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.

 


Rentalcars.com

August 4, 2015

gtld

This ruling considers whether a generic top level domain g.TLD can be registered as a trademark.

Traveljigsaw LTD filed Israel Trademark Application TM 241856 for the word mark rentalcars.com for:

Transport services; travel services; car hire services; arranging holiday transport; vehicle rental and leasing services; rental and leasing of passenger vehicles, commercial and industrial vehicles; rental and leasing of cars, bicycles, motorcycles, camping cars, trucks, lorries, vans, coaches, buses, caravans; rental and leasing of vehicle equipment and apparatus; rental and leasing of vehicle accessories, including, luggage carriers, car seats, child safety seats, vehicle trailers, luggage racks, bike racks; arranging for transportation of persons; travel arrangement services; travel reservation services; electronic information services, namely, interactive and on-line information services featuring vehicle leasing and rental and travel information and interactive and on-line reservation services for vehicle leasing and rental; booking and ticket services; arranging and/or booking of holidays, travel, tours, cruises and vehicle hire, including arranging and/or booking of holidays, travel, tours, cruises and vehicle hire via the Internet; arranging and/or booking of seats for travel, including arranging and/or booking of seats for travel via the Internet; travel agency services, including travel agency services via the Internet; including, but not limited to, all the aforesaid provided by electronic means including the Internet; consultancy, advisory and information services relating to all the aforesaid services, all included in class 39.

The mark was applied for on 26 October 2011 and the Trademark Examiner at the Israel Patent Office refused the mark under Section 8a of the trademark Ordinance 1972 as the mark was descriptive of the goods to be protected.

The Applicant disagreed, arguing that the mark was not descriptive and the link between the mark and the services was tenuous. The mark relates to a website and not to car services. The site doesn’t even offer car hire services but merely is a platform for such services. The addition of the .com makes the mark distinctive and not merely descriptive.

The Applicant further argued that various countries such as Italy, Greece and Romania had allowed the mark to be registered. The company was internationally recognized. The applicant did not, however, want the mark based on a foreign registration.

The applicant supported their argument with an affidavit which was not found persuasive. They therefore filed a second affidavit, and, following a final rejection appealed this decision to the Commissioner to rule based on the contents of the file, but requested that the contents of the second affidavit be kept confidential as it allegedly included trade-secrets.

Ruling

Trade Secrets

Section 23 of the Fair Trade Laws 1999 allows the court to keep certain submissions secret, See 2375/13 Rami Levy vs. Moshe Dahan, 8 July 2013, where relevant considerations such as relevance of information to the proceedings, damage likely to be caused by its publication and the advantage to third parties.

In this instance, the confidentiality request relates to expenses in marketing and publicising the website, number of customers in each country during the period of 2004 to 2012, number of web visits from each country, invoices to Google and other suppliers.

Section 5 of the Fair Trade Laws states that:

A trade secret is business information of any type that is not public knowledge and is not easily obtainable, that provides a commercial advantage over competitors, so long as that the owners take reasonable precautions to keep the information confidential.

The information in question may be considered as trade secrets. In adversarial proceedings, the information is usually necessary to follow the adjudicator’s reasoning. In this instance, however, the proceeding is one of examination between the applicant and the Israel Patent Office and the amount of information that needs to be published is simply the minimum required to make the decision comprehensible.

In this instance, the decision does not require the second Affidavit by Peter Ronney from 2 May 2014 to enable interested parties to follow the decision, and so this information may stay restricted.

Inherent Distinctiveness

The purpose of section 8a is so that articles labeled with the desired mark (in this case rentalcars.com) can know the source of origin of goods or services (Seligsohn page 20).

In general, marks may be generic, descriptive, indicative, random and imaginary, although sometimes the boundaries between these categories are blurred. There is a theoretical continuum between generic and created marks, and the more unique and random the mark, or the more a mark has acquired distinctiveness, the wider protection, and generic marks are not protectable at all. Words that are descriptive of the goods or services must remain in the public domain. “Rentalcars.com” is, accrding to Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha, wholly generic and descriptive of the services provided, and the dotcom suffix is insufficient to make the mark unique and distinctive.

