Should Israel Patent Office Hear a Trademark Cancellation Proceedings Where there is an Infringement Case before the Courts?

cube in hand

In June last year, I reported on a decision to allow the shape of the Rubik’s Cube to be filed as a trademark. See here  the mark is Israel Trademark No. IL 228232.

A request to have the mark canceled was filed by Dan S. LTD, To Buy Market LTD and Lula Pozalov.

Since there are pending cases regarding trademark infringement before the District Court, which were filed prior to the cancellation proceedings being initiated, there is a question whether the patent office should hear the cancellation proceeding, or should suspend it, pending the outcome of the case in the District Court.

The request to cancel was filed on 22 October 2013, after Civil Proceedings No. 61560—05-13 was filed in the Central District Court. In the District Court, one of the charges was trademark infringement and one of the defenses offered was that the mark should not have been registered. There is thus duplication of the case in two forums.

Ruling

The Commissioner of Patents, Assa Kling ruled that in  8/78 El Okvi vs. Israel Land Administration, P.D. 29 (2) 477 the Supreme Court ruled that where substantially the same question is addressed in two separate proceedings, despite slight differences in the parties and in the style of the complaint, it may be unfair for the defendant to have to address the same issue twice. The question to be addressed is whether hearing the same case in two forums is a fair use of the court’s time. The court case in the District Court covers the validity of the trademark, trademark infringement and additional issues such as passing off and unjust enrichment. The District Court can and will rule on the validity of the mark and so it makes sense for the Patent Office to refrain from doing so, both to avoid double work and to avoid the embarrassing event of the two forums coming to different outcomes.

In the circumstances, the cancellation proceedings in the Patent Office are stayed pending the court decision.

Comment

The decision makes sense. I think it is good that Israel doesn’t have a bifurcated system like in Germany, and that a legitimate defence against infringement can be that the mark or patent should never have registered. In this case I don’t think the mark should have been granted, and hope the court throws it out. That as may be, it certainly makes sense for the Patent Office to await the court’s decision.

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