Back in June 2015 we reported that an attempt by the patentee Yehuda Tsabari to revive Israel Patent Number IL 132540 titled “A method and System for Direct Transfer of Funds via Magnetic Cards” and covers using credit / debit cards to gift money into the account of celebrants. It is designed for use by guests at weddings and Bar Mitzvas, and is a variation of what a refer to as a hardy perennial – it is the sort of invention that seems to be reinvented every few months, and I have provided consultations to several would be entrepreneurs, and have even drafted and successfully prosecuted patent applications for variations of the invention in the past.
Tsabari’s patent was abandoned due to failure to pay the fourth renewal for years 14 to 18. The Patent Office agreed to allow the revival subject to their decision publishing for opposition purposes. On publication, Going Dutch Ltd opposed the revival claiming that the patent was knowingly and intentionally abandoned, and the present decision is a substantial ruling on their opposition.
Tsabari’s application was filed on 24 October 1999 and the patent was allowed on 13 April 2004. The fourth renewal was due on 24 October 2013 but was not paid, and six months later, the patent lapsed as per Sections 56 and 57 of the Israel Patent Law 1967.
On 7 July 2014, Mr Tsabari filed a request for reinstatement together with an affidavit, arguing that the reminder was sent to the wrong address as the Israel Patent Office has failed to update its records with his new address, despite his updating them. According to the Affidavit, in 2005, on receiving the patent, Mr Tsabari requested that a change of address from the address of the Attorney-of-Record to his own address be entered into the Patent Office records. Despite his request, the Israel Patent Office sent a reminder for the renewals to the offices of Dr Mark Friedman, the Agent of Record. According to Tsabari, it was this mistake by the Patent Office that caused the patent to become abandoned. In support of his contention, Mr Tsabari produced a receipt for 272 Shekels which was the fee for updating the patent office register. Tsabari further claimed to have wanted the patent to remain in effect and had attempted to enforce it both in the District Court and in the Patent Office. Furthermore, he’d taken immediate action for reinstatement as soon as he’d learned that the patent had become abandoned.
In light of the circumstances described in the request for reinstatement, Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha was convinced that conditions for reinstatement under Section 60 of the Israel Patent Law 1967 were met, and, in her ruling of 24 July 2014, she ordered the notice of intent to reinstate published in the patent office journal for opposition purposes.
On 23 November 2014, Going Dutch Ltd opposed the reinstatement. Going Dutch Ltd brands itself Easy2give and was active in an initiative to provide a credit card based gift service at functions and events.
In their Opposition, Going Dutch Ltd claimed that the reinstatement was contrary to Section 60 and should not have published. As a fall-back position, they argued that if the revival be upheld, they should be considered as having relied on the patent lapsing and should be indemnified from being sued for infringement, and could continue to utilize the patent under Section 63 of the Law.
In their counter statement of case, the Applicant contended that they did NOT want the patent to lapse. In support of this contention, the Applicant described attempts to commercialize the invention, and included a few appendices to support the claims. However, the Applicant requested that the appendices remain confidential, claiming that they were trade-secrets under the 1999 trade-secret act, and, in her decision of 7 May 2015, The Deputy Commissioner agreed to these remaining confidential.
The patentee also described attempts to enforce the patent against Check-Out Ltd in the District Court, and Check-Out Ltd.’s attempts to have the patent cancelled in a proceeding before the Israel Patent Office. Also, attempts at collaboration with Check-Out Ltd. that were aborted for financial reasons were described.
The Opposer’s Claims and Evidence
The Opposer, Going Dutch Ltd claimed that the reinstatement was contrary to Section 60. They contended that no reasonable excuse was given for the renewal not being timely paid and they argued that the request for reinstatement was inequitable. The 272 Shekels receipt shown by Tsabari was not for a change of address at all. Rather, it was the second renewal paid in 2005 and so the Applicant did not show evidence that the patent lapsed unintentionally. It was evident that the payment in 2005 had nothing to do with the patent lapsing since five years later, in 2010, despite the change of address, one of the owners managed to renew the patent.
The Opposer alleged that Tsabari wanted the patent to lapse. The Opposer learned this from Tsabari’s lack of activity in this area from when the patent was filed until the date of the Opposer’s submission, which indicates that the business had failed and the applicant had lost interest. The business failure of Check Out Ltd. which was a potential partner, further supports the allegation that Tsabari had abandoned the patent.
In cross-examination in February 2013, it transpired that Tsabari was aware of the Opposer’s activities back in 2013, and this supports the opposer’s contention that reinstatement was not sought immediately on learning that the patent had been abandoned.
