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.


Patent Office Closures for Pesach

March 26, 2015

pesach cleaning

The Israel Patent Office will be closed from 3rd April 2015 to 11 April 2015 for Pesach (Passover), and will open again for business on 12 April 2015.

Deadlines falling during the period that the Israel Patent Office is closed are automatically extended until 12 April 2015.

However, trademarks and PCT Applications may be filed on line during the festival and will receive the date that they are filed. Notwithstanding this, according to discussion with Dr Michael Bart, the USPTO now accepts PCT applications that are filed late due to Israel Patent Office closures.


Sony Clamps Down on Pirate Computer Games

March 26, 2015

Pirate
Sony Entertainment sued Azam Gever claiming copyright infringement and unjust enrichment, alleging that Gever’s computer shop “McKan Computers” on the main road through Osefiya sold fake disks with games for the Sony Playstation console.
In his defense, Gever claimed to be ignorant of the fact that the disks he was selling were not originals. If Gever could successfully convince that he was unwittingly distributing fake disks, he would not be held responsible. If, however, this defense collapsed, he would be held responsible for damages.
Sony claimed to have copyright in the Playstation and Playstation 2, and in software for the Playstation. They also claimed to own trademarks 95025 and 95026 for Playstation. Sony Entertainment Europe was responsible for distributing in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim and franchised distribution rights for the software within those territories, including Israel.
Playstation programs can only be played using the Playstation interface due to special encryption. Any copying, burning to disk of a Playstation game will, inter alia, include copying of the encryption which is copyright infringement of Sony’s copyright. Sony claimed that they are in a perpetual war to prevent their software from being pirated, and that they have spent enormous sums in advertising and promoting the console, They have copyright notices on the disks, on the packages, and appearing on screen.
The defendant did not deny selling pirate CDs but denied knowing that they were pirate copies. Sony sent a private investigator to the shop to see what was being sold. The private investigator and his son testified that they were both independently told that the programs were copies, and that the owner had shown a box of bundles of 50 disks, containing 3 or 4 copies of each game. The private investigator testified that he bought five different games at 10 shekels ($2.50) each, paid 50 Shekels and received a tax invoice for 50 Shekels that indicated thatit was for Sony II disks. The private investigator filmed the visit and submitted the footage as an exhibit. The games purchased included Beyond Good and Evil, Dragon’s Quest, God’s hand, Spy Hunter, and Fifa 2013.
The Plaintiff alleged that inspection of the disks showed clearly that they were fakes that infringed Sony’s Copyright since they were not in cardboard packages with shrink-wrapped cellophane or new DVD boxes and did not include instruction booklets. Unlike the originals, the disks did not have pictures on them and were not stamped with Sony’s logo and copyright notice. Sony sent a Cease & Desist letter and asked for the pirated disks to be handed over and for accounts to be produced for calculating profits and infringement revenue. The parties were, however, unable to come to an amicable settlement and so this case was filed. In the statement of case, Gever was accused of copying or creating fraudulent copies, selling or offering to sell these in the course of his business, offering to sell and holding fake copies thereby infringing the copyright, without permission of Sony and without compensating Sony.
In addition to the copyright charges, Sony alleged unjust enrichment under the law of Unjust Enrichment 1979 and various trade related torts for damaging Sony’s reputation.
Sony sued for compulsory damages of 100,000 Shekels per infringement under Section 56a of the Copyright Law 2007. Claiming years of fraud, Sony requested increased damages of 150,000 Shekels and also applied for an injunction against Gever to prevent him from selling fake disks directly or indirectly.
Gever laconically acknowledged ownership of the shop and that he’d sold programs against the tax invoice, but denied selling or trading in fake software. Gever further alleged that he’d bring expert witness that the software was genuine.
In the preliminary hearing, Gever repeated that the disks were genuine and that he was unaware of “the material”. In a second preliminary hearing he again requested to examine the disks. After the parties held a brief discussion, the attorney for the plaintiff stated that the defendant claims that he sells computers, disks is a mere sideline that produces at most, 1% of income and that if it should transpire that the disks are indeed fake, he was unaware of this. In Gever’s own statement under cross-examination, he complained that he wasn’t warned, that he only sells a handful of disks each month and never claimed that they were originals. His lawyer clarified that the intention was to state that his client was unaware that the disks were not real. Meanwhile, the private investigator testified that there were a number of disks with the name of the program marked in permanent ink and that when discussing Playstation 3, the vendor had stated that copying it was problematic. Gever claimed that there weren’t more than 30 disks and that this wasn’t a commercial number. He admitted selling computers for 13 years and that he had sold Playstations for at least a decade, but claimed to sell very little software.
Under cross-examination, Gever claimed to obtain and sell original software on a request basis and to sell a handful of fakes each month. Some his brother supplied, some a friend, not sure from where, some he’d copied himself. He denied selling 60 a year, or 600 over the decade. He considered this non-commercial as he had a limited range of maybe 20 games.
The plaintiff requested to correct the statement of case to request 250,000 Shekels damages, alleging that even at the rate of 5 disks a month, this adds up to hundreds of disks over a decade. (I feel a lawyer joke coming on. It seems that neither the judge, not the attorneys were able to do the calculation).
The defendant objected to the sum being corrected. He also alleged that for sales prior to the new copyright law coming into effect in 2008, the maximum statutory damage is 10,000 Shekels (or 20,000 Shekels for willful infringement.

