Kerem Natural Foods Industry A. L. ltd applied for Israel Trademark Application Number 266067 for Jellies, jams, dried fruit, coconut oil, , black cumin oil, sesame oil, almond oil and other edible oils; Coconut milk, cream and butter; spreads, soup powders produced by cooking and preparing extracts of meat and vegetables, and soup powders for seasoning; all included in class 29, Date syrup, molasses; Coconut sugar and flour, molasses, honey, date syrup, crisp cakes, crackers, spreads and sauces; sweeteners made of stevia or other plants extraction; coconut flour and coconut flour baked products; all included in class 30 and for Fresh and unprocessed Coconut and other tropic Fruits and its products; all included in class 31.
Kerem is Hebrew for vineyards.
On 28 February 2017, HaKerem – Alcoholic Beverages ltd opposed the registration. On 8 June 2017, Kerem Natural Foods submitted their counter-statement. HaKerem – Alcoholic Beverages ltd had until 11 August 2017 to submit their evidence, but this deadline was extended twice, to 12 November 2017, but the evidence was not forthcoming and instead HaKerem – Alcoholic Beverages ltd withdrew their opposition.
Kerem Natural Foods Industry then submitted a request for costs of 62,450 Shekels accompanied by an agreement with their attorneys regarding their hourly rate and various receipts evidencing payment in practice.
HaKerem – Alcoholic Beverages objected to the costs requested. They prevailed in the Opposition proceeding and are entitled to costs under section 69 of the Ordinance which states that
In any hearing before him, the Commissioner is entitled to award reasonable costs.
The right of the prevailing party to receive actual costs incurred depends on the amount requested, that it is properly documented, and that it is reasonable, necessary and proportional. See for example, Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva vs. Ministry of Trade and Industry p.d. (1) 600, 615 (30 June 2005). However, the arbitrators are required to consider the case specifics and legal policy, and are not obliged to award full costs – see Appeal 6793/08 Loar ltd. vs. Meshulam Lewinstein Engineering and contractors LTD. 28 June 2009, at paragraph 19.
The case specific considerations do not form a closed list and each case should be considered on its merits. These include the behaviour of the parties. The way the case was handled, the complexity of the case, the time invested in the case, whether the case requires specific expertise, the importance to the parties, whether the case has public interest ramifications, and the like.
As to judicial policy considerations, as previously ruled in Patent cancellation procedures against Israel Patent numbers 179379 and 142896 Alkermes Pharma Ireland Limited Novartis Pharma Services vs. MEDICE Arzneimittel GmbH & Co.KG from 28 March 2018, the patent office has an obligation to serve the greater public interest. In this framework, when addressing cost requests, the patent office has to find the right balance between the encouraging trademark submissions – both to protect property rights in brands and to prevent misleading the public regarding sources of goods, and not to discourage the submission of oppositions against unreasonable trademark applications. Awarding high costs to applicant or opposer could create an obstacle to filing that shifts from this balance.
In the present case, the request for costs did not provide sufficient details to substantiate their claim, and did not explain the basis of the costs, the number of hours spent by their attorneys, etc. Consequently there is a real difficulty to determine whether the costs requested fulfill the considerations laid out in re Tnuva.
The Adjudicator of Intellectual Property, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi does not accept the claim of the enormous amount of work preparing evidence immediately on the filing of the Opposition, prior to the opposing counsel submitting their evidence. The Applicant did not explain why the Opposer should have to bear the burden of the Applicant’s obliging himself to pay global legal fees regardless of the work required, and also to provide a ‘bonus’ if the case is dismissed. The Adjudicator does not find this type of arrangement fulfills the ‘reasonable and necessary expenses’ requirement.
In this instance, the Opposition was abandoned at an early stage, after the filing of the counter-statement of case. The Applicant did not need to file evidence, there was no hearing and no summations were required. In such a case there is no justification to award costs of 62,450 Shekels as requested. Compare for example, the cost request for Cancellation of Israel Trademark No. 140219 BASF Poyurethanes GmbH vs. Pazker ltd, 12 September 2015.
Conclusion, by way of estimation, costs of 7000 Shekels including VAT are awarded, to be paid within 14 days, or interest will be accrued.