Following criticism of Dr. Meir Noam, the Israel commissioner of Patents, for not publishing basic details of new Israel patent applications in the reshumot, the official government publication (see Israel Commissioner of Patents Criticized by Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee) a couple of Haifa inventors / applicants Yair Nissan and Yan Lishinsky have filed the class action against the Commissioner of Patents and the Patent Office via the law offices of Adv. Ronen Kenan and Adv. Eran Goren, for NIS 6,000,000.
If they can prove their case that the Israel Patent Office collected NIS 160 (i.e. about $45 US) for a service that they technically failed to provide, then everyone who filed applications recently will be entitled to a refund, and, for filing the class action which is a public service, the complainants will be entitled to a large chunk of that. Not a bad bonus for people mostly motivated by civic duty.
The sums of money collected for this service do add up. Apparently to about NIS 3,000,000 a year. I suspect that the cost of creating, updating and hosting the database and the underlining website is at least that figure though. Adv. Goren sees things differently. according to his statements reported on Ynet, uploading by a secretary clicking on a button is obviously cheaper than printing the pamphlets.
According to Advocate Goren “but the problem isn’t only financial, but it is mainly legal, relating to the validity of the Internet publication which is critical to defence of the copyright. [sic]”
We think it most unlikely that even if the courts rule that publication ha to be in the reshumot, they will rule that failure to perform the first publication – which includes title, date, priority date if any, and name of applicants and inventors – in the correct manner will rule that in consequence of this failing, all patents filed in the past 4 years are unenforcable. the learned attorney – who until now was unknown to me, also gets copyright and patents muddled, so I don’t overly value his judgement and legal acumen.
The test case, is Israel Patent Number 192520 titled “Switching apparatus and method”. Using the online database of the patent office, I could find this information from home. So can anyone else. It is abstracted by Inpadoc and so I could search by application name, inventors, title, number or filing date via Espace or Delphion. The electronic publication works.
Locating the details in the correct official pamphlet would have been difficult. Indeed finding the correct official pamphlet in a library or patent office is not easy.
The application never went anywhere abroad and was probably a get-rich-quick invention. Maybe now the inventors will get rich. Who knows?
I suspect that modern digital printing technology rather than physically setting type has made printing cheaper as well. Official fees were set in about 1968 following the legislation of the 1967 Israel Patent Law, and are updated twice a year in accordance with the cost of living index. Since printing costs do not go up with inflation, there is no real correlation between printing costs and the fee charged.
Even if the courts rule that a refund is required, I suspect that the service charge that the various patent firms will take for handling this refund will be more than the refund is worth. If the patent office decides to refund the money directly, then for the 2/3 of applicants that are foreign applicants, the bank charges will eat up the sum.
On display in the new patent offices are the original hand written patent registers. I am not sure that the second publication fee and fees for updating the register aren’t intended to pay for a scribe to update these ledgers with his fountain pen. Maybe I should persuade one of my clients to file a class action on this. After all, the fees are higher and the period over which the patent office has failed to update these ledgers is far longer than a mere four years. Furthermore, the term “pinkas” is more likely to imply a hand-written ledger than the term “reshumot” to mean a printed publication.
Indeed, Dr Noam is just one of many Commissioners to fail in their duty in this regard. We can sue all previous commissioners that are still with us, and the estates of those that are not.
Dr Noam is coming to the end of his term of office as commissioner, and it would be a real shame if this incident will leave a stain on a remarkable term of office in which he turned around a captainless ship and brought it to a safe harbour in their plush offices; in which the patent department received ISO certification; in which the patent office received recognition by WIPO as being of the standard to provide International Search Reports and Preliminary Examinations of PCT applications and in which Israel joined the Madrid Protocol.