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
Read the rest of this entry »


A Balanced Temporary Injunction Against Rami Levy

April 19, 2018

This case concerns ‘minute steaks’ supplied by Rami Levy – a supermarket chain in own-brand packaging that has some similarity to that of Baladi, a brand that had introduced the product to the frozen meat freezers in Israel. Baladi sued Rami Levy for passing off, copyright infringement and unjust enrichment and tried to obtain a temporary injunction against Rami Levy at what is the start of the Israel barbecue season.

steaks

This case concerns ‘minute steaks’ supplied by Rami Levy – a supermarket chain in own-brand packaging that has some similarity to that of Baladi, a brand that had introduced the product to the frozen meat freezers in Israel. Baladi sued Rami Levy for passing off, copyright infringement and unjust enrichment and tried to obtain a temporary injunction against Rami Levy at what is the start of the Israel barbecue season.

baladi minute steak

The claims of passing off and copyright infringement were considered unlikely to prevail and thus not grounds for a temporary injunction. However, Judge Avrahami saw fit to grant a temporary injunction on the grounds of unjust enrichment. Rather than have Rami Levy’s product removed from the shelves and repackaged which could result in the meat being lost, she ruled that a sticker in a contrasting colour should be attached to the packages indicating that Maadaniya was Rami Levy’s own brand. Rami Levy was also advised to work towards introducing a more different package. The parties were invited to try to settle their differences without the court having to hear the case in its

Baladi makes meat products including minute steak which are thinly sliced steak that can be roasted in a frying pan in one minute. Baladi claims to have designed the packaging that they use for minute steaks.

Rami Levi is a public company that runs supermarkets across Israel. The company stocks known brands and also sells popular products packaged for them under their own label.

Rami Levi sells Baladi products. It also sells minute steaks under their only  own label “Rami Levi’s Sycamore Marketing Delicatessen”. Rami Levi’s own label minute steaks are packaged by TBone Veal.

In a preliminary ruling, Baladi claimed that minute steaks were not sold in supermarkets until they launched this product in November 2017 with a massive and expensive sales campaign. From the launch until 19 March 2018, the product sold well due to the marketing campaign. On 19 March 2018, suddenly, without notice, Rami Levi forbade Baladi to replenish supplies and blocked the product, and instead supplied minute steaks under their own label.

baladi logo

Baladi claims that the own-label brand is packaged in a copycat package of that of their product, and that this was a calculated, organized action of Rami Levi in bad faith, to ride on Baladi’s advertising campaign and product launch, benefiting from their investment. Baladi’s campaign has drawn customers to want to purchase their product. The customers go to the meat refrigerators and find the infringing product that is a copy of their package and are misled into believing that they are purchasing Baladi’s product.

Baladi considers that the case is particularly serious since Rami Levi is a retailer that can block their product whilst offering the competing own-label product. This is particularly problematic since Rami Levi’s product launch was just before Pesach and close to Independence Day which is the start of the Israel barbecue season when sales go up significantly.

In light of the above, on 22 March 2018, Baladi sued for passing off, unfair trade practices, copyright infringement in the product package and unjust enrichment. They filed their case in the Tel Aviv and Jaffa District Court. Baladi requested a permanent injunction, compensation and production of sales data. For the purpose of assessing the court fees, Baladi assess the damages at 2,750,000 Shekels.

Baladi also requested a temporary injunction on Rami Levi to prevent them using the product sold under their private label or at least to prevent them selling the product in the packaging used at the time of filing, and to cease from blocking Baladi’s products, and to enable their products to be sold on an equal basis with other frozen meat products. The Request was supported by an affidavit from Ms Irene Feldman, the VCFO of Baladi, and was filed as an ex-partes action for immediate attention since any delay will cause irreparable damage.

El gaucho minute steak

In response, Yossi Sabato, the VCEO of Rami Levy submitted an Affidavit claiming that Baladi was acting in extreme bad faith by not telling the court that they were conducting a parallel action against El Gaucho which is a label of TBone Veal in the Central District Court as 4347-01-18. In that instance, they made similar accusations which were rejected. This action, in a different court, against a different label, was a type of forum shopping that was indicative of bad faith and should be sufficient for the case to be thrown out. This was simply an attempt to corner the market and to prevent competition. The Ex-partes actions in both the El Gaucho case and in the present instance are cynical exploitations of the legal system designed to get free publicity, and the plaintiff was suing for extreme damages without having first contacted the supermarket chain, which is itself inequitable behavior for which the case should be thrown out.

monopoly

With regards to the complaint itself, Rami Levy claims that Baladi is trying to obtain a monopoly on minute steaks, which is a term known in Israel and abroad and which they did not coin. Baladi also tried to obtain a trademark for this generic term. Minute steaks have been advertised in Israel in the past and are available in restaurants and from butchers, and even from supermarkets. Baladi has not been in the market long enough for minute steaks to be identified with them to the extent that they deserve a monopoly on the term (acquired distinctiveness), and a reputation that is protectable, and even Baladi does not claim to have rights to minute steaks but only to the sound of the name.

