More on the Designs ACIP bill

Following Friday’s post, the text of the Designs Amendment (Advisory Council on Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020 and the Explanatory Memorandum are now available.

So:

  • Schedule 1: the 12 month ‘grace period’ before the priority date for prior use/publication by or with the consent of the design. Publications by the Registrar of Designs (i.e. on the Register of Designs) or by an equivalent overseas person or body will not be able to claim the benefit of this ‘grace period’. On the other hand, if some third party starts using, or publishes, the design or a substantially similar design after the design owner, there will be presumption that the third party derived its design from the design owner. In other words, if the registered owner is relying on the ‘grace period’, the onus will be on the person asserting invalidity by prior use or publication in the 12 month ‘grace period’ to prove the prior art relied on was not derived from the registered owner or the owner’s predecessor in title.
  • Schedule 2: will introduce new s 71A to provide an exemption from infringement for persons who start using a design during the 12 month ‘grace period’ introduced by Schedule 1. The exemption will continue to operate after the design is registered. The exemption extends not only to those who actually engage in an otherwise infringing act but also to a person who: had taken definite steps (contractually or otherwise and whether or not in Australia) to do [the otherwise infringing] act…. According to the EM, ‘definite steps’ will not be satisfied by mere ‘initial steps’. The plans must be finalised and the process of acquiring or making all components must have started. Under 71A(4), the person entitled to the exemption may “dispose” of their entitlement so that the exemption passes to the disposee – presumably, it follows from the disposal of the entitlement that the disposer cannot continue to claim the benefit.
  • Schedule 3: removes the publication option – the nice flowchart of the options for requesting registration and the formalities check is now on p. 23 of the EM.
  • Schedule 4: will amend s 75 to provide a further ‘innocent infringer’ defence for acts done prior to registration of the design (when the design representations are first published). The amendment will give the Court a discretion not to award damages where the defendant satisfies the Court that, when the infringing acts were done, the defendant was not aware, and could not reasonably have been expected to be aware, that the design application had been filed.
  • Schedule 5: will give an exclusive licensee standing to sue for infringements. By proposed s 5A, an exclusive licensee will be defined to be as a person to whom the registered owner has granted the exclusive rights in the design.[1] An exclusive licensee may be empowered to sub-license. A person will not be disqualified as an exclusive licensee, however, if their exclusive rights do not include the right to sub-license.
  • Schedule 6: will empower the Registrar to specify the formal requirements for design applications by publishing notices – these formalities will no longer by specified in the regulations and such notices will not be “legislative instruments”
  • Schedule 7
    1. Repeals “the standard of the informed user” and replaces it with the “standard of the familiar person” adopted in Multisteps.
    2. Will give the Court a discretion whether or not to revoke a registered design on grounds of lack of entitlement unless satisfied in all the circumstances it is just and equitable to do so – this will bring the revocation power on this basis in line with s 138 of the Patents Act.
    3. Will permit revocation on grounds of fraud, false suggestion etc. perpetrated at the examination stage.
    4. Makes provision for ‘revived’ designs where the renewal fees are not paid until after the expiry of the initial 5 year term:
      1. If the renewal fees are paid within 6 months after expiry of the initial term (the so-called ‘renewal grace period’), the registration will be treated as remaining in force and never to have ceased;
      2. But if the renewal fees are paid after 6 months (on the basis of an application for an extension of time), the registration will be treated as having ceased on the expiry of the 5 year term.
      The significance of these differences is that a third party should not start using the design in the 6 month ‘renewal grace period’. The protections under s 140 will be available only to persons who start using after the expiry of the ‘renewal grace period’.

  1. Strictly speaking, the exclusive rights conferred by s 10(1)(a) to (e) only. Can anyone think of a rational reason why s 10 confers on the registered owner the exclusive licence to authorise people to do the acts in s 10(1)(a) to (e), but authorising an infringement is not an infringing act under s 71?  ?

Designs Amendment (Advisory Council On Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020

The Designs Amendment (Advisory Council On Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020 was introduced into Parliament on Wednesday, 2 December.

At the time of writing the links to the text of the Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum are inactive.[1] You can read, however, the Minister’s Second Reading speech.

Also there has already been consultation on an exposure draft and IP Australia’s response to that public consultation. So we know broadly what is in the Bill, although there were a number of details to be worked out following IP Australia’s response.

