Ketchup Wars

August 20, 2015

Heinz has removed the Hebrew transliteration of Ketchup from bottles of their iconic sauce. The reason? Israel has a standard for Ketchup that Heinz doesn’t come up to. Specifically, Israeli Ketchup contains a higher percentage of tomato extracts than Heinz’ tomato flavored condiment.

I read about this development in Yesterday’s Idiot Acharonot (Israel’s largest circulation fish & chips wrapper newspaper) whilst enjoying a leisurely breakfast on holiday in the Galilee.  The topic is a hot sweet & sour issue among fellow Anglo-American Immigrants who I am in contact with on Facebook.

To those of us who grew up in the UK or the US, Ketchup meant Heinz. Heinz launched its first Tomato Ketchup in 1876, Heinz was at the forefront of exploring natural preservation, and in 1906 was first to launch a Ketchup free from artificial preservatives. To prevent it growing a beard without fungicides, it includes enormous amounts of sugar and vinegar.

 

14-global-ketchup.w529.h352.2x

There never were 57 varieties of ketchup or indeed of anything else. Nevertheless, worldwide, Heinz is the #1 ketchup.

In the 17th century, the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁. By the early 18th century, the table sauce had made it to what is now Malaysia and Singapore, where it was discovered by English explorers. The Indonesian-Malay word for the sauce was kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”). That word evolved into the English word “ketchup”, and English settlers took ketchup with them to the American colonies.

In the United Kingdom, preparations of ketchup were historically and originally prepared with mushroom as a primary ingredient, rather than tomato. Ketchup recipes begin to appear in British and then American cookbooks in the 18th century. 

So the term Ketchup doesn’t imply containing tomatoes at all. It really simply means a savoury sauce. Nevertheless, to most of the world, the term relates to the thick dark red sauce that Heinz manufactures and distributes.

In Israel, a variety of condiments are sold as tomato ketchup. The most widely distributed and probably the best of them is Osem’s ketchup, which also comes in a distinctive container that is perhaps as well recognized in Israel as Heinz’ is elsewhere. I prefer Heinz’ Ketchup as it the taste I grew up on. My Israeli kids prefer Osem’s.

To put the argument into some kind of perspective, I’d like to use the analogy of mustard. I am sure that for British ex-patriots like me, mustard is a very strong condiment prepared from a powder. Coleman’s mustard has a long and distinguished history.

Jeremiah Colman founded Colman’s of Norwich in 1814. To create a tangy flavour, he blended brown mustard (Brassica juncea) with white mustard (Sinapis alba). From 1855 the firm introduced its distinctive yellow packaging and bull’s head logo, and in 1866 was granted Royal Warrant as manufacturers of mustard to Queen Victoria. The royal household still uses Colman’s today.

colmans mustard

Now the French make an entirely different condiment called Dijon mustard, that is rather milder. Americans have a sort of yellow ketchup that they call mustard, but which has no similarity to English mustard. One could envisage the UK banning American mustard from being sold as ‘mustard’ without a qualifier, such as ‘American style’ mustard. Similarly, one could imagine Americans requiring Colman’s Mustard to be sold with a government health warning that it should be consumed in small quantities only, and that it is rather different than what Americans are used to.

Israeli bottles of Heinz Ketchup will still have the word Ketchup on their labels in English, just not in Hebrew. Presumably English and American immigrants will see that the sauce is what they are looking for, and Israelis will appreciate that the condiment is something different. It is not a bad compromise. However, as the term ketchup doesn’t actually imply tomatoes and the average consumer is aware that condiments from different companies taste slightly different, and since both Heinz and Osem’s ketchup bottles feature the name of the manufacturer clearly and each comes in a distinctive bottle, I am not convinced that this is really necessary.

namesred mug

There are, of course, Israeli precedents for this type of thing. Nestle’s Nescafe Original was marketed in Israel as Red Mug. They couldn’t call it Nescafe as the term was generic. The Hebrew word Nes means miracle, and, where Elite’s Cafe Namess (soluble coffee) was known as Nescafe (miracle coffee), there was no way for Nestle to obtain a trademark for Nescafe.

Pips Cola

Prior to the Oslo accords, Pepsi Cola was not available in Israel, as Pepsi decided to kowtow to the Arab boycott. A Galilean Arab sold a locally produced cola as Pips Cola. When Pepsi entered the Israel market they tried to get an injunction against the Arab manufacturer. The Israel courts correctly noted that they had abandoned the local market. They ended up having to buy him out.

For British readers of my generation, I refer to classic Goodies Episode “The Bunfight at the OK Tearooms“, where ketchup as a metaphor for movie blood and gore was taken to its logical conclusion.

 


Deleting Documents in Patent Cancellation Proceeding

August 4, 2015

fighting robots

Aquatron and Maytronics are competing Israeli companies that each make pool cleaning robots.

Maytronics was awarded Israel Patent IL 206154 titled “Pool Cleaning Robot”. Aquatron filed to have the patent cancelled.

In the cancellation proceedings various issues came up such as whether Aquatron had received permission from Maytronics to use the patent. However, in a procedural agreement between the parties, it was decided that the summation statements would not to relate to this issue.

