Competing Marks Proceeding – DMI Dental Supplies vs. DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies ltd.
Where there are two competing pending trademark applications in Israel, unless the parties can agree to co-exist under conditions acceptable to the Israel Patent and Trademark Office (i.e. not confusing to the public), a special proceeding occurs under Section 29 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972, to determine which application should be examined first, usually barring the other application from registration. The first to file is considered less important than the usage of the mark and the investment in promoting it. As always, inequitable behaviour trumps other considerations, and where proven, the mark of the guilty party is generally cancelled.
This interim ruling focuses on admissibility of late submitted evidence.
On 15 April 2018 there was proceeding under Section 29a of the Trademark Ordinance 1972 during which DMI Dental Supplies was ordered to produce an audited financial statement for 2017 showing sales of the company in Israel.
On 15 May 2018, DMI Dental Supplies submitted the document together with additional documentation not requested, including a balance sheet, profit and loss account and explanations.
The same day, DMI Dental Supplies submitted an urgent request to add further evidence. The evidence in question was a short statement from Mr Zaza Debershvilli that attempted to establish that the name was registered since 2012. This was appended to the Affidavit of Mr Alon, a witness for DMI Dental Supplies whose Affidavit was already on file. The affidavit itself was appended to the request to allow its submission.
On 21 May 2018, DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies ltd requested that this additional submission be removed from the file, or they be allowed to submit their balance sheet. Prior to obtaining permission, DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies ltd simply submitted their balance sheet. DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies ltd opposed the additional submissions from DMI Dental Supplies claiming that they were attempting to strengthen their position and this was not allowable at that stage of the proceeding. Simultaneously they claimed that the additional evidence did not add anything new, and that its submission was acceptable if given negligible evidentiary weight as an affidavit that is not cross-examined, and that costs be awarded to them.
On 28 May 2018, DMI Dental Supplies responded to DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies ltd, objecting to the awarding of costs for the additional submission. Furthermore, they argued that since DMI Innovative Medical Technologies ltd’s balance sheet was not audited, it could not be considered as evidence, particularly as it related to foreign entity that was not a party to the proceeding.
Section 41 of the Trademark Ordinance 1940 states:
No party may submit additional evidence in any hearing before the Commissioner, however the Commissioner may, at any time permit the Applicant or Opposer to submit any evidence under conditions that he considers appropriate, regarding costs or other matters.
In general, parties should submit all their evidence in one go, and not in a trickle (Appeal 579/90 Rozin vs. Bin Nun, p/d/ 46(3) 738, 742 (1992), and Zusman, Civil procedures 509-510, 7th edition, 1995. Whilst it is true that the court can accept additional evidence during the proceeding and even during summations, (Appeal Shenzer vs. Rivlin, p.d. 45(2) 89, 95 (1991) and even during Appeal (Shenzer 95. Regulation 457 of the Civil Court Procedure Regulations, 1984).
Together with this, the court has to be very wary and careful when exercising this discretion “and in general should be careful to follow civil procedures, including the submission of evidence at the appropriate time” (Shenzer, page 95). The rationale for this principle is general efficiency of the handling of the case and of the court system in general.
There are four criteria to allow the submission of evidence at a different stage than that specified in the Civil Court Procedures:
- The most important is the importance of the evidence to ensure that justice is dispensed. This requires consideration of the new evidence in deciding the case, and the weight given to it, since it was not timely submitted.
- The amount of damage (evidentiary and with regard to the hearing) that would be caused to the opposing party if the evidence is accepted, which would alter the balance between the parties.
- The reasons why the evidence was not timely submitted and the responsibility of the submitting party for the lateness of the submission and whether they can be considered as acting inequitably by withholding the evidence until its late submission. (see Appeal Shasha Securities ltd vs. Adanim Mortgages and Loans ltd. p.d. 42(1) 14, 18)
- The damage to the effective management of the proceeding (re Rozin, page 743).
Applying these principles to the present case leads to the decision not to allow either party to submit additional evidence regarding the extent of their sales, since she does not consider that the evidence helps determine making a correct ruling or uncovering the truth. The deadline for the timely submission of evidence has passed, and neither party provided justification for their late submissions. The evidence has been heard and the parties should be making their summations.
Ms Shoshani Caspi is less than enamoured with the behaviour of the parties, who chose to submit their additional evidence without waiting for authorization to do so. It is well-known that one should only submit late evidence after receiving authorization. Submitting the evidence together with the request does not accord with the Supreme Court ruling in Appeal 6658/09 Multilock ltd. vs Rav Bareakh ltd, 12 January 20110 on page 11 paragraph 12:
Until there is a judicial ruling allowing submission of additional evidence, a party to a proceeding is not allowed to relate to that evidence in his claims. Under the guidance 1/92 published by the Chief Justice, a request to submit additional evidence should “describe the purpose of the evidence without attaching it (section 1 of the guidance). This guideline attempts to strike a balance between the requirement not to expose the court to the additional evidence prior to being authorized to do so, and the need for the court to have an understanding of the nature of the evidence in order to consider whether it is relevant and significant.
As to the additional affidavit that DMI Dental Supplies wished to submit, Ms Shoshani Caspi considers that it should be allowed, despite it being submitted prior to receiving authorization. This is since DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies clearly stated that they do not object to its submission. However, DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies are correct that it should be given little weight since they cannot cross-examine the witness. However, she does not agree that DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies should be allowed to continue to cross-examine, as the new evidence does not add anything new. Since DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies did have to relate to the new evidence, they are indeed entitled to costs.
In conclusion, DMI Dental Supplies cannot submit the new material. DMI Innovative Medical Technologies are not allowed to submit their balance sheet. DMI Dental Supplies can submit their Affidavit and costs of 350 Shekels (just under $100) are ruled to DMI Innovative Medic al Technologies.
The period for submitting summations starts today, 29th May 2018.
Interim ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi re DMI competing marks proceeding, 29 May 2018.