The .com suffix merely indicates a generic top level domain gTLD, see Kerley’s Law of Trademarks and Trade Names 15th Ed. (201) P. 859. The issue has been widely discussed in previous ruling 234287 “Hotels.co.il” from September 2013.

Quoting Kerley, the dotcom suffix merely indicates an international profile and therefore does not provide distinctiveness.

The summations noted that the company provides car rental services in Israel and abroad. Consequently, the argument that the company does not ONLY provide care rental services was not given much weight as this was the major activity and other services were related.

The fact that a name is registerable as a domain name does not imply that it is registerable as a trademark as the guidelines and requirements for registering domains in Israel  are very different from the trademark regulations, so the fact that a domain was registered does not free the patent and trademark office from independently examining whether marks are distinctive enough to serve as trademarks.

The commissioner noted that there is no connection between Traveljigsaw – the name of the service provider, and the services provided. Citing the TTAB – the Trademark Tribunal in the USPTO in its ruling concerning 1800.tickets and tickets.com it was ruled that such marks may not be registered even if the term ticket is dropped from the list of goods.

“The test for determining whether a mark is merely descriptive is whether the involved term immediately conveys information concerning a significant quality, characteristic, function, ingredient, attribute or feature of the product or service in connection with which it is used, or intended to be used. In re Engineering Systems Corp., 2 USPQ2d 1075 (TTAB 1986); In re Bright-Crest, Ltd., 204 USPQ 591 (TTAB 1979). It is not necessary, in order to find a mark merely descriptive, that the mark describe each feature of the goods or services, only that it describe a single significant quality, feature, etc. of the goods or services. In re Venture Lending Associates, 226 USPQ 285 (TTAB 1985). Further, it is well-established [*5]  that the determination of mere descriptiveness must be made not in the abstract or on the basis of guesswork, but in relation to the goods or services for which registration is sought, the context in which the mark is used, and the impact that it is likely to make on the average purchaser of such goods or services. In re Recovery, 196 USPQ 830 (TTAB 1977).

In turning first to the alpha or letter portion of this alleged mark (the word “tickets”), we find from this record that the evidence is overwhelming that the word “tickets” is merely descriptive of applicant’s services, even after all the earlier “ticket” and “ticketing” language has been scrubbed from the recitation of services.

Similarly in In re Dial A Mattress Operating Corp., 1999 TTAB LEXIS 623, 9-10 (TTAB 1999)  concerning the mark 188-mattress:

“We are persuaded that the analysis and rationale set forth in Dranoff-Perlstein and 800 Spirits, supra, would serve as an appropriate complement to the Federal Circuit’s Ginn two-part test in cases requiring a determination of the genericness of alphanumeric telephone number marks. Accordingly, we hold that if the mark sought to be registered is comprised solely of the combination of a designation (such as a toll-free telephone area code) which is devoid of source-indicating significance, joined with matter which, under the Ginn two-part test, is generic for the identified goods or services, then the mark as a whole is generic and unregistrable. Stated differently, a generic term is not transformed into a registrable mark simply by joining it with a toll-free telephone area code which itself is devoid of source-indicating significance.

TMEP section 1209.01(b)(12). Furthermore, it appears that a similar analysis has been adopted by the Office for examination of the ever-increasing number of marks which consist of or incorporate those portions of Internet domain names which are devoid of any source-indicating significance, such as “http,” “www” and “.com”. See Examination Guide No. 2-99, issued September 29, 1999, entitled “Marks Composed, in Whole or in Part, of Domain Names.”

Acquired Distinctiveness

Since the mark is generic it cannot have acquired distinctiveness. Nevertheless, the ruling went on to examine the alleged acquired distinctiveness and, citing Kerley, noted that A domain name registration as such is not an intellectual property right: it is a contract with the registration authority.”

In conclusion, the mark was refused.

Re TM 241856 to Traveljigsaw LTD for “RENTALCARS.COM”, ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha, 30 June 2015.


Coveri (Caveri?)