As supporting evidence to their claims, the Opposer, Going Dutch Ltd, submitted an affidavit of Mr Guy Giyor, who was a founder and former CEO of the Opposer. Mt Giyor testified that the Opposer was established as a company offering various event related services including credit based presents at events. Mr Giyor testified that the Opposer had relied on Tsabari’s patent lapsing and Tsabari’s lack of business activity in developing their own initiative. Furthermore, Mr Giyor testified that Going Dutch Ltd started marketing in June 2014, after the patent had lapsed.
Applicant’s Claims and Evidence
The Applicant detailed his attempts to monetize the patent, and repeated his claims from the application to revive, that the patent had lapsed due to a technical error of the Israel Patent Office, which continued to send reminders to the wrong address, despite a request to change the address of record submitted in 2005.
The Applicant also claimed that the Opposer was acting inequitably and in bad faith since the opposer had started commercializing their invention before the patent had lapsed, and had, in fact, infringed the patent. The Applicant for revival substantiated his claim by submitting newspaper articles that showed that Mt Guy Giyor had taken actions in 2012 and had set up a company in 2012 with the intention as stated in its constitution, of enabling wedding presents to be made at events via credit cards. The Applicant backed his claims with an affidavit.
On 3 February 2016 a discussion was held before the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha, during which both the Applicant and the CEO of the opposer were cross-examined on their affidavits.
The legal basis for opposing reinstatement of a lapsed patent is Section 61 of the Law, as follows:
Anyone may oppose a request to reinstate a patent within three months of the decision to allow reinstatement publishing, based on a claim that the Commissioner should not have authorized reinstatement.
The Commissioner’s authority to publicize the decision to reinstate a patent is based on Section 60 of the Law, which defines three conditions for reinstatement that are all required to be fulfilled:
- The renewal fee was not paid for reasonable reasons
- The patentee did not intend to abandon the patent
- The request for reinstatement was filed soon after realizing that the patent had lapsed.
When ruling on an Opposition to reinstatement, the Commissioner has to reconsider whether the conditions are fulfilled in light of the evidence brought during the opposition.
There is a difference in evidentiary requirements for authorizing reinstatement subject to publication of the decisions for opposition purposes as per Section 60 of the Law, and the evidentiary requirements to affirm that decision under Section 61 of the Law. During an opposition, the Opposer challenges the Commissioner’s determination that there are grounds for reinstatement and has to provide a strong case that the Commissioner erred in the assessment. For more details, see the discussion on reinstatement of IL 15211 which lapsed due to failure to pay the fee; Gershon Eckstein et al. vs. Mezer Peles, Limited Paretnership of Kibbutz Mezer, published 1 April 1984.
After consideration of the claims and evidence of the parties, the Deputy Commissioner concluded that the non-payment of the renewal fee was not actually due to reasonable circumstances.
In the request for reinstatement, the Applicant claimed that the non-payment was due to a mistake of the Israel Patent Office, which, despite his request to the contrary, did not change the address of record. consequently, reminders sent from the Patent Office did not reach their destination. As evidence of the request to change the address of record, the Applicant produced a receipt for payment of a Patent Office fee of 272 Shekels.
Here it is noted that in the past, as ruled in the Gershon decision, lack of payment of Renewal fees due to the Patentee forgetting has been recognized as a scenario where reinstatement is possible under Section 60 of the Law. See the Eckstein ruling and also the Opposition to reinstate IL 14548 Reuven Margulies vs. Exra Darrel et al. , 12 January 1972. However nowadays, in a slew of decisions on this matter, it has been ruled that failure of the Israel Patent Office to send reminders does NOT constitute reasonable grounds for revival, since tracking these deadlines is the responsibility of the patentee. See, for example, the decision re IL 185526 Chaled A’quad et al. from 24 October 2012, since we are now in an age where the patentee can easily track renewal dates, the onus is on him to show that a patent lapse wasn’t due to negligence or abandonment.
In the decision to allow reinstatement, the Deputy Commissioner had noted applicant’s attempt to update their address and their apparent relying on the Israel Patent Office to remind them of the renewal and the Patent Office’s apparent failure to do so. However, in the hearing on the Opposition to that decision it transpired that back in 2005, a payment was made to renew the patent and not to request updating of the patentee’s address. In a more rigorous examination of the patent office records it transpires that there is no evidence of any request to update the patent office record as to the address of the patentee and no evidence that any fee for this was paid. Back then, the fee for renewals was 272 Shekels and for amending the register was 204 Shekels, so it clear that the payment receipt was for the renewal and not for amending the register.
On presentation of the evidence that the fee paid was for the renewal, the Applicant for Reinstatement (Patentee) was unable to provide further evidence for requesting a change of address and, since he’d kept a copy of the renewal fee, one assumes that he would have kept a copy of the fee for change of address had it been paid. The Applicant neither provided evidence for the alleged request to change address nor any other reasons or evidence justifying the renewal not being timely paid.
