Press publishers’ (new) rights Down Under

On 31 July, the ACCC published an exposure draft of the Bill aimed at forcing Google and Facebook to pay news businesses for the use of their news in services like Google Search, Google News and Facebook News Feed and Tab.

Some background

News media businesses claim that Google and Facebook make anywhere from $600 million to $1 billion a year from “using” the news the news media businesses publish.[1]

When Spain introduced a law to redress this “value gap”, Google responded by not including Spanish news in its services. Germany introduced a similar law, but publishers had to opt into the scheme, not out. Apparently, none did.

Last year, the EU introduced a press publisher’s right as part of its Digital Single Market (DSM) Directive.[2] When France implemented this (adopting the Spanish model), Google once again withdrew. The French Competition authority, however, has intervened.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the ACCC published the Final Report for its Digital Platforms Inquiry in July 2019.

Amongst other things, it concluded that Google and Facebook had become unavoidable trading parties for news media businesses wishing to reach audiences online. This created a significant imbalance in bargaining power.

In December 2019, the Treasurer directed the ACCC to facilitate negotations between the news businesses and Google and Facebook to develop a voluntary bargaining code to address this imbalance.

Those negotiations apparently not leading to the desired outcome, on April 2020, the Treasurer directed the ACCC to develop a mandatory bargaining code:

The Government has decided that the original timeframe set out in its response requires acceleration. The Australian media sector was already under significant pressure; that has now been exacerbated by a sharp decline in advertising revenue driven by coronavirus. At the same time, while discussions between the parties have been taking place, progress on a voluntary code has been limited according to recent advice provided by the ACCC following a request by the Government for an update. The ACCC considers it is unlikely that any voluntary agreement would be reached with respect to the key issue of payment for content.

The exposure draft bill and accompanying explanatory memorandum are the results of that process. I shall try only to describe what is being proposed.

What the bill will do[3]

The Bill will introduce a new Part IVB into the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Qualifying news business corporations may apply to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to register under the code: ss 52D and 52E.

Upon registration, designated digital platform corporations:

  1. must comply with minimum standards of conduct with respect to the registered news business’ “covered news content”;
  2. must participate in an arbitration to determine the remuneration payable to the registered news business for the use of its “covered news content”; and
  3. must not discriminate against the registered news business.

Designated digital platform corporations

The Bill will give the Treasurer power to designate by legislative instrument digital platform corporations and digital platform services that will be subject to the mandatory bargaining code: s 52C.

According to the explanatory memorandum, the designated digital platform corporations will be initially Google and Facebook, although other businesses may also be designated: [1.30]

The explanatory memorandum at [1.34] also “expects” that the services which will be designated are:

  • Facebook News Feed (including Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages);
  • Facebook News Tab (if and when released in Australia);
  • Instagram;
  • Google Discover;
  • Google News; and
  • Google Search.

News business corporations and news sources

A news business corporation may apply for registration of its news business(es) under the scheme if:

  1. the news corporation’s annual revenue exceeds $150,000 or exceeded $150,000 in three of the last five financial years: s 52G;[4]
  2. the news source(s) its seeks to register create and publish online content that is predominantly “core news content”: s 52H;
  3. the news source(s) operate predominantly in Australia for the dominant purpose of serving Australian audiences: s 52J; and
  4. the news source(s) adhere to professional quality standards: s 52K.

Once registered, the rights of the news business corporation extend to “covered news content”, not just its “core news content”.

Core news content and covered news content

The definition in s 52A of “core news content” is content that:

(a) is created by a journalist; and

(b) that records, investigates or explains issues that:

(i) are of public significance for Australians; or

(ii) are relevant in engaging Australians in public debate and in informing democratic decision-making; or

(iii) relate to community and local events.

The explanatory memorandum explains at [1.51] – [1.53] that “core” news content can relate directly to matters of public policy and decision making at any level of government such as political, court and crime reporting. The activities of private sector entities may also be included if of sufficient public importance.

Core news content is a subset of “covered news content” which, in addition to “core news content”, also includes:

content that is created by a journalist and is relevant in recording, investigating or explaining issues of interest to Australians.