In their summation, Maytronics, did, however relate to the alleged license to use the patent, and so Aquatron filed to have the relevant passages deleted from the file. In their defense, Maytronics’ argued that Aquatron had submitted emails that related to the agreement as part of their evidence, and this had voided the procedural agreement.

Ms Jacqueline Bracha used Contract Law (section 25a) to rule that what was agreed between the sides is binding. Had they intended to state that evidence should be suppressed they could have done so. The disputed sections on the patentee’s summation were ordered deleted from the record, but the emails submitted by Aquatron were allowed.


Israel Supreme Court Issues Long Awaited Decision regarding Service Inventions

July 23, 2015

employment agreement

Isscar is a leading Israel company that manufactures hard metal cutting tools. As an employee at Isscar, Gidon Barzani was involved in the development of hard metal cutting tools at Isscar during the years 1992 to 1995, and again between 1997 and 2001 and was involved in a certain service invention, his actual contribution being a matter of contention. The employee signed various documents that gave up on monetary claims.

In Israel, an employee invention is owned by the employer. However, under Section  134 of the Law, the employee is entitled to compensation, the amount of which is determined by a special committee under Section 109.

The Committee, at the head of which sits the retired Supreme Court Justice, Itzak Englard, the Commissioner of Patents and an university professor, rejected Barzani’s claims as he had had waived his rights to consideration for the inventions when he signed on the general waiver.

Barzani appealed to the Supreme Court as a High Court of Justice (BAGATZ) see here which resulted in the committee freezing its actions.

One of the more interesting legal questions is whether a general waiver as part of the employment contract, where no invention is yet conceived can be considered as legally binding. (Talmudist’s may note a similarity to discussion of unlaid eggs).

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal arguing that it had limited power to interfere since under Section 111, the Bagatz ruling was final. The Supreme Court ruled that Section 134 describes a non-cogent right that is not a socialist employee right that requires special defense. On the face of things and with deference to the language of the clause, the decision appears to be correct, and certainly is sufficiently reasonable that there is no justification for court interference.

Nevertheless, the court noted that in a dynamic and changing world there is room for additional legislation or for companies to come up with voluntary compensation schemes. However, there is no reason for the court to interfere.

Judge Reuven, Deputy President of the Supreme Court quoted Section 109 of the Law as follows:

Where there is no agreement providing compensation to the employee for his service invention, regarding the amount of compensation and the conditions, these will be determined by the Committee for Compensation and Royalties.

Section 111 fixes the finality of the committee’s decision, but there is no doubt that in extreme circumstances, the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court of Justice can interfere. Since, however, the committee includes a retired senior court justice, the commissioner and an academic, interference in its conclusions are likely to be minimal, and this instance does not justify the court’s involvement.

The main argument, following the Actelis ruling of 2010 is concerned with the question of whether Section 134 should be considered cogent or dispositive. The committee came to the conclusion that it is not a cogent right and is not an example of employer-employee labour law where (due to the inherent differences in power between the sides) workers’ rights require special protection. The ruling seems to be correct, but anyway, since the Law states that the committee’s rulings are final, there is no room for the court to interfere.

Nevertheless, the court has criticized the current situation and noted that common sense and natural justice indicate that there is room for a more equitable arrangement,  whether the result of voluntary agreement or of legislation, and such arrangements exist in the private sector.

4353/14 Appeal to Supreme Court, Barzani vs. Isscar, Ruling by Rubinstein Fogelman and Mazuz 8/7/15

COMMENT

There was a lot of interest in this case, and we believe that employers will be giving deep sighs of relief. Employees will probably feel that the system favours the company against the individual. I am aware that some academics have strong feelings, see for example, Dr Shlomit Ravid’s position here and here.

Since the court has criticized the committee’s ruling and is not prepared to get involved, it is not inconceivable that a future committee could reach the opposite conclusion. Indeed, one of the judges of this ruling might, on retirement, sit in such a committee. There may, therefore, be room for clear legislation on the issue.

Personally, I think the Supreme Court decision is correct. I encourage corporate clients to institute compensation programs or at least weekend breaks and the like to encourage employees to come forwards with ideas, but think that changing the law in Israel may result in multi-nationals taking their R&D centers elsewhere, and that is not good for the economy or the workers.


Tel Aviv Court Refuses to Endorse Out-of-Court Settlement Between Service Providers and ISPs requiring that the ISPs Block Site Offering Software for Facilitating Downloading of Copyright Protected Material

July 14, 2015

rubber stamp
ZIR”A Organization for Internet Copyright LTD, United King Film Distribution 1990 LTD, DVS Satellite Services 1998 LTD, Hot Telecommunications, Keshet Transmissions, The Noga Net LTD and Noga Telecommunications LTD sued Anonymous, Bezeq International LTD, Partner Telecommunications, 012 Smile Telecommunications LTD, 013 Netvision LTD, Hot Net Internet Services and Internet Rimon LTD.
Broadly speaking, the case is one of content providers suing Internet Service Providers, and the not identified owner of a website allowing downloading of a piece of software that enables accessing and downloading content.

