Was the 7th Amendment to the Israel Patent Law, Concerning Drug Term Extensions Unconstitutional?

November 24, 2015




Back in 2004, following corresponding legislation in the US (Hatch Waxman Act) Israel amended their Patent Law to Provide for patent term extensions with what is known as the third amendment the Israel Patent Law. This creates a regime wherein during the period of patent protection genetic players may develop synthesis routes and seek regulatory approval for genetic versions of patented drugs, and, to ensure at least 14 years of post regulatory approval sales under a monopolistic patent regime, the basic patent may be extended by up to 5 years.

The third amendment was ambiguous and in an ex-partes ruling affecting three patents in what is now known as the Novartis ruling, Acting Commissioner Israel Axelrod understood that the amendment was designed to give a real advantage to the drug development companies and they could choose the country to base their patent term extension on.  This was not what the Knesset intended and the amendment was again amended in what is now the Seventh Amendment of the Israel Patent Law, to tidy up this and other ambiguities of the original amendment.

In 2006, under intense pressure from the US who put Israel on their special 301 Watch List of countries not properly protecting Intellectual Property, the State of Israel amended their Patent Law again.

The Seventh Amendment has retroactive effect.  The Patent Term Extension laws have, meanwhile, been amended again (Eleventh amendment to the Law). However, this ruling relates to the 7th amendment.

The Original Ruling of the Commissioner of Patents


Since the 7th amendment provides a shorter period of protection and since it is retroactive, the Association of Israel Industrialists appealed the original patent term extension concerning Israel Patent Number 110956 for Ezetrol, a drug that is used to lower cholesterol levels in blood. In consequence, the Current Commissioner of Patents, Asa Kling, shortened the previously granted patent term extension for of 1014 days to 496 days.

Merck appealed the Commissioner’s decision to the District Court on constitutional and other grounds and argued that the seventh amendment should either be interpreted narrowly so that property rights already granted by law cannot be rescinded, or that the Seventh amendment should be struck as unconstitutional.

Ezetrol is a drug that is used to lower cholesterol levels in blood. Israel Patent Number 110956 to Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (formally called Schering Corporation) is exclusively licensed to Merck & Co. Inc., whose daughter company in Israel has the rights to distribute the drug in Israel.

The Commissioner of Patents first ruled that the basic patent which was due to expire on 13 September 2014 would be extended and would expire on 23 June 2017. However, this period of 1014 days was subsequently shortened to 496 days and the drug will therefore expire on 22 January 2016. See here.

The extension itself issued under the then version of the Law (third amendment) on 22 September 2005. The commissioner’s revised ruling was based on a submission of 7 January 2013 from the Association of Israel Industrialists requesting  to shorten the extension period based on the seventh amendment of Section 64K from 2006.

64K states that the Commissioner may, on application by a person who is not the holder of the basic patent or of an exclusive license, cancel an extension order, if he concludes that there are grounds on which the grant of the extension order can be opposed; the Laws of prescription shall not apply to an application for cancellation under this section.

According to the Association of Israel Industrialists this shortening of the period of protection was legitimate since Section 22 of the amendment explicitly makes the amendment retroactively applicable.

Section 22(a) states that the instructions of the original Law, as phrased, will apply to extension requests and to extensions given before the amendment enters into effect, as long as the basic patent that was the basis of the patent term extension request is still in force. Section 22(b) notes that the above is true, however extension orders issued prior to the amendment would not lapse merely for failing to fulfill the requirements of Sections 5 or 6 of 64D of the main law, as detailed is Section 3 of this Law.

According to the Association of Israel Industrialists, since the basic patent had not lapsed when they petitioned the Commission on 7 January 2013, the Commissioner should apply the amended Law. The Commissioner accepted this argument and therefore shortened the patent term.

The patentee disagrees. They consider that since an extension was given on 22 September 2005, they had a property right for the extension period as ruled, and despite the seventh amendment, this right was inviolate for two reasons:

  1. Property is a basic constitutional right under the Basic Laws of 1980 and so it is appropriate to interpret new laws in a way that prevents retroactive cancellation of property. Applying the 7th Amendment retroactively would be unjust and would certainly destroy property, certainty, stability and fair expectations, where the patentee has relied in good faith on an extension that has already issued. Relying on the issued patent, Merck claims has resulted in their planning, development, pricing and marketing of the patent protected drug. Applying the transition rules in a way that provides retroactive protection should therefore only be allowed in other cases, where doing so does not adversely affect rights already granted.
  2. If the amendment cannot be interpreted in such a manner that it excludes retroactive application of the law to issued patents, then it should be cancelled as it is unreasonable and thus contrary to Section 8 of the Basic Law, Human Rights and Freedoms 1980, under which one does not abrogate property rights unless doing so is in accordance with the basic values of the State of Israel, has a correct purpose and is proportionate, or covered by a specific law. According to the patentee, there is no fitting purpose that would justify applying the Law retroactively, and such retroactive application is not proportionate.

The patentee further claimed that the the Seventh amendment to the Patent Law should be canceled due to inherent flaws in the legislative procedure. Specifically the patentee alleged that the Knesset members were presented with a false picture of what the current Law was and the effects of the amendment, such that the amendment was based on a flawed understanding. This allegation was thrown out, as it was not proved, and there is a working assumption that the Knesset committees are open to hear all views of relevant parties and thus there is a working assumption that final amendments are based on a proper intelligent understanding.

The patentee also claimed that under Section 17c(i) of the Knesset Law סעיף 17(ג1) לחוק הכנסת the Commissioner of Patents should have made the Knesset a party to the opposition proceedings. This claim was also thrown out based on the precedent 4550/13 Bahat vs. Ministry of Health.