July 1, 2015

Enrico Coveri

On 3 May 2011, Enrico Coveri s.r.l. filed Israel Trademark Application No. 237567 for ‘COVERI’ coveri(ng) clothing, footwear and headgear, all in class 25. The mark was eventually allowed and published for opposition purposes on 30 April 2012. On 23 July 2012, Sar-Go Investment LTD opposed the mark. (The opposition actually related both to Israel TM 237,567 ‘COVERI’ and to Israel TM 237566 ‘ENRICO COVERI’ in Class 35, however, Sar-Go Investment LTD retracted their opposition to TM 237566 ‘ENRICO COVERI’ which was subsequently granted). In parallel with the Opposition before the Israel Patent Office, Enrico Coveri s.r.l. sued Sar-Go Investment LTD for infringing their (pending) mark. [– this is possible under common law rights, albeit not a good idea to sue before the mark issues].

Sar-Go Investment LTD asked the Court to require that Enrico Coveri s.r.l. post a bond [which is common practice where a plaintiff is not domiciled in Israel] and, on failure by Enrico Coveri s.r.l. to do so, the Court closed the case. On 31 December 2012, Sar-Go Investment LTD filed two trademarks, Israel TM 252378 “COVERI KIDS” for wholesale of clothing and shoes for children and youth, for “COVERI HOME” for wholesale furniture and children’s domestic accessories both in class 35. Both applications were suspended at the Opposer’s request until after the present Opposition is concluded.

Opposer’s Arguments

The Oposer claimed that they have used the (unregistered) marks Coveri Kids and Coveri Home for 15 years and had a reputation among their clients for these marks. The Opposer is a wholesaler whereas the Applicant is a manufacturer [this argument, together with the competing marks scenario created seems to be setting the scene for a request for co-existence]. In consequence of their longer usage in Israel, the Opposer claims that they should take precedence over Enrico Coveri s.r.l. in Israel under Section 24(a1)(2) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972, and, under sections 5(11) and 6(11) argued that allowing Enrico Coveri s.r.l.’s application to register would be unfair trade, would mislead the public and be contrary to the public good. In an alternative strategy, the Opposers argued that if Enrico Coveri s.r.l.’s was not canceled, then the two marks should be allowed to coexist due to the difference in sight and sound of the marks, as their desired mark was to be pronounced CAveri whereas the opposed mark was to be pronounced COveri. [I find this argument a little tenuous. The mark does not come with pronunciation instructions, and Israelis include Bedouin, Russian immigrants, American immigrants, Ethiopians, Thai foreign workers and Sudanese illegal immigrants. I doubt that there is a common pronunciation of vowels].

Applicant’s Counter Arguments

The Applicant claims a worldwide reputation in the word Coveri that goes back to the Seventies. [“When The Levee Breaks” — Led Zeppelin (1971) was a coveri song from the Seventies. It was originally recorded by Kansas Joe Mccoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929!]

The Applicant denied the allegations of misleading the public as they claimed to have the reputation and also argued that the Trademark Ordinance only protects registered marks, which the Opposer had not (then) registered.

Furthermore, the Applicant claimed that they were the first owner of the Coveri mark and back in 1986 had applied for ENRICO COVERI in claims 3 and 18, for soap and leather goods, and this the Opposer’s claims should be rejected. The Opposer was acting in bad faith as it was inconceivable that he was unaware of the Applicant who had marketed goods in Israel that were branded as COVERI.

Discussion

In the District Court proceedings, the current Applicant accused the Opposer of willful infringement and of ignoring requests from the Applicant to cease and desist from using the term Coveri. Furthermore, the Applicant argued that the Opposer’s us of the term Coveri would lead to misleading the public as the Opposer’s goods were sold by the Applicant. The Applicant further claimed dilution of their mark and Opposer’s enrichment at their expense.

In their defense, the Opposer denied knowing about the Coveri brand when they chose their own branding. As wholesalers of clothing brands and not manufacturers, they were unaware of the Applicant’s brand. Furthermore, the Opposer denied infringing the Coveri mark as their marks was Coveri Kids and Coveri Home.

However, as noted above, the District Court Proceedings were thrown out due to Applicant’s failure to post a bond.