Rami Levy

Rami Levy claims that their product package is completely different from Baladi’s, including writing and visual elements, and there is no likelihood of confusion. Baladi advertises their product with their trade-name Baladi clearly written thereon and, in the absence of this term, there is no likelihood of confusion. Rami Levy’s private label HaMaadaniya (literally the delicatessen) is well-known to Rami Levy’s customers as a low price brand, and there is no likelihood of confusion.

“Rami Levy” is written clearly on the front and back of the packaging, and is a super brand that does not need to ride on the reputation of Baladi or anyone else. The difference in price also prevents confusion, and all Rami Levy’s own branded products are clearly sold as such in their stores, and there are loads of examples of private labels being sold alongside branded goods and the public are not misled in any way that they are purchasing something other than the own label.

boycott

As to the issue of marketing Baladi’s products in Rami Levy’s stores, Rami Levy contends that they are under no obligation by general law (in rem) or by contract (in personam) with Baladi, to purchase any of Baladi’s products, including their meat products. Baladi’s goods are available in other chains. At present, Rami Levy stores DO stock Baladi’s minute steaks but, in view of the high price that Baladi dictates for their product, Rami Levy is under no obligation to replenish stocks of something much more

In answer to Rami Levy’s response, Baladi reiterated that their issue is NOT the name ‘minute steak’, but the packaging and the product blocking. On 26 March 2018. a long hearing was held. There were many attempts to bring the parties into an understanding, and the affidavits were reviewed and the parties summarized their arguments. After the hearing the parties still refused to come to an understanding, and so there is no alternative but to reach a verdict in this instance.

Relevant Considerations Regarding Temporary Injunctions

Principles-Governing-Issuance-of-Temporary-Injunction

It is known that the party requesting a temporary injunction has to convince the Court, on the basis of apparently convincing evidence, that there is grounds for the complaint and the Court then has to balance the ease of implementing the different actions, i.e. the damage to the complainant if a temporary restriction order is not issued, vs. the damage to defendant if a temporary restriction order is issued but if it later transpires should not have been. The Court has to ascertain whether the temporary injunction was requested in good faith, and if the injunction is just and fitting in the circumstances and does not unduly damage the defendant – See Regulation 363 of the Civil Procedures Regulation 1984.

interests

The main considerations for requesting a temporary injunction are the likelihood of prevailing and the balance of interests of the two parties, but where the Court considers that the likelihood of prevailing is greater, they will be less concerned about the balance of interests, and the opposite is also true.

When deciding on a temporary injunction, the court also has Read the rest of this entry »


“Think Different” and “Tick Different” –

March 21, 2018

Tick different

Apple Inc filed Israel trademark no. 284172 for the slogan “Think Different” in classes 14, 28, 35, 36, 41 and 42.

Then Swatch AG filed Israel Trademark Nos. 281116 and 281332 for “Tick Different” in classes 9 and 14.

Now “think” and “tick” mean totally different things, but visually, the marks have a similarity, in that they both start with a t, have an I in the middle, and end with a k. The Israel Trademark Examiner saw a likelihood of confusion for fashion conscious illiterates or those whose mother tongue is not English, and instituted a competing marks procedure.

Apple’s slogan ‘think different’ dates back to 1997 and was a response by Steve Jobs to IBM’s “Think” campaign, and they already have a registered mark no. 266923 for “Think Different” in class 9. Consequently, in an Office Action Swatch’s marks were refused to under Section 11(9) of the Ordinance.

On 1 November 2017, Apple requested that the competing marks procedure be suspended until if and when Swatch managed to overcome the Section 11(9) objection.

Think different

Apple claims to be one of the leading technology companies in the world. They allege that the “Think Different” campaign should be considered a “well-known mark” under the relevant section of the Ordinance, and is thus entitled to wide protection against marks, seen in different classes, and Swatch’s Tick Different is confusingly similar thereto. Furthermore, Swatch’s application was rejected under Section 11(9) of the Ordinance in light of Apple’s registered mark. Apple considers the Angel Bakery vs. Shlomo Angel Patisserie LTD from 2016 as a relevant precedent. In that case, there was a competing marks proceeding in parallel with formal examination based on earlier registered marks and former Commissioner Asa Kling suspended the Competing Marks proceeding whilst examining the registerability of one mark based on previously registered marks. In this instance as well, Apple argues that it is ridiculous to have to fight a competing marks proceeding, where, if Swatch were to win, they would in all probability not be able to register their mark in light of the previously registered Apple mark.

swatch

On 4 February 2018 Swatch responded, claiming that the competing marks procedure should NOT be suspended since unlike the Angel’s case, Think Different should not prevent Tick Different from being registered. Reasons given included that Apple was not using Think Different in Class 9, and because the marks were not confusingly similar phonetically or visually, and anyway Class 9 (Computers, Software, Electronic instruments, & Scientific appliances) and Class 14 (precious metals and their alloys and goods in precious metals or coated therewith, hierological and chronometric instruments).

Swatch considers that a competing marks procedure is necessary to decide which mark takes precedence. Swatch considers that the Commissioner is obliged to conduct a competing marks procedure if there are pending marks to two applicants that are confusingly similar and the parties are unable to agree to coexist, and this should occur prior to examination of the a priori registerability of either mark. The Angel’s case is different since in this instance, the list of goods to be protected by the mark is different for the two applicants.