RULING
Despite Regulation 92 of the Civil Court Procedures 1984 allowing extensive corrections to the statement of case to enable the point of contention to be clarified, correcting the sum after the hearing and before ruling is not allowed as it does nothing to clarify the legal issues and will merely protract the proceedings. The plaintiffs alleged that Gever had sold tens if not hundreds of fakes over a period of years and nothing had changed, so the maximum sum claimed remains 150,000 Shekels.
Judge Weinstein ruled that merely selling fake disks was insufficient to be responsible, but the seller had to be aware that they were fakes. In this instance, some he’d scanned himself, others were supplied from an unknown source so it seems clear that he was aware. Furthermore, a computer seller would be expected to be able to differentiate between originals and fakes. The price of 10 Shekels a game was also a fair indication that they were fake.
The private investigator’s footage showed boxes of 50 or more games, and this was a commercial number. The private investigator’s testimony was sufficient to indicate that the vendor was aware that the goods were fake. However, the issue is moot as during cross-examination he admitted copying some of the programs himself.
The problem, was, as always, the burden of proof required. After humming and hawing about the need to warn others not to copy, the admitted sales of small amounts over time and the evidence of 5 separate games, Ms Weinstein ruled damages of 50,000 Shekels and costs of 10,000 Shekels.
52260-01-14 Sony vs. Gever, Ruling Judge Weinstein 16 March 2015

COMMENT
The disks were sold in Osefiya by Shfaram. In the past, a DVD copying factory was discovered in Kiryat Ata.
Personally, I am inclined to believe that Gever sold very little software. Why should anyone not picky about purchasing originals pay 10 shekels if blank DVDs cost half a shekel and everyone has a disk burner?
Not allowing the sum claimed to be increased is one thing, but I think that on the burden of evidence and not requiring actual damages, but statutory damages, Ms Weinstein had sufficient evidence to rule the 150,000 Shekels damages. Not unreasonable for a sideline operating 10 years.


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.


An overview of the Annual General Meeting of the Israel Patent Attorneys Association

March 3, 2015

zoa

Yesterday I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Israel Patent Attorneys Association. The event, as ever, was held in Zionist House of America, in Tel Aviv.

The attendance was relatively high for this type of event, with maybe 80 – 100 participants at the beginning. However, many left after the lectures and before the General Meeting.

Before the AGM part of the proceedings, there were two speakers: the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Government on civil issues, Adv. Erez Kaminitz and the Commissioner, Asa Kling.

 

kaminitz

Adv. Erez Kaminitz spoke on “Legislation, How an Idea Becomes a Statute”. Kaminitz used the metaphor of drafting a patent application and the prosecution process to illustrate the legislative process. This was an interesting analogy that didn’t quite work. What was clear was that although he obviously knew his subject and was qualified to speak on it, he didn’t understand much about patent drafting or prosecution. There was nothing new to anyone with a law degree or an interest in politics. I am not sure to what extent the material is covered in High School Civics as I didn’t study in High School in Israel, but I suspect amongst the patent attorneys present there were few who found the explanation enlightening. It seemed as though Kaminitz felt that the audience needed something that they could latch on to so that they could follow the legislative process. This is not the case. As a group, patent attorneys are highly educated and used to being exposed to new ideas. I found the analogy patronizing and unnecessary.

It seems that the elections are holding up legislation  I had intended to cast my vote on the burning IP issues, but it seems that none of the parties running for the Knesset have IP policy in their manifestos and patents, trademarks and design legislation is simply not high on the agenda of any of the political parties.

asa-kling

 

The commissioner Asa Kling spoke about transparency and partnership, and gave a sneak preview of the Israel filing and prosecution statistics for patents, designs and trademarks for 2014. The absolute numbers of new applications are very close to those for last year, which hopefully indicates that the downwards trend of recent years has flattened out.

We discovered the low level of feedback that the patent office receives when it asks for public opinion. It does appear that feedback is earnestly solicited, and I really should try to formally respond more often, and not just blog my musings.

Adv. Kling showed us various guides and other material on the website and chided us for not visiting or referring clients. He explained that attempts to provide real time information were hampered by protection mechanisms in place to prevent cyber attacks. Nevertheless, he was proud of the examiner guidelines and other material available for review and felt that the level of transparency was higher than for other government bodies.

transparency

Like many of my colleagues, I have advised clients to submit their PCT applications for International Searches (ISRs) with the Israel Patent Office, mostly because it is cheap. I have been pleasantly surprised with the results and, where the results have been favorable, clients have generally been happy. What I don’t know is whether the Israel Patent Office has done an objectively good job, or whether the EPO will find additional art that the Israel Patent Office has missed. I’ve filed national phases for cases that have ISRs from the Israel Patent Office, and am waiting to see what foreign patent offices uncover. It was fascinating to learn that the Commissioner and presumably the examiners at the Israel Patent Office are also eagerly awaiting European Supplementary Search Reports and Examination of corresponding family members to PCT applications that the Israel Patent Office has processed as an International Search and Examination Office. In other words, they have similar considerations.

I discovered that to date, the Israel Patent Office has searched about 30 PCT applications for the USPTO and, although authorized to provide a similar service to the Georgian patent office, do date, have yet to do so. 30 applications originating in the US is a number that I can relate to, as is nothing whatsoever from Georgia. It was interesting seeing the similarities and differences between our respective practices.

facebook

We discovered that the Israel Patent Office has a Facebook account which we were invited to visit and to ‘like’. It reminded me that some years ago, the EPO invited me to exchange links with them.

The committee was friendly and seemed to be actually thanking the members for coming. This was refreshing. The actual AGM business wasn’t very interesting.

We discovered that no progress had been made on setting up a website. Veteran Patent Attorney Daniel Freimann made the eminently reasonable suggestion for the organization to set up a mediation service for settling disputes between members. The idea was unfortunately ignored.

vote

All resolutions passed unanimously or at least overwhelmingly. There was only one position (that of a member of the overseer committee) which was contested. Here after some reminding, Einav Zilber, the Secretary of the IPAA, requested that those who were only trainees or otherwise not entitled to vote refrain from so doing, as should those who had submitted a proxy vote. Not overly surprisingly the candidate who won did not see the need to actually attend the meeting, and had enough proxy votes to outvote those present. One of my colleagues asked me why he’d bothered to stay for the voting, and I had no satisfactory answer for him. Perhaps one day proxy voting will be anonymous in sealed envelopes and not merely block voting by larger firms.  If this happens, I suspect that more licensed Israel patent attorneys will join the organization and take part in the proceedings.

In an attempt to provide services for patent attorneys, it transpired that the committee had made some inquiries into negotiating personal insurance plans for members. Whereas professional malpractice insurance is something that is expensive and one can see the point of the organization negotiating block rates, I don’t think that patent attorneys need to negotiate as a group for personal insurance or pension plans. Such initiatives make sense for professions characterized by large numbers of practitioners and low salaries, such as the teaching profession, nursing and social work. Patent Attorneys are a small group of high earners that are regularly solicited by insurance brokers.

refreshments

The refreshments were more than adequate comprising bread rolls with savory fillings, fruit platters, miniature muffins and biscuits, soft drinks, tea and coffee. The meeting was a good opportunity to meet ones colleagues and competitors.

Generally a successful event and Israel Patent Attorneys are invited to join.


Clip Fresh Ruling Upheld On Appeal

February 25, 2015

clip-fresh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT

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


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