During the original hearing regarding shortening the patent term, the patentee argued that since there were no special regulations for calculating patent term extensions, the Amendment should be thrown out as inapplicable. The Commissioner rejected this position claiming that the calculation does not require special regulations since the Law itself explains the method of calculation making regulations for this unnecessary and superfluous.

In addition, Merck argued that even if the Commissioner considers his hand tied and that he has to apply the seventh amendment retroactively as per Section 22, he still should not understand this to mean that the patent would lapse on 22 January 2016 instead of 23 June 2017. Merck requested application of Section 64(9)a of the Law that states that “a patent term extension will remain in force, as per 64(10) for a period equal to the shortest patent term extension granted by a country offering patent term extensions (excluding temporary extensions) from a known country” [Bolar Country – MF]. The shortest term was the 497 day extension granted by the USPTO and should be the maximum extension.However, this was granted only on 23 August 2006 and didn’t exist on 22 September 2005 when the patent term extension issued.  Nevertheless, the patentee is entitled to 14 years post regulatory approval marketing under patent conditions from the earliest approval, which was Germany on 17 October 2016 and not 22 January 2016, so even if an extension to 23 June 2017 is no longer applicable, Merck was still entitled to a patent term extension until 17 October 2016.

All the above arguments were raised in the the original hearing regarding shortening the patent term before the Commissioner of Patents who threw them all out, ruling that the patent should lapse on 22 January 2016. Citing the patent term extension in IL 83148 to Roche (13 June 2007), The Commissioner considered that any interpretation of the transitional period to cases where the patentee’s rights were not damaged would empty the legislation of meaning. Furthermore, the Commissioner cited a Supreme Court precedent relating to retroactive taxation of the findings of oil exploration, that made it clear that retroactive legislation that canceled property rights though problematic, were, nevertheless possible.

As detailed in Calne , the Commissioner considered that the 7th Amendment was carefully crafted to strike a balance between the different interests and was in accordance with the limitations of the Basic Laws, and, citing 4550/13 Bahat vs. Ministry of Health  stated that the Courts would only intervene in Knesset legislation in extreme cases, and not where the Knesset merely regulates the market and economy, and that the courts should act with restraint. Furthermore, the transitional legislation makes clear what the Knesset chose from the various available options.

The Commissioner considered that there was a lack of evidence supporting assertions of the patenteee that Knesset were unaware of the patentee’s interests when amending the Law. Furthermore, the protocols of the Knesset committee meetings from 11 October 2005, 7 November 2005 and 12 and 13 December 2005 indicate to the contrary.

Finally, arguments to use the German patent as the basis of the extension were rejected by the commissioner as this would imply applying the eleventh amendment before it was legislated.

The Appeal

the appeal

In their Statement of Appeal, Merck reiterated their arguments as previously submitted to and rejected by the Commissioner.

Judge Greenberg considers that these arguments may be variously categorized as (i) interpretation of the Law, (ii) Constitutional arguments, and (iii) technical arguments.

The Association of Israel Industrialists requested that the Commissioner’s ruling be upheld, and accused Merck of submitting a creative interpretation that did not sit with the wording of the Law, and the retroactive nature of the Law clearly applied to both procedural and substantive issues. The Seventh amendment was not a new judicial regime but merely a clarification of the Knesset’s intent regarding the third amendment. Although the eleventh amendment was not retroactive, it is clear that the seventh amendment was.

As to basing the extension of the US, it was Merck who decided to use the US as the country of record, selecting this as per the third amendment as interpreted by Axelrod, and the Commissioner was right to consider the US extension only, and not to relate to the German case.

The Ruling

After considering the submissions of the parties, Judge Greenberg concluded that the Appeal should be partially accepted. As far as the patentee’s assertion that the transition clauses of Section 22 should only be applied procedurally but that the retroactive application of the Law damaged a granted property right and should not be applied, this was unacceptable. Laws are generally expected to apply henceforward. However, this generalization can be challenged when explaining the Law. In this instance, Section 22 does not allow a from now onwards explanation since it states explicitly that the guidelines of the main law, as legislated, shall apply to pending patent term extensions and to patent term extensions that have been issued as long as the the basic patent is still in effect.

Thus it is clear that the amendment to the Law may be applied retroactively to already issued extensions. The Amendment is clear and is not open to creative interpretation.

Furthermore, Section 22b states that new considerations for granting a patent term extension could not be applied retroactively. Thus it is clear that the legislators were aware of the difference between legitimate challenges to property rights and those that were illegitimate.

This raises the issue of the legislator’s intention in the amendment. The Association of Israel Industrialists argued that the purpose of the retroactive nature was to repair the damages from the third amendment to prevent the Commissioner’s interpretation in Novartis, which the legislators considered was contract to the intention of the Law, and resulted in the 7th amendment.  The patentee disagrees and claims that the amendment had nothing to do with Novartis which was not appealed and the Association of Israel Industrialists never tool any steps to change this ruling. Rather, the Association of Israel Industrialists ran to the legislative to amend the Law, shifting the balance away from the drug developers and in favour of the generic companies it represents.

The Association of Israel Industrialists’s position in this regard is persuasive to the judge. The Appellant (patentee) has not given any alternative explanation for the retroactive effect of the amendment and so has to claim that the legislative committee was mislead. These claims of of flaws in the legislative process require some evidence which is not there. Rather, as the Association of Israel Industrialists has demonstrated, the Committee considered a wide range of perspectives from the relevant players and this leads to an assumption that the they did their job properly and the amendment is based on a full consideration of the conflicting concerns.  Consequently, the Law is exceptional in that it consciously and intentionally retroactively changes the duration of patents from their duration prior to the rule without the Appellant being able to explain this. Alternatively, one can conclude that the amendment was designed to correct a lacuna in the original amendment and the Appellant is wrong to consider this separate and independent from the Novaris case.