The content providers sued for a temporary injunction against the service providers and for details of the surfers.

Popcorn is software that allows both streaming content for online viewing and downloading content for future viewing. The plaintiffs sought to stop this service and to require ISPs to prevent access to the website allowing downloading of the software. A temporary injunction issued on 19 May 2015. On 3 June 2015 a hearing was held and on 11 June 2015, the plaintiff announced that it had reached an agreement with 013 Netvision LTD, Hot Net Internet Services an Internet Rimon LTD.

Judge Magen Altuvia of the Tel Aviv District Court ruled that there was no place to issue a temporary injunction to block access to Internet sites that allow downloading of software programs that allows viewing of creative works for which copyright protection is alleged. Such an injunction is ineffective and damages the free flow of information, the right of the public to know, freedom of expression and provides power to Internet Service Providers to determine what may or may not flow through the Internet Conduit. Other issues are the fight of anonymity and of privacy on the internet.

In consequence of the above position, the temporary injunction requested by a website and by an Internet Service Provider to prevent the use of the Program Popcorn was denied. It appears that many Internet service providers had come to an understanding with the plaintiffs, but one held out. The one that held out was vindicated. Furthermore, the agreement reached by the plaintiffs with the other ISPs would not be ratified by the court and the temporary injunction was cancelled.

The Court ruled that by law, the court is not able to order a temporary injunction against a third party to reveal the identity of an anonymous surfer that allegedly has committed an offence. It appears that the plaintiffs themselves were tardy in requesting the injunction and this indicates that the temporary injunction is hardly significant to the plaintiffs and there is thus no justification in issuing it.

The balance of interests does not favor the plaintiffs where there is no clear legislation that allows action against Internet Service Providers. Closing down the website will not prevent the downloading and installing of Popcorn and will have no action against those Internet surfers who have already downloaded the program, and there are opposing values of free flow of information, right of the public to know, freedom of expression.

Plaintiff’s Position
On 29 June 2015, the plaintiff requested that an agreement made with Partner Telecommunications, 012 Smile Telecommunications LTD, 013 Netvision LTD, Hot Net Internet Services and Internet Rimon LTD be ratified by the court. Bezeq International held out and the plaintiffs requested a temporary injunction again them.

According to the plaintiffs, United King Film Distribution 1990 LTD, DVS Satellite Services 1998 LTD, Hot Telecommunications, Keshet Transmissions, The Noga Net LTD and Noga Telecommunications LTD held copyright in various programs and none of them had authorized Anonymous or Bezeq International to use the protected content via the Popcorn website or program.

Anonymous is not known to the plaintiffs [the ruling uses both verbs to know, i.e. conaitre and savoir, knowing in the Biblical sense does not seem to be intended]. The name Anonymous relates to the owner of the Popcorn website that allows surfers to choose to watch programs without the plaintiff’s permission, thereby infringing copyright under the Copyright Act 2007, and being guilty of unjust enrichment under the Law of Unjust Enrichment 1979.
The ISR is the bottleneck that has the cheapest and simplest way to stop access to Popcorn’s website from Israel based Internet browsers.

On 14 May 2015, and again on 17 May 2015, the plaintiffs contacted all the internet service providers but these were ignored.

On 28 April 2016, the Chancery Division of England ruled on Popcorn’s website and in that ruling, determined that the Popcorn sites infringed copyright and Internet Service Providers should block access. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Others vs. Sky UK and others. Case No: HC2014-00229, EWHC 1082 (ch). According to the plaintiffs, Judge Gidon Ginat (also of the Tel Aviv District Court) adopted the UK decision in his ruling of 12 May 2015, T.A. 11-333227-13 NMC United Entertainment LTD. Et. Al. vs. Bloomberg et al. In that instance, the Court found that by allowing conversion from view only format to saveable MP3 format, Mr Parpori had aided and abetted copyright infringement and that Internet service Providers should block access to the site. See here for my analysis of that case.

According to the plaintiffs, both the Fox decision and the Papori decision support their position that access to the Popcorn site should be blocked. Due to the ‘unacceptable ease of infringement and the fatal wounding of their rights’ there is a need to grant the requested injunctions as soon as possible to preventthe daily infringements.

Bezeq International’s Position
Bezeq International claims that the plaintiff’s filed suit following the ruling in the UK against Popcorn, despite the software being available from much earlier. Suit was filed only in May, so this case cannot be considered urgent.
Bezeq International claims that the plaintiffs do not have a single damages claim against them and therefore there is no room to grant an injunction against them. There are a number of Supreme Court precedents that prohibit issuing injunctions against third parties.

Bezeq considers that such a third party injunction would do them damage whilst would not have an effect on Popcorn since they would simply open up further sites allowing content to be downloaded.
In the appeal considering obligations of ISPs 4447/07 Rami Mor vs. Barak ITC (1994) Bezeq international, Judge Rivlin of the Supreme Court related to whether the Court had the authority to force a third-party to reveal the identity of an anonymous surfer who committed an offence.

There judge Rivlin ruled:

“My position Is that the Courts should not issues such injunctions without a proper hearing. Until there is specific legislation that that allows the requested injunction in cases of slander, there is no alternative but to inquire into whether there is a general framework that allows such third party injunctions. In other words, anonymous Internet surfing should be treated like anything else, and there has to be either specific legislation or general legislation and there is no justification to invent such a framework by judicial legislation.
In the current instance, there are three parties. There is the plaintiff who claims to have been slandered. There is the anonymous slanderer and there is the third party who may know the identity of the anonymous slanderer. This scenario of three parties is not unique to Internet slander. In other contexts, a party may consider himself damaged by an anonymous damager and may suspect that a third party may know the identity of the culprit. The question in front of us is thus wider than anonymous internet surfing. The question is whether Israel civil law allows forcing a party to identify a damager so that suit may be filed against him.

One possible source for contemplating forcing the revelation of the identity of the third party is Section 75 of the Law Courts Law 1984. Section 75 grants wide posers to the courts one the infringement is proven. It does not provide rights outside of a civil proceedings. The law does not contemplate court rulings in the air, but court rulings against parties being prosecuted.
Where A damages B, B may obtain an injunction against A. However, where A damages B, B cannot obtain an injunction against C who is not connected to A or to B. This would require special authorization. In other words, one cannot pull oneself up by one’s bootlaces and cannot create a civil matter against a third party by legislation designed to provide recourse against actual infringers.
This logic is good for Sections 71-75 of the Civil Tortes Ordinance, also considered as a possible basis for action. These Sections deal with the courts authority to provide retribution for civil damages and to give injunctions to act or to refrain from acting, but are not relevant in this instance. The injunction requested against the Internet Service Provider is not with respect to actions by the Internet provider. There are no charges for damages case against the ISP and no grounds for requesting compensation in these clauses so there is no grounds for revealing his identity.

Judge Rivlin went on to refer to another UK case, Norwich Pharmacal, where the court ruled on the revealing of an anonymous infringer in a separate proceeding:

…it should be emphasized that this principle does not have an anchor in Israel law and does not dovetail with any judicial framework recognized in Israel. The opposite is true. It contravenes the spirit and purpose of the judicial framework established by the primary and secondary legislators for Civil Court procedures. Such a change should come from the primary or secondary legislators. [i.e. the Knesset or the Ministry of Justice].

Judge Rivlin’s position was opposed by Judge Elyakim Rubinstein but was endorsed by Judge A.A. Levy.

Judge Magen Altuvia considers that the principles laid out by Judge Rivlin in the Mohr case are appropriate in this instance where the temporary injunction is identical to the main injunction and the rights of the plaintiff and defendants have not been clarified, and where there is no case against the defendant alleging infringement of the rights of any of the plaintiffs. Furthermore in the Appeal 1622/09 Google Israel vs. Brokertov et al. Judge Rivlin reiterated the position in Mohr and stated that “these differences don’t solve the issue of court authority to sanction a third party who is not guilty of any direct claims.

The Plaintiffs rests their case on the Parpori issue. From the way things developed it appears that the plaintiffs only decided to file suit after the Papori ruling on 12 May 2016. Thus only on 14 May 2015, a couple of days after Judge Ginat’s ruling, the plaintiff wrote to the ISPs (defendants 2-7) and requested that access to the Popcorn site be blocked. The law suit was only filed a week later, on 19 May 2015.

It will be appreciated that Tel Aviv District Court rulings are not binding precedents to the Tel Aviv District Court and the Court can ignore the Parpori ruling, whereas the Mohr case is binding precedent. Furthermore, without expanding, Judge Altuvia considers the Parpori scenario rather different. In this instance, there is a difficulty for the plaintiff to identify Anonymous and to prevent alternative websites being set up, so it is not clear that ordering the ISPs to block the site is efficient. Neither Parpori or the UK ruling are binding on the Tel Aviv Court. Indeed, in Mohr, the Supreme Court reviewed UK and US caselaw that allowed action against third parties such as ISPs and didn’t adopt the approach.
In Parpori, the main culprit had the opportunity to defend himself. This is not the case here as the main culprit isn’t identified.

Temporary injunctions are an exception to general procedure and are only appropriate where there is an urgency, which clearly wasn’t the case here, as the plaintiff was tardy in pressing charges.
The program Popcorn does not itself infringe. It merely aids and abets the downloading and viewing of copyright material. Blocking the site does damage to the ISP’s image and other ISPs can choose not to block access.
Clause 9 of the Statement requires the ISP to block future sites. This requires them to be a policeman and a censor for the plaintiffs. This policeman is not to generally police the net but to take action against a specific entity who has not had the opportunity to defend himself in court.

The reluctance of the court to convert ISPs into policemen outweighs the copyright of the plaintiffs.

In view of the above analysis, it would be wrong to endorse the out-of-court agreement as it is not a simple contractual obligation but has in rem aspects. The desired censorship would have consequences for the public and the Legal Counsel to the Government (Perhaps better translated as the Attorney General, has not addressed the issue, despite being invited to do so.

Conclusion
The temporary injunction granted by the court is voided and the plaintiffs are obliged to compensate Bezeq ben Leumi 40,000 Shekels for costs and legal fees.
Civil Action 37039-05-15 ZIR”A et al. vs. Anonymous, Bezeq Ben Leumi et al. Ruling by Magen Altuvia of Tel Aviv District Court, 1 July 2015.

COMMENTS
With all due respect to Judge Gilad Ginat who I consider to be the most competent IP judge in the District Courts and probably in any of Israel’s Courts now that Judge Gronis has retired, I think that Judge Altuvia is correct. In my comments on Civil Ruling 33227-11-13 NMC United Entertainment LTD et al. vs. Bloomberg et al. Tel Aviv District Court by Judge Ginat, 12 May 2015 I criticized the decision as ultra-vires judicial activism. I don’t accept that there is a lacuna that the legislators forgot about, but rather the current state of the Law reflects conscious government policy, not least due to the fact that when the new copyright act being passed, Israel was regularly being criticized in the US 301 Special Report also here for not having ISPs required to police the net.

I think that Judge Altuvia is correct that this is an instance where the Attorney General should present the government’s position. I think that the Attorney General is supposed to attend to such matters. It seems that Attorney Yehuda Weinstein views things differently and believes that his job is to dictate government policy and to keep the government in line with the positions of the Supreme Court.
For example, at present there is a contentious issue to be debated by the Knesset – the Death Penalty for terrorists. I have no problem with the Knesset debating this issue from time to time. I have no problem with lawyers in private practice, clerics, academics and journalists, human rights activists, victim support groups and the lay public expressing strong opinions, whether for and against. However, I find it totally unacceptable that the Israeli press reports that the Minister of Justice is considering supporting the legislation despite the opposing views of the Attorney General. Sure the Attorney General is entitled to have opinions and to express them to the government ministers. He should do so in a discrete manner and the public and press have no business knowing his personal opinions. The government is selected by the ruling coalition that represents a majority of the members of Knesset who are elected democratically. The Attorney General is an appointee. The current proposed legislation is a private member’s bill with some support from government back-benchers. But Weinstein also speaks out on government policy. This case and many others are not legal issues, but moral, ethical, strategic and tactical ones. If Weinstein is unhappy with supporting a government policy, he should either be professional and do his job to the best of his ability, as Barak apparently did as Attorney General, or he should resign. There are a number of cases where the Attorney General seems to have dictated policy or ignored the government. This is, in my opinion, grounds for dismissing him.

I am very critical of judicial activism, which seems to be justified to protect democracy from the people’s representatives. Thankfully Justice Aharon Barak’s term as president of the Supreme Court has ended and some of the damage to fidelity of the Law and to the democratic process has been reversed. I am pleased that Judge Magen Altuvia and Judge Rivlin have seen fit to take a formalistic stance in this instance.

As to judicial legislation for enhancing enforcement of IP infringement, the Supreme Court has accepted contributory infringement and aiding and abetting infringement in schori vs. Regba (Apppeal to Israel Supreme Court 7614/96) and in the Rav Bareach (Appeal to Israel Supreme Court 1636/98) Crook Lock case.  In the US, the CFAC and the Supreme Court have moved away from these judicially created indirect torts. Arguably both cases are legitimate workarounds. We’ve seen the courts moving away from A.Sh.I.R. which provided legal grounds for sanctions for unregistered designs under the amorphous value of Unjust Enrichment. In absence of amendments to the Patent Law, perhaps it is about time that Srori vs. Regba and Rav Bareakh were reversed?

In the last election I did look for a party with a strong IP position. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find a party with a clear stated position on anything, and none seemed to mention intellectual property in their manifestos, bumper stickers TV commercials. The Knesset is, nevertheless, updating its IP laws. I think we should lobby them to do more rather than give the courts legislative powers. Whilst there are ministers without portfolios, maybe there is room to have an IP Minister or Czar, or a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Justice or that of Trade and Industry with specific IP responsibilities. Other countries, including the US and the UK have such a position.

One final point, Internet Rimon advertises itself as a religious ISP that blocks pornography, gambling and other websites deemed immoral, objectable under Jewish law and values and damaging. I believe such a pious company should take copyright infringement seriously and block sites such as Popcorn as well, or at least provide the option to parents to elect to block copyright infringing sites.


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

COMMENT
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.


Does Size Matter? Dun & Bradstreet Publish their Silly Stats Again

June 2, 2015

1.Does Size Matter

Dun and Bradstreet has published their annual IP rankings once again. See here for the Globes article based on the Dun & Bradstreet 2015 rankings.

As readers of this blog will know, I consider the rankings infantile. D & B ranks based on the number of patent attorneys and this year, Reinhold Cohn with 43 patent attorneys has been knocked off its perch as Israel’s largest IP firm by Pearl Cohen, the new branding of PCZ”L that allegedly employs 46 patent attorneys. It seems that Dun & Bradstreet would fail their matriculation in both Maths and Geography.

The problem is that whereas Reinhold actually employs 37 patent attorneys in Israel and a further several attorneys-in-law that work in Intellectual Property, and these are all bona fide employees or partners and are all licensed, Pearl Cohen does not employ 46 patent attorneys in Israel.

Unfortunately, Pearl Cohen and D&B are somewhat misleading regarding what a patent attorney is, what an Israel licensed patent attorney is, what an Israel firm is, what an employee is and what part of the world may be considered part of Israel.

Allow me to elaborate:

1. There is a confusion between general attorneys-at-law and patent attorneys. The 55,000 odd Israel licensed attorneys-at-law may practice before the Israel patent office, but only a small fraction have any IP competence whatsoever, and a smaller fraction still understand anything about patents.

2. To practice before the USPTO one needs to be an US Patent Agent or a US Patent Attorney.

3. Pearl Cohen has a US office, a Boston office and a UK office. The employees of these offices cannot be considered as being part of an Israel firm, unless, of course, one considers Finnegan, the US’s largest IP firm as being an Israel IP firm by virtue of their Israel office and website. Finnegan has only one attorney, Gerson Panitch, based, part-time in Israel (he is actually based in Washington DC according to Finnegan’s website). If Finnegan is an Israel IP Firm, they are clearly larger than Pearl Cohen. Actually, from his profile, I am not sure that Gerson is a patent attorney licensed to practice before the USPTO, but that’s beside the point. According to the warning previously published on the Israel Patent Office website, it is also illegal for anyone other than Israeli attorneys-at-law and Israel patent attorneys to advise clients in Israel:

הובא לידיעתנו, כי אנשים שאינם עורכי דין או עורכי פטנטים עוסקים לכאורה, בשכר, בפעילות שנתייחדה לעורכי דין ולעורכי פטנטים, ובכלל זה הכנת מסמכים המוגשים לרשם הפטנטים בישראל ובחו”ל, גם אם אינם חותמים על המסמכים בשם הלקוח.כל אדם מהציבור הזקוק לשירותי ייעוץ ורישום בתחום הפטנטים, סימני המסחר והמדגמים מוזהר בזאת שלא לפנות לאותם גורמים הפועלים בצורה בלתי חוקית, שכן הסתייעות באותם גורמים עלולה לגרום להם נזק בלתי הפיך.

This is a rough translation:

Let it be known that people who are not patent attorneys or attorneys at law apparently practice, for payment, services that can only be provided by patent attorneys or attorneys at law, including preparation of documents for submitting to the Israel Patent Office and to foreign patent offices, even if they don’t sign in the name of the client. Any member of the public who needs advice or registration services relating to patents, trademarks and designs is hereby warned not to turn to such illegal practitioners, since doing so may result in irreversible damage.

This is based on Section 20(4) of the Israel Bar Law (Professional Ethics) 1988 which forbids anyone who is not a licensed attorney-at-law in Israel (or an exception, such as a Patent Attorney for IP Law) from giving legal advice. Note, I am not sure that the Israel Patent Office’s interpretation of this law is in accordance with International Obligations, and arguably (as Mr Panitch argues), a US attorney can advise re US law. Even if he is correct, I suspect that the advice will be lacking when it comes from a US attorney not licensed in Israel, as there are Israel tax and other issues that affect the decision making process. Consequently, even when the jurisdiction of interest is the US, China or Europe, an Israel firm is advised to work with foreign counsel via a local practitioner.

The one shop model of a firm with US, Israel and European offices is also, not necessarily in the client’s interest. If a local firm drafts the application and a separate US firm (and not a branch of the same firm) makes a decision regarding whether or not to litigate in the US, it is likely that the additional level of review will avoid the filing of frivolous law suits such as the Source Origin case.

4. An employee is someone who works for a company and receives a salary. Pearl Cohen has a highly dubious arrangement by which attorneys and patent attorneys that work for them are considered as not being employees and new employees are coerced into signing a statement to that effect.  Pearl Cohen’s professional employees are perhaps best considered as being free-lancers. Pearl Cohen does not pay the license fees of these professionals.

5. There are 19 patent attorneys that list their address in the Israel Patent Office database as working for Pearl Cohen in Herzliya. This is a mere 41% of the 46 patent attorneys that Pearl Cohen claims to employ. This list includes Assaf Weiler who is living in the UK according to Pearl Cohen’s website. It also includes Zeev Pearl who according to Pearl Cohen’s website is considered the managing partner working from the New York office. Pearl is licensed in Israel, but is not licensed as a patent attorney in the US.

I can’t opine about the legality of this situation since I am not licensed in the US. For those interested in exploring this further, see New York City : 1st Department, Chief Counsel, First Judicial Department, Departmental Disciplinary Committee, 61 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY10006, (212) 401-0800, Fax: (212) 287-104, Website: www.courts.state.ny.us/ip/attorneygrievance/complaints.shtml Also see the unauthorized practice of law committee in New York.  Their contact information is as follows: Kathleen Mulligan Baxter, New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY12207, Tel: 518/463-3200, Fax: 518/487-5694 kbaxter@nysba.org See also ABA Formal Opinion 01-423 Forming Partnerships With Foreign Lawyers (2001). Report 201H (Licensing of Legal Consultant) Report 201J (Temporary Practice by Foreign Lawyers) as presented by the ABA Multijurisdictional Practice Commission and adopted by the ABA House of Delegates in 2003. See Also Report 107C as Amended by the ABA Ethics 20/20 Commission (ABA Model Rule on Pro Hac Vice Admission) that was adopted by the House of Delegates in 2013.

Of course, size isn’t everything. Pearl Cohen’s employment arrangement is not limited to that firm, and some competing firms have similar practices. I consider the model unethical, not least because it is both open to abuse by the ’employer’ and is frequently abused.

Dun and Bradstreet’s table has other problems. For example, Colb does not appear in the table listing the top 12 firms, and I am fairly sure that they are larger in terms of number of Israel Patent Attorneys than some of the firms that are listed.  Despite losing much of his litigation team recently, I think Dr Shlomo Cohen Law Office has enough Lawyers and patent attorneys working in IP to enter the table. There are, of course, also very large Israel law firms that have one or more patent attorney or IP lawyer working for them. Shibboleth and Shin Horowitz come to mind.

What is, of course, of more interest to clients is the competence and track record of the individual attorney who handles their files. Some of Israel’s best patent practitioners in private practice, including patent attorneys work for small firms or are sole practitioners.  This is true of both patent attorneys that draft and prosecute patents, and litigators that fight validity issues. It is also true of trademark attorneys, many of the better ones in Israel work for small firms.

The size of an IP firm can provide depth of knowledge and experience, but this is not necessarily the case. There are few economies of scale in this industry, and Parkinson’s Laws go a long way to explain why the same service from larger firms is more expensive, yet the sole practitioners and partners of smaller firms are usually better off financially than their colleagues in the larger practices.

The lists of IP firms put out by the professional magazines is also skewed towards the larger firms. The more attorneys that club together to form a single shop window, the more and larger clients they are likely to attract. The irony is that the when a successful attorney decides to grow his or her firm, the head attorney does more administration and less legal work, and is likely to take on less competent staff who are less of a threat. The more competent staff tend to break away and form their own firms. The upshot is that the average ability per attorney is generally lower in the bigger firms. A more objective statistic of a firm is the average billing per attorney, or something similar that normalizes absolute values by the number of practitioners.


Justice in the Eye of the Beholder

June 2, 2015

multifocals   Optika Halperin

This decision relates to parallel importing, to slander and to inequitable behavior.

Luxvision is the licensed importer of Zeiss lenses. Optika Halperin, a national chain of opticians in Israel (founded by a Rabbi who was a boxer, a world freestyle wrestling champion and bodybuilder, and then a Karate expert who introduced and promoted the sport to Israel) advertised multi-focal lenses that they sold as being Zeiss lenses.

Luxvision ran a vicious campaign of letters and advertisements from 2010-2011 arguing that Optika Halperin’s lenses were not original Zeiss lenses. Optika Halperin sued Luxvision, its CEO Erez Avner, and Ami Lapidot, who is the director of the Lapidot Group which owns Luxvision, claiming that this campaign caused then damages of 10 million shekels including cancellation of contracts with ELAL (Israel’s national airline) and with HaMashbir (Israeli department store), and had unjustly enriched the defendants. Luxvision counter-sued for 200,000 in 2011, as maximum statutory fine for willful slander without proof of damage, concerning four advertisements by Halperin, which they alleged were slanderous, defaming and insulting.

The relevant details are as follows:

On 22 December 2010, Avner sent an email to ELAL, and without revealing that he was an employee of Luxvision, informed them that the advertisement of a discount between Optica Halperin and ELAL infringed intellectual property since the guarantee was not recognized by Zeiss. On 13 April 2011 the defendants contacted HaMashbir in writing and informed them that Zeiss International had canceled the manufacturing and distribution rights of the Indian company from where Halperin had purchased the Zeiss lenses mentioned in the discount, and that the lenses were not merely imported without a license, but that there was a question regarding the origin of the lenses. Luxvision also contacted Halperin’s employees with a letter titled “Notice of Cancellation of Agreements” ordering them to cease and desist from selling or purchasing Zeiss lenses. Luxvision further published misleading notices in newspapers and on Internet websites regarding the origin of Halperin’s lenses that stated “Zeiss importers: Optika Halperin together with ELAL sell lenses from India. The [Halperin] chain: they are original”, and in an article in the financial supplement of Idiot Achronot, 2 February 2011, “Zeiss Germany does not stand behind the special offer and the Guarantee is not authorized.” In the business paper the Marker on 13 April 2011 the defendants  allegedly planted an article titled “Optical Illusion, the German Company Zeiss: Optika Halperin sells Zeiss lenses that are not originals.”

In their defense, Luxvision denied any responsibility for articles published by newspapers and the alternative defense that the facts discussed in the articles were true. Luxvision further denied that they caused damage to Halperin and claimed that the damage was self-inflicted since they published false information regarding the source of their lenses, and this was self-risk or contributory damage to the extent that they were not entitled to any compensation or legal recourse. This was also the basis of their counter charges of 200,000 Shekels in compulsory compensation without proof of damage.

Both sides brought evidence regarding the relationship between Luxvision and Zeiss India, from which it seems that Luxvision had themselves purchased and sold Zeiss lenses from India. The relationship between Zeiss Germany and the Zeiss Middle East had apparently been broken however there was an agreement between them. Judge Ginat ruled that these details were not necessary to rule on the case in question.

The Ruling

Optika Halperin as an independent and private company that imports and sells optical equipment and eye-wear imported Zeiss lenses with the Zeiss logo from the Indian manufacturer, which is a factory established by Carl Zeiss Vision International Gmbh, the German mother company.

On 27 February 2008, Zeiss Germany set up a joint venture with GKB HI-Tech Lenses Private LTD, an Indian company set up to sell Zeiss lenses to the Middle East. Under the agreement, with GKB HI-Tech Lenses Private LTD would be allowed to sell lenses with the Zeiss label in the Middle East, including Israel. The Companies had their differences and went to court in India, after which the business relationship ceased as of October 2011. However, Zeiss continued to allow their name to be used on lenses from India that were sold in the Middle East.

On the basis of evidence filed, including affidavits, Zeiss never showed any reservation that lenses from the Indian company were being marketed as Zeiss lenses in Israel and elsewhere. Zeiss never complained to Halperin nor did they file suit in an Israel court. They are not a party in this dispute. Indeed, Zeiss India had initiated an action against Zeiss Germany and not the opposite. Judge Ginat therefore ruled that the evidence leads to the conclusion that the imported Indian lenses may be considered as ‘parallel imports’ and not as imports of the authorized Israel dealer. As with the Hilfiger case, this is perfectly legal.

Cancellation of the ELAL contract 

In 2009 and 2010, ELAL and Yaakov Halperin signed various agreements under which Business and First Class passengers on ELAL flights would receive vouchers for purchasing Zeiss lenses at Optika Halperin.  Luxvision wrote to ELAL claiming misrepresentation and the eventual upshot was that ELAL did not renew their contract with Optika Halperin who claimed damages of 2,515,000 Shekels in loss of contract and loss of future business.

Although eventually ELAL wrote to Luxvision that they were not renewing the contract with Optika Halperin so the charges were moot, Luxvision argued that this letter was not an indication that they canceled an agreement, nor was it an indication that the decision was the result of Luxvision’s campaigning.

What was clear was that Luxvision embarked on a media smear campaign against Optika Halperin, and the articles are available on line and still cause damage. Furthermore, they contacted third parties having contractual relations with Optika Halperin so Luxvision did do serious damage to Optika Halperin’s reputation.  The articles were unequivocal and there is a basis for bringing charges of Slander under Sections 1 and 2 of the Slander Act.

However, it will be appreciated that Section 14 of the Slander Act provides the defense that the allegations are true. This requires that the publication is true and is of public interest. The truthfulness defense is objective. It is important as it strikes a balance between Freedom of Speech and the right to one’s good name. The public interest consideration is subjective, and the court has to rule on each case according to its merits. Regarding the truthfulness of Luxvision’s allegations, the onus is on them, as defendant to establish that their allegations are indeed true.  However, Luxvision were within their rights to indicate that the lenses were not guaranteed by them and with multi-focals, there is a real likelihood of lenses being unsuitable and rejected as such.

Judge Ginat was impressed that Zeiss Germany would have gotten involved if there was any truth that the Indian lenses were substandard. Zeiss themselves and not the importer owns the rights in their name. Furthermore, Luxvision contacted ELAL before contacting Zeiss Germany. Judge Ginat concluded that this case is not one where the lenses are not originals or are fakes, but is a case of parallel importing, and, as established in Dyson and in the Tommy Hilfiger  case, parallel importing is legal in Israel. Consequently, the defense that Luxvision told the truth is not a totally accurate reflection of reality and the defense is not available to them.

Contacting the media and Optika Halperin stores around the country does not seem to be a reasonable act that can be considered as equitable behavior as the publications were inaccurate and Luxvision was aware that the Indian company was authorized by the German company to produce Zeiss lenses, even if the relationship between the Germans and Indians was somewhat rocky. Consequently, Judge Ginat rejected the defense that the slander was unintentional.

Nevertheless, the estimate of 10,000,000 Shekels of damages was less than substantiated and consequently Luxvision was ordered to pay the maximum statutory damages of 50,000 Shekels for slander. The allegation of unjust enrichment was also not substantiated and was rejected.

Charges against Lapidot were rejected as any actions he conducted through the company were considered as the responsibility of the company and not personal responsibility.

Luxvision’s counter-claims of slander for Optika Halperin’s media campaign stating that ‘only companies that want to profit likes pigs sell expensively’, was rejected as Luxvision had started the smear campaign and the description seemed somewhat apt. Furthermore, there was nothing wrong with Optika Halperin showing the difference in price between themselves and competitors. In general, Optika Halperin’s campaign was considered acceptable. Luxvision, was, however, also ordered to pay 33,999 Shekels for causing the ELAL contract to be breached and they were also ordered to pay the court’s expenses including the cost of the court recorder, and 38,000 Shekels in legal fees incurred by Halperin.

28167-04-11 Optica Halperin vs. Luxvision LTD, by Gidon Ginat of Tel Aviv District Court, 29 April 2015


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