In Germany, the courts that rule on patent infringement are not authorized to rule on validity. This makes Germany a preferred litigation jurisdiction for bringing European IP cases. Israeli courts can and do rule on validity of patents and designs in infringement cases. Usually having one court review everything is more efficient, however, this is not always the case.
Israel Design Application Number 52245 to My Bondi Ltd. was filed on 23 February 2012 and issued on 23 July 2014. The design is for a multipurpose holder as shown.
In May 2015, My Bondi sued Urban Cofix Ltd and Tabor Publicity Ltd in the Rishon le Zion Magistrates Court claiming infringement of the design. The case is 42290-05-16.
In response, Tabor Publicity Ltd filed a cancellation proceeding against the allegedly infringed design, claiming that it had published prior to the design registration application being filed.
My Bondi have asked for the cancellation proceeding to be stayed until the Rishon le Zion court rules on infringement. They claim that the court will consider additional claims including that of validity, so staying that proceeding will cause a miscarriage in justice.
Tabor Publicity Ltd object to staying the cancellation proceeding. They claim to have already asked the court to stay the infringement ruling until the patent office determines validity of the design registration. They note that in the statement of defence submitted to the court they noted that they would be challenging the validity of the design registration and that the magistrate’s court lacked juridical competence to rule on validity issues. They do not consider that having the Israel Patent Office consider validity will result in a miscarriage of justice since the validity of the allegedly infringed design is a preliminary issue that should be dealt with first.
In the meantime, on 16 August 2015, the Rishon le Zion magistrate’s court transferred the case to the Central District Court as the correct court for ruling on design infringement, but this happened without considering the staying request.
The bone of contention in the proceeding before the Commissioner of Patents, Designs and Trademarks relates to advertising the product on the Facebook page of the Applicant prior to the registration application being filed. The alleged infringer claims that this advertisement shows the point of novelty thereby destroying the novelty at the time of filing which is a necessary condition for registration.
From their Counter Statement requesting suspension pending the court ruling, the design owner does not deny the publication but claims that the publication was a genuine mistake.
The purpose of suspending a proceeding is “to prevent overly burdening the opposing party and to prevent unnecessary problems for the courts”. See Appeal 8/78 El Okvi vs. Israel Lands Authority, p.d. 29 (2) 477. 483.
In this instance the parties agree that the question of the validity of the mark in the light of the prior publication is the legal issue common to the two proceedings. Clearly the District Court has additional issues to consider, such as unjust enrichment and passing off, etc. which are beyond the legal competence of the Commissioner of Patents to address.
The range of issues before the District Court is wide, and will take longer than merely ruling on the validity of the design registration. The second defendant is a registered third-party to the validity issue. However, the issue before the Patent Office is a focussed one that relates only to the validity issue in light of prior art that all parties acknowledge the publication of.
The main case was transferred to the District Court which has not considered the case at all. Furthermore, in their statement for the defence, Tabor Publicity raised the validity issue and noted that it would approach the Patent Office for a ruling on that issue. Consequently, the Deputy Commissioner rules that it is more efficient for him to rule on the validity issue as per the 1925 Design Regulations which gives the Requester for Cancellation a number of weeks to provide evidence and the design owner a further month.
In conclusion, the cancellation request is allowed to continue and the parties are forewarned that attempts to extend the proceedings before the Patent Office will be considered in light of the progress of the case before the District Court to prevent unnecessary delays.
Cancellation Request Re Israel Design No. 52245 Interim Ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha, 11 September 2016
Design litigation does indeed go directly to the District Court, and is appealed to the Supreme Court. The patent office has vastly more experience than any District Court judge in ruling on whether internet publications are prior art. Whether the publication was intentional or not is irrelevant.