ON 14 February 2018, Apple responded that they were using the Think Different mark, the two marks were undeniably similar and the Angel case is very relevant. Furthermore, as far as competing marks is concerned, it is irrelevant if the applied for marks are in the same category or not.

RULING

Section 29(a) is the proceeding that decides which of competing marks takes precedent:

Where separate applications are made by different persons to be registered as proprietors respectively of identical, or similar to a misleading degree, trademarks in respect of the same goods or goods of the same trade description, and the later application was filed before the acceptance of the prior application, the Registrar may refrain from accepting the applications until their respective rights have been determined by agreement between them approved by the Registrar. In the absence of such agreement or approval, the Registrar shall decide, for reasons which shall be recorded, which application shall continue to be processed pursuant to the provisions of this Ordinance.

Where the Commissioner uses his Section 29(a) discretionary power, there are two applicants that use the same or very similar marks. In such circumstances, the Section 29a ruling will cancel the rights of one of the parties to use the mark where, were it not for the competing mark, both applicants would be able to use their marks. Thus it is the second application that might make the mark non-registerable and effectively both parties attempt to prevent the other from continuing to use a mark.

In a long list of decisions and rulings, the Trademark Office considers the following:

  1. Who filed first?
  2. The extent of usage, and
  3. Issues of bad faith in selecting the mark.

See for example, Appeal 11188/03 Contact Linsen Israel ltd vs. Commissioner of Patents & Trademarks (5 May 2005) and Appeal 878/04 Yotvata ltd. vs. Tnuva Cooperative 4 March 2007 and Appeal 8987/05 Yehuda Malchi vs. Sabon Shel Paam (2000) ltd.

As a rule, in the Competing Marks procedure, the issue of registerability over existing marks is not considered, and there is an assumption that both marks are registerable and would be registered if not for the Competing Marks Proceeding (See Bagatz 228/65 Fromein & sons ltd vs Pro Pro Biscuits ltd p.d. 19(3) 337 (1965) where Judge Salzmann stated:

A proceeding under Section 17 (now Section 29) is not intended to determine whether a mark is registerable. In such a proceeding the Commissioner works under the assumption that both marks are registerable. At a later stage, after the mark has published and an opposition is filed, this assumption may be lost.

If it is clear that if the Commissioner is not willing to assume registerability of both marks, he will not initiate a Competing Marks procedure under Section 29(a) of the Ordinance. It is only sensible to start a Section 29a proceeding if one can assume that the marks are registerable under Sections 8, 11 and 12, and the following quotation from Frohmein is relevant here:

Where the Commissioner is not willing to assume (that the two marks are otherwise registerable), it is inappropriate to proceed according to Section 17 (i.e. Section 29) and consider which mark takes precedence, since this assumes that both marks would be registerable if not for the competing mark (BAGATZ 228/65 [1] page 341).

Furthermore, Judge Barak added in re Al Din that under a Section 29a proceeding, the Commissioner has the authority to decide that neither mark is registerable before launching the Competing Marks Proceeding since there is no point or value in to conduct a long inter-partes proceeding where neither mark is registerable:

“Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent the Commissioner to refrain from determining which mark takes precedence under Section 29 if, based on the evidence before him, neither is registerable. (Bagatz 90/70 [3]. For what is the purpose of holding a long and involved proceeding under Section 29 of the Ordinance if at the end it is determined that the party with the greater lack of registerability will not be awarded the mark in his name?”

Indeed, even if a Competing Marks Proceeding IS initiated under Section 29a, there is nothing to stop the Commissioner (and from re AL Din it is indeed fitting for him to) from considering if either mark is registerable. Otherwise the parties can waste time fighting a Competing Marks procedure only for the winning party to later learn that the mark cannot be registered in his name.

The inherently logical approach is to first consider registerability and only then to hold a Competing Marks procedure, as the Supreme Court ruled in Bagatz 296/85 Siya Siyak Nau (Anthony) vs. The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks. p. d. 40(4) 770 where, in pages 775-776 of the ruling, it is stated that:

The Authority of the Commissioner to consider registerability coexists with the authority to consider which party takes priority. There is no room to consider which mark takes precedence where there is no registration worthy mark. Anyway, the other party will prevail over the applicant for the non-registerable mark.

This problematic nature of the Competing Marks Proceeding was realized by the Commission of Patents and Trademarks in 1167390 and 166845 Danin vs Shidurei Keshet ltd (26 December 2005) where it was ruled that:

It is a matter of case-law that Section 29 proceedings with respect to competing marks do not relate to the registerability of the marks per se, but only with regards to which of the two pending applications should take precedent. See re Frohmein 342, and Bagatz 450/80 p.d. 35, 187 (2) on page 189, Eshel and Sabon shel Paam, is only true with regards to considering registerabily of the  mark from one party, and is noted that the preference of one party over the other is not indicative that the mark is registerable and does not guarantee that it will be registered. However, one is uncomfortable with a situation where a party that wins a competing mark proceeding will eventually have their mark refused, and the party that loses the competing marks proceeding can then reapply and register their mark.

On 23 February 2012 Circular 013/2012 was published. This relates to Competing Marks Proceedings where objections are also raised against the registerability of one or other mark. Under the Circular, the parties to the Competing Marks Proceeding are allowed to file a joint submission to suspend the Competing Marks Proceeding under Section 29a until the substantive objections are addressed.