The Applicant here, Enrico Coveri s.r.l., argued that the position taken by Sar-Go Investment LTD in the District Court estoppled them from claiming that the current proceeding be dismissed as the parties are the same in both proceedings. Support for this argument was found in Civil Appeal 246/66 Klausner vs. Shimoni.

The Trademark Office considered that the current situation was different as in the previous (court) proceeding, there was no substantive ruling as the case was thrown out. Also, the identities of the parties (and the marks in question) has switched, thus there is no estopple against bringing the case to trial. Furthermore, the legal arguments are different. For additional analysis, see TM 245411 Orez Gamalim Hahav Pninim (graphic logo) Yoram Sassa vs. Yehudit Matck, as published on the patent office website in April.

In conclusion, Deputy Commissioner MS Jaqueline Bracha saw no reason not to rule on the merits of the case.

Inequitable Behavior and the Common Good.

The Opposer claimed that the applications should be canceled as they were filed in bad faith, since the filing occurred 15 years after the opposer was using the mark and gaining a reputation in it. Furthermore, since the Court had thrown the case out, dealing with it on its merits now would be contrary to the public good under Section 11(5). The Applicant also accuses the Opposer of inequitable behavior since the choice of the term Coveri by the Opposer was itself an attempt to cash in on Henrico Coveri’s reputation. Arguments that Coveri means Cover Israeli Kids as the Opposer had claimed were dismissed as fanciful and unconvincing, and the alleged correct pronunciation as CAveri and not COveri as written was further indication of inequitable behavior.

The Opposer considered the marks were not registerable, as, due to inequitable behavior, their registration was impermissible under Sections 11(5) and 39(1a) of the Ordinance. However the Deputy Commissioner considered that this was not grounds for Opposition per se, only, for cancellation of an issued mark. Support for this position was found in the Pioneer decision.

[I am less than happy with the Deputy Commissioner’s ruling that inequitable behavior can be grounds for cancellation of a mark once issued, but not for opposing the mark. I know it is considered a dirty word, but I am relatively formalistic in my approach to the Law and have little time for interpretation of what the law meant to say. However, I can see no logic in allowing grounds of inequitable behavior to be sufficient to have an issued mark canceled, but not sufficient grounds to have a pending mark opposed. This seems senseless. I note that I disagreed with Ms Bracha in the Pioneer case as well  so at least I am consistent. Perhaps consistently wrong, but consistent.]

According to Ms Bracha, Section 11(5) was to cover cases such as to prevent an opponent to prevent an applicants from using opponents copyright protected artwork as trademarks.

Misleading the Public and Unfair Competition

As far as misleading the public is concerned, Ms Bracha considers that the mark has to be at least widely known if not formally ” a well-known mark”. She went on to apply the triple test to examine the similarities between the marks. As far as the sound of the mark is concerned, Ms Bracha noted that the Opposer claims that Coveri Kids has a patah sound (“a” as in cow – i.e. Cah-ver), whereas in on Henrico Coveri’s Coveri, the Sound is a holum “Oh” as in Copper. Noting that they are written the same way, Ms Bracha considers it unlikely that one can ensure that the marks are correctly pronounced and doesn’t think that anyone other than the Opposer’s who would be aware of the difference. [here I disagree. The word Coveri has a Kamatz Qatan and is pronounced Oh as in Copper by Yemenites and Ashkenazim but as an Ah by Spanish and Portuguese and in the Standardized Hebrew pronunciation. Nevertheless, the word, written in English (Latin) letters, could certainly be pronounced either way. This reminds me of the road sign conveniently placed near Heathrow Airport to confuse tourists. It points to Slough. Is the ough an oo as as in through? Is it an uf as in rough, an ‘or’ as in bought? No, it’s an ow as in bough!]

In the Coveri mark and in Coveri Kids and Coveri Home, the dominant word is Coveri. Furthermore, the other words are descriptive and lacking in independent distinctive character. Consequently, the marks are visually and audibly very similar. Both Opposer and Applicant sell clothing and children’s goods, one wholesale and the other retail. The client base is different, but it still overlaps and one could imagine a purchaser of Coveri clothing could go into a COveri Home shop to buy furniture or accessories. Whilst, it is certainly possible that Henrico Coveri is using his name for branding purposes and Coveri Kids means Cover Israeli Kids so there is no intent to confuse, however, it is unlikely that the public would be aware of this. The Opposer has stores in the upscale Kikar Hamedina of Tel Aviv. The Applicant’s witness was more circumspect as to where they were using their trademark.

Reputation

Reputation in a specific market sector is judged by the time period the brand has been in use and the amount of publicity and marketing invested in linking the product to the brand name.

Coveri kids have shown 15 years history of the mark. However, Mina Tzemach’s market research has shown low brand penetration, nevertheless, Ms Bracha agreed with the Applicant that the onus is on the Opposer to show that they have a reputation in the mark and not that the Applicant does not.  Ms Tzemach’s affidavit was an appendix to another one and not a freestanding document. However, the The Opposer did not choose to cross-examine her on her findings which rather strengthens them.

Coveri admitted that they had never opened a shop, but claimed that their neckties and other things were sold in boutique stalls. Consequently, it appears that Coveri Kids and Coveri Home have a larger footprint in the market.

Equitable Behavior

It seems that Enrico Coveri acted after discovering that Coveri Home and Coveri Kids were strong marks in Israel. They first sent cease & desist letters and only subsequently filed their own marks, and later still, filed in the District Court. Under cross-examination from Adv. Tony Greenman, Enrico Coveri’s witness spoke about design shows abroad abut did not answer questions about their local advertising. Despite prompting by both Adv. Tony Greenman and by the Deputy Commissioner, the witness failed to show that the mark had been used in Israel prior 2011 and had local reputation. This lead the Deputy Commissioner to suspect that the Applicant’s registration was merely to prevent being sued by the Opposer and was not indicative of actual use or intent to use.

Although in Israel one can apply for a mark not in use if there is intent to use, however the intent should be genuine. The Israel courts view defensive trademark practices with a jaundiced eye.

Such an approach is also true in the US:

A lack of bona fide intent to use is a ground for an inter partes opposition proceeding to an application before the Trademark Board. Aktieselskabet, 525 F.3d at 21; McCarthy § 20:21, at 20-65,66. Lack of bona fide intent to support an intent-to-use application also may render an application void ab initio upon challenge in federal district court.” (W. Brand Bobosky v. Adidas AG, 843 F. Supp. 2d 1134, 1140 (D. Or. 2011).

The long and real usage by the Opposer and lack of cooperation by the Applicant’s witness lead Ms Bracha to consider that the mark should be refused under Section (6)11 of the Trademark Ordinance.

Previous Rights to the Mark

The Opposer claims prior rights to the mark under Section 24(ia)(2) of the Regulation. As far as distinctive marks is concerned, this is a relevant issue.

As cited in ITT. vs. Ratfone Import LTD, 23 June 2009:

“Furthermore, it is important to note that when a mark is canceled from the register or even if it was never registered, this does not indicate a lack of proprietary rights of the owner. There is a right of reputation which is protected in unregistered marks.

In this instance, however, the Opposer did not register their mark. They did not act to have the mark registered, and the present instance and the previous Court case were superfluous. Having ruled that the Opposition should be accepted under Section 11(6), the ownership of the marks is superfluous, particularly as the Opposer has long established usage and the Applicant has not shown usage in Israel. However, the lack of registration by the Opposer should be taken into account when ruling costs.

Conclusion

Registration of the Italian designer’s mark was refused without a ruling of costs to the Opposer. The Opposer’s marks (Coveri Kids and Coveri Home) can continue to examination following this ruling.

Israel TM 237567 “Coveri” to Enrico Coveri, Trademark Opposition by Sar-Go Investment LTD, Ruling by Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jaqueline Bracha, 27 May 2015

COMMENT

Potahto or Poteitoe?

Gefen or Gafen?

Pronunciation aside, this case bears more than a passing resemblance to the Versace case, since we have a well know international design house and a couple of Israeli stores using the name in ambivalent faith. I therefore suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.


Connectivity, Buck Passing and those Damn Marks

June 21, 2015

dont-pass-the-buck-300x214

We have connectivity issues getting into the Israel Patent Office Secure Trademark Database. Where does one start?

Well there are some very nice people in the trademark department who after making other inane suggestions pass the buck to the Govt. Internet Access Helpline.

The Govt. Internet Access Helpline wants to know why do we want access to a govt. website? Are we government employees? Are we subcontractors working on a program?

After explaining the concept of professional legal representation opposite the patent office, the Helper-on-line asked if we can access the services without the smart-card. We explain that this is a new website and this is the only way to do things now. Paper filings are no longer acceptable. Logging in with an email and password is good for filing new applications, but for oppositions, etc. we need internet access using the smart-card.

Q. “Is the website up and running?”

Q. “I provide Internet support for government websites and I can’t get in either.”

A. Well, it’s supposed to be up and running. The nice people in the trademark department think its up and running.

Q. “The problem is your smart card. You have a lawyer’s smart card. Contact Comsign.”

So I contacted Comsign. Turns out that the card is NOT a lawyer’s card. It is a card issued by the Israel Patent Office for accessing the website and for filing documents with the Israel Patent Office. Does the card work? Well it did until the new site went up. Have you registered for the new site? Well we haven’t been asked to. We’ve been talking to people in the trademark office. If they thought we needed to register, they would presumably have registered us, no?

So the buck was passed from trademark office to computer support to connect card connector, to administrator and round and round we go!

Caucus Race

With apologies to Ezekiel, to James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and possibly to his brother, J Rosomond Johnson, to be sung to the tune of Dem Bones:

dem bones

Damn Marks!  

Reshut Patentim Connected the Damn Trademarks
Reshut Patentim in Department of Trademarks
Reshut Patentim  Connected Damn Trademarks
Now Hear the Commissioner’s Circular! 

Smart card connected to card reader
Card Reader connected to USB port
USB port recognized by Mother#$%^&
Computer’s connected to the WiFi
The WiFi’s connected to the server
The Servers’ connected to the Internet
Internet’s Connected to Patent Office Portal
Patent Office Portal is connected to Trademarks-on-line
Trademarks on line is connected to the database
Now Hear the Commissioner’s Circular!

Damn Marks, Damn Marks Gonna Walk Around
Damn Marks, Damn Marks Gonna Rise Again
Damn Marks Damn Marks Gonna be Paperless
Now Hear the Commissioner’s Circular! 

Damn Marks, Damn Marks, Damn Trademarks
Damn Marks Damn Marks Damn Trademarks
Damn Marks Damn Marks Damn Trademarks
Now Hear the Commissioner’s Circular! 


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.


Alpha Dent Implants

April 26, 2015

Alpha Dent Implants        caps

Background

Boris Simnovsky attempted to file Israel Trademark Application Number 243663 for “Alpha Dent Implants”.

Alpha Bio-Tech LTD successfully opposed the registration, presumably on grounds of Alpha being laudatory, Dent Implants being descriptive, and the combined mark being  providing a likelihood of confusion with Alpha Biotech as to the origin of the goods.

The Opposer requested costs of $5694 so The Commissioner, Asa Kling, related to the items in the list for costs in dollars as well, whilst noting his disapproval that the costs were not submitted in Shekels which is the currency that they should be billed and settled in Israel.

Alpha Bio-Tech LTD opposed the mark On 25 December 2013, the sides filed their statements and counter-statements and on 9 July 2014, after the period for filing evidence had passed, The Applicant, Boris Simnovsky, requested to withdraw the mark without a decision on costs, as he had “lost special interest in the Israel market”, and was no longer interested in the mark.

On 14 July 2014, Commissioner Kling ordered the mark withdrawn and the proceedings closed, but gave both sides the opportunity to file for costs, and on 14 September 2014, Alpha Bio-Tech LTD applied for costs.

 

Ruling

A party that gives up during contentious proceedings such as an opposition is considered as losing, see Israel TM 171160 “Pine” in KT&G Corporation vs. Dunhill Tobacco of London LTD, and Israel TM 156955 Avon Products vs. Dean L. Rhoades. The Arbitrator of TM proceedings has the authority to rule costs from Section 69 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972. When ruling on actual costs, the adjudicator is required to determine if the costs claimed are reasonable, proportional and were incurred by necessity, See Basgatz 891/05 Tnuva vs. Input Authority P.D. 60(1) p. 600-615, Nevo 30 June 2005. The relevant considerations are the legal and factual complexity of the file, the amount of work done, especially in filings to the court, the behavior of the parties with respect to each other and to the patent office, equitable behaviour, etc.

As ruled in Tnuva Section 25, the parties must detail the basis of charges and the work done, and whether these were actually collected, and then the onus moves to the loser to explain why such costs should not be paid.

The Opposer’s costs of $5694 consisted of $1298 for preparing and filing the statement of opposition including official fees, $2926 for preparing evidence and $1500 for preparing the petition of costs.

The first two actions were supported by an affidavit and receipts but the charges were the charges were global and not itemized. There was no support for the final charge, and there was not even a framework agreement with the client to do this work.

The Opposer claimed that the applicant did not submit papers in a proper manner which resulted in additional work being incurred. Furthermore, the applicant requested that the opposer withdraw the last submission and the applicant would pay $4000, but this attempt to reduce expenses was unsuccessful.

The Commissioner accepted the Applicant’s allegations that the request for costs was laconic, but did not consider that the Opposer was therefore not entitled to reasonable costs and therefore decided to rule by thumb estimation based on the actual submissions.

After relating to all the relevant considerations (but at least as laconically as the Opposer) the Commissioner ruled total costs of 18000 Shekels ($4500).

Ruling of costs awarded to Alpha Bio-Tech LTD for successfully opposing Israel Trademark 243663 “Alpha Dent Implants” to Boris Simnovsky, costs awarded by Asa Kling 15 March 2015.


Israel Patent Office Circular on 3D Trademarks

March 18, 2015

The Israel Patent Law 1967 is unequivocal in that three dimensional trademarks are registerable.

In the past, attempts to register the shape of objects and containers as trademarks was frowned upon by the Israel Patent and Trademark Office. Then, in 11487/03 August Storck KG vs. Alfa Intuit Food Products LTD, the Supreme Court ruled that the shape of the distinctive Toffiffee toffee and chocolate coated hazelnut snack could be registered as a design.

Since then, there have been a number of rulings (for and against) concerning trademark applications for  distinctive packaging, particularly for liquor and perfume bottles, and for various other objects such as Rubik’s cube.

The Israel Patent Office has now published a Commissioner’s Circular (no 032/2015) that attempts to provide clarity to this issue.

Essentially, three dimensional packaging or product shape should be protected with design registrations.

Consequently, inherent distinctiveness is insufficient grounds for registration.  However:

  1. if the three dimensional image serves as a trademark,
  2. is not significantly aesthetic or functional, and,
  3. through use, has acquired distinctiveness, it may be registered.

Since trademark registration does not provide protection to different elements of a composite mark, if a three dimensional representation includes the company’s name prominently, this may be used to enable registration without consideration of the three requirements above.

If allowable, the fact that the image is three dimensional will be stated.

The Circular comes into immediate effect and cancels previous circular MN 61, from 29 April 2008.

COMMENT

As guidelines, these are very sensible. However, one imagines there will be lots of arguments as to whether in specific cases, a three dimensional image serves as a trademark or not. Whether something is ‘significantly aesthetic or functional’ leaves a lot of grey areas, and the concept of acquired distinctiveness is also a difficult issue to quantify.

Substantially functional marks are related to in a decision concerning rifle sights. In a controversial ruling, the Rubik Cube was registered. In another ruling that I was less than happy with, the Crocs beach clog was registered.

Many rulings relate to bottle designs. For example the Kremlyovskaya vodka bottleEnergy Brands, Contreau, Fanta and Absolut Vodka. Also see here. Rulings for other containers include one for a cigarette box.

I suspect that we haven’t heard the last word on this subject.


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