-Cola Company v All-Fect Distributors Ltd, the inquiry is not “whether the sign indicates a connection between the alleged infringer’s goods and those of the registered owner”[131]. The correct approach is to ask whether the sign used indicates origin of goods in the user of the sign[132]. (emphasis supplied) (citations omitted)

This may be contrasted with the reason why the House of Lords held that there had been no use as a trade mark. Lord Tomlin explained:[2]

This is clearly a use of the word “Yeast-Vite” on the respondent’s preparation to indicate the appellant’s preparation and to distinguish the respondent’s preparation from it. It is not a use of the word as a trade mark, that is, to indicate the origin of the goods in the respondent by virtue of manufacture, selection, certification, dealing with or offering for sale.

The High Court’s endorsement of Coca-Cola v Allfect on this point cannot be the result of some change in the meaning or concept of “use as a trade mark”. In the Yeast-Vite case, Lord Tomlin said:[3]

The phrase “the exclusive right to the use of such trade mark” carries in my opinion the implication of use of the mark for the purpose of indicating in relation to the goods upon or in connection with which the use takes place, the origin of such goods in the user of the mark by virtue of the matters indicated in the definition of “trade mark” contained in s 3.

That is the same explanation of the concept as adopted by the High Court in Gallo at [42] and in Self Care at [23] and [53].

It also cannot really be explained by the introduction into the Trade Marks Act of s 122A and s 123. Lord Tomlin roundly rejected a similar argument by the trade mark owner in Yeast-Vite:

nor do I think it is legitimate to treat special defences available under other sections of the latter Act as constituting a measure of the right conferred by s 39.

It appears therefore that the High Court has resolved the point left open in the Gallo case at [53] – whether a retailer uses the trade mark as a trade mark when using it in relation to the genuine goods of the trade mark owner.[4]

Whether that means our law now needs amendment to provide a defence for parody and satire, or other types of nominative fair use, remains to be seen.

The ACL case

The Full Court had found that the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” conveyed the representations that use of INHIBOX would result in a similar reduction in the appearance of wrinkles to using Botox and, secondly, that the effects would last for a period equivalent to that resulting from use of Botox.

The Full Court found that Self Care had reasonable grounds for the former representation, but not the latter – the long term efficacy representation. Therefore, Self Care’s use of the phrase was misleading or deceptive in contravention of the ACL.

On appeal, Self Care did not contend INHIBOX had a similar long term efficacy to Botox. Rather, it denied that the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” conveyed the long term efficacy representation at all.

Recap of the ACL principles

At [81], the High Court confirmed that determining whether there had been a breach of s 18 required a four step analysis:

  1. Identifying the conduct said to contravene with precision;
  2. Confirming that the conduct was “in trade or commerce”;
  3. Considering what meaning the conduct conveyed; and
  4. Determining whether the conduct in light of that meaning was misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive.

At [82], the High Court also confirmed that the third and fourth steps required characterisation as an objective matter. This required viewing the conduct as a whole and its notional effects, judged by the conduct in context, on the state of mind of the relevant person or class of persons.

The context includes the immediate context – all the words in the communication and the way they are conveyed, not just the word or phrase in isolation. The context also includes the broader context – all the relevant surrounding facts and circumstances.

Next, in cases of this kind the High Court re-affirmed at [83] that it is necessary to identify an ordinary and reasonable representative member of the relevant class “to objectively attribute characteristics and knowledge to that hypothetical person (or persons), and to consider the effect or likely effect of the conduct on their state of mind.” This required allowing for a range of reasonable reactions to the conduct by excluding from consideration reactions of the ignorant or very knowledgeable, those resulting from habitual caution or exceptional carelessness and the extreme or fanciful.

The misrepresentation was not made

The High Court analysed each of the three types use – Packaging A, Packaging B and the website – separately. But the reasons why “instant Botox® alternative” was not misleading or deceptive are essentially the same.

In the case of Packaging A, the High Court noted the use of the trade marks FREEZEFRAME and INHIBOX and “instant Botox® alternative” on the front of the packaging. On the side of the packaging were printed the words “Clinically proven to erase wrinkle appearance in 5 minutes”. And on the back, there was the vertical script “The world’s first Instant and Long Term Botox® Alternative” in larger, blue lettering than the panel of explanatory text. Under the heading “Freeze wrinkles instantly”, the first paragraph of that explanatory text read:

Why wait for weeks to look dramatically younger when you can wipe away the years this very minute! freezeframe’s exclusive INHIBOX complex is clinically proven to wipe away visible expression wrinkles around the eyes and on the forehead within 5 minutes, so you get an immediate wrinkle freeze and eye lift that lasts for hours. (emphasis supplied)

The remainder of the text included three more references to the effects of INHIBOX being “long term”. This included a heading “And long term!” under which the packaging stated “”freezeframe technology is scientifically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles by up to 63.23% in just 28 days“ and ”freezeframe’s Dual Effect technology gives you proven instant wrinkle reduction, plus the world’s best long term wrinkle relaxing”.

Under the heading “Two of the world’s most potent wrinkle erasers* in one formula”– the packaging stated “[i]magine… the power of an instant wrinkle freeze, combined with the long term benefits of the most potent, cumulative facial relaxing technology on the planet. All in one simple formula.”

Despite all these references to “long term”, the High Court held at [102] that both the immediate and broader contexts meant the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” would not convey to the reasonable consumer in the target market that either a single treatment or long term use of INHIBIX would last for an equivalent period to a BOTOX injection.

In the immediate context – the packaging, the words “long term” must be understood in the context of “lasts for hours” and that the treatment was “instant” and working “within 5 minutes”. As a result, “long term” was mere puffery. At [99], the High Court explained:

…. The fact that the effect of Inhibox was said to be instant makes it less likely that the reasonable consumer would believe that those effects would last for as long as those of Botox. Put differently, the reasonable consumer would likely believe it too good to be true that the effects of Inhibox are both instant and as long lasting as those of Botox.

The broader context included that INHIBOX was a cream applied by the user while BOTOX is a pharmaceutical injection requiring a visit to a healthcare professional. INHIBOX was much cheaper. The two products were not sold in the same locations. In these circumstances, the High Court concluded at [101]:

Taking into account that broader context, it is difficult to conceive why the reasonable consumer in the target market would think that a topically self-applied cream obtained from the pharmacy at a relatively low cost and worn in the course of the usual activities of life (including bathing and exercise) would have the same period of efficacy after treatment as an injectable anti-wrinkle treatment that is only available to be administered by healthcare professionals at a higher cost. ….

Moreover, the reasonable consumer would not assume that the use of BOTOX in the phrase indicated a common trade connection between INHIBOX and BOTOX.

Similar reasoning led to the same conclusion in respect of Packaging A and the website even though the latter, in particular, seems to have used “long term” rather more prominently.

The errors made by the Full Court

The High Court’s reasons why the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” was not misleading or deceptive suggest a rather robust approach to assessing the impact of the conduct on the target market. In addition, its reasons provide further guidance about how the conduct should be analysed.

First, at [88] – [89], the High Court agreed the trial judge had made an appealable error by considering only the phrase and the broader context, not taking into account the immediate context as well. So, it is necessary to consider all three aspects.

Secondly, the Full Court had also erred. There are a number of strands to this. One key error was misidentification of the ordinary and reasonable consumer. A second was the false premise that consumers would think the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” conveyed an association between INHIBOX and the trade source of BOTOX.

On the second point at [89], the High Court pointed out that the trial judge had found “instant Botox® alternative” would not convey an association between INHIBOX and BOTOX and there had been no appeal from that finding.

On the first point, the Full Court had found that some members of the relevant class would know that the effects of BOTOX lasted four months. The High Court criticised the factual basis for the conclusions about how long BOTOX lasted and whether consumers knew that.

More generally, however, the High Court said the Full Court had been wrong to assess the effects of the phrase on the target market on the basis that some reasonable consumers would have been misled. At [90], the High Court explained:

…. Further, the Full Court’s statement that the target market “would have included” reasonable consumers who had that knowledge demonstrated a misunderstanding of the relevant test. The ordinary and reasonable consumer is a hypothetical construct to whom the court attributes characteristics and knowledge in order to characterise the impugned conduct. The class in fact will always have reasonable consumers with varying levels of knowledge; the question was whether the knowledge should be attributed to the hypothetical reasonable consumer in this case.

Then, as already discussed above, the High Court proceeded to analyse how the phrase “instant Botox® alternative” would be perceived and understood by the ordinary reasonable consumer in all the circumstances.

Self Care IP Holdings Pty Ltd v Allergan Australia Pty Ltd [2023] HCA 8


  1. Picking up the definition of What is a trade mark in s 17 as explained in Campomar and E & J Gallo at [42]: “the requirement that a trade mark ”distinguish“ goods encompasses the orthodox understanding that one function of a trade mark is to indicate the origin of ”goods to which the mark is applied“[16]. Distinguishing goods of a registered owner from the goods of others and indicating a connection in the course of trade between the goods and the registered owner are essential characteristics of a trade mark[17]. There is nothing in the relevant Explanatory Memorandum[18] to suggest that s 17 was to effect any change in the orthodox understanding of the function or essential characteristics of a trade mark.” (citations omitted)  ?
  2. Irving’s Yeast-Vite Ltd v F A Horsenail (trading as The Herbal Dispensary) (1934) 51 RPC 110 at 115.36; 1B IPR 427 at 431.37.  ?
  3. 51 RPC 115.36; 1B IPR 432.  ?
  4. See also Scandinavian Tobacco Group Eersel BV v Trojan Trading Company Pty Ltd [2016] FCAFC 91 at [49]ff and Warwick A Rothnie, ‘Unparalleled importing and trademarks in Australia,’ (2020) 21(3) Business Law International 229.  ?

Self Care v Allergan – Part 2 Read More »

Did the High Court change the law of trade mark infringement to a kind of registered passing off?

A unanimous High Court has upheld Self Care’s appeal and ruled that PROTOX and “instant Botox® alternative” do not infringe Allergan’s BOTOX registered trade mark. Nor was “instant Botox® alternative” false, misleading or deceptive conduct contrary to the ACL.

The High Court’s ruling that the reputation of the registered trade mark has no part to play in infringement under section 120(1) has finally settled that issue. More interestingly, in explaining why PROTOX did not infringe BOTOX their Honours also may also have changed how infringement is assessed. Thirdly, the High Court’s explanation why “instant BOTOX® alternative” did not infringe confirms that the plain English 1995 Act fundamentally changed the nature of trade mark use.

Some facts

Allergan owns various registered trade marks in Australia for BOTOX including in class 5 for “pharmaceutical preparations for the treatment of … wrinkles” and in class 3 for “anti?ageing creams” and “anti?wrinkle cream”.[1]

Allergan’s BOTOX product is an injectable pharmaceutical product containing botulinum toxin, type A which is administered by healthcare professionals and which can last for several months. That is, a class 5 product type. It does not sell an anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle cream. Its class 3 registration, however, is a defensive registration under section 185. As the High Court pointed out at [17], it was the reputation Allergan had derived from its extensive use of BOTOX for the goods in class 5 that was the basis for the defensive registration in class 3.[2]

Self Care markets anti-wrinkle creams under the trade mark FREEZEFRAME. Its FREEZEFRAME products come in at least 2 lines – PROTOX and INHIBOX. These creams could be self-administered and could reduce the appearance of ageing for up to a few hours. The image below shows the PROTOX packaging the subject of the litigation:

The INHIBOX labels are similar, but bearing INHIBOX AND the slogan “instant BOTOX® alternative”.

Some differences between trade mark infringement and passing off / ACL

To consider what the High Court did when finding PROTOX did not infringe BOTOX, I want to recall four or five main differences between actions for “traditional” trade mark infringement and passing off or misleading or deceptive conduct contrary to the ACL.

  1. For “traditional” trade mark infringement (that is, infringement under section 120(1)), the trade mark owner just has to prove that the trade mark was registered – there is no need to prove reputation; just the fact of registration;
  2. For “traditional” trade mark infringement at least, it was necessary to show that the accused conduct was conduct in relation to the goods or services for which the trade mark was registered whereas passing off and the ACL were not so limited;[3]
  3. Trade mark infringement can occur where a reasonable member of the public is caused to wonder whether or not there is some connection between the accused conduct while passing off and the ACL require a likelihood of deception or being misled;[4]
  4. At least for trade mark infringement, the accused use must be use as a trade mark; that is, as a “badge of origin” to identify trade source; and
  5. “Traditional” trade mark infringement required a comparison of the mark as registered to the particular sign alleged to infringe alone. The Court has ignored the use of other marks or indicia that may distinguish the relevant goods. In contrast, the comparison for false or misleading conduct or in passing off involves the accused use in context of all the circumstances.

This last point is well illustrated by the June Perfect case.[5] There, Saville Perfumery had “June” registered in fancy script for toiletry articles including shampoo and lipsticks. June Perfect brought out its own range of lipsticks and shampoo under the name “June”. The packaging made it clear that the goods were the products of June Perfect.

The House of Lords held there was a clear case of trade mark infringement as the comparison was between the mark as registered and the sign used by June Perfect. On the question of passing off, however, the House of Lords accepted that June Perfect might be able to use its name in such a way that the trade source of the goods was clearly distinguished from Saville Perfumery. While there was an injunction to restrain June Perfect from infringing the trade mark, the passing off injunction restrained only the use of “June” without clearly distinguishing the trade source of the articles from Saville Perfumery.[6]

There has been some relaxation over time to propositions 1 and 2.

First, section 120(2) extends the trade mark owner’s rights to cover not just the goods or services specified in the registration but also to things of the same description or closely related. Unlike the case with infringement under s 120(1), however, it is a defence to this extended form of infringement if the alleged infringer can show that the way they use their sign is not likely to deceive or cause confusion. Thus, the proviso to s 120(2) states:

However, the person is not taken to have infringed the trade mark if the person establishes that using the sign as the person did is not likely to deceive or cause confusion.

Thus, Burley J quoted with approval Yates J’s dictum:[7]

So too it is recognised that, for the purposes of considering infringement under s 120(1), it is beside the point that the alleged infringer has added other material to the impugned trade mark, even if those steps were taken to avoid the likelihood of deception: Saville Perfumery Ltd v June Perfect Ltd (1941) 58 RPC 147 at 161 (Sir Greene MR) and at 174 (Viscount Maugham); Lever Brothers, Port Sunlight Limited v Sunniwite Products Ltd (1949) 66 RPC 84 at 89; Mark Foy’s Ltd v Davies Coop and Co Ltd (1956) 95 CLR 190 at 205; Polaroid Corporation v Sole N Pty Ltd [1981] 1 NSWLR 491 at 495; New South Wales Dairy Corporation v Murray Goulburn Co-Operative Company Limited (1989) 86 ALR 549 at 589; Polo Textile Industries Pty Ltd v Domestic Textile Corporation Pty Ltd (1993) 42 FCR 227 at 231–232. Considerations of this kind, if raised by an alleged infringer, are relevant when considering infringement under s 120(2) and may be relevant when considering infringement under s 120(3). However, the general position under s 120(1) is that infringement cannot be avoided by, for example, the use of additional matter if the mark itself is taken and used. Once again, if the test is not applied in this fashion a trade mark owner may be deprived of the monopoly conferred by registration. (emphasis supplied by Burley J)

As the High Court recognised in the Self Care case, the 1995 Act introduced a further broadening of what could be infringement in s 120(3). If a trade mark owner could show that its trade mark was well-known in Australia, it could claim infringement by use of a sign on wholly unrelated goods or services where the use would be likely to indicate a connection to the trade mark owner and the trade mark owner’s interests were likely to be prejudicially affected.[8]

With that background, we can turn to the High Court’s reasons.

Self Care and some principles

The appeal is concerned only with infringement under s 120(1). The extended versions of infringement for similar or closely related products (s 120(2)) and “famous” or “well-known” trade marks (s 120(3)) were not in issue in this case.

The High Court at [22] pointed out that infringement under s 120(1) requires 2 distinct questions to be addressed:

  1. Did the alleged infringer use the sign “as a trade mark” – that is, as a “badge of origin” to indicate trade source?
  2. If so, was the sign deceptively similar to the registered trade mark?[9]

These are, as the High Court emphasised, two different issues and the High Court approached them separately.

Use as a trade mark

The High Court confirmed that whether a sign is being used as a trade mark is to be determined objectively, without reference to the subjective intentions of the user. At [24], their Honours explained:

Whether a sign has been “use[d] as a trade mark” is assessed objectively without reference to the subjective trading intentions of the user[50]. As the meaning of a sign, such as a word, varies with the context in which the sign is used, the objective purpose and nature of use are assessed by reference to context. That context includes the relevant trade[51], the way in which the words have been displayed, and how the words would present themselves to persons who read them and form a view about what they connote[52]. A well known example where the use was not “as a trade mark” was in Irving’s Yeast-Vite Ltd v Horsenail[53], where the phrase “Yeast tablets a substitute for ‘Yeast-Vite’” was held to be merely descriptive and not a use of “Yeast-Vite” as a trade mark. Therefore, it did not contravene the YEAST-VITE mark. [citations omitted]

At [25], their Honours affirmed the longstanding principle that the existence of a descriptive element or purpose was not determinative if there were several purposes for the use of the sign. So long as one purpose is to distinguish the trade source, that will be sufficient.

Further, their Honours acknowledged that the presence of ‘a clear dominant “brand”’ can be relevant to assessing the balance of the label or packaging, but that did not mean that another sign on the labelling was not also functioning as a trade mark.

For the last proposition, the High Court cited Allsop J’s decision in the Budweiser case at [191]. In that case, Anheuser-Busch, the owner of trade mark registrations for BUDWEISER successfully sued the Czech company for infringement by the latter’s use of BUDWEISER on labels such as:

At [191], Allsop J explained:

It is not to the point, with respect, to say that because another part of the label (the white section with ‘Bud?jovický Budvar’) is the obvious and important ‘brand’, that another part of the label cannot act to distinguish the goods. The ‘branding function’, if that expression is merely used as a synonym for the contents of ss 7 and 17 of the TM Act, can be carried out in different places on packaging, with different degrees of strength and subtlety. Of course, the existence on a label of a clear dominant ‘brand’ is of relevance to the assessment of what would be taken to be the effect of the balance of the label.

Turning to the PROTOX label, there cannot really be any dispute that PROTOX is used as a trade mark. The question then is whether it is deceptively similar to BOTOX.

The test for deceptive similarity

The High Court discussed the principles for determining whether a trade mark is deceptively similar to another at [26] – [51].

Noting that section 10 defines a deceptively similar mark to be one that so nearly resembles the registered trade mark that it is likely to deceive or cause confusion, at [26] the High Court stated the resemblance of the two marks must be the cause of the likely deception or confusion. And this involved an assessment of the two marks as a whole taking into account both their look and sound.

At [27], their Honours endorsed the much quoted explanation of the principles given by Dixon and McTiernan JJ in Australian Woollen Mills at 58 CLR 658:

“But, in the end, it becomes a question of fact for the court to decide whether in fact there is such a reasonable probability of deception or confusion that the use of the new mark and title should be restrained.

In deciding this question, the marks ought not, of course, to be compared side by side. An attempt should be made to estimate the effect or impression produced on the mind of potential customers by the mark or device for which the protection of an injunction is sought. The impression or recollection which is carried away and retained is necessarily the basis of any mistaken belief that the challenged mark or device is the same. The effect of spoken description must be considered. If a mark is in fact or from its nature likely to be the source of some name or verbal description by which buyers will express their desire to have the goods, then similarities both of sound and of meaning may play an important part.

At [28], their Honours emphasised the artificial nature of the inquiry. Stating at [29]:

…. The notional buyer is assumed to have seen the registered mark used in relation to the full range of goods to which the registration extends. The correct approach is to compare the impression (allowing for imperfect recollection) that the notional buyer would have of the registered mark (as notionally used on all of the goods covered by the registration), with the impression that the notional buyer would have of the alleged infringer’s mark (as actually used). …. (original emphasis) (citations omitted)[10]

Returning to this issue, at [33] their Honours emphasised that “the court is not looking to the totality of the conduct of the defendant in the same way as in a passing off suit”.[11] The High Court continued:

…. In addition to the degree of similarity between the marks, the assessment takes account of the effect of that similarity considered in relation to the alleged infringer’s actual use of the mark, as well as the circumstances of the goods, the character of the likely customers, and the market covered by the monopoly attached to the registered trade mark. (citations omitted)

Cases approved by the High Court in Self Care have acknowledged that questions of some subtlety can arise assessing the context of a use to determine if the sign is being used as a trade mark and assessing whether the infringing sign is deceptively similar.[12]

All of the cases endorsed by the High Court in these propositions, however, make the same point: the comparison is between the registered trade mark and the mark being used by the alleged infringer without regard to the totality of the conduct by the infringer such as the presence of other trade marks or disclaimers.

One example of the role of impression in this mark to mark comparison, expressly cited by the High Court at [29], is the Chifley Tower case.[13] There, MID Sydney’s registration of CHIFLEY TOWER for building management services was not infringed by Touraust’s proposed use of CHIFLEY for the names of the hotels it managed – such as “Chifley on the Wharf” or “The Chifley”.

One reason was that the services were not the same or of the same description.

Importantly for present purposes, the Full Court also found the marks were not deceptively similar because the public was familiar with many different uses of “Chifley” – apart from MID Sydney’s. This included the name of the Prime Minister, a restaurant and numerous geographical places. With that general background knowledge, therefore, the distinctive power of MID Sydney’s trade mark lay in the combined term, not in the common element CHIFLEY alone.

While this should not be surprising to trade mark lawyers, therefore, where it becomes interesting lies in what the High Court did when finding PROTOX did not infringe BOTOX.

Before turning to that issue, however, the High Court squarely addressed the role of reputation in infringement proceedings under section 120(1).

The role of reputation

Noting that the role of reputation has been contentious for a number of years, the High Court ruled at [50] that reputation is not relevant to infringement under section 120(1).

A number of considerations led the High Court to this conclusion. The first point at [37] was that it is registration which confers the rights in the trade mark on the owner and defines the scope of the registration. If considerations other than the registration could be taken into account “the level of protection afforded to that right would vary and be inherently uncertain.”

Another point was that the legislation specified various matters to be entered on the Register and available for public inspection. Reputation was not one of those matters and at [40] taking into account the reputation which had accrued to a trade mark would be contrary to the objective of the registered trade mark system:

which is to provide “a bright line that delineates the property rights” of a registered owner, for the benefit of the owner and the public, and runs the risk of collapsing the long standing distinction between infringement and passing off. (citations omitted)

Further, the Trade Marks Act expressly identified a role for reputation in four places:

  1. section 60 providing a ground of opposition on the basis of the reputation in the opponent’s trade mark;
  2. the provision for registration as a ‘defensive’ trade mark provided by section 185;
  3. the extended form of infringement provided by section 120(3); and
  4. the provision by section 24 for “genericide” when a trade mark has become known as the generic description of the goods or services.

Why PROTOX did not infringe BOTOX

At [63], the High Court summarised the trial judge’s finding that PROTOX was not deceptively similar to BOTOX. His Honour accepted that the two marks looked and sounded very similar but less so in idea or meaning. Further, the trial judge had held that the reputation of BOTOX was so strong that it was not likely to be recalled imperfectly. Even if there was imperfect recollection, no-one was likely to be deceived. His Honour was reinforced in this conclusion by the close proximity of PROTOX to FREEZEFRAME and the lack of evidence of actual confusion.

At [64], the High Court noted the Full Court held the trial judge had erred by failing to consider whether the use of PROTOX might cause people to wonder if there was some connection to the owner of the BOTOX mark. In finding deceptive similarity, however, the Full Court had made two errors.

First, it had relied on Allergan’s reputation in BOTOX for pharmaceutical preparations to conclude that the public might wonder whether PROTOX was some form of brand extension. Secondly, in doing so, their Honour’s had relied on the way Allergan actually used BOTOX rather than taking into account its notional use for anti-wrinkle creams in class 3.

Considering the effect of the use of PROTOX on potential customers of anti-wrinkle creams in class 3, the High Court accepted at [69] that “pro” and “bo” looked and sounded similar and the common element “otox” was both distinctive and identical. But consumers would not have confused PROTOX or BOTOX:

…. The words are sufficiently different that the notional buyer, allowing for an imperfect recollection of BOTOX, would not confuse the marks or the products they denote. The visual and aural similarities were just one part of the inquiry. (emphasis supplied)

Despite the surprise many trade mark practitioners have felt about the trial judge’s similar conclusion, up to this point the High Court’s reasoning can be seen as consistent with the extensive array of case law endorsed by the High Court which distinguishes trade mark infringement from passing off. After all, as the High Court emphasised from Australian Woollen Mills, the ultimate conclusion on about deceptive similarity is a question of fact.

However, the last sentence from [69] quoted above picks up what their Honours had said in [68]. In considering the visual and aural impact of PROTOX, it was permissible to have regard to both the packaging and the website from which PROTOX was promoted:

it was necessary to consider the marks visually and aurally and in the context of the relevant surrounding circumstances. Considering both the packaging and the website for Protox accords with assessing the “actual use” of the PROTOX mark as required by the test for deceptive similarity. ….

The High Court then explained at [70] that the packaging and the website together dispelled the risk of implied confusion:

…. The notional buyer sees the PROTOX mark used on a similar product – a serum which is advertised on its packaging and website to “prolong the look of Botox®”. While the reputation of BOTOX cannot be considered, the relevant context includes the circumstances of the actual use of PROTOX by Self Care. “[P]rolong the look of Botox®” may suggest that Protox is a complementary product. However, as was observed by the primary judge, “it will be the common experience of consumers that one trader’s product can be used to enhance another trader’s product without there being any suggestion of affiliation”[136]. In this case, the back of the packaging stated in small font that “Botox is a registered trademark of Allergan Inc” and, although the assumption is that Botox is an anti?wrinkle cream, the website stated that “PROTOX has no association with any anti-wrinkle injection brand”. (emphasis supplied)

It is very difficult, with respect, to see how these conclusions sit with the High Court’s earlier endorsement of the authorities that additional matter such as the presence of disclaimers does not avoid infringement.

Perhaps, given the copious citation of case law endorsing the “traditional” position that it is a mark to mark comparison only, the role of the packaging and the website will ultimately be characterised as reinforcing the finding of deceptive similarity rather than determining it. Indeed, at [71], their Honours concluded there was no real, tangible danger of deception or confusion:

…. As explained, the marks are sufficiently distinctive such that there is no real danger that the notional buyer would confuse the marks or products. The similarities between the marks, considered in the circumstances, are not such that the notional buyer nevertheless is likely to wonder whether the products come from the same trade source. That conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the PROTOX mark was “almost always used in proximity to the FREEZEFRAME mark” and that there was “no evidence of actual confusion”.

instant Botox® alternative

As noted at the outset, the High Court also found that Self Care’s use of “instant Botox® alternative” did not infringe Allegan’s trade mark. Nor was it misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of the ACL. Given the length of this post, however, consideration of those issues will have to await another day.

Self Care IP Holdings Pty Ltd v Allergan Australia Pty Ltd [2023] HCA 8 (Kiefel CJ, Gageler, Gordon, Edelman and Gleeson JJ)

Edit: on 3 April to clarify that it is the ultimate conclusion about deceptive similarity that is the question of fact. Thanks, Craig Smith SC.


  1. That is, Allergan has used BOTOX so extensively, its use by someone else in relation to class 3 goods such as anti-ageing creams will falsely indicate a connection with Allergan. Where the reputation in the trade mark is so extensive to achieve a defensive registration, it does not matter whether the trade mark owner actually uses the trade mark for the goods or services covered by the defensive registration.  ?
  2. At [19], the “overwhelming” and “ubiquitous reputation of BOTOX”.  ?
  3. For an extreme case where the services were so far removed from the goods associated with the reputation – Tabasco sauce – that deception or misrepresentation were so unlikely that there was no contravention of the ACL or passing off, see McIlhenny Co v Blue Yonder Holdings Pty Ltd formerly trading as Tabasco Design [1997] FCA 962; 39 IPR 187.  ?
  4. Compare Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) s 10 to the High Court’s approval in Campomar Sociedad, Limitada v Nike International Limited
    [2000] HCA 12 at [106] quoting Taco Co of Australia Inc v Taco Bell Pty Ltd (1982) 42 ALR 177 at 201 (Deane and Fitzgerald JJ).  ?
  5. Saville Perfumery Ld. v. June Perfect Ld. (1941) 58 RPC 147.  ?
  6. As Lord Tomlin explained at 176, “It seems to me, and the form of the second injunction supports the view, that these Appellants may be able by proper precautions to sell the three articles in connection with their name of June Perfect Ld., while clearly distinguishing those goods from the Respondents’ goods. If that can be done there is no probability that the ultimate purchaser will be deceived.”. See also e.g. Puma Se v Caterpillar Inc [2022] FCAFC 153; 168 IPR 404 (Nicholas, Rofe and McElwaine JJ) at [43] (Nicholas, Rofe and McElwaine JJ); In-N-Out Burgers, Inc v Hashtag Burgers Pty Ltd [2020] FCA 193; 377 ALR 116; 150 IPR 73 at [80] and [160] (Katzmann J) (affirmed on appeal) and many others.  ?
  7. Goodman Fielder Pte Ltd v Conga Foods Pty Ltd [2020] FCA 1808; 158 IPR 9 at [364] citing Optical 88 Limited v Optical 88 Pty Limited (No 2) [2010] FCA 1380 at [99].  ?
  8. If you know of a court case where s 120(3) has been successfully asserted, please let me know.  ?
  9. Curiously, s 120 does not in terms require the trade mark owner to prove that alleged infringer did not have the owner’s consent to use the trade mark. An alleged infringer who claims to be licensed or set up consent must do so by way of [section 123][s123] in the case of services or, in the case of goods, the wonders of [section 122A][s122a]. (I tried to untangle the latter provision in Warwick A Rothnie, ‘Unparalleled importing and trademarks in Australia,’ (2020) 21(3) Business Law International 229.)  ?
  10. The High Court cited Shell (1961) 109 CLR 407 at 415; Wingate Marketing Pty Ltd v Levi Strauss & Co (1994) 49 FCR 89 at 128; MID Sydney v Australian Tourism Co (1998) 90 FCR 236 at 245 and Swancom (2022) 168 IPR 42 at [70].  ?
  11. Citing numerous authorities: New South Wales Dairy Corporation v Murray-Goulburn Co?operative Co Ltd (1989) 86 ALR 549 at 589 (emphasis added), approved in Henschke (2000) 52 IPR 42 at 62 [44], Hashtag Burgers (2020) 385 ALR 514 at 532 [64], Combe International Ltd v Dr August Wolff GmbH & Co KG Arzneimittel (2021) 157 IPR 230 at 238 [27], PDP Capital Pty Ltd v Grasshopper Ventures Pty Ltd (2021) 285 FCR 598 at 622 [97] (see also 626 [111]) and Swancom (2022) 168 IPR 42 at 56 [73]. See also Self Care at [40] where the High Court acknowledged “the risk of collapsing the long standing distinction between infringement and passing off[101].”  ?
  12. See e.g. Optical 88 at [95] and Budweiser at [226]. Generally, one might have thought the emphasis in actual use in an infringement context lay in contrast to the situation at the examination and opposition stages where it is necessary to consider all fair and reasonable notional use that may be made by the applicant within the scope of the applied for registration.  ?
  13. MID Sydney v Australian Tourism Co (1998) 90 FCR 236.  ?

Did the High Court change the law of trade mark infringement to a kind of registered passing off? Read More »

Protecting your trade mark overseas

WIPO and IP Australia are holding 2 online seminars:

  • Introduction to Filing Trademarks Overseas – on Thursday 30 March at 6pm
  • How to File an International Trademark from Australia – on Thursday 20 April at 6 pm

According to the Event Invitation, topics covered will include:

  • What a trademark is, why would you register it, and why would you register overseas
  • How to choose between the different options for trademark protection overseas
  • Options for trademark protection in China.
  • What an “International Registration” is and how to file it overseas using the Madrid System
  • Some tips and tricks for filing trademarks overseas
  • How to manage your International Registration

The seminars will be in English and are free.

You may register:

  • for the 1st seminar here; and
  • for the 2nd seminar here.

Protecting your trade mark overseas Read More »