According to the explanatory memorandum at [1.66] – [1.67] covered news content is intended to extend to:

sports and entertainment related news such as interviews with coaches and players, reporting about the entertainment industry and coverage of reality television.

(This is not intended to be an exhaustive description of what is included.) However, it does not include sports broadcasts or the results or scores of sports, “entertainment content such as drama or reality TV programming” or:

specialty or industry reporting, product reviews, talk-back radio discussions, content produced by academics and documentaries.

Professional quality standards

The Bill proposes two requirements for quality standards: s 52K. The news source:

  1. must be subject to the rules of the Australian Press Council, the Independent Media Council, the Code of Practice of the Commercial Television Industry or the Commercial Radio industry or the Subscription Broadcast industry, or rules substantially equivalent to these; and
  2. the news source must have editorial independence from the subjects covered.

The explanatory memorandum explains at [1.58] that the second requirement of editorial independence means the news source must not be controlled by a political advocacy group such as a political party, trade union or lobby group. It also means that the news source cannot be controlled by someone with a commercial interest in the coverage and gives the example of sports coverage owned or controlled by the sport’s governing body.

The minimum standards

Once a news business is registered, the digital platform corporation must comply with the minimum standards: s 52L.

These include, for each digital platform service:

  • listing and explaining what data is collected about users of the news business (s 52M);
  • explaining how the data about such users made available to the news business differs from the data the digital platform corporation collects about users of its service; and
  • explaining how the news business can access that additional data;
  • giving the news business notice of any changes to algorithms used by the digital platform service likely to have a significant effect on the ranking of the news content on the platform or specifically directed at the ranking of paywalled content: s 52N, 52O;
  • giving notice of other changes to policies or practices likely to have a significant effect on the display and presentation of the news business’ covered news content or advertising directly associated with that content: ss 52P and 52Q;
  • if requested, provide the news business with flexible content moderation tools so that the news business can remove or filter comments on the digital platform service about the news content: s 52S; and
  • develop a proposal, in consultation with all registered news businesses, to recognise original covered news content when ranking and displaying news content: s 52T; and
  • must discriminate between registered news businesses or registered news businesses and news business which are not registered: s 52W.

The arbitration scheme

In addition to the rights afforded it throught the minimum standards, a registered news business may also initiate a bargaining and arbitration process with the digital platform for the use of news content.

The registered news business (or its representative) inititates the bargaining process by giving notice “it wishes to bargain over one or more specified issues relating to its covered news content”: s 52Y.

While the publicly funded ABC and SBS may initiate bargaining, they cannot bargain about remuneration: s 52Y(6).

The parties must negotiate in good faith (s 52ZB) and can demand the provision of information and data relevant to the issues the subject of bargaining, a kind of discovery process: s 52ZC. This includes discovery about the benefits the digital platform derives from use of the news content.

Either party may refer the dispute to compulsory arbitration if:

  1. there has been at least one day of mediation; and
  2. the parties have not reached agreement within three months of bargaining starting: s 52FZ

Provided there has been at least a one day mediation, the parties can also agree to refer the dispute to compulsory arbitration after 10 days.

The arbitration itself is particularly interesting. It is “final offer” arbitration.

Although the news businesses can initiate bargaining over “issues”, the arbitral panel must make a determination about the remuneration payable by the digital platform corporation to the news business(es).

Ten days after the arbitration is established, both parties must submit their final offers about the amount of the remuneration. Once submitted, the parties cannot amend or withdraw their respective “final offers”. They may, however, submit a response to the other party’s final offer. The arbitral panel must accept one or other of the final offers: s 52ZO.

The only exception to this requirement is where the arbitral panel considers both final offers are “not in the public interest because they are highly likely to result in serious detriment to the provision of covered news content in Australia or Australian consumers.” In that case, the arbitral panel must adjust one or other of the final offers as required by the public interest.

The final offers must also be provided to the ACCC, which is authorised to provide its comments about the final offers to the arbitral panel before the panel hands down its decision: s 52ZS.