Thus contrary to the Appellant’s reading, the Judge refers to the words of explanation for the amendment (Proposal 187 from 5 July 2005, page 1002 which states that “The proposed legislation is designed primarily to to clarify issues that were raised in applying the Law concerning patent term extensions and the conditions for applying for them, and for the way of calculating the extension and when it terminates”.

Thus it is clear that the Extension was designed to clarify the way extensions were calculated and not to create a new calculation that contradicted that of Section 3. The Section 7 amendment was  did not relate to Novartis, it was only related to in the decision, only in the poorly worded Law itself, which led to the explanation given in the Novartis ruling.

Had the legislators had the skill to word the third amendment correctly to reflect their intention, as they did in the 7th amendment), the Novartis ruling would never have issued, and the law would have remained as it was.

This leads to two conclusions. Firstly, as far as explaining the Law is concerned, it is clear that the law should be interpreted such that the transition clauses are as stated and that the Legislators intended the calculation as stated in the 7th amendment, for previously extended cases as well because the purpose of the amendment was to correct them. Secondly, in the constitutional area, one can conclude that the amendment is in accordance with the limitations of Section 8 of the Basic Law Human Dignity and Freedom, since the retroactive application is proportional. This is also clear from the three tests that the courts use to review the proportionality of laws, and are appropriate in the case in question that relates to the transition period. See Supreme Court Appeal 1715/97 The Investment Agency of Israel vs. the Minister of Finance, P.d. 51 (4) 367 (1997), page 407.

The relevant law is Section 64(xi)a which states that  the extension will remain in effect as per section 10(x) for at least the shortest of the extension periods given for the basic patent, apart from temporary rulings where necessary.

The judge noted that according to the commissioner and to the respondent, once it is clear that the extension given in the US is the shortest extension,despite it issuing a year after the patent term extension, it is, nevertheless, the shortest extension. Whilst this interpretation is in accordance with the terminology of the Law which specifies the shortest extension without relating to when it issues, this interpretation means that a later decision can shorten an extension that has already issued.  Judge Ben-Zion Greenberger considered this interpretation untenable since it would make all patent terms unknown and would leave things open making it impossible for companies to plan.

Judge Greenberger also considers the extension granted in the US under the third amendment should not be applicable to the Seventh amendment in Israel since the proceeding is different, the rules for calculation are different. The Opposer of the extension does not need to search for the shortest period issued, as per the Commissioner’s ruling in the Novartis case.

On the basis of the above, the Commissioner’s reliance on the US patent to retroactively amend the Extension period was wrong since at the time of the application, it did not exist. Once the US extension is not considered, then there is consensus that the next shortest period was that issued in Germany. Judge Greenberger therefore restored the extension period to 17 October 2016 and ruled 25000 Shekels costs to the patentee.

Appeal against Commissioner of Patents Decision Concerning the Patent Term Extension for IL 110956  for Ezetrol, 10 November 2015.


Although retroactive legislation is problematic and uncommon. It does happen. The change in the Patent Law to allow internet publication of the journal is an example of retroactive legislation.

Interestingly, the Talmud recognizes this legal creation as הפקר בית דין הפקר, that a court can cancel property rights. It may be used to retroactively annul a wedding by making retroactively removing the ring given by the groom to the bride from the groom’s property.

The patentee’s argument is based on the assumption that a patent is a property right and that patent term extensions are therefore somehow inviolate. I disagree. I think that patents are, by their nature, intrinsically uncertain. They can be voided due to prior art at any time after they issue. When patent term extensions came into effect, they were applied to pending patents and to issued patents that were already in force. They granted an additional period of protection to companies that had priced their drugs without knowing that this would happen. Patent term extensions are already exceptions. It was clear to all parties that the Law was flexible and depended on the international agreements. Patent term extensions are thus exceptions to a rule that tries to find a fair balance between competing rights. Since the amendment was supposed to ensure that Israel manufacturers were not disadvantaged when compared to their foreign counterparts, the amendment was knowingly and willingly legislated so as not to disadvantage Israel manufacturers. There is nothing final about patent term extensions.

Achieving a partial success and using the German patent instead of the US one as the basis for the patent term extension was an achievement. Nevertheless, we suspect that this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Impotent Appellant Has No Standing

July 1, 2015

class action  no standing

This ruling relates to a Class Action filed in bad faith. The court ruled that when Applicant challenges the validity of claims made for a formulation, failure by the Applicant to take the formulation during the minimal period prescribed by the manufacturer, is sufficient to cancel the standing of the Appellant as representing the class in a Class Action.

The Appellant purchased a formulation intended to strengthen the male libido. Prior to the Appellant finishing the prescribed course of treatment detailed in the accompanying literature and as explained by the Supplier’s Helpline, the Appellant filed suit with the District Court claiming that the product is misleading, and requested that the case be considered as a Class Action. However, the District Court refused to see this as a class action since the Appellant had no standing, and therefore could not represent the class.

Supreme Justice Danziger upheld the decision of the lower court without awarding costs to either party, and added that the need to test that the plaintiff behaves equitably is anchored in Section 8(a)4 of the Class Action Law. The ruling of this court does not indicate a general ruling of what is considered equitable behavior as far as Class Actions are concerned. In one case Inequitable behavior occurs when a case is filed due to false motivation, such as an intent to damage a competitor or to “squeeze a compromise”. In other instances, the mere fact that a plaintiff is acting commercially, looking to profit from the Class Action does not, in and of itself, indicate that he is behaving inequitably, however the plaintiff has to behave equitably during the hearing. This is particularly important in cases where the plaintiff wishes to represent a class of consumers and not merely himself and when a lawyer solicits plaintiffs for a Class Action.