According to the Minister’s Second Reading speech:

  • the Bill introduces the 12 month ‘grace period’ for design owners who make their designs publicly available before they file their design applications – this was Sch. 1 in the exposure draft. As the Minister pointed out, this will align Australia’s registered design law with “many of our major trading partners” (including the EU and the USA);
  • the Bill will give exclusive licensees standing to bring infringement proceedings – this was Schedule 4 in the exposure draft. In the exposure draft at least and as with patents, the exclusive licensee had to be the exclusive licensee of the whole right;
  • the Bill will remove the “rarely used” publication option so that every application will be an application for registration – one consequence of this reform as implemented in the exposure draft was that a design application will automatically proceed to formalities examination and registration 6 months after filing if registration was not requested earlier;[2]
  • there will also be a prior user defence for a person who commences using a design during the ‘grace period’ before the design application is filed – this was Schedule 2 in the exposure draft;
  • in addition, in cases where registration is delayed (up to 6 months from the filing date), there will be some sort of “innocent infringer” defence for a person who commences using the design in the period between filing and registration (as it is only on registration that the design representations are published);
  • there are also “smaller technical corrections and improvements” including revocation of a design for fraud, false representation etc. during certification.

Although the Minister’s Second Reading speech does not mention it, the exposure draft also included in Schedule 6 the amendment of s 19(4) to abandon the “informed user” test and adopt the “familiar person” test.

The Minister also indicated the Bill “is just the first stage of the Government’s ongoing program of designs reform, with more improvements to come after further consultation.” According to IP Australia’s consultation page (scroll down), the following matters are still on IP Australia’s Policy Register:

  • Protection of partial designs – Policy ID 42 This issue apparently has “high priority”;
  • Protection of virtual, non-physical and active state designs – Policy ID 43 This issue apparently has “high priority”;
  • Clarify ambiguity in section 19 of the Designs Act – Policy ID 35 A third issue with “high priority”;

(This is in addition to the change from “informed user” to “familiar person”.)

  • Clarification of ‘registered’ and ‘certified’ designs – Policy ID 37 Also “high priority”;
  • Some of the amendments proposed in Recommendation 18 of the ACIP Designs Review (18b, 18d, 18e and 18g are not progressing at this time) – Policy ID 45

For the research reports arising from the longer term Designs Review Project, see here.

Debate on the Bill itself has been adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings – presumably, in 2021.

Lid dip: Genevieve Corish at LexisNexis


  1. When they do appear (presumably in the next few days), they should be accessible from here and/or here.  ?
  2. This was Sch. 3 in the exposure draft. The exposure draft Explanatory Memorandum at p. 22 had a nice flowchart illustrating the application and registration process under the proposed regime.  ?

Hells Angels v Redbubble

Redbubble’s online market place has survived the Hells Angels’ copyright infringement claims, but did infringe their registered trade marks. The reasoning, however, leaves questions hanging over Redbubble’s business model.

Redbubble provides an online market place. Artists can upload their artwork and potential buyers can browse the site to purchase the artwork or merchandise such as t-shirts and coffee cups emblazoned with the artwork. If a purchase is made for, say, a t-shirt with a particular artwork printed on it, Redbubble’s system arranges for the order to be placed with a fulfiller and ultimately shipped in packaging which bears a Redbubble trade mark.

The claims in this case related to uploaded images of a Hell’s Angels membership card featuring a helmeted death’s head in profile:

and registered trade marks featuring versions of the death’s head: Trade Marks Nos 526530,723291, 723463, 1257992 and 1257993.

At 552 paragraphs long, this post is going to be a high level overview only.

Copyright

A key feature in the case is that Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd is not the owner of the copyright or the registered trade marks. It contended it was the exclusive licensee in Australia of those rights; the exclusive licences having been granted by Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation, a US corporation.

The Hells Angels lost the claim of copyright infringement. They did so, however, because they could not prove Hells Angels USA was the owner of the copyright. As a result, Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd could not be the exclusive licensee.

Reaching this conclusion required Greenwood J to explore, amongst other things, the notion of publication and whether the supply of membership cards was supply of copies of the work to the public. And the non-applicability of the US “work for hire” doctrine in ownership disputes under Australian law.

Redbubble is still in trouble.

First, if the applicants had been able to prove title to the copyright, Redbubble would have infringed.

Contrary to Hells Angels’ arguments, Redbubble was not liable for infringement by uploading the images. That was done by the artists in question. In the examples in question, the acts involved uploading images to websites outside Australia. For example, Example 1 was uploaded by an individual in Virginia in the USA. So the uploaders themselves were not liable as their actions did not involve any act done in Australia. At [428] – [429], Greenwood J ruled that, even though the images were made available online to the public in Australia, the artists (uploaders) did not infringe because they did no act in Australia.

…. the act of the artist in uploading the image to the website and thus making the work available online to the public must be an act “done” (that is, an exercise of the exclusive right), “in Australia” and therefore, none of the artists in the examples in suit can be regarded as a “primary infringer” in the territorial sense contemplated by s 36(1) because the relevant act was not done “in Australia”.

His Honour found, however, that Redbubble would be liable for communicating the images to the public in Australia as it was the person who was responsible for determining the content of the communication for the purposes of s 22(6) when a potential customer in Australia viewed the image on the website. Redbubble’s business model was crucial here. At [435], his Honour explained:

The business model as described by Mr Hosking and its working operation as described by Mr Kovalev makes it plain that Redbubble is not in the nature of an ISP linking a user to remote websites. It is not an intermediary providing a transmission service between particular participants. It owns, operates, manages and controls the website and conducts a transactional enterprise in which it facilitates the uploading of images, the interrogation of those images in Australia, relevantly, by users, with a view to enabling sales to consumers of articles bearing the relevant images. It has a detailed business model in which it derives revenue from each transaction and controls every step of the transactional engagement between an artist and a buyer. It confirms the sale. It facilitates payment. It organises a fulfiller to apply the work to the relevant goods. It facilitates delivery of the goods to the buyer. It generates email responses which not only confirm the order but track every step of the transaction. It affixes its own trade marks to the goods. It says that it does not directly do that but there is no doubt that an essential part of its business model is ensuring that fulfillers affix the Redbubble trade marks to the goods. The labels bearing the trade marks are on the goods as delivered to each buyer. Although I will address the trade mark case shortly, the reference to Redbubble’s trade marks, in this context, is simply to note another feature of the extent of Redbubble’s engagement in and association with each transaction. It is Redbubble’s business. But for the Redbubble website, the transactions would not occur. The artworks would not be available online to consumers in Australia to consider and appraise with a view to purchasing a product bearing the artwork. The entire focus of the business model is to enable works to be made available online so that consumers can pick and choose amongst the works so as to have them applied to goods. It would be difficult to imagine a more directly engaged participant than one deploying the business model adopted by Redbubble. Although Redbubble describes itself as the “agent” of the artist (presumably as principal), the relationship is not, in truth, a relationship of agent and principal. Redbubble acts as an “independent contractor” to “facilitate the transaction” as the Redbubble User Agreement and Appendix A to the Services Agreement makes plain: [245] and [246] of these reasons. The artist, in truth, is not the “seller” in the classic sense in which that term might be understood because Redbubble is the supplier as the facilitator of all of the essential elements of the transaction with the consumer in an analogous way to that discussed in:  International Harvester Company of Australia Pty Ltd v Carrigan’s Hazeldene Pastoral Company [1958] HCA 16;  (1958) 100 CLR 644 at 653; Heidelberg Graphics Equipment Ltd v Andrew Knox & Associates Pty Ltd (1994) ATPR 41326 at 42, 31011, notwithstanding that the nature of the technology is different to the forms of distribution arrangement in those cases.


His Honour would, if necessary, have also found Redbubble liable for authorising the conduct if it had been infringing.

Trade Marks

Secondly, Greenwood J found Redbubble liable for infringement of the Hells Angels’ registered trade marks on works such as t-shirt designs featuring the death’s head logo.

The crux of this finding came back to Redbubble’s business model. Greenwood J accepted that the artist who uploaded the image was using the trade mark as a trade mark. Unlike the copyright test, there was no requirement that the artist be in Australia. However, so was Redbubble.

At [460] – [461], his Honour explained:

As to Redbubble, that company is “in the business” of facilitating the supply of products bearing the uploaded image of Ms Troen (in this example) or, put another way, Redbubble is in the business of facilitating the supply of clothing bearing, put simply, the registered trade marks of HAMC US (in this example). Redbubble is not the “seller” of artwork. However, it is the supplier, in the sense that it is responsible for all of the transactional supplyside elements of a transaction for the supply of goods bearing the applied works. (emphasis supplied)


Redbubble has created a business model designed to enable users, in Australia (and, for that matter users in all jurisdictions in which the website is accessible), to find images through the website comprised of, in this example, Ms Troen’s image made up of the identified trade marks of HAMC US. Redbubble enables images containing the relevant trade marks to be presented to buyers of particular goods (nominated by the artists from the website categories of those goods to which the work can be applied) expressly for the purpose of facilitating the supply of goods (clothing, in this example) to which the marks are applied. It does so by and through the functions and protocols of the website engaged by Mr Hansen (and other potential viewers of the image), in Australia.

His Honour elaborated on why Redbubble’s conduct attracted liability at [462] – [469]. While this and two other examples infringed, his Honour found that, on the particular facts, Example 2 was not infringing use.

Greenwood J’s reasons also include an extended consideration of whether Hells Angels Australia was an authorised user; ultimately concluding it was.

Greenwood J, however, rejected Hells Angels’ claims that use of “Hells Angels” as search terms, or key words, within the Redbubble site was infringing. At [542] explaining:

542. …. However, I am not satisfied that this use, in itself, is use of the word marks as a trade mark, at this point in the functionality of the website. I take that view because I am not satisfied that using the term as a search term to find a relevant image is use of the term as a “badge of origin” of Redbubble. It is, undoubtedly, a use which is designed, quite deliberately, to lead a consumer by the “search nose” to images, marks, devices, livery and badging somehow or other connected with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

….

544. … use of the word marks … as a search term is a search step along the way to use of the image and thus the registered trade marks, as trade marks but use of the word marks at the point of searching is not, in itself, in my view, use as a trade mark. (original emphasis)

It appears that, at the stage of entering the search term, it is not being used to identify things offered under the aegis of the Hells Angels, but just to locate things about the Hells Angels in some way.

This is the second ruling at first instance where Redbubble has been found to infringe.

While Redbubble’s business model does leave it exposed along the lines indicated above. It is worth noting that Greenwood J awarded only nominal damages of $5,000 in respect of two of the three infringements. His Honour did not allow even nominal damages in respect of the third infringement, Example 4, as it was online for a short period, viewed only 11 times and no sales resulted.

Greenwood J expressly rejected any claim for exemplary damages. His Honour does not go into reasons. Perhaps, Redbubble’s business model did protect it. The evidence was clear, for example, that Redbubble had a policy relating to infringement claims and implemented it promptly.

Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation (Australia) Pty Limited v Redbubble Limited  [2019] FCA 355

Google and facilitating or authorising

DesignTechnica operates bulletin boards. The plaintiff alleged that some postings on the bulletin boards defamed it. In addition to suing DesignTechnica, the plaintiff sued Google for libel by reproducing snippets of the (allegedly) defamatory material in search results.

Eady J, sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division,  dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against Google on the grounds that Google did not publish the material.

The case obviously turns on the requirements for an action in defamation. Of potential interest in an intellectual property context, however, is that his Lordship noted that the generation of the snippets was automatic, not volitional. Thus, his Lordship analagised Google’s position to the position of someone who merely ‘facilitated’ infringing intellectual property conduct rather than ‘authorised’ it.

In the course of his judgment, his Lordship explained:

54.  The next question is whether the legal position is, or should be, any different once the Third Defendant has been informed of the defamatory content of a “snippet” thrown up by the search engine. In the circumstances before Morland J, in Godfrey v Demon Internet, the acquisition of knowledge was clearly regarded as critical. That is largely because the law recognises that a person can become liable for the publication of a libel by acquiescence; that is to say, by permitting publication to continue when he or she has the power to prevent it. As I have said, someone hosting a website will generally be able to remove material that is legally objectionable. If this is not done, then there may be liability on the basis of authorisation or acquiescence.

55.  A search engine, however, is a different kind of Internet intermediary. It is not possible to draw a complete analogy with a website host. One cannot merely press a button to ensure that the offending words will never reappear on a Google search snippet: there is no control over the search terms typed in by future users. If the words are thrown up in response to a future search, it would by no means follow that the Third Defendant has authorised or acquiesced in that process.

In addition, Eady J noted that Google had promptly blocked access to specific URLs, but could not reasonably be expected to block all search results which could include the (allegedly) infringing snippets.

Metropolitan International Schools Ltd v DesignTechnica [2009] EWHC 1765 (QB).

Lid dip: Prof Goldman