The “final offer” process has the considerable advantage that it avoids the expense and delay usually associated with rate setting proceedings for access to essential facilities or under the licensing schemes overseen by the Copyright Tribunal.

In deciding which final offer to accept, the arbitral panel must have regard to (s 52ZP):

  • the direct benefit (whether monetary or otherwise) of the registered news business’ covered news content to the digital platform service;
  • the indirect benefit (whether monetary or otherwise) of the registered news business’ covered news content to the digital platform service;
  • the cost to the registered news business of producing covered news content;
  • whether a particular remuneration amount would place an undue burden on the commercial interests of the digital platform service.

It is striking that the matters which must be taken into account do not include the benefits (direct or indirect) that the news business derives from being carried in the digital platform service.

Once the arbitral determination has been handed down, the parties must enter into a written agreement to ensure the digital platform corporation will pay the news business the remuneration determined in the arbitration: s 52ZT.

Sanctions

The ACCC may issue an infringement notice to a person who contravenes that person’s obligations under this scheme. The penalty for a corporation found to be in contravention is up to 600 penalty units: s 51ACF – i.e., up to $132,000.

In addition, s 76 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 will apply so that civil penalties may be imposed up to the greater of:

  • $10 million;
  • 3 times the total value of the benefits reasonably attributable to the non-compliance; or
  • 10% of the contravenor’s annual turnover in the previous 12 months.

EU’s DSM Directive

The EU’s press publisher’s right under the DSM Directive is an obvious inspiration for this new right for news businesses. There are a number of significant differences, in addition to the far greater detail elaborated into the Bill.

For example, unlike the DSM Directive, the Code to be imposed by the Bill is not tied to use of copyright or other (at this stage) recognised property right. Instead, the Bill creates a right to payment for some “intangible value”.

The DSM Directive expressly excludes from the obligation for payment:

  • hyperlinking; or
  • “the use of individual words or very short extracts of a press publication” – which seems a lot like the snippets returned in a Google Search for example.

At least since the Victoria Park Racing case, the High Court has declared that Australian law does not protect all intangible value, only those sources of value falling within recognised legal rights. Later, in the Blank Tapes case, the High Court struck down a “royalty” imposed on the sale of blank cassette tapes on the grounds it was not a payment for use of copyright and so was invalid as a tax or, possibly, an acquisition of property on other than just terms. It will be interesting to see whether the resort to an access regime – one in which the facility provider pays, not the user – changes the calculus.

Under the DSM Directive, the obligation to pay does not apply to articles or materials published before 6 June 2019.[5] Further, it applies to articles and materials only for two years following publication.[6]

Another difference is that art. 15.5 of the DSM Directive imposes an obligation to ensure that the authors of the press publication receive “an appropriate share” of the remuneration the press publisher receives from the digital platforms.

Google’s reaction has been swift. It has cancelled, or suspended, a licensing deal it had reached with a number of independent publishers. It has come out strongly against the scheme.[7] Now, when one initiates a search on Google or seeks to watch something on YouTube, one is met with the following banner:

Comments should be submitted to the ACCC by 28 August 2020

Exposure Draft Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020


  1. For example, Mason and Kehoe, [‘Tech giants should pay media $600m: Costello’][600m]. Google disputes this and claims that the news media business gain much more value from its services than it receives.  ?
  2. Directive (EU) 2019/790 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC, art. 15. For Communia’s outline and guidelines see here and here.  ?
  3. Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020.  ?
  4. The $ may change as they are included in “curly” brackets.  ?
  5. It presumably being a coincidence that date was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.  ?
  6. Strictly speaking, it is 2 calendar years commencing on 1 January following the year in which the article was published: art. 15.4.  ?
  7. For exmple, here and here. The ACCC has denounced Google’s position as misleading.  ?

Winnebago the damages or a reasonable royalty Down Under

You will remember that Winnebago (USA) successfully sued the Knotts for passing off in Australia but (in large part because of Winnebago (USA)’s delay in asserting its rights) the Knotts had developed their own reputation in Australia and so could continue using WINNEBAGO here provided it was used with an appropriate disclaimer (here and here). The damages were to be assessed.

Now we know what the damages will be:

Knott Investments, the company that built and supplied the “Australian” Winnebagoes will have to pay a royalty calculated at 1% of its sales on all sales made from 6 years before the proceedings were started until the disclaimer was put in place.

The dealers who sold the vehicles will also have to pay a royalty of 1% on their sales in addition, but only from the date proceedings were actually commenced.

Winnebago (USA) claimed damages on the basis of a reasonable royalty. The respondents resisted. It was clear that Winnebago (USA) would never have granted them a licence and, equally, they would never have taken a licence from Winnebago (USA). In those circumstances, the respondents said, the court could not impose a royalty on the basis of an assumed agreement that would never have happened:

the applicant suffered no damage by way of a lost royalty (in effect, no lost “sale”) because the applicant would not have licensed the respondents to use the Winnebago marks in the first place.

Yates J rejected that defence and held that compensation was required to be paid on what has been called “the user principle”:

Under this principle, a plaintiff is entitled to recover, by way of damages, a reasonable sum from a defendant who has wrongfully used the plaintiff’s property. The plaintiff may not have suffered actual loss from the use, and the wrongdoer may not have derived actual benefit. Nevertheless, under the principle, the defendant is obliged to pay a reasonable sum for the wrongful use. The reasonable sum is sometimes described as a reasonable rent, hiring fee, endorsement fee, licence fee or royalty (amongst other expressions), depending on the property involved and the nature of the wrongful use.

Black CJ and Jacobson J in a copyright case in the Full Court had appeared to reject the application of that principle.[1] Yates J, however, considered the principle could and should be adopted in the context of passing off (and trade mark infringement) on the basis of a long line of English and Australian cases applying the principle in the context of trespass to real property, conversion, detinue and intellectual property infringements.[2] Otherwise, the respondents would escape liability for damages as a result of the very thing that made their conduct unlawful: the lack of consent by Winnebago (USA).

The respondents also argued that no damages should be payable because, as the Full Court found, they had a concurrent reputation in WINNEBAGO in Australia. Yates J rejected this too. His Honour considered that the existence of concurrent reputations – one which did not require a disclaimer and one which did – meant there was value in being able to use the reputation without any disclaimer. Yates J arrived at the royalty of 1% on the basis that Winnebago (USA) had granted a licence to an Australian licensee at that rate and, while various other considerations were entered into, that was an appropriate round number.

Three points in relation to the dealers.

Yates J rejected their first argument: that they should not be liable for anything as the supplier, Knott Investments would already have paid a royalty. However, the dealers’ sales of vehicles in passing off were separate wrongs to those of the manufacturer and so required separate compensation.

Secondly, while Winnebago (USA) did not submit evidence about what damages the dealers’ actions caused, it claimed a royalty of 4 or 5%. Yates J considered, in the absence of evidence, that a royalty of 1% would be consistent with that imposed on the supplier.

Thirdly, the dealers (and for that matter, the Knotts) would be liable for damages for passing off only where they acted with fraud: that is, with knowledge of Winnebago (USA)’s reputation in Australia and its desire to assert those rights here. In the absence of evidence avout what the dealers knew, Yates J considered that they could only be held to have acted with fraud once proceedings were initiated:

The difficulty for the applicant is that the evidence does not address the question of what the dealers knew or thought. Even if they might have been aware of the applicant’s activities in the United States or in other overseas markets, it does not follow that they also understood that the applicant had a reputation of any significance in Australia, let alone one that was capable of legal protection, or, more importantly, that, prior to the commencement of this proceeding, the applicant was claiming that it had rights in Australia in respect of the Winnebago marks and that the commercial activities of the first respondent and its dealers constituted an infringement of those rights. However, from the time of commencement of this proceeding, when the applicant’s claims were exposed, the position of the second to twelfth respondents was different. From that time, they were on notice of the applicant’s claimed rights. Their persistence in using the Winnebago marks after this notice constitutes fraud in the relevant sense.