In subsequent proceedings, as in this instance, the parties do not see eye to eye, as in the Angel case:

As stated in the Circular, the parties have the opportunity to make a joint submission to request substantive examination […] however in this instance, one party’s issued marks are cited against the application of the other party whilst there is a Competing Marks Proceeding under section 29a of the Ordinance. This scenario results in the party whose marks are cited to prefer the substantive objections to be dealt with first. If the Applicant is NOT able to overcome the substantive objection, the Section 29a proceeding is moot, saving the other party the cost and aggravation of the competing marks proceeding and makes it unlikely that the parties will agree on suspension.

Since this Circular was published, there have been a number of Competing Marks Proceedings that were suspended pending rulings on registerability. However, these requests were submitted without agreement of both parties and different rulings ensued, see for example PayPal Inc. vs. Online Ordering ltd, 5 January 2017George Shukha Haifa ltd. vs. Fareed Khalaf Sons Company, 27 November 2016the Angel rulingetc. It has been established that in some cases, one can ignore the joint request requirement and the Commissioner can simply suspend the Competing Marks Proceeding pending consideration of the substantive objections.

In this instance, there are substantive objections against the Swatch mark, however the parties disagree regarding suspending the Competing Marks Proceeding.

Swatch’s “Tick Different” marks are objected to in light of registered Apple marks for “Think Different”, whereas apart from the Competing Marks Proceeding, the new Apple think Different mark is not objected to. One cannot conclude that were there not to be a Competing Marks Proceeding, Swatch’s marks would certainly be registerable.

An issued mark that has been examined, allowed, and published for opposition purposes, is considered stronger than a pending application. For example, the owner of a registered mark is entitled to a monopoly for that mark and this is not the case with a mark that has yet to be allowed. A registered mark can be enforced against infringers, whereas a pending mark cannot, unless it is a well-known mark. Thus it would appear that Apple’s issued Think Different mark should take priority over the pending Swatch mark.

Consequently, the Adjudicator of IP, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi rules that it is appropriate to consider whether or not there is a confusing similarity between the two marks BEFORE considering the Competing Marks issue.

Ms Shoshani Caspi notes that she is unhappy with Swatch arguing two contradictory positions. Swatch has submitted copious arguments to the effect that “Tick Different” is not confusingly similar to “Think Different”, but nevertheless, it is appropriate to fight a Competing Marks Procedure which is based on the inherent understanding that there is a confusing similarity and the marks cannot coexist.  Thus Swatch is arguing that classes 9 and 14 (computers and watches) are different classes of goods, but nevertheless a Competing Marks Proceeding is appropriate.

It is fitting to allow Swatch to try to argue that Tick Different in classes 9 and 14 is not confusingly similar to Think Different in class 9 which is already registered. It is right to do this before addressing the Competing Marks Procedure.

This ruling is in accordance with the Angel’s decision where there was also a Section 11(9) objection and the Competing Marks Proceeding was suspended pending resolution of the objections.

Swatch is to respond to the substantive Section 11(9) objections against the two Tick Different applications, within 30 days. If successful, the Competing Marks Proceeding will ensue.

Ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi re Think Different to Apple vs. Tick Different to Swatch, 28 February 2018

 


Unipharm without legal representation, wins Interim Proceeding Against Novartis

February 22, 2018

galvusIsrael  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 ” the patent application is a national phase of PCT/EP/2005/000400. It relates to a pharmaceutical used in the treatment for diabetes known as Vildagliptin (previously LAF237, trade names Galvus, Zomelis,) which is an oral anti-hyperglycemic agent (anti-diabetic drug) of the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor class of drugs. Vildagliptin inhibits the inactivation of GLP-1[2][3] and GIP[3] by DPP-4, allowing GLP-1 and GIP to potentiate the secretion of insulin in the beta cells and suppress glucagon release by the alpha cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

Unipharm has opposed the patent issuing and, in an intermediate proceeding, Unipharm (not represented) submitted a disclosure request for:

  1. The specific testing referred to Appendix E of a the Applicant’s expert witness.
  2. All other tests relating to all the formulations that were performed where the particle size distribution was examined.

Unipharm

Alternatively, Unipharm requests that the part of the evidence that relates to the evidence submitted in the European Opposition proceeding from Dr Davis’ statement, including Appendix E, be struck.

The patent relates to tablets that are made by direct compaction and which include DPP-IV, (s)-1-[(3-hydroxy-1-adamantyl)amino]acetyl-2-cyanopyrrolidin (Vildagliptin) in free radical form or as a salt, wherein at least 80% of the particles compressed into the tablet are in size range of 10 microns to 250 microns.

novartis

In their Statement of Case, Novartis explains that use of direct compression was not obvious to persons of the art wishing to produce vildagliptin formulations, and the distribution and size of the particles affects the character of the tablet in a manner that determines the efficacy of the formulation. The chosen distribution enables tablets to be produced by direct compaction which have high quality, acceptable stability and good physical properties.

With respect to this, Novartis’ expert witness, Dr Davis, explains in his expert opinion as follows:

“There is no prior art suggesting that tablets of vildagliptin can be made using direct compression with this size range or any size range. This particle size range and percentage of the active agent is not disclosed in the prior art. It should be noted that the particle size distribution is important to achieving good physical properties in the tablet (e.g. good hardness). Evidence filed in a technical annex for the corresponding European Patent Application No.15199440.7 (available on-line from the EPO at https://register.epo.org/application?documentId=EZQR8ZQ06757DSU&number=EP15199440&lng=en&npl=false),  comparing 88% PSD of 10-250 micron (within the claim) versus 79% PSD of 10-250 micron (outside the claim) shows that the use of a particle size distribution as claimed is important in providing directly compressed tablets with good hardness (Appendix E).”

The Expert witness related to the technical appendixes that were submitted by the Applicant to the European Patent Office which compares tablets that fall within the ambit of claim 1 to those that do not, and this is the basis of the discovery request that Unipharm submitted.

Claims of the Parties

disclosureUnipharm’s opposition to this evidence is that Professor Davis relied on test results from tests that he himself did not conduct, and they express wonderment that Novartis did not produce the drug developers to be cross-examined. In response, the Applicants claim that the disclosure process should be allowed in cases where it is proven that the documents in question are relative to the proceeding in general and to the point of contention between the parties, and in this instance the Opposer did not justify his request for disclosure of documents and did not explain how the disclosure would help clarify the question under debate.

grain size

Novartis further allege that the request for disclosure is wide and general, in that it relates to all testing and formulations made, where particle size was examined. The Applicant further asserts that Dr Davis referred to Appendix E merely to show that it was published and not as evidence that the data therein is true (!?).

As to Unipharm’s alternative request, Novartis claims that the Opposer did not base this allegation, and that we are referring to an expert opinion based on data provided to him and his relying on the publication is equivalent to any expert relying on a professional publication such as a paper in a scientific journal or a patent application in a relevant field.

file-wrapperIn response, Unipharm claims that the Applicant’s expert, Professor Davis, did not merely testify that the document was included in the file wrapper of the European Patent Application, but also reached conclusions in his expert opinion that were based thereon. As far as anything connected to the scope of the disclosure, Unipharm focuses their request and asks to receive the documents relating to the experimentation with the particle distributions and efficacy of formulations made with the specific distributions.

Unipharm claims that the documents will reveal that the tests conducted, if indeed conducted, do not provide sufficient instruction to persons of the art to produce the invention successfully without additional experimentation and thus the patent application should be rejected as not enabled under Section 12 of the Israel Patent Law 1967.

Discussion and Ruling

legal fishing expedition

There is no doubt that the Commissioner of Patents can request disclosure and access to documents in opposition proceedings. The disclosure is efficient in that it provides documents to the Patent Office that are not covered by Section 18 of the Law (Duty of Disclosure) and which can help clarify if an application is patent worthy. However, disclosure is performed in a manner to prevent the Applicant going on an illegal fishing expedition in the Applicant’s filing cabinets.

The considerations to be weighed up prior to giving a disclosure order are detailed in Opposition to 60312 Biotechnology General Corp vs. Genentech Inc and in Opposition to 143977 AstraZeneca AB vs. Unipharm ltd, and these are the stage of the opposition reached; the amount of documents and their content; the weight of the claim that the Applicants are attempting to prove with the documents asked disclosure of, their evidential weight, the possibility of the Applicant to obtain the documents themselves, and the burden it will cause the opposing party.

In these rulings it was also determined that disclosure could damage the property rights of the opposing party by forcing revelation of trade-secrets. However, the possibility of such damage being caused does not remove the authority of the Patent Office to demand such a disclosure, but obliges consideration of the legitimate property rights of the party when applying that authority.

In the opinion of Commissioner Alon Ofir, Novartis is correct that the experimental results will have no effect on the average person of the art’s ability to implement the invention. The answer to this question is found in what is revealed and not in what is not revealed in the patent application.

Nevertheless, Unipharm is correct with regard to everything related to the tests described in Appendix E, since the Applicant himself relied upon this in his statement. In this regard the Commissioner does not accept that this evidence can be considered as external evidence that their Expert Witness relied on. The document was prepared by Novartis themselves, with data they control, and their expert witness relied on it in his Opinion.

tablet-compression-machine

The particle size distribution is claimed by Novartis themselves as being a central element of their invention, and the claims of the Application itself limits the requested patent to one wherein 80% of the particles are in the 10 micron to 250 micron range. The Applicants themselves state in their Statement of Case, that the choice of particle size and distribution is what enables the fabrication of tablets of an acceptable quality by direct compression. Their Expert Witness finds support for this claim in Appendix E which compares tablets having this particle distribution with tablets that do not.

In these circumstances, one should consider the documents as relating to the central question being debated by the parties. Thus the documents relating to Appendix E are ruled relevant and Novartis are required to provide not just those relied upon but other documents summarizing experiments done with the intention of producing Appendix E, even if not included therein.

Novartis is given 30 days to produce an Affidavit of Disclosure with the relevant documents describing test results obtained in the experimentation leading to Appendix E, whether or not included in the Appendix, but relating to the hardness of tablets made from different particle distribution.

As an after-note, the Opposer is chastised for using language that does not show respect for the proceedings which was inappropriate.

No costs are awarded.

Ruling on Interim Proceeding regarding disclosure, by Commissioner Ofir Alon, 3 January 2018.

COMMENT

trawlingIn court proceedings in the United States there is wide discovery and the parties effectively go on fishing expeditions with trawlers and haul up everything and then have to wade through the bycatch.  This is not the case in Israel. One can ask for specific documents, but have to justify the request. Thus I have used the term disclosure and not discovery.

self representation

In this instance, Unipharm is not-represented, or to be more accurate Dr Zebulun Tomer is representing himself. No doubt if he runs into trouble he will call on his attorney Adi Levit to represent them. It is unlikely that the inappropriate language lost Unipharm a costs award as, since they have not used legal counsel, they are not entitled to costs anyway.

We strongly discourage industrialists to represent themselves in Opposition proceedings. The Tomers, however, have so much experience of killing pharma patent applications that there are very few lawyers that have handled so many cases.


Passed Off Pasta?

February 8, 2018

barilla pasta

Barilla is an Italian pasta brand that is on sale in Israel.

Oddly enough, pasta is made of durum wheat (Triticum durum or Triticum turgidum subsp. durum), which is a tetraploid species of wheat which is hard to mill due to the starchy endosperm. Dough made from its flour is weak or “soft”. This makes durum favorable for couscous (semolina) and pasta, and less practical for flour. It is actually grown in Israel and exported to Italy!

Rami Levy

Rami Levy (Shivuk HaShikma) is an Israel chain of supermarkets that, as well as selling commercial brands, negotiates with manufacturers and packages its own-brand labels which are usually cheaper.

 

Recently, Rami Levy started stocking its own-label dried pasta.

Rami Levy pasta

As you can see, Rami Levy’s pasta, like Barilla, uses a blue box, albeit a slightly different shade, and has the type of pasta contained viewable through a cellophane window. The type of pasta (penne, spaghetti, cannelloni, etc.) is written in white, although on Barilla’s product, the name is in English letters and on Rami Levy’s own brand, it is in Hebrew. Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma is written across the top and on the side of the box. The name of the brand, written in yellow, seems to be a face with a hat on and wide mouth, but is actually a stylized O followed by lla in italics giving Olla. However, Barilla also ends with an lla.

Barilla sued Rami Levy in the Tel Aviv District Court for a million shekels (about $300,000 US, 250,000 Euros) and obtained an injunction ordering Rami Levy to take their own-brand pasta and sauces off the shelves. Rami Levy filed a counter-suit and the cases are pending.

Rami Levy claims that Barilla waited for over 14 months since Rami Levy introduced their own-label and so the case should be thrown out. He claims that his competition is fair and Barilla should respond by advertising, discounts and special offers. He dismisses allegations of passing off, and argues that there is an overwhelming weight of precedent from the District and Supreme Court that indicates that the similarity is not excessive and that the case is baseless. The name Rami Levy, the Italian series is clearly written in white on blue in large letters.

Barilla has a trademark on their brand name and not on the design of the package or on the blue colour. Rami Levy accuses Barilla of ignoring their own branding and trying to monopolize the blue colour. However the case-law does not support claims of passing off where packages are similar but the trade name is clearly written and there is no likelihood of confusion in such cases. The courts do not recognize rights in a packaging colour. Rami Levy further claims that with over half a billion shekels in sales of “the private brand” in 2017, his sales outstrip those of Barilla. His prices are much lower and this also distinguishes them, and there are a number of accumulative differences.

COMMENT

taaman 1taaman 2

We note that Taaman (pun on taam which means both taste and reason) is an Israeli importer and distributer of staples such as flour, pasta, chocolate, etc. that also has a red logo with white text in an oval. Their name, in Hebrew, is written in a backwards leaning italic font, however as Hebrew is written from right to left, the sloping is the same as that of Barilla. Their pasta is packaged in blue cellophane with a window showing the content. Thus Barilla’s packaging is perhaps less unique than they claim, although Taaman uses cellophane bags and not boxes.

In a recent decision the Deputy Commissioner refused to register a black box with silver trim as a trademark. Back in 2014, Judge Ginat refused to recognize a trade-dress in blue energy drink cans. Judge Binyamini threw out a claim that one ice-cream manufacturer was entitled to a monopoly on gold ice-cream tubs. Then again, Abu Shukra were unable to register their application for a trademark for a coffee package that is similar to Elite’s Turkish coffee.

 

 

 


Statute of Limitation for Compensation for an Employee Invention

January 28, 2018

This ruling considers when the seven year Statute of Limitations starts for an employee to turn to the tribunal for service inventions for a ruling regarding appropriate compensation.

Background

10-american-idol-judges

Section 134 of the Israel Patent Law establishes a tribunal comprising a judge, the Patent Commissioner and an academic, whose job it is to determine an appropriate level of compensation for an employee inventor if asked to do so.

The Law is clear that such inventions are the property of the employer. If there is a contractual arrangement regarding compensation it is usually upheld. Nevertheless, the committee has the authority to hear cases and make rulings, and several such rulings have published in recent years.  See re Barzani.

azilect

In this instance, on 20 April 2015 Dr Ruth Levy who was previously employed by Teva Pharmaceuticals, requested that the committee rule compensation for her employee invention of rasagiline which because the active ingredient of AZILECT™.

teva

Teva opposed based on her tardiness in bringing the claims and the Statute of Limitations for such actions. They also requested that the tribunal set out a timetable for discussing the issues, and that they firstly address whether the case should simply be dismissed out of hand due to the time passed.

The witnesses concerned were aged, and Dr Levy opposed the timetable. Eventually it was decided to collect testimony first and then to establish a time-table for everything else.

After the usual preliminary skirmishes, on 30 June 2016 the tribunal ruled that Professor Cohen should be cross-examined at his home on 12 July 2016 and the other witnesses (including Dr Levy) would be cross-examined on 28-30 August 2016 at the Israel Patent Office.

Professor Cohen was cross-examined as scheduled, and the testimony of the other witnesses was postponed unto December 2016 at request and consent of both parties.

On 29 September 2019, the tribunal set a date for discussing initial questions, and delayed the hearing on the stature of limitations and aging of charges until later on.

On 25 October 2019, Dr Levy submitted her response to the initial requests together with affidavits and appendices and submitted that the affidavit of Professor Eldad Melamed which was part of her original submission, be included in the evidence, despite his having passed away in the meantime, making his cross-examination impossible.

swamped

Being swamped with material, the tribunal cancelled the scheduled cross-examinations and decided to relate to whether the case should be thrown out due to the statute of limitations first, so that if they concluded that the application for compensation was filed too late, it would not need to be addressed substantively.

The Main Claims of the Parties

claimsDr Levy has a PhD in microbiology and was employed by TEVA in various capacities relating to the Research and development of drugs from 1986 until retiring in 2013. She claimed that she was an active participant in a number of significant inventions, the most prominent being the active ingredient rasagiline which is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in the drug AZILECT™ which was marketed in Israel and Europe since 2005 and in the US since 2006.

compensation

TEVA responded that Dr Levy received full compensation for her inventions. I addition to her salary, she received a special grant of _______________ for her contribution to the development of AZILECT™. Teva considers that this grant was beyond that required by law and its acceptance created an implicit agreement between Dr Levy and the company regarding compensation for her inventive contribution. TEVA further claims that all the inventions that Dr Levy requests compensation for were invented over seven years before filing her request for compensation. Even if one counts the time period from when a patent application was filed, this is still seven years previous, and so the statute of limitations applies and she is not entitled to anything else.

Furthermore, Teva contends that by her behavior prior to suing, Dr Levy apparently gave up on any rights to additional compensation by not making any claims beyond her salary and grants, and so the case should be thrown out due to laches.

give up

Dr Levy disagrees. She considers that the special payment or grant that she received from TEVA was an admission that she had inventor rights. Furthermore, she only became aware of the right in 2012, and citing section 9 of the Statute of Limitations argued that the clock only starts ticking from her becoming aware of her rights.

It should be noted that Dr Levy denies that the payments made were compensation for her inventions. However, she claims that the fact that she denies this does not alter the fact that Section 9 of the Statute of Limitations starts with her becoming aware.

Alternatively, Dr Levy claims that if one does not accept the 2012 date, one should consider the period as starting with TEVA acknowledging her rights  which occurs in Paragraph 2.2 of the draft retirement agreement that TEVA drafted and sent her in 2013, and which was not included in the final version that was signed by the parties.

The paragraph remains confidential.

giving-up

Dr Levy claims that had she signed the agreement including paragraph 2.2, this could be considered as being a waiver of her rights. She further alleges that raising the issue of Statute of Limitations is itself an act of bad faith since TEVA failed in their obligation to inform her about her right to compensation and to turn to the tribunal. Furthermore, as long as the parties consider that they have not reached an agreement by not being silent on the compensation issue, and have not performed an action that makes it clear that there remains disagreement between the parties, Section 134 has not been fulfilled and the employee has not yet got the right to claim compensation. So the period for making a concrete claim only starts with her retiring in 2013 when she made her final request for compensation.

Dr Levy considers that section 135(4) of the Patent Law regarding actual exploitation of the invention, is not a necessary condition for the committee under Section 134 to establish grounds for suing. However, it does reset the Statute of Limitations. She considers that there is reciprocity between the exploitation by the employer and the employees right to compensation.

The Applicant bases this assertion on the law under which the statute of limitations for suing for infringement of a patent can only occur from when the infringement first occurs, without any relevance being given to any previous infringements. She considers that every product that exploits a service invention recreates the employee’s grounds for suing. She considers that this is clear from the fact that the tribunal can reconsider its rulings as circumstances change.   Thus there is time limit to when one can approach the tribunal under section 136. Any change in circumstances, such as exploitation of the patent in practice, reestablishes grounds for the employee suing.

window

Were the tribunal to rule differently, pharmaceutical inventions would have two windows, the first within seven years of inventing and the second within seven years of a change of circumstances under section 136. This is inefficient.

Dr Levy further alleges that only after seeking legal advice did she become aware of the her right for compensation under the Israel  Patent Law. She considers that the employer is obliged to explain all rights to employees and should have made a formal approach to her to settle the issue.

Dr Levy further alleges that a narrow window would force the employee to fight the employer during the period of employment and risk dismissal, and would force the negotiation to be from a position of weakness. Furthermore, a narrow seven year period would require her to have fought for each invention separately. This would have required her to approach the tribunal several times sometimes widely spaced, regarding a single pharmaceutical. Finally, she does not acknowledge being a side to any agreement with TEVA regarding employee inventions during her period of employment.

DISCUSSION

The Statute of Limitations does apply to rulings of the Committee for Compensation to Employee Inventors since it is a judicial body, see Appeal 402/77 Goldman vs. Herman, p.d. 32(2) 421 page 428:

When the legislative defined “court” in the Statute of Limitations it bothered to clarify in the definitions section that the term court did not only refer to the law courts or Rabbinic courts but also to any judicial authority, and even to an arbitrator who is not an Authority in that he is not an Institution that generally exists, but is rather an ad hoc authority. This means to say that the legislation specifically opined tat any play where the Law provides judicial authority to any entity, the Statute of Limitations applies.

Section 2 of the Statute of Liberties states that:

A claim for any right is subject to become aged, and if a legal submission is made for an aged right and the one sued claims the defense of the Statute of Limitations, the court need not address the issue, however the Statute of Limitations per say does not cancel the abrogated right.

Section 5 of the Statute of Liberties states that apart from real estate issues, the Statute of Limitations is seven years.

Section 6 of the Statute of Liberties states that:

The period from which seven years is counted starts with the incident that created the grounds for filing the complaint.

conception

In Appeal 10192/07 Pisgat Ashdod Civil Engineering LTD vs. Chen Gal Investments and Trading ltd. (24 May 2010) paragraph 17 of the ruling establishes that the time when a claim is conceived for the purposes of starting the Statute of Limitations clock is when the significant facts that are the basis of the requested claim come together. See Uri Goren “Issues in Civil Law” p. 118, 10th edition, 2009, Appeal 242/66 Jacobson vs. Gez p.d. 21(1) 85, 92 (1967). Estate of Williams p. 271, Appeal 244/81 Patent vs. Histadrut Health Fund p.d. 38(3) 673, 678-679 (1984). However, this definition does not fully cover the concept of when a claim is born. As far as the Statute of Limitations clock is concerned, it is insufficient for the claimant to have grounds for suing; he needs a concrete incident that can be proven in court for him to be able to file his claims and win the sanction he applies for. See 1650/00 Zisser vs. Ministry of Housing, p.d. 57(5) 166, 175 (2003).

monkey tribunal

Section 134 of the Israel Patent Law states that the tribunal has the authority to determine that an employee has the right to compensation for Service Inventions in cases where there is no agreement between the employer and employee:

If there is no agreement that prescribes whether, to what extent and on what conditions the employee is entitled to remuneration for a service invention, then the matter shall be decided by the compensation and royalties committee established under Chapter Six.

The Applicant claims that her rights as an employee come into play when the employee invention is made and she is entitled to compensation for inventing. However, she claims that her concrete right to file her complaint under Section 134 come into play only when there is no agreement between the parties regarding the employees rights. So long as it is not clear that there is no agreement, there is no concrete grounds for suing and thus the clock does not start to tick.

The tribunal rejects this claim. Section 134 states that where there is no agreement that regulates the employee’s right, the employee has the right to turn to the tribunal to determine if the employee is entitled to compensation and if so, how much? The requirement for a lack of agreement is a factual one objective one and is not subjective, as claimed by the complainant. As to when the concrete claim from which the clock starts to tick, this will be addressed below.

working together

Unlike other legal systems, the Israel Patent Law does not require that employer and employee will actively work towards forging an agreement as a preliminary action for Section 134 of the Law to come into effect. There is also no need for the parties to have a disagreement regarding compensation. So in accordance with the conditions laid out in re Ashdod Engineering (above), the plaintiff could have turned to the tribunal before negotiating on retirement, and the tribunal could have ruled that the plaintiff is entitled to compensation. In light of this legal situation, there is no basis for the claim that the employer is obliged to approach the employee and offer compensation. However, it is good for the employer to do so. Similarly, it is fitting for the legislation to consider including an obligation of this nature in light of the respective power of the parties, in light of Judge Rubinstein’s comments in re Barzani which are related to below.

concrete

The time when a concrete obligation was born

It is pertinent to discuss when an employee invention as defined in the Israel Patent Law comes into being for the purposes of the Statute of Limitation. One possibility is that the employee invention comes into being at the moment that the employee informs his employer that he has come up with an invention due to his employment or during his employment, as per Section 131 of the Law and the employer decides to monopolize the Invention under Section 132(a). There is an assumption that the parties do not disagree that this is a service invention. The logic behind this choice is that from the moment that the employee and employer fulfill their obligations under Sections 131 and 132 of the law, the parties are aware that there is a service inventions and have declared their interest regarding ownership, and this is the first opportunity to relate to the question of compensation. It is noted that by this approach the conceptual right and the concrete right.

A second possibility for when the right to compensation starts, is either when a patent application is filed or when a patent issues. These periods are periods when the employer shows interest in the invention. However, these dates are problematic since there are cases when an employee invents something that the employer does not apply for a patent for.

A third possibility for the concrete right is when the employer exploits the patent as per section 135(4) of the law. On the face of it, it seems that until the patent is utilized, it is not clear that the parties can really evaluate the worth of the patent. However, this approach is also problematic: exploitation does not occur in a single unