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.


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.


A lack of uniformity in unity of invention

July 20, 2015
UNity
As Israel’s leading IP blogger, I regularly get emails and phone calls from students, inventors, academics and professionals, both from Israel and abroad, about various aspects of patent and trademark practice.
Most recently, I received an interesting question on what constitutes unity of invention. The question is rather better than the answer.
All regimes require unity of invention. One is entitled to protect one invention in a single patent. There are separate issues regarding double patenting, i.e. protecting the same invention with more than one patent, but, how is a single invention determined?
The practice relates to claims and differs in different jurisdictions.
In the US, unity seems to depend on the main class that the Examiner classifies the invention as and has to search when evaluating novelty and non-obviousness. One can file up to three independent claims (regardless of type) for the same basic price. However, there is no limit on the number of independent claims in the same class, since the searching requires trawling the same material.
US Examiners love to issue restriction orders due to multiple inventions, and sometimes do this based on the figures. They may require a restriction to a product or process, but may also require an election of a preferred species where different figures show different embodiments. However, once a structure is allowed, corresponding and withdrawn method claims can be allowed and rejoined so long as the method requires using the allowed apparatus.
In Europe, the theory relates to the inventive concept to be searched. In practice one is entitled to one independent method claim and one independent apparatus claim. Anything else and the claims will be reject as ambiguous.
It will be appreciated therefore, that the same claims may be considered as having unity in US but not in Europe and vice-versus.  Indeed, with two independent method claims and two independent structure claims each with minor differences, I’d expect the USPTO examiner to want inventor to elect either method claims or structure claims, and EPO examiner to want one of each.
In Israel (and there is no logic to this – it was a circular from Previous Commissioner, Meir Noam), one is entitled for up to two claims of each type. this can be method, product, system, gene sequence (now no longer patentable anywhere else).
Examiners will require restrictions on unity considerations, but there is no clear definition of unity. If a foreign patent office allows a set of claims one can request allowance under Section 17c and the issue of unity is not a grounds for objection by examiner or in opposition. What this means is that something acceptable in the US or in Europe (or in UK, Austria, Australia and other jurisdictions recognized in Appendix B for purposes of Section 17c) is acceptable in Israel. Since US and Europe have different standards, it will be clear that there is no clear standard in Israel.
See http://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2010/02/03/israel-patent-office-to-allow-no-more-than-two-independent-claims-of-each-type/ for more information.

 


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.


Software Rewrites

May 11, 2015

medical software

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

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

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

Statement of Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICM LTD was the right holder in the software.

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

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

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


Vanunu’s hand

April 15, 2015

learned hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, comments and feedback are welcome.


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