In this instance, the District Court has determined, from the evidence before it, that the Appellant:

  • recorded conversations with the service hotline of the vendor
  • did not read the accompanying literature, tried the formulation for too short a period in direct contradiction of the instructions that he received with the formulation
  • contacted a lawyer prior to finishing the course; filed suite 5 days after stopping the treatment
  • via his attorney, submitted advertisements that were not related to his decision to take the treatment

These facts resulted in the District Court concluding that the plaintiff did not have standing in his own right and could therefore not represent the class of men with impotence issues.

The Court concluded that the circumstances indicate that this is a rare case of someone initiating a Class Action inequitably, and contrary to Section 8(a)(4) of the Law. This conclusion is not based on the motive of the plaintiff, for one may be motivated by material gain, but by the inequitable behavior determined by the District Court. Simply not going the full course indicated by the manufacturer is sufficient to make the Appellant not appropriate to represent the class.

Oddly, and perhaps not inappropriately, this case was heard by three male judges, who agreed unanimously with the verdict.

4534/14 Appeal to Supreme Court, Eli Daniel vs. Direct Nature LTD

The Appellant, Eli Daniel, may not have had to pay compensation or costs, but, due to his actions, has entered the Israel legal text-books as having erectile dysfunction. Not the end of the world.

From discussions with pharmacist clients over the years I understand that the efficiency of all medicines, both classical and alternative (where there are active ingredients, as opposed to homeopathy) work to a greater or lesser extent in different patients due to personal physiology. A class of one is hardly a representative sample to test the efficiency of a treatment. There is a well documented placebo effect and presumably this works in both directions, so a patient lacking belief in a treatment is unlikely to see positive results. I assume that not everyone reacts the same way to aphrodisiacs, and there are large number of foods that are attributed as having both aphrodisiac and libido dampening effects. Apparently, patients taking classical medical treatment for erectile dysfunction still need to feel aroused, and taking the medicine alone has no effect.  I therefore wonder whether the treatment in question works some of the time and for some men. Certainly, there is no indication in this class action that this is not the case.

The obligations of a business partner to further an inventor’s patents and product

June 9, 2015

mines This ruling on Appeal by the Supreme Court relates to patents.

Avichai Madmoni, an inventor, sued Ahidatex Nazareth (1977) LTD, Abraham Hazor and Export Erez US Inc. and Export Erez Israel LTD. for failing to successfully commercialize his invention. Judge Barak-Erez summarized the dilemma before the court as follows:

A new invention is dreamed up by a person who then engages with a commercialization company to realize the product via patent registration, manufacture and marketing.  The relationship is less than successful in that registration took place in one country only and the invention was never realized in a commercial product.  Is the commercial company at fault, or does the failure of the product commercialization reflect mistakes of the inventor and market forces that are beyond the control of the commercialization company?

Avichai Madmoni has military field experience which led him to invent a device called a ‘sapper’s sandal’ that protects foot soldiers from mines. Over the years, Madmoni made various improvements, and the following discussion refers to the ‘old sandals’ and the ‘new sandals’. In the distant past, Madmoni sued a different service provider he’d engaged to commercialize the old sandals. He managed to prove that that company had not kept him informed on the scale of the sales and Judge M. ND”V had ruled (Civil Ruling 3509/96) that he was entitled to compensation. Following this ruling, Madmoni and the earlier service provider came to a contractual understanding that Madmoni would forfeit the compensation and would be entitled to sell the old sandals. In February 2000, Madmoni contracted Ahidatex Nazareth (1977) LTD to commercialize his Sapper’s Sandals. Abraham Hazor was the CEO of Ahidatex Nazareth (1977) LTD and the two Export Erez companies were share holders in Ahidatex Nazareth (1977) LTD. The contract related to the marketing and development of the Sapper’s Sandals, and for the registration of patents thereon in accordance with requests from Admoni. The contract stipulated royalties and a requirement to detail sales in the event that Ahidatex manufactures and markets the different sandals and obliged Ahidatex to carry the costs related to the sandals and to finance the patent registration, as stated in the following paragraph (my translation with the parties as identified by the judge):

[Ahidatex] undertakes to finance the drafting and registration of patents in Israel and the world, if requested to do so [by Madmoni], via the attorneys to be selected [by Madmoni] – this on condition that the manufacturing and marketing rights accruing from the patent if developed and registered, will be transferred to Ahidatex as a condition of this agreement, and all with the agreement and approval of [Ahidatex].

 Following this initial agreement, the sides signed other documents. In 2002 Madmoni signed a document assignment his invention to Ahidatex, and a further document that stated that the rights were assigned in light of and in accordance with that stated in the original contract from 2000. In 2004 a further contract was signed that stated that it did not cancel the original contract by that it introduced a number of modifications, including Ahidatex’ financial obligation and Madmoni’s involvement in sales. In the years following the original contract between the parties, there were various steps taken to advance the invention. On 18 March 2002 a new patent application was filed in the US that related to the new sandals, and this eventually issued as US 6,751,892  ” Minefield shoe and method for manufacture thereof ” however corresponding patents were not registered in other jurisdictions. Madmoni was not happy with the relationship with Ahidatex and negotiated to terminate the relationship, and the parties agreed that if Madmoni pays $350,000 to Ahidatex, the commercialization rights would be transferred back to him. To facilitate this, Madmoni contacted a third party, Lior Stitching LTD, to undertake the manufacture and to pay the $350,000 to Ahidatex. Since the patent was ONLY filed in the US, Lior Stitching did not accept the agreement. At this stage, Madmoni sued the defendants in the Jerusalem District Court (Civil Complaint 3070/09), arguing that defendants had violated their contractual agreement and caused him heavy losses.

Madmoni argued that the defendants had failed to file the patent applications in other jurisdictions and had failed to effectively market the Sapper’s Sandals to the Israel Defense Forces and other potential customers. Ahidatex counter-sued Admoni for revealing trade secrets to Lior Stitching, and for return of money they had paid him (Civil Complaint 3551/09). Judge Jacobi of the Jerusalem District Court rejected both the complaint and the counter-complaint in a ruling of 24 June 2012. The District Court reviewed the contracts and heard witness testimony and concluded that there was no breach of contract. The District Court did not find that Ahidatex had contractually obliged itself to file patent applications in other jurisdictions but only if requested to by Madmoni. The District Court found Ahidatex obliged to prosecute the pending patent applications but not to file them unless Madmoni specifically requested applications be filed. Consequently, Madmoni himself was responsible for their not being additional filings. Furthermore, Madmoni himself knew that the patent was not filed in Israel and that the corresponding European application was abandoned.  As far as the old sandals were concerned, Ahidatex was not obliged to market these, but was merely entitled to. As to contracting the Israel Defense Forces, the District Court considered that Ahidatex had acted reasonably and could be held responsible for the failure of the IDF to express an interest. The counter-case was dismissed as being a reaction to Madmoni’s filing suit and lacked inherent validity.


Madmoni contended that it was clear to Ahidatex that they should file more widely and in particular, should file applications in Israel and Europe. He alleged that the assignment gave Ahidatex, as the more experienced partner, free reign to file wherever they wanted. Consequently, he didn’t contemplate the eventuality that Ahidatex would not file in Europe and Israel. Madmoni alleged that the District Court had erred in their understanding of the contractual relationship and had ignored provable evidence that Ahidatex had failed to fulfill their obligations. Madmoni also alleged that Ahidatex had been tardy in negotiating with the IDF. Madmoni further accused Hazor of negligence and inequitable behavior and thus considered the District Court had erred in dismissing charges against him. The defendants requested that the Appeal be dismissed on the grounds determined in the Court of First Instance. The Appeal was essentially against factual and not legal determinations and was thus an illegitimate attempt at forcing a retrial. The Supreme Court suggested that the parties attempt mediation but this was not successful.


After reviewing the case, the Supreme Court upheld the District Court’s findings and dismissed the appeal. The defendants had not undertaken to absorb any and all costs in patent prosecution but merely to underwrite the cost of prosecuting and maintaining the patents filed by Madmoni himself. The Supreme Court also did not see fit to interfere with the District Court’s findings that the IDF’s failure to purchase the product was the result of Ahidatex’ poor marketing. As far as equitable behavior of the CEO, despite accepting that the obligation on the CEO and investors should be interpreted widely, the court did not see fit to find them responsible in this case. There is no doubt however, that this is one of those difficult cases, not because of the legal aspects, but because of the sorrow and feelings of loss of an inventor whose hopes are dashed. Nevertheless, the court did not find that legal obligations towards him were ignored. The decision was upheld but no costs were awarded.

Civil Appeal 7300/12 to Supreme Court concerning Madmoni vs. Ahidatex et al. The ruling by Judge Barak-Erez, with Judge Rubinstein and Chayot concurring, 3 June 2015.  


The ‘Sapper Sandal’ or ‘minefield shoe’ is a sort of snow shoe with a large surface area due to inflatable pockets underneath that engages a soldier’s boot. I have no doubt that it spreads pressure over a larger surface area and that it reduces sudden pressure. It should, therefore, have some efficiency against mines of various sorts. On the other hand, it may be less successful than the inventor imagines, and I suspect will make walking difficult. That as may be, having a patentable invention is not necessarily the same as having a workable solution.

I do not know if armies need a solution for a soldier to cross a mine field or a way for clearing mine fields. I do not know if this solution has military value. Presumably, however, the Israel Defense Forces is quite capable of such a determination. If the Israel Defense Forces IDF had adopted the idea but manufactured without Ahidatex, there would be some argument that failing to file in Israel had caused damage. This does not, however, attribute this damage to Ahidatex rather than to Madmoni.

In general, military hardware inventions should be filed in the US, Europe and Israel to cover major manufacturers. This particular invention is low tech and could be manufactured widely and if it works, could be of interest in all conflict zones.

In my experience, inventors sometimes have unrealistic expectations.  They get emotionally attached to their solutions, whereas commercial entities are more likely to be motivated by commercial considerations. It is an unfortunate characteristic of entrepreneurship in general, that one cannot know up front what is the correct strategy, and patents of this type, are, by their nature, aimed at creating new markets. If there is a real need, someone else may come up with a competing product that is as good or better, or merely cheaper. Finally, it should be appreciated that when entering into contracts, both parties should be very careful that the contract is clear and unambiguously covers all eventualities. This can avoid unnecessary litigation from which all parties (except for the attorneys) lose.

Sony Strikes Again

May 31, 2015

need for speed

After recent successes against an Arab computer dealer,Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, the manufacturers of Sony Play Stations are continuing to fight copyright infringement in the form of retailers of computer equipment selling rip off DVDs. Using the services of Gershuni Slymovezh, the partnership that includes former Deputy Patent Commissioner Noah Slymovezh, Sony has sued Einat Anu Rokahn (S.A.R. Electronics).

Sony sent a private investigator to S.A.R. Electronics, who bought four games for Playstation 2 selected from a wall display of disks. The four games cost a total of 50 Shekels, and the investigator was issued with tax invoice number 0898 which listed four Sony 2 games burned onto disks.

For those interested, the disks in question were:

  • Need for Speed Most Wanted
  • World Super Police
  • Stuntman
  • Sagan Om De TVA Tomen

(I can make a wild guess what the first four games are about, and suspect that the name of the fourth game is corrupted. This probably indicates that I am not a gamer).

In addition to accusing the store of contributory copyright infringement (with maximum statutory damages without proof) of 100,000 Shekels, Sony accused the store of infringing their trademarks, and Unjust Enrichment. Despite claiming years of infringement with tens if not hundreds of sales of fake disks, Sony capped their claim at 150,000 Shekels.

The store owner claimed that there was one shelf with maybe 15-20 disks and further claimed he was innocent of all knowledge that the disks weren’t genuine.

The Haifa District Court ruled that computer programs are protected by copyright and that Sony owns the copyright. Although knowledge of the copyright is required, the burden of proof need only establish a legal construct of knowledge and not actual knowledge. The argument that the owner of a commercial retailer does not know what he is selling is unreasonable. The combination of the defendant being a seller of computers and electronics that sells disks at a greatly reduced price and the source of the disks being unclear is indicative that they did not originate from a licensed dealer; the fact that the disks were programmable disks written with the program rather than punched disks, when it was clear that the vendor had seen the disks prior to their sale, leads to the inescapable conclusion that the defendant either knew or at least should have known that the disks were not originals. Consequently, the vendor is guilty of indirect copyright infringement of the copyrights in the Sony Playstation software.

After taking into account the various legal and subjective considerations, Judge Orit Weinstein of the Haifa District Court ruled that the defendant knew or at least should have known that the DVDs with Playstation games thereon were not originals and that their sale was copyright infringement. Consequently, the defendants have to compensate Sony 16,000 Shekels in statutory damages, plus 1000 Shekels in legal expenses and 4000 Shekels in lawyers’ fees.  Furthermore, an injunction was issued against Einat Anu Rokahn (S.A.R. Electronics) to refrain from selling fraudulent CDs.

Civil Case Number 14-11-23739-28 Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment Inc vs. Enat Abu Rokan, S.A.R. Electronics) Haifa District Court, Orit Weinstein, 26 April 2015

Software Rewrites

May 11, 2015

medical software

ICM is a software program designed for doctors, clinics and hospitals. A Mr Yehuda Ungar had the requisite skill set and experience to develop the program and signed a founders agreement with Yaakov Cashdi and others, the result of which was ICM Links Technologies and Information LTD, a company dedicated to creation of the ICM software for managing a medical database.

Cashdi, the other founders and ICM LTD claim that Yehuda Ungar copied and marketed the program to Bircon LTD, infringing their rights and becoming enriched at their expense.

The plaintiffs have sued for a declarative judgment that Ungar has infringed the founders agreement; an accounting regarding Bircon LTD’s use of the program and 750,000 Shekels compensation.

Statement of Case

The plaintiffs, Yaakov, Eli and Milik are shareholders of Ordan Computers and Data Systems which is a software developer that specializes in administrative software for clinics and medical chains.

Yehuda Ungar developed his ICM system that is complimentary to Ordan’s program and Ungar approached Yaakov, Eli and Milik to create a business partnership for the continued development, marketing and sales of ICM in Israel and abroad. Yaakov, Eli and Milik agreed and ICM Links Technologies and Information LTD was established.

Under the agreement, Ungar was to transfer all rights, source code and documentation to the company and to make his experience and medical file management available to the company.

Yaakov, Eli and Milik were to dedicate their resources, knowledge and experience to the program and eventually to market it.
The contract also included a non-complete clause for a minimum of three years and at least six months longer than any of the founders were serving as director, employee or shareholder in the company. The shares were divvied up and all share holders were to serve as directors for at least 24 months.

In 2003, Yehuda Unger met with a Mr Tenne, the manager of a chain of clinics who agreed that the chain could serve as a beta site for the software. The plaintiffs thought that the beta testing was going well, but in March 2004, Unger informed them that Mr Tenne had given notice to stop the trials. The plaintiffs failed to raise investment capital and further development stopped, freezing the company.

Yehuda Unger offered to resign and find alternative employment until a further opportunity would present itself. As a severage package Unger requested the right to compete, and to use ICM’s program whilst remaining a director and shareholder. Yaakov, Eli and Milik refused these conditions and contact between the parties was lost. In July 2008, Yaakov, Eli and Milik discovered that despite being an employee and shareholder, Unger had continued to develop the software together with Mr Tenne through Mr Tenne’s company Bircon LTD, which had marketed the product, earning money for both Unger and Tenne.

Yaakov, Eli and Milik considered Unger’s behavior as breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud. They further considered Bircon LTD as guilty of unjust enrichment and copyright infringement and sued for:

  • A declaratory judgment that the program was the property of ICM that Yehuda Unger was in breach of contract and breach of trust as a shareholder and director
  • Copies of accounts regarding the software
  • An injunction against further use
  • 100,000 Shekels in statutory damages and
  • 750,000 Shekels in lost earnings resulting from the breach of contract.

Statement for the Defense
Yehuda Unger is a systems analyst with 30 years of experience in managing software projects. Via his wholly owned company Irit Model, he has been working since 1995 at developing the ICM medical record database platform.

Unger alleges that Yaakov, Eli and Milik approached him in 2002 and suggested that Ordan would market the ICM platform either as stand-alone software or together with their ‘Clinica’ program.

Following this approach, a marketing and joint venture agreement was signed in July 2002. Six months later, Yaakov approached Yuhuda Unger and offered that Yaakov, Eli and Milik would purchase his shares via Ordan.