The patentee who was not represented, requested to understand why he was being cross-examined, and this was explained to him as follows:
The relevant questions as far as this hearing is concerned are whether you wanted to abandon the patent, and, if you did not intend abandoning the patent, was the failure to pay the renewal fee due to a reasonable reason, and so the question as to whether you were informed of the renewal and whether you are still in contact with Dr Friedman (the agent of record) or not, are the the most relevant questions to this discussion. (Protocol Page 26 line 12).
In addition, the Deputy Commissioner was somewhat surprised that the patentee did not call Dr Mark Friedman to testify that he had not sent a reminder regarding the fourth renewal. Dr Friedman’s testimony would have shed light on whether actions were taken after issuance to keep the patent alive and what instructions were given to Dr Friedman regarding renewal of the Patent.
The failure to provide testimony from Dr Friedman has negative evidentiary weight. Without a reasonable explanation, one can assume that Dr Friedman’s testimony would not have helped the patentee – See Civil Appeal 548/78 Ms. Anonymous vs. Mr Anonymous, p.d. 35(1)736, 760 (1980):
The Courts have always considered that a party to a decision will not fail to provide evidence that is in his favour. Failure to bring such evidence without clear explanation indicates that such evidence would act against his interests. This assumption is well rooted in both civil and criminal rulings, and the more important the evidence, the more clearly is it not being brought indicative that were it to be brought, it would act against the party bringing it. See Civil Appeal Naftali Schwartz vs. Raminoff Company for Trading and Building Equipment LTD. (Nevo 27 July 2008).
The lack of a connection between the change of address of the patentee and the non-payment of the renewal is evidenced by the fact that eight years later, in 2013, the patentee did pay the third renewal. This was clarified after the hearing when the Patent Office checked their records. This fact was reported to both sides in the 22 February decision, but the patentee did not relate to this in his summation.
The above is sufficient for the opposition to reinstatement to be successful.
Although not necessary to do so, the Deputy Commissioner added that the evidence shows that the patentee was tardy in monetizing his intellectual property. The Applicant showed that four years passed between the patent issuing and the first draft of an agreement with a credit company, and that agreement was never signed. Nearly 5 years passed from the patent issuing until the patentee had a detailed specification for a system based on the invention. The various cases between the patentee’s company Shai For You (Shai means gift) and Checkpoint seemed to have lapsed with Checkpoint going bankrupt in 2014 (see 8870-10-09 Shai For You vs. Check Out LTD 7 January 2014) and Checkpoint’s challenge of the validity of this patent was also abandoned in November 2012.
It is noted that patentee alleged that Check Point abandoned their case due to them collaborating with the patentee. However, since Check Point had requested an extension of time, doubt is cast on the patentee’s version of events.
The Applicant testified that he’d known about the Opposer’s actions back in 2013, which he alleged, infringed the patent.However, the Applicant failed to take any action, and did not even send a Cease and Desist Letter. This also indicates that the Applicant had lost interest in the patent.
Instead of justifying his request for reinstatement, the Applicant chose to attach the Opposer, accusing him of tardiness and inequitable behaviour and of attempting to commercialize the patent before it was abandoned.
Mr Giyor even testified that he knew about the patent and undertook various examinations via a private detective t ensure that the sole licensee, Shai Four You LTD> was no longer active. This indicates that he thought that Shai Four All’s patents could be enforced against him. Since Giyor’s company was established in 2012, it does not seem that Giyor had relied on the patent lapsing, and had launched his competing service in May 2013, as is clear from one of his publicity films on the Internet.
Anyone can oppose the reinstatement of a patent. The incentives for so doing are usually economical, typically the desire to utilize the patented invention. In this instance it appears that the Opposer started using the patent prior to it lapsing and waited for the patent to lapse rather than cooperating with the patentee.
It will be appreciated that the Duty of Equitable Behaviour applies to all fields of law (see Sections 39 and 61 of the Law of Contracts 1973), and the rights to a hearing are not exceptions to this rule see Bagatz 566/81 Eliyahu Amrani vs. The Supreme Rabbinical Court p.d. 37(2) 1 (7 August 1982). Although this cannot be taken into account in the Opposition itself, and the Opposer has proven that the patentee had not shown that the abandonment was unintentional as required by Section 60 of the Law, this can be taken into account when ruling on costs. Consequently, due to the Opposer utilizing the patent knowingly prior to it lapsing, no costs are awarded.
Opposition to IL 132450 to Yehuda Tsabari (Shai Four You) by Going Dutch Ltd, ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha, 31 August 2016.