Appeal to Supreme Court, Should a Judge who points out the Weakness of a Case at Pretrial, Recuse Herself for Having Preconceptions?

August 15, 2018

justiceYehoshua Fishler is suing G.A. Ehrlich LTD (Ehrlich & Fenster) in the Tel Aviv – Jaffa District Court.

He requested that Judge M Amit Anisman withdraw from the case.

The case concerns allegations and counter allegations of breach of contract concerning G.A. Ehrlich (1995) Ltd obligating themselves to register Fishler’s patent in various jurisdictions. In his Statement of Case, the complainant alleges that the defendant did not timely pay issue fees and as a result the case was not registered.

In a pre-trial hearing held on 7 February 2018, the parties stated their cases and Judge M Amit Anisman asked various questions and then ruled that “after the court explained to the complainant the likelihood and risks of the case and the difficulty in managing it, the complainant will have 14 days to reconsider the case and if they decide to continue, the defendant will be allowed to request that the complainant deposit a bond to cover defendant’s costs should the defendant prevail.”  

Fischler informed the court that he intended continuing with the case and so J A Ehrlich (1995) Ltd (henceforth Ehrlich) requested that Fischler be obliged to deposit a bond to cover costs should he lose. The court acquiesced to this request, ruling that such a bond was appropriate in this instance, inter alia because of the chances of the complainant prevailing. Regarding this, the Judge stated that “I am doubtful if the case can be considered as ‘a complete waste of time’. Nevertheless, one cannot be blind to the chances of the complainant prevailing that were shown by the defendant (requesting the bond) in light of the fact that the plaintiff is not relying on a point of law that obliges the agent acting as a service provider, to pay fees on behalf of the client.” Following this, Fischler appealed to the Supreme Court to have the Judge removed from hearing the case due to having adverse preconceptions as evidenced from the decisions of 7 February 2018 and 23 May 2018.

On 18 July 2018, the Judge presiding over the Court of First Instance refused the request for her to recuse herself. The Court argued that their referring the complainant’s attention to issues that adversely affected their chances of prevailing, does not provide grounds to a real claim that the court had interests or that the Judge should recuse herself. The Court had not reached a conclusion regarding the substance of the case, and the statements have to be understood in the context of the early stage then reached. The complainant’s allegation that the court invited the defendant to request that the complainant post a bond is incompatible with the sequence of events, since the defendant made it clear at the pre-trial hearing, that they intended making such a request. The Court emphasized that the fact that the defendant was given an opportunity to request the deposition of a bond does not indicate that the Court has reached any conclusion regarding the outcome of the trial, nor does it imply an assessment of the complainant or a ‘threat’ in any shape or form.  This is true regarding the 23 May 2018 ruling. The Court explained that requiring the complainant to post a bond does not imply that the Court had closed its mind. The additional claims of the complainant were a kind of appeal, and were improper in a request for a Judge to recuse herself.

This resulted in an Appeal to the Supreme Court, which was heard by Chief Judge Hayot. In a hearing before Judge Hayot, the complainant reiterated his allegations that the pre-trial hearings demonstrated that the Judge had already made up her mind. He reiterated his statement that the Court had invited the defendant to request a bond be set and that this was an “implied threat”. Fischler claimed that the decision to require a bond itself testified to the Court of First Instance having already made up its mind.

After considering the Statement of Appeal and its appendices, Judge Hayot ruled that it should be rejected. The protocol of the pre-trial hearing has nothing that provides a real indication that the Judge had a conflict or had made up his mind, and this is true of the interim ruling regarding deposition of a bond. The District Court did not ‘invite’ the defendant to request that a bond be placed. The defendant themselves announced that they would make such a request. Similarly, and without going into the issues themselves, the mere fact that the Court indicated problems with the charges brought is not a reason for the Court to disbar itself. The contrary is true. An effective management of the case is likely to result in the presiding Judge expressing an opinion – tentatively and with care – regarding the contended issues, and there is no reason for the Court to refrain from pointing out the weaknesses in the case of one of the parties, and even to suggest that a plaintiff consider withdrawing the case (Appeal 8893/17 Nasrallah vs. Aladin, paragraph 5 (22 November 2017).

Chief Judge Hayot considers that the Court has acted in an analogous manner in the current case by allowing the defendant to require that the complainant posts a bond should they decide to continue with the case. Finally, after reviewing the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the posting of the bond, it appears that they relate to the matters under dispute and it is not superfluous to note that when considering whether or not it is appropriate to require a party to post a bond, the Court should consider the likelihood of the parties prevailing. Consequently, requests for a Judge to recuse herself and appeals regarding these decisions are not the correct forums to raise these issues, and the correct way to appeal is via a formal appeal (see Appeal 2004/18 Plonit vs. Plonit, paragraph 4 (18 July 2018).

The Appeal is rejected. Since no response was required, no cost ruling is made.

Interim Ruling on Appeal by Judge Hayot in Appeal 5685/18 Fischler vs. G.A. Ehrlich (1995) ltd, 12 August 2018. 

COMMENT

Whether or not a Judge has preconceptions, unsuccessfully requesting her to recuse herself and then unsuccessfully appealing to the Supreme Court that the Judge be considered unfit to hear the case is unlikely to enamor the plaintiff with the Judge in question.