Under the agreement, via Ordan, Yaakov, Eli and Milik would transfer 40,000 Shekels a month. However, they did not meet this, and in September 2003, they informed Unger that they did not have the resources to fund ICM.

According to Unger, at Bircon, he programmed from scratch using public domain code and his personal knowledge, without using ICM, its source code or other resources. Unger even filed a counter-claim but subsequently retracted it.

The subsequent case relied on testimony from the parties, software engineers of both Ordan and Bircon and Dr Matthew Golani as an expert witness to the court.

Ordan marketed Clinica and Irit marketed an early version of ICM to the Eynayim chain of clinics that was under the management of a Dr Levinger. The sides realized that they each had complementary software products that were half a solution and they discussed working together. After negotiations, in July 2002, the parties signed a marketing agreement under which Ordan would market ICM. About six months later, at the beginning of 2003, the sides discussed Ordan purchasing ICM and a framework agreement was signed. Following this, Unger continued working on ICM, but as an employee of Ordan and the code was transferred to Ordan which allocated a programmer to the project and Milik undertook the marketing.

In parallel with the ongoing development work, the parties negotiated a full contract, under which Unger was to be paid “consultancy fees” and a new company was to be set up. The contract was signed in July 2003.

Judge Shwartz summarized the agreement and interpreted the lacuna. and the various parties’ actions in following signing of the agreement.
He found Unger’s programming for Bircon was unjust enrichment, breach of copyright and brach of contract, but held Tenne and Bircon innocent of wrong doing.In Conclusion, Judge Swartz ruled that:

ICM LTD was the right holder in the software.

  • Unger breached the founder’s agreement
  • Unger is forbidden to make any use of the software without permission from ICM LTD.
  • Unger has to pay ICM LTD 100,000 Shekels statutory damages.
  • Unger has to pay costs of 4500 Shekels and 25,000 Shekels legal fees.

47761-11-11 Cashdi et al. vs. Under et al., ruling by Judge Shwartz, 26 April 2015.

To a large extent, the issue is factual rather than legal. Judge Shwartz has to rely on the agreement as signed to work out what the parties intended.

Vanunu’s hand

April 15, 2015

learned hand

Zoom 77 A. Sh. LTD has sued Buzz Television LTD for copyright infringement in that Buzz Television broadcast the well known photograph of Israeli traitor Mordechai Vanunu’s hand pressed against the van Uno car window, with the information that he was abducted in Rome by Israel’s Secret Service.

Instead of arguing for informational, non-profitable purposes, de minimis fair use, I am not reproducing the offending image here. Those interested in it can type Vanunu hand into their search engines.

Buzz Television LTD included the image (Vanunu’s Hand, not Learned Hand) in a documentary called the Israel Connection that was produced for Israel’s Educational Television channel. They did not receive permission to include the image and Israel’s Education Television was sued and obliged to pay compensation. See Civil Case 9260-09-12 Zoom 77 A. Sh. LTD vs. Israel Educational Television, 16 January 2014.

(ת”א (מחוזי י-ם) 9260-09-12 זום 77 א.ש (2002) בע”מ נ’ הטלוויזיה החינוכית הישראלית (16.1.2014
Buzz Television LTD used a clip including the image on their website as well, also without permission and without indicating the copyright owner. This second usage is the basis of the current law suit in which Zoom 77 claimed 80,000 NIS compulsory compensation without proof of damage under Section 56 of the Israel Copyright Act 2007.
Buzz Television LTD accepted that the image was owned by Zoom and that displaying it on Buzz’ website was an infringing use. The point of contention was the appropriate compensation in the circumstances.

Section 56b of the Law brings various relevant considerations for setting the compensation including the scope of infringement, its longevity, its seriousness, actual damages, profits to the infringer, the defendant’s activities, the relationship between plaintiff and defendant and inequitable behaviour.

In the present instance, Judge Gideon Gidoni of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court noted that the photograph has significant journalistic value and was used to market and promote the defendant’s activities. On the other hand, no evidence was given by the plaintiff regarding the traffic to the website in general and the clip in particular. The Defendant claimed that the clip was a minor component on the website and hardly watched.

No evidence was provided as to how long the image was displayed, but one can assume that the defendant was involved in the case against Israel Educational Television 18 months earlier, and could and should have taken down the clip. Buzz Television is a production company working in the media industry and should be aware of copyright issues and should consequently be highly aware of other’s creative rights. The cost of licensed use of the image was 1600 Shekels.

Judge Gidoni noted the damages paid by Israel Educational Television 18,000 Shekels for first infringement and then 50,000 Shekels for a second infringement last year, and that this was a repeat, albeit indirect infringement of the same product.

He also related to third parties reproducing other news images, including Rachmani v. Israel News 2011 (15000 Shekels for an iconic news image)  the learned, but perhaps not very analytic judge ruled compensation of 25000 Shekels. Civil Appeal Basketball League Management vs. Rachmani (the famous Tal Brody lifting the European trophy “we are on the tablecloth map” where 18000 Shekels was ruled and Kfar Blum Kayaks vs. Manara Cliff 2012, where 75000 Shekels was awarded for moral rights infringed by not mentioning the name of the photographer of the tourist attraction.

In another recent case, Zoom sued Tratkover and was awarded 22000 Shekels.

Judge Gidoni ruled 25000 Shekels compensation, 1000 Shekels costs and 3000 Shekels legal fees.

Sh-14-02-30214-730 Zoom 7 vs.Buzz television re Vanunu’s hnad photo, Judge Gidoni, Jerusalem Magistrates Court, 8 April 2015.


Vanunu set up the picture. The handwriting, font and content of the writing on his hand is his copyright. He was also responsible for positioning his hand on the car window and for his posture. Perhaps he deserves royalties as much as he is deserved his jail sentence?  The journalists that caught the image did very little artistic creation, and arguably whoever crops the image for insertion into a newspaper deserves as much credit and name recognition.

There is certainly a value in fidelity of the law, and levels of compensation for similar infringing acts by different parties should, perhaps, be similar. I would, however, like to feel that judges can analyze and reach sophisticated conclusions and not merely bean count.

I believe that there are iconic images, film clips, sound tracks and the like that have a place in any documentary or dramatization of significant history. I think it ridiculous that a birthday party in a film won’t include children singing Happy Birthday. A film of Martin Luther King couldn’t reproduce his “I have a dream” speech.

In Israel, Holocaust Memorial Day starts this evening. When looking for two rapper versions of Israel’s National ANthem, Hatikveh that were the basis of a copyright infringement proceedings, I discovered a BBC radio clip of the first Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat Service from Bergen Belsen after the camp was liberated. After singing the Hatikveh, one clearly hears the then British Chaplain, the Late Reverend Hardman announcing that the people of Israel live. I sent the clip to his grandson, Danny Verbov who thanked me, and told me that he;s sent the clip about one a month. He kindly sent me a copy of Rev Hardman’s sermons that he’d edited. (I am ashamed to say that I used to go out to play during the sermons).

Now, Danny (and presumably the BBC) could have sued me for downloading and copying or linking to copyright material. At one suing a month Danny would solve the problem of spam email and have a nice sideline. Thankfully he is a mensch and has more sense.

I’d like to see standard reproduction royalties for usage of these literary and artistic creations.

I have illustrated this post with a picture of the US judge who detailed the various considerations regarding compensation for patent infringement in Georgia Pacific vs. American Plywood. The reason for referencing this is not just that he found 15 Factors of relevance, which sounds like an extended family seder, or even that the judge is called Learned Hand. I think his analysis is of relevance when calculated copyright royalties as well as patent royalties.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome.

Clip Fresh Ruling Upheld On Appeal

February 25, 2015


Back in July 2014, the Israel Patent Office allowed the Clip Fresh logo mark of Farm Chalk LTD to be registered despite an opposition from earlier registered ‘Click and Fresh’ to Millennium Marketing Intertrade (1999). The Examiner considered the likelihood of confusion to be unproven. See here for more details.

Millennium Marketing Intertrade (1999) appealed the decision and the decision regarding costs (reduced from 92,932 Shekels to 80,000 Shekels) to the Tel Aviv District Court under the Right to Appeal.

They considered that despite the different appearance of the marks, when the sound of the mark is considered, there is a likelihood of confusion.

Furthermore, “By Farm Chalk” –which appears in the mark, was never actually used, rather the mark holder used the slogan “Keep it Fresh”, so the decision to allow the registration on the grounds that the words By Farm Chalk prevented confusion should be reversed.

.The Appellant argued that the F of Fresh looks like an ampersand (&) and the mark holder simply adapted their mark and was confusingly similar in appearance. Furthermore, the costs of 80,000 Shekels were disproportionate to the work involved in the opposition.

The mark holder argued that the Appeal should have been filed within 45 days and was actually filed 4 months after it issued and so should be thrown out. Furthermore, the Click and Fresh mark only issued after disclaiming the descriptive words ‘click’ and ‘fresh’ and so cannot be considered misleading the public as to the source of the goods. The costs were not much different from costs awarded in other cases and Appeals to reduce costs should only be accepted in extreme circumstances.

The appeal was filed within 45 days of the costs ruling though not within 45 days of the main ruling. Judge Yehudit Shnitzer considered that the costs of 80,000 Shekels were indeed significant and could be grounds for deciding to file an appeal. She therefore was prepared to review the case and rule on its merits.

As to the phonetic similarity, Judge Shnitzer considered that food containers are not bought by requesting the goods by brand over the counter, but by picking up and examining the goods. She therefore considered that the difference in visual aspects of the marks outweighed the similarities in sound.

Neither mark would have issued for the words, only for the stylized logo. In an appeal regarding the registration of a mark there was no room to consider whether the mark was actually used as registered, since this was a separate ground for canceling a mark after a period of time, but not within the scope of the appeal. Since the click and fresh registration only issued by disclaiming the words ‘click’ and ‘fresh’, the protection afforded by the sounds of these words is very limited.

The marks have to be considered in their entirety, with the emphasis on the visual aspects not the audible ones, and noting similarities in disclaimed words, but not giving such disclaimed words much weight.

As there are a lot of similar goods on the market, someone interested in a specific brand would be expected to take care.

It is important to prevent trademark abuse and policy dictates having to avoid trademarks providing an effective monopoly on goods having certain characteristics, rather than serving as an indication of source. Allegations of free riding, unfair competition and confusing the public were rejected in favour of free competition.

As to the costs awarded, Judge Shitzer noted that the costs were based on actual cost submissions and were calculated and not random. She accepted that there were cases with a single hearing and no witnesses from abroad where the costs awarded were much lower. She did not, however, consider the costs to be outrageous and did not see fit to interfere.

After ruling to reject the Appeal, Judge Shitzer awarded a further 30,000 Shekels costs against Millenium Marketing Intertrade (1999).

Appeal to Tel Aviv District Court 27992-08-14 Millenium Marketing Intertrade 1999 vs. Farm Chalk Investment LTD. Concerning Israel trademark opposition ruling concerning Farm Chalk’s stylized graphic mark by Asa Kling, the appeal ruling by Judge Shnitzer, February 2015    


This decision vindicating the Commissioner’s ruling is correct. I think that the decision also shows that Ms Yaara Shoshani-Caspi’s ruling re Humus B’Ribua is wrong.


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