The need to show “fraud” is another difference between the tort of passing off and the action for misleading or deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer Law.

Winnebago Industries Inc v Knott Investments Pty Ltd (No 4) [2015] FCA 1327


  1. Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Ltd v DAP Services (Kempsey) Pty Ltd (2007) 157 FCR 564; [2007] FCAFC 40 (Aristocrat) at [27]-[28].  ?
  2. One of those cases was Bunnings Group Ltd v CHEP Australia Ltd (2011) 82 NSWLR 420; [2011] NSWCA 342, in which the leading judgment was given by Allsop P, now the present Chief Judge.  ?

How long do you have to pay royalties for?

Vickery J in the Supreme Court of Victoria has had to construe how long an obligation to pay royalties under a sale of patents and technology and associated consultancy agreement lasts: ruling it is as long as the purchaser is using the “invention”.

Roberts came up with the “Roberts Differential Lock”. It enables the driver of a vehicle, such as a 4-wheel drive vehicle, to lock the “dif” from the cabin without having to get out and manually adjust the wheels. The invention could be retrofitted to existing vehicles. Roberts made a provisional patent application for his invention in 1983 and a standard application followed in 1984. Corresponding applications were made in the USA, the UK and Japan in 1985. Roberts and his wife marketed the Roberts Differential Lock though their company, Altair.

In 1987, the Roberts and Altair sold all their rights in the invention to ARB. There was a lump sum payment and royalties to be paid on products made using the invention. Roberts also entered into a Consultancy Agreement for an initial period of 6 months and thereafter until terminated on 30 days’ written notice.

There were two questions before Vickery J:

(1) did ARB have to keep paying roylaties after (presumably) the (1984/1984) patents expired; and

(2) if so, to whom – the Roberts or also Altair?

The terms of the sale agreement

 2. In consideration of the consideration set out in clause 7 of this Sale Agreement and subject to clause 20 hereof, the Vendors hereby jointly and severally sell transfer and assign absolutely to [ARB] all the right title and interest in and to the Roberts Differential Lock including (without limiting the generality of the foregoing) all patent applications, patent rights and proprietary rights relating thereto, and the business name ‘Roberts Diff-Lock’.

11(a). In further consideration of the rights granted hereunder the Company shall pay to the Roberts the following royalties calculated on the net invoice value arising from the sale, lease, hire and use (hereinafter referred collectively as a ‘sale’ or ‘sold’ as the case may be) of the Products by the company and its licensees:-

[a specified dollar amount for each unit sold]. (Those amounts were subject to increase according to increases in the CPI – All Groups Index – Melbourne.)

For this purpose, “Products” were defined to mean:

‘Products’ means the differentials as manufactured pursuant to the patents as specified in the First Schedule

and the First Schedule listed the 1984 Australian patent application and the pending applications in the USA, the UK and Japan – none of which had been granted at that time.

How long?

You will have noticed that clause 11(a) does not say anything about how long the obligation to pay royalties lasted. Vickery J held as a matter of construction the obligation did not end when the “patents”[1] expired. A number of factors led to his Honour’s conclusion.

First, when the sale agreement was executed, the patent terms in the different countries where applications were pending were different. Moreover, as is typical in such agreements, the definition of “patents” extended to divisonals, re-issues, continuations, continuations in part and the like. So, his Honour concluded, the parties contemplated that there would be potentially be different expiry dates in different countries.

Secondly, although the obligation to pay royalties was imposed on sales of Products, what was sold by clause 2 were “all rights in and to the Roberts Differential Lock including … the patents and the proprietary rights relating thereto”. Then “proprietary rights” were defined not just as rights in patents, but also included copyright, confidential information, trade secrets, data, formulae and so on. So ARB was not just buying rights to the patents it was buying all rights to all the technology. Moreover, under the Consultancy Agreement, “all inventions, techniques and improvements developed in the course of the consultancy agreement ‘shall become the sole and exclusive property of ARB …’”

Together, these arrangements indicated the “ambulatory nature” of the proprietary rights ARB obtained.

Thirdly, if ARB was right and its obligations extended only to the “patents”, it had no obligation to pay royalties until at least one of the pending applications was actually registered. However, Vickery J considered it quite clear the obligation to pay was intended to apply to all products ARB sold as soon as the sale took effect whether an application had proceeded to grant or not.

Finally:

109 Further, the object and purpose of the Sale Agreement may be said to be the allocation of the risks and rewards of the patent rights and the proprietary rights to be assigned to ARB by the Vendors. The risk allocation was achieved by means of the mechanism selected for determination of the price to be paid for that assignment.

110 I accept that the Vendors’ construction is commercially sensible in that it provides for an arrangement whereby each party managed its risk as to the proper price to pay (from ARB’s perspective) and to charge (from the Vendors’ perspective) in relation to the bundle of rights sold under the Sale Agreement, which at the time of entry into the contract had a value which was difficult to calculate or even estimate. Accordingly, the Sale Agreement provided for an ambulatory consideration through the royalties regime. If the rights proved to be valuable so that commercialisation of them resulted in a higher number of total sales than anticipated, then ARB would pay a higher total purchase price to the Vendors. On the other hand, if the rights proved to be valuable so that commercialisation of them resulted in a higher number of total sales than initially expected, then ARB would pay a higher total purchase price to the Vendors.

111 I also accept that such a risk-sharing arrangement is not one that had any obvious connection to the life of the patents that might be granted on the assigned patent applications, or to whether any patents became registered at all. In this regard the following is to be noted:

(a) ARB received an immediate and continuing benefit from the sales that it made using the assigned patent rights. In other words, the benefits that ARB received were not contingent upon any patent application listed in the First Schedule of the Sale Agreement proceeding to grant; and

(b) the assigned rights included proprietary rights which did not depend upon a patent proceeding to grant or remaining registered.

Vickery J then rejected ARB’s argument that it would be faced with a perpetual obligation to pay royalties: its obligation was to pay only on products that embodied the invention described in the patents. If it didn’t use that invention, it had no obligation to pay.

Pay the royalty to whom

This is one of those odd arguments where ARB was trying to contend Altair, the Roberts’ company, had no standing to sue. While cl. 11 did say that ARB had to pay “the Roberts”, Vickery J noted that the Roberts and Altair were the “Vendors” as defined and so cl. 11 should be understood as requiring payment to all three.

The conclusions reached by Vickery J, assuming there is no successful appeal, may immediately be contrasted with Maggbury Pty Ltd v Hafele Australia Pty Ltd.[2] One obvious point of difference, is that it appears that patents did actually issue in this case. Moreover, it appears that there was, or may have been, further technology of value apart from the patents – such as copyright, confidential information and further improvements.

The conclusion may also seem at odds with the policy in s 145 of the Patents Act. Even at its strongest, however, that only gives a right to terminate and does not automatically terminate the contract. As we have recently seen, however, the operation of the provision, particularly in a multi-jurisdictional context involving many faceted technologies, is less than clear.[3] In any event, ARB did not invoke the provision and it is not clear from the judgment whether there are other patent, or for that matter other “proprietary”, rights still on foot.

Nonetheless, if ARB could terminate the contract, it is an interesting question how Vickery J’s approach would sit with Maggbury if ARB used only technology now in the public domain.

Finally, as I am sure you have already concluded, if you are acting for the payor in this type of situation this case illustrates the importance of considering very carefully and providing specifically in the agreement for the duration of the obligation to pay royalties and what it is payable on if you are drawing a clause providing for a royalty – especially when the technology comes into the public domain and others may use it royalty free.

ARB Corporation v Roberts & Ors [2014] VSC 495

Lid dip: James McDougall


  1. That is, the patent applications that were pending when the sale agreement was executed.  ?
  2. (2001) 210 CLR 181.  ?
  3. MPEG LA, L.L.C. v Regency Media Pty Ltd [2014] FCA 180  ?

How much to pay for an infringement

Over at the Fortnightly Review, Ass. Pro. David Brennan takes issue with the economists who argued that Larrikin should not have been paid any damages for the Kookaburra infringements.

The economists’ argument seems to have been that Larrikin didn’t lose any sales as a result of Men at Works’ infringements and so suffered no loss.

Damages under s 115(2) of the Copyright Act are compensatory: that is, they are calculated to compensate the copyright owner for the loss suffered as a result of the infringement. One way to measure that may be the profit the copyright owner lost on sales which typically applies where the copyright owner and the infringer are competing in the same market. One problem with this is that the figure for lost sales must be discounted to reflect infringements by the infringer which would never have been sales made by the copyright owner. So for example in Autodesk v Cheung, the infringer gave the pirate copies away for free while the copyright owner’s genuine software programs sold for hundreds of dollars.

Another measure often used is the licence fee approach, particularly applicable where the owner exploits the copyright by licensing. So, Autodesk wanted the licence fees it would have been paid as if Cheung had taken out a distribution agreement like its other distributors. Wilcox J was not prepared to order damages at a reasonable royalty level because, as is typically the case, there was no way Autodesk would have licensed Cheung or, for that matter, that Cheung would have paid for a licence from Autodesk. In that situation, Wilcox J felt that the basis for a reasonable royalty — the price a hypothetical willing (but not overly anxious) licensor and a hypothetical willing (but not overly anxious) licensee would have struck — could not apply.

While some courts at first instance have been willing to use a ‘reasonable royalty’ as a basis, Wilcox J’s concerns have been endorsed by Black CJ and Jacobson J in Aristocrat.

It is interesting to contrast this approach with the way the courts in the UK have dealt with it. Relying on some “old” patent cases (including a House of Lords decision), the Court of Appeal in Blayney (trading as Aardvark Jewellery) v Clogau St David’s Gold Mines was willing to use a “notional royalty” as the measure of the damages. The foundation of this approach was a rejection of the idea that the only loss suffered by the copyright owner was lost profits. Thus, in Watson, Laidlaw & Co Ltd v Pott, Cassels and Williamson (1914) 31 RPC 104, Lord Shaw expressed the principle:

wherever an abstraction or invasion of property has occurred, then, unless such abstraction or invasion were to be sanctioned by law, the law ought to yield a recompense under the category or principle, as I say, of price or hire. If A, being a liveryman, keeps his horse standing idle in the stable, and B, against his wish or without his knowledge, rides or drives it out, it is no answer to A for B to say: “Against what loss do you want to be restored? I restore the horse. There is no loss. The horse is none the worse; it is the better for the exercise.

and applied it in the context of patent infringement:

If with regard to the general trade which was done, or would have been done by the Respondents within their ordinary range of trade, damages be assessed, these ought, of course, to enter the account and to stand. But in addition there remains that class of business which the Respondents would not have done; and in such cases it appears to me that the correct and full measure is only reached by adding that a patentee is also entitled, on the principle of price or hire, to a royalty for the unauthorised sale or use of every one of the infringing machines in a market which the infringer, if left to himself, might not have reached. Otherwise, that property which consists in the monopoly of the patented articles granted to the patentee has been invaded, and indeed abstracted, and the law, when appealed to, would be standing by and allowing the invader or abstractor to go free. In such cases a royalty is an excellent key to unlock the difficulty, and I am in entire accord with the principle laid down by Lord Moulton in Meters Ld. v Metropolitan Gas Meters Ld. (28 R.P.C. 163). Each of the infringements was an actionable wrong, and although it may have been committed in a range of business or of territory which the patentee might not have reached, he is entitled to hire or royalty in respect of each unauthorised use of his property. Otherwise, the remedy might fall unjustly short of the wrong.

The Meters case was referred to by Wilcox J, but it does not seem that Watson, Laidlaw was cited to his Honour.

Now, of course, the 19th century considerations of a horse owner and “borrower” seem “quaint” in the age of Gogle and P2P torrents. But is the principle really so different?

It appears that the third member of the Court in Aristocrat, Rares J, may well have been willing to adopt the Watson, Laidlaw approach, but the evidence failed to provide a basis for any “judicial” estimate.