Israel Magistrate Court Rules that Screening a Football Match on Public Television at a Restaurant, not Copyright Infringement

Burgerim is a chain of burger shops. Back in 2013, a Burgerim branch in Givatayim screened a football match that was part of the Euro-league on a regular television set that was connected to their Cable TV supplier HOT, and was sued for copyright infringement by Charlton who owns the transmission rights. Charlton claimed that the screening was a public performance, whereas the restaurant claimed that they simply switched on the television. Judge Ronen Ilan of the Tel-Aviv Jaffa Magistrate’s Court ruled that even if the match is copyright protected, allowing customers to watch a publicly broadcast match is not a performance of the copyright protected work, and ruled costs of 12000 Shekels against the plaintiff.

This is a summary of his arguments:

Is switching on a television receiver in a work-place, whilst a TV game is broadcast on a public channel, considered copyright infringement?

Apart from screening the match on a television set, without any additional equipment such as an amplifier, for example, the defendant did not do any action whatsoever. In these circumstances, one cannot accept the plaintiff’s claim of copyright infringement for two reasons:

Firstly, in these circumstances, where the game is screened on a television set, there is no ‘performance’ of the transmitted creation due to the minor involvement of the one setting up the TV and the received in passing on the transmission, the involvement being limited to setting up the TV receiver. Thus specifically, due to the change in legislation due to the introduction of the Israel Copyright Law 2007, which differentiates between “public performance” and transmission. Due to all these reasons, activating the television in order to watch the transmitted program is not a “performance” of the creation.

Secondly, even were one to accept the claim that screening a transmitted creation is a “performance” of the creation, one still could not see a copyright infringement in this instance, since we are dealing with a transmission of something on a public channel. The plaintiff did not show that the Law prohibits screening a public broadcast to the public. Activating the television receiver to the public so that they can watch the game that is being broadcast on a public channel is not copyright infringement of a transmitted creation.

Furthermore, even if we were to accept the plaintiff’s claim that their creation was infringed; in the specific circumstances of this instance, where we are dealing with the screening of something on a public channel, where there was no advanced warning of any possible copyright infringement, but against this there is an attempt to prevent screening of sports programs which may be damaging to the defendant, the defendant is entitled to the claim of innocent infringement.

Civil Ruling 271019-09-15 Charlton vs. Bowling World, Ruling by Judge Ronen Ilan, 6 August 2018

COMMENT

Israel has public television channels that can be received on a television set equipped with an aerial. In the past, one required a license, but even this formality is no longer the case with the disbanding of the former television authority and the establishment of the new one.  Charlton holds the broadcasting rights for the Euroleague. The sports channel is a component of basic packages of “HOT” – the cable TV company, “YES” – the satellite TV company, and IDAN+ – the digital over-the-air option that gives you a small number of basic channels. All these are subscription services. No-one has a basic human right to access the sports channel but can purchase a subscription from a service provider.

There are sectors of the population, particularly the ultra-Orthodox, that do not have television. I know a number of people who are by no means ultra-Orthodox, but nevertheless, have forgone having television, as they see it is a waste of time, and something that prevents their children from developing useful reading skills and the like.  I also know many families that make do with the public stations and do not receive the sports channel. When there is a major sporting event such as the World Cup (Mondial), some of these people, including ultra-Orthodox youth, returnees to the faith, and others, go to pubs, pizza parlors and burger outlets to watch the match.  There are also others that have access at home, but go as a group to such a place to cheer on their team.

Givatayim backs onto the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak where owning a television set is frowned upon. I suspect that this is why the Givatayim Burgerim branch chose to screen the football.

In Appeal 6407/01 Tele-Event vs. Golden Lines, 7 July 2002, the Supreme Court recognized that sports matches, though not scripted (at least not officially and legally scripted) were, nevertheless, entitled to copyright protection.  This meant that the licensee with distribution rights in Israel could prevent the cable and satellite networks from transmitting broadcasts on foreign channels as part of their bundle.

When a match is screened by a food-outlet for their customers, it is part of the entertainment package. For similar reasons for it to be improper for a hotel to connect TV receivers in every room to a single subscription, but rather to require the hotel to obtain a commercial package, it makes perfect sense to prevent restaurants from screening matches without obtaining a special package to do so.

There is certainly a concept of de minimis fair use in copyright, and when a child of mine invites neighbors over to watch a match (or preferably goes to them), that is not copyright infringement, but a restaurant essentially rents chairs and tables. If it uses such screenings to attract punters, there is a good argument that they should pay to do so.  It will be interesting to see if Charlton appeals this ruling, and whether it is reversed.


Fischler vs. Ehrlich – Should the Judge Recuse Herself for Expressing a Negative Opinion on Plaintiff’s Likelihood of Prevailing in Pre-trial Hearing?

August 15, 2018

This is an interim ruling concerning a financial dispute between Joshua Fischler and G.A. Ehrlich (1995) ltd. In response to a preliminary assessment that the case was weak, and plaintiff (Fischler) should post a bond to cover Ehrlich’s costs, should he lose,  In this instance, Joshua Fischler, Complainant in the case, has requested that Judge Michal Amit Anisman rules herself unable to hear the case due to preconceptions and that she should transfer the case to a colleague.

The bond decision is given here.

The judge’s ruling about reclusing herself follows.

Joshua Fischler has sued G.A. Ehrlich (1995) ltd (Ehrlich & Fenster Patent Attorneys) for failing to pay the issue fee of an Australian Patent, thereby allegedly causing them damage of 21,000,000 Shekels. For the sake of the court fee, Fischler sued for 5,000,000 Shekels.

In a pre-trial hearing, the presiding judge, Michal Amit Amisman, indicated that in her opinion, it would be very difficult for the plaintiff to prove his case. It was also decided that the plaintiff would have to post a bond to cover costs to defendant in case he lost.

The plaintiff has now requested that the judge disqualify herself from hearing the case due to having made up her mind in advance. He also alleged that the judge had suggested that a bond would be appropriate which the Judge denies, claiming that the defendant raised the issue of the bond.

The factual background

On 6 July 2017, Joshua Fischler sued G.A. Ehrlich (1995) ltd (Ehrlich & Fenster, henceforth Ehrlich) alleging breach of contract, for not registering his patents in various jurisdictions and thereby causing Fischler damage that he should be compensated for. Specifically, Fischler claims that Ehrlich did not pay the issue fees for a patent that subsequently lapsed.

On 1 November 2017, Ehrlich responded by denying Fischler’s allegations and alleging that Fischler was himself in breach of contract for failing to pay Ehrlich’s fees. Ehrlich claimed that Fischler had failed to pay the fee despite being warned of the consequences, and so could not come along with claims against Ehrlich.

On 7 February 2018, there was a preliminary pre-trial hearing, where the parties stated their cases. During that hearing, Ehrlich’s attorneys stated that they intended to request that the plaintiff deposit a bond (see page 6 lines 14-16 of the protocol).  After the parties stated their allegations, and after the court raised issues regarding the parties’ allegations, in a preliminary ruling, the court stated that “After the court explained the chances and risks in prosecuting the case and the problems anticipated in managing it, the court gave the plaintiff 14 days to consider and decide on whether to continue. Should the plaintiff decide to continue, the defendant would be entitled to request that a bond be posted”.

On 22 February 2018, the Plaintiff stated that they intended to continue with the proceeding. Consequently, on 22 February 2018, Judge Amit Amisman ruled that the defendant could request that Plaintiff posts a bond, and can make this request within 30 days.

On 21 March 2018, the Defendant requested that the judge oblige the plaintiff to post a bond. After reviewing the case and hearing from both parties, on 23 May 2018, the judge ruled that a bond of 50,000 NIS should be posted by the plaintiff to guarantee the defendant’s expenses should the defendant prevail. In her ruling, the judge stated that the claims could not be considered as totally groundless, but one could not, nevertheless, ignore the real problems that the defendant’s counsel had pointed out, since the plaintiff had not based his case on a legal obligation that showed that the service provider should have paid the fee on behalf of his client.

On 20 June 2018, the applicant submitted a further request in which he claimed that in the circumstances, there is a real danger that the court is partisan, since according to his allegations, in a string of statements, the court has indicated that it has already made up its mind. The applicant alleged that in the decision of 7 February 2018, the court threatened him by stating that if he continues with the suit, the court would give the defendant the opportunity to request that a bond be deposited. The Applicant also raised issues against the decision to require a bond itself. He alleged that this decision is a statement by the court concerning the likelihood of him prevailing, which indicates that the judge had made up her mind regarding the case, and so should disqualify herself.

The defendant claimed that the Applicant had not indicated real grounds for suspicion that the court had prejudged the issue, and had not concluded that the defendant was innocent to the extent necessary for the court to recluse itself. The defendant claimed that the job of the court is to review the statements of case and to get a general feeling for the case at this early stage, from the papers submitted, and this is what it did. The defendant also claimed that the court had not invited the defendant to request a bond as a threat to the applicant, but rather, in the hearing of 7 February 2018, the defendant themselves had stated that they intended making such a request and the court simply agreed to this request.

Discussion and Ruling

Section 77a(a) of the Law of the Courts states that:

(a) A Judge will not sit in judgment if one of the parties or the judge himself considers that there are circumstances that indicates a real suspicion of bias in managing the case.

In this regard, Bagatz 2148/94 Gilbert et al. vs. President of the Supreme  Court, p.d. 48(3), 763, 605 (1994) establishes a test for a real suspicion as follows:

The judge has reached a (final) conclusion regarding the matter under dispute, such  that there is no point in conducting the trial. The point is that there is no expectation that the judge will be impartial. The conclusion could be the result of knowing one of the parties in advance, or prior knowledge of the issue under consideration, such that there is no real likelihood that rational persuasion will result in a change of mind. Note: it is not enough that the judge should have an opinion. For a judge to be disqualified from judging a case one has to show a prior opinion, but that he has closed his mind and  is not open to reconsideration during the trial.

Similar things were stated in Appeal 7858/06 Walhorn vs. Narkis,. 31 July 2007:

It is not uncommon for a judge to express an opinion regarding the likely outcome of a case before him. If this opinion is merely  a presumption and the judge is open to accepting a different position, the mere expressing an opinion is insufficient for the judge to recluse himself from the case. It is not sufficient that the judge has an opinion in the matter in question. To be disqualified that judge has to have a preconception that is not open to change during the trial.

In this instance, the Applicant claims that there is a real likelihood of bias that disqualifies this judge, but the judge do not accept this claim.

The Civil Court Regulations 1984 give the court wide discretion at the pretrial stage. Amongst other rights, the regulations allow the court to order that claims be cancelled where the statement of case does not provide legal grounds for prevailing (regulation 100 of the Regulations) or to reject the charges for any other reason that provides a basis for throwing the case out (regulation 101(3). Consequently the court is allowed and is even expected to relate in a pretrial hearing to the apparent legal and factual problems inherent in a case as they appear from the Statements of Case. The Supreme Court ruled this in Appeal 10353/09 Shindleman vs. Bank HaPoalim ltd, 14 February 2012:

As known, the pretrial hearing is intended to clarity the point of contention and the way the proceeding should be conducted to make it as efficient as possible, to simply, shorten or deny the case, or to find a point of compromise between the parties, In the framework of the pre-trail hearing, the court can point out problems in a parties’ statement of case, and even ask leading questions if necessary. In this context, one must understand the court’s statements , which are in writing, where it states an opinion regarding the apparent likelihood of the charges and the defense working, with regards to the stage reached. (Appeal 1150/09 Zvi Zickler vs. The Week in Ashdod 22 March 2009 (not published). Here we are talking about an early stage of the proceeding, and the opinion stated by the court does not indicate that the court has locked its opinion and the final verdict is known in advance.  

In light of that stated above, there is no reason why an opinion expressed by the judge in a pre-trial hearing should bar the judge from trying the case. As stated previously, the job of the court in the pretrial hearing is to act to make the trail more efficient, and in so-doing, may point out flaws in their positions to the parties. This is how the judge acted in this instance. One cannot state that in this instance, the court has closed its mind and is not open to persuasion  by evidence to be brought by the parties. That stated by the court is only based on the statements of case and on the legal submissions at this stage of the trial, and cannot be understood as indicating that the court had reached a final conclusion

The allegation that the court had invited the defendant to request a bond is rejected since it is incompatible with the way the hearing was held. It was the defendant who in the pretrial hearing,  stated that they intended to request a bond be posted – see page 2 lines 31 of the protocol of 7 February 2018.  The court only gave their permission for this once the plaintiff made it clear that he wished to continue. In so doing, the court has not taken a position against the plaintiff and is not threatening him.

Contrary to the plaintiff’s claim, the court has NOT reached a conclusion regarding the likelihood fo the plaintiff prevailing in ordering that a bond be deposited “because the likelihood of prevailing are small”, but rather the court stated that the charges are not baseless, but one cannot ignore the problems that the defense indicated. These statements do not imply that the court has made up its mind regarding the merits of the case.

The remaining claims of the plaintiff regarding the 23 May 2018 ruling, are really an appeal of this ruling and should not be considered a ruling on whether the judge should recuse herself.

Judge Michal Amit Anisman, in interim ruling re Complaint 13934-07-17 Fischler vs. G.A. Erhlich (1995) ltd and Complaint 38720-10-15 G.A. Erhlich (1995) vs. Fischler, Fischler , 9 July 2018

COMMENT

This ruling, and that to require a bond was appealed to the Supreme Court.


District Court Judge Requires Plaintiff Suing Patent Attorney for Failing to Pay Issue Fees on his Behalf, to Post Bond of 50,000 NIS to Cover Defendant’s Costs

August 15, 2018

Joshua Fischler has sued G.A. Ehrlich ltd (Ehrlich & Fenster Patent Attorneys – henceforth Ehrlich) for failing to pay the issue fee of an Australian Patent, thereby allegedly causing them damage of 21,000,000 Shekels.

For the sake of the court fee, Fischler sued for 5,000,000 Shekels.

Judge Michal Amit Amisman of the Tel Aviv District Court was asked by Ehrlich to order that Yehushua Fischler deposit a bond under Regulation 529 of the Civil Court Regulations 1984.

The plaintiff (Fischler) has sued the defendant (Ehrlich) claiming damages of 5,000,000 Shekels that were caused by breach of contract.

In 2010, Fischler, as owner of 99% of the shares in Koron Industries ltd, approached G.A. Ehrlich  to manage the registration of a patent in a number of jurisdictions, including Australia.

Erhlich could only make a very approximate estimation of the costs for this service since they could not tell in advance how many actions would be required in each of the various jurisdictions, and Fischler was also informed that the estimate did not include the various official fees. Consequently, from time to time, Fischler made various additional payments at Ehrlich’s request.

Fischler claimed that at the end of 2013, he suspected that he was paying additional sums that were not required, and so requested a breakdown of what had been paid for which application, and what additional charges could be expected. However, he did not receive the requested breakdown. Fischler claimed that this led to an agreement between the parties, that he would pay 8962 Shekels in cash, and the balance of the claimed debt of 41,109 Shekels would be checked. He gave a security cheque for this sum, that was post-dated six months.

Fischler claimed that this security cheque was not intended to be banked, but was banked anyway, was not honoured, and a district court proceedings was initiated (number 38702-10-15) that was subsequently combined with this case.

The present case was submitted after the case regarding the security cheque was filed, and it relates to failure to register the patent in Australia.

According to Ehrlich, on 7 August 2014, they informed Fischler that the Australian patent had been allowed and that they had to pay 2100 Shekels + VAT + 635 Australian dollars in official fees and local agent’s fees by 7 November 2014.

Fischler alleges that Ehrlich made their acceptance of the Australian issue fees conditional on Fischler settling the open debt, including that relating to the registration in other jurisdictions that he’d asked them to check.

In consequence of this, the fee was not paid to the Australian Patent Office and the period for registration lapsed. Fischler claims that Ehrlich broke the contract between the parties, and should have allowed the client to pay the issue fees directly or via his credit card (whose number Ehrlich had) and not allowed the patent to be canceled.

Fischler is relying on two opinions. The first states that the patent was relevant and economical for use in Australia, and the second opinion, that failure to register the patent in Australia had resulted in losses of 21 million shekels. However, for the sake of limiting the court fee, he was only claiming damages of 5 million Shekels.

Ehrlich counter-claimed that the effect of this lawsuit was that the plaintiff was asking the court to establish an absurd norm under which a client could make it absolutely clear, after warnings, that he had no intention of paying the requested service charges and official fees, and the service provider would have to bear the burden of paying the costs, instead of the client, to save him from the trouble he’d brought upon himself.

Ehrlich claimed that there was no disagreement that he’d informed the client regarding allowance of the patent in Australia, and to ensure that the patent would issue, he had to pay both local and Australian agent fees and the official issue fees. Similarly, there was no disagreement that Ehrlich had reminded him of the timeline and the fees, and that if the client failed to pay the fee, the application would lapse. It was explained to the client that unless he transferred the money by 7 November 2014, the application would lapse. In their final correspondence, he had informed the client that failure to transfer funds would result in him taking no further action and the application would lapse.

Nevertheless, the client, despite knowing the deadline and the result of not paying, chose not to transfer the required payment and so the issue fees were not paid and the patent lapsed.

Ehrlich claimed that there is no legal obligation for him to pay fees on behalf of a client, and at the time in question, the client owed tens of thousands of shekels, and a cheque that was supposed to cover the debt had not been honoured by the bank. Ehrlich claimed, and considered that the client concurred, that there was no agreement that he would provide  services for free and to pay fees on client’s behalf from his own pocket. He noted that the agreement with the client was that all actions required advanced payment and he was acting in accordance with this agreement.

Ehrlich further noted that the client in this instance was actually Koron and not Fischler himself. Thus even if there was some basis for the charges (which Ehrlich denies), then Fischler has no legal standing but Koron does. Ehrlich has no disagreement with Fischler and this alone is sufficient justification to throw the case out.

Finally, Ehrlich denies making payment of the Australian issue fee conditional on settling the accumulated debt for other legal services. Had Fischler paid for the issuance in Australia, he would have paid the issue fees, regardless of the open debt.

The claims of the parties

The Defendant (Ehrlich) claimed that there is room to require the Plaintiff (Fischler) to deposit a bond to ensure that should he lose, that Ehrlich’s costs be met, since the allegations are ridiculous (in Ehrlich’s opinion) and lack a legal foundation, and so should be simply thrown out.

Ehrlich considers it would be wrong to establish a legal norm wherein when a client makes it clear to a service provided that he will not pay fees and service charges and is warned of the consequences, that the service provider (in this instance, a patent attorney) should be obliged to cover costs himself, and there is no normative source that can serve as a basis for the charges brought.

Ehrlich further claims that the post-dated cheque given to him was not a conditional cheque that should not have been deposited, and it bounced due to insufficient funds in the account, and not because the client had given an order not to honour it. This is indicative of economic difficulties of the client.

Fischler claims to own two real estate properties; one in Shoham and one in Givatayim, owned together with his wife, and failure to cover the cheque was due to a legitimate business disagreement between the parties.

Fischler counter-claims in an affidavit, that the registration of the patents was supposed to be done in his name, and so he himself filed the suit. Fischler further claims that Ehrlich could have used Fischler’s credit-card to pay the official fee, and failure to pay the fee was negligence on the part of Ehrlich.

Ehrlich pointed out that Fischler did not provide documentary evidence for the real-estate that he claimed to own, and reiterated that he was under no legal obligation to pay the fee on behalf of the client, he did not have the client’s credit card details and was anyway forbidden by law to use the client’s credit card without permission.

The Normative Framework

Ehrlich is relying on regulation 519 that requires the plaintiff to post a bond to guarantee funds to cover the defendant’s expenses.

A bond to cover costs

(a) The court or the registrar, can, if deemed appropriate to do so, order the plaintiff to post a bond to cover the costs of the defendant.

The rationale of Regulation 519(a) is to prevent frivolous lawsuits and to ensure that the defendant’s costs will be covered in cases where the likelihood of the defendant prevailing are deemed weak. The case-law establishes that the judge should seek a balance between the rights of the defendant to have his costs covered, and the right of the plaintiff to have access to the courts, such that the bond should not be set too high to cause a difficulty for the plaintiff to sue. See Appeal 5488/16 Netanel vs. Rishan Buiding and Investments ltd, 17 July 2016, Appeal 8575 Hamad vs. Elvatin ltd., 30 December 2015, Appeal 2142/13 Naamat vs. Kramin, 13 November 2013, Appeal 5738/13 Amu Saluk vs. The General Health Service 14 November 2014, and 2142/13 Abraham vs. Jaegerman, 16 January 2013:

We are dealing with a regulation that invites a meeting and clash between important values. On one hand, the request to post a bond can block access to the courts before a plaintiff with few resources, and can seal his fate before he has his day in court. This conceals a real damage to the right to a trial to someone, merely because of poverty. On the other hand, the purpose of the bond is to prevent baseless charges being brought, and to ensure that if they are brought, the defendant can recuperate his costs should he prevail.

In setting this balance, the Case-Law establishes that posting a bond under Section 519 is a rare occurrence and is done only in extreme circumstances, since one should not require the plaintiff to post a bond merely as an aggressive strategy, and it is noted that there is a ‘balance of powers’ between his chance of winning in the proceeding, between the plaintiff’s ability and the right to use the courts, as a normative activity. (see Plony vs. Plony, paragraph 9, 18 February 2016).

When the court comes to rule on whether a bond is appropriate, it has to consider four issues, which the Supreme Court has divided into two groups: The first is where the plaintiff is a foreign entity and where there is no update address of record, and the second is where there is only a slight chance of the plaintiff prevailing, and where the plaintiff is in financial straits.

The two issues relevant in this instance are that the chances of prevailing and financial state of the plaintiff.

As to the chance of prevailing being slight, in re Naamat it was established that “in light of this request, the court has to consider the a priori likelihood of prevailing at a relatively early stage of the proceeding, but is not expected to make a detailed analysis. It is also stated that this consideration alone is insufficient to require a bond to be posted unless the case looks to be totally baseless.  In such cases, it is ruled that “The defendant’s interest not to be distracted by the proceeding and the public interest that the court’s time is not wasted prevails. However, it is also important to ensure that the right of access to the courts is not limited, except in exceptional cases.”

As to the financial condition of the plaintiff, in re Naamat it was established that this consideration is problematic. Particularly as the sole consideration, and even as one of the considerations. Where we are dealing with a plaintiff who is in a poor financial state, one is particularly worried that he may not be able to compensate the defendant for his expenses at the end of the proceeding. Despite this, the court has ruled more than once, that one doesn’t require the plaintiff to deposit a bond merely as a deterrent (see Appeal 544/89 Oykel Industries (1985) ltd vs. Nili Metal Works ltd, p.d. 650, and the Jaegerman case mentioned above). Furthermore, where we are dealing with a party who is resident in Israel, his financial condition does not have to be considered when weighing up whether he should hae to post a bond. The approach is that where a plaintiff is based in Israel, even where the financial state is poor, he is considered an economically viable entity that can be collected from over time (see Abu Keva above). In Judge Amit’s opinion, this approach requires the court to be very careful before ordering a bond be posted. The gates of the court should be open to all litigators, poor or rich, destitute or financially solid, and we cannot allow a situation where it appears that justice is the inheritance of the financially well off.

From the case-law taken together, it appears that requirement for a bond to be posted should reflect the balance between the right of access to the courts of the plaintiff and the property right of the defendant to be protected from baseless law-suits.

Applying the principles to the case in question

Having expressed her preliminary opinion regarding the merits of the case, the defendant’s comments and the plaintiff’s response, and to the law and case-law, Judge Amit doesn’t think that the plaintiff will prevail.

As to the likelihood of the plaintiff winning, Judge Amit Amisman first notes that case-law establishes an interest to avoid frivolous law-suits, and this is not only an interest of the defendant (which should not be sneezed at) but also of the public in that court resources are limited and expensive and should be available for handling significant issues. This itself is part of the importance of ensuring access to the courts (see re Halid, above).

In this instance, the court is not sure that the complaint can fairly be labeled a “completely groundless proceeding”. However, one cannot ignore the defendant’s points regarding the chances of the plaintiff prevailing, notably the lack of legal grounds for claiming that a service provider is obliged to pay fees on behalf of the client. Furthermore, there is no disagreement that the parties had agreed that the fees should be borne by the client, and the plaintiff had received warnings from the defendant that failure to pay the fee would result in the application becoming abandoned (see emails from 20 October and 3 November 2014).

As to the financial standing of the plaintiff, it seems to the judge that lack of cover for the cheque is sufficient grounds to establish a doubt that the plaintiff will pay defendant’s costs if he loses. True, the defendant provided documentation that claimed that he owned real estate, but there were no land registry certificates that proved that the properties were indeed his; are these properties co-owned with his spouse, or are they being used as securities or is there a lien on them? The plaintiff did not submit a valuation of the properties or any indication of his personal wealth.

The defendant has only asked for 53,807 Shekels in the parallel law suit regarding unpaid bills, and this also supports the judge’s decision to accept the request for a bond to be posted.

In this instance, the defendant has stated that should he be required to pay costs, he will do so without trying to wriggle out of them. If so, the defendant has the financial wherewithal to post a bond or to pay the defendant’s costs, and so access to the court will not be denied.

In light of the above, Judge Amit Amisman comes to the conclusion that in this instance, the balance of interests leads to requiring a bond to be placed.

Size of the Bond

When balancing all the interests and those pertinent to the case in question; plaintiff’s right of access to the court, the judge’s preliminary assessment of the case and the right of the defendant to be compensated if the case fails, with a rough estimate of the cost of mounting a defense, the size of the outstanding debt due to the bounced cheque, Judge Amit saw fit for the plaintiff to post a bond of 50,000 NIS, to cover at least part of the defendant’s anticipated costs.

Conclusion

The plaintiff will deposit a bond of 50,000 NIS (cash or index-linked bank guarantee) as guarantee to pay costs should he lose.

IF the bond is not timely paid, the case will be dismissed under regulation 519b.

As an afterword to this decision, but not to the case, the judge considers that the parties should try arbitration to try to bridge the gap between them, outside the court. The parties will respond to this suggestion by 7th July 2018.

Interim ruling by Judge Michal Amit Amisman regarding posting of a bond in Civil Case 13934-07-17 Fishler vs. G.A. Ehrlich (1995) ltd, and Civil Case 38720-10-15 G.A.Ehrlich vs. Fischler, 23 May 2018.

COMMENT

Following this ruling, Fischler requested that Judge Amit Amisman recuse herself as having preconceptions that made it impossible for her to judge the case fairly, and then appealed both the size of the bond and the request that she recuse herself to the Supreme Court.

I will translate and post the appeals. As it is ongoing, I will not comment on the merits of the case at this stage.


The Admissibility of Late Submitted Evidence

July 1, 2018

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.


Can Non-Israelis be Subpoenaed to testify in Opposition Proceedings?

June 10, 2018

novartis

Israel Patent Application No. 176831 to Novartis is titled “COMPRESSED PHARMACEUTICAL TABLETS OR DIRECT COMPRESSION PHARMACEUTICAL TABLETS COMPRISING DPP-IV INHIBITOR CONTAINING PARTICLES AND PROCESSES FOR THEIR PREPARATION”. It is the national phase entry of PCT/EP2005/000400.

Unipharm

On allowance, Unipharm filed an Opposition to the patent application being granted.  Within the Opposition proceeding, Unipharm, who for this case, have dispensed with the services of Adv. Adi Levit, their legal counsel and have been handling the Opposition unaided by attorneys, have requested that the Israel Patent Office subpoena  John Hutchinson and Mr Kowalski, workers at Novartis to give testimony.

This request follows an earlier request to reveal documentation regarding testing that was appended to the Expert Witness testimony of Professor Davies, Novartis’ expert witness, which was ordered in an earlier interim ruling of 3 January 2018.

Discovery

In response to the discovery request, Novartis submitted an Affidavit with various appended papers. In light of this, Unipharm now alleges that the Affidavit implies that Novartis has not revealed all documents it should have. Unipharm further indicates that the explanation proffered by Hutchinson, who is signed on the Affidavit, “appears to be odd”. Therefore, Unipharm wish to Subpoena him to cross-examine him on this.

lab bookUnipharm further claims that a document titled “Certificate of Authenticity” was included with respect to the laboratory notebook, parts of which were included in the appendices attached to the affidavit. According to Unipharm, Mr Kowalski, who was one of the named inventors, is signed on this document. Consequently, Unipharm requested to cross-examine him as well.

Novartis requests that Unipharm’s request be rejected. They claim that the Commissioner does not have the authority to subpoena witnesses not within the judicial territory of the State of Israel, who are not direct parties in a proceeding. Novartis also notes that Mr Hutchinson’s signature on the Affidavit accompanying the discovery documents was done in the framework of his employment as a patent attorney in the Legal Department of Novartis. Novartis claims that ALL information regarding the management of the proceeding is subject to legal confidentiality and may also be considered as being a trade-secret.

As to Mr Kowalski, he never signed an Affidavit of Evidence in the process and is not a party to it. Similarly Novartis claims that Unipharm has not stated why they need to cross-examine that inventor who was one of three named inventors.

Discussion

The witnesses that the Opposer wished to interrogate are beyond the territorial jurisdiction of Israel and are not parties in the case. Thus the Applicant is correct that Section 163b of the Patent Law 1967 that Unipharm referred to is not a legal basis for their being subpoenaed. The references that Unipharm related to in their request, dealt with witnesses that gave Affidavits or expert witness testimony, and thus could be subpoenaed for cross-examination purposes.

A party that wishes to subpoena a citizen or foreign resident to testify must do so under the International Inter-State Legal Assistance Law 1998. See Appeal 3810/06 Dori and Zacovsky Building and Investments Ltd vs. Shamai Goldstein, paragraph 17, 24 September 2007.

Section 47 of the Legal Assistance Law states:

The Authority is allowed to request from another country, that testimony be collected, including that physical evidence be transferred for display in Israel, if the court allows that the evidence is required to hold the trial in Israel; regarding this law, and where the case is pending, the term court refers to the tribunal that is hearing the case.

From the wording of this Section, it transpires that the court will open a proceeding to summon foreign witnesses to a hearing only if it is convinced that their testimony is necessary to conduct the proceeding. In this instance, the Commissioner considers that there is significant doubt as to whether the presence of the witnesses for cross-examination purposes is really required.

Unipharm has requested to cross-examination Mr Kowalski regarding an Affidavit for discovery that he is signed on. The purpose of the discovery process is to enable the main proceeding to be handled efficiently; legal proceedings with face-up cards where each party knows what documents the other parties hold to prevent surprises at the hearing. By this means, unexpected delays are prevented, allowing the court to reveal the truth. Appeal 4235/05 Bank Mizrachi United vs. Ronit Peletz, 14 August 2015.

Opposite the principle of discovery, there are other interests such as efficiency of the court proceeding, defense of the legitimate interests of the party revealing documents, and preventing damage to the interests of third parties – See Appeal 2534/02 Yehuda Shimshon vs. Bank HaPoalim ltd. p.d. 56(5) 193. So the case-law has ruled more than once that it will not allow cross-examination of affidavits of this kind, if they are properly presented (see Appeal 2376/13 Rami Levy Shikma Marketing Ltd vs. Moshe Dagan 8 July 2014, and Zusman Civil Procedures 7th Edition, page 436.

This general rule has two exceptions: The first is that where reading of the Affidavit alone or with reference to its citations, that the Affidavit is defective, the court can order the party revealing documents to file a further Affidavit. Second, where the issue of confidentiality is used, the court can examine the document and decide if this claim is reasonable (see for example, Appeal 240/73 Baruch Vilker vs. Dov Tishler, 205, 2 December 1971 and Appeal 6823/05 Abraham Roimi vs. Bank Leumi of Israel, 12 January 2016.

In this instance, Unipharm did not append an Affidavit, detail or justify why they considered that the current case is one of these exceptions. Thus the Commissioner cannot rule that this is the case, and so the request is rejected.

As to the evidence of Mr Kowalski, Unipharm did not claim that there was any connection between the documents appended to the Affidavit of the Discovery and to the experiments that were appended to Novartis’ evidence, which was the basis of the original discovery request. Note, Mr Kowalski’s signature is only on the Certificate of Authenticity taken from the lab-book that was appended to some pages therefrom that were submitted in the discovery documents. In these circumstances, it is not clear what value Mr Kowalski’s testimony has, even were he to be subpoenaed.

In light of this, the Commissioner does not consider that the requirements of Section 47 of the Law of Legal Assistance are fulfilled with regard to Mr Hutchinson or Mr Kowalski.

The Request is refused. Unipharm will cover Novartis’ costs and their legal expenses to the tune of 2000 Shekels + VAT. These costs will be paid within 30 days.

Interim Ruling in Opposition to IL 175831 Ofer Alon, 30 April 2018.

Comment

It is possible that Mr Tomer has indeed bitten off more than he can chew by handling legal issues procedural issues such as requesting subpoenaing witnesses without legal counsel. However, the costs ruled against him are trivial when considering the issue in question. The Unipharm’s Expert Witness cannot testify to things that he does not know such as what else was in the lab-book, and in Opposition proceedings there is no assumption of validity of the patent. Thus it would be premature to write this request off as a strategic or even a tactical error.


Supreme Court Adds Sauce to Temporary Injunction

April 25, 2018

Back in February, we reported regarding a temporary injunction that Barilla obtained in the Tel Aviv District Court against Rami Levy, requiring them to remove packages of pasta that came boxed in blue boxes with cellophane windows and similar packaging to Barilla’s range of pastas.

The image above shows Rami Levy’s packaging under the Olla own-brand on the left, and the Barilla packaging on the right.

Whilst it is true that the Olla packaging does state Rami-Levy – Shivuk HaShikma (Sycamore Packaging), and the name of the pasta is written in Hebrew, it is also true that both brand-names end with the syllable and letters lla, and the fonts are italicized and slope to the right.

Rami Levy appealed the decision to the Supreme Court but Judge Solberg upheld the temporary injunction pending a full trial and ruling, and also widened it to cover pasta sauces, noting that like Barilla, Rami Levy uses glass jars with blue lids for their tomato sauces. Costs of 40,000 Shekels were awarded to Barilla for having to deal with the appeal.

Comment 

We note that Rami Levy has a further own-brand packaging for dried pasta (on the right), where Taaman (whose own packaging is blue) package their pasta for Rami Levy in cellophane bags that seem inspired by Osem’s Perfecto range (on the left) so they can simply pour out the boxes and bag in cellophane, at least until Osem sues them.

steaks

We also note that Rami Levy (on the left) recently jumped into the frying pan with minute steaks, using a packaging scheme not vastly dissimilar from Baladi’s (on the right), and that Judge Avrahami of the Petach Tikveh District Court granted a temporary injunction requiring Rami Levy to adhere a sticker that is not red, white or black to their frozen meat package of minute steaks that should be at least 11 cm by 8.5 cm, that is clearly printed and which states that the product is under Rami Levy’s own label. The sticker must not include the price or the words “Special Offer”, that could dilute the effect of differentiating between the products. The sticker is to be applied to the front of the packaging at the top, under the term “Maadaniyah” (delicatessen).

Appeal 1065/18 and 1521/18 Rami Levy vs. Barilla, 22/4/2018


Wok and Walk

April 20, 2018

wokRo.R. Sheli ltd own Israel Trademark No. 233836 for “wok and walk

The mark owner has tried to have some sections of the request for cancellation struck from the record. Sections 18 -22 claim that the registration was in bad faith and so the trademarks should be cancelled under Section 39(a1) of the ordinance 1972. According to the mark owner, it appears that in an Affidavit by Rami Lev opposing expedited examination and registration of TM Application no. 291833, it is claimed that the franchise started trading in 2004. However the owner of the mark in question registered their mark back in 2000. So the trademark owner claims that there is no grounds to accuse them of acting in bad faith since their use of the mark preceded that of the party requesting cancellation.

wok to walk

Wok to Walk Franchise oppose this request and claims that now is not the time to relate to this claim and to do so at this stage is not in accordance with the civil procedure.  Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha concurs with Wok to Walk Franchise.

In civil proceedings, the right to cancellation of baseless claims is anchored in regulation 100 of the Civil Procedure Regulations 1984. The Patent Office can rely on this, see cancellation rulings regarding TM Nos. 192398, 193299, 301639, 201641, 201645, 201642, 193947, 193948 HaIr Halvanah LTD. (White City LTD vs. Biyanei HaIr HaLevanah Achzackot LTD10 November 2009.

The case law states that:

The test for whether  or not there is a basis for suing  on these grounds is whether “the plaintiff, on the assumption that the factual basis for the claim is proven, is entitled to receive the requested sanction (Civil Appeal 109//49 Engineering and Industry Company vs. Mizrach Insurance Services, p.d. 5, 1585, 1591 (1951). Cancellations of Statements of Case on the basis of lack of case should be allowed only in cases where were the plaintiff to successfully prove all the significant facts of the case, they would still not be entitled to a ruling since the statement of case does not include a legal basis for the claim that obliges the other party   (Yoel Zusman “Civil Procedure 384-385, 7th Edition, edited by Shlomo Levine, 1995). The purpose of this regulation is to prevent purposeless hearings and expenses in unnecessary human resources considering pointless claims.

In this case, the request for cancellation and the sections to be cancelled are concerned with a bad faith allegation due to the mark owner knowing about the competing mark, and registered it to prevent the franchise going international. The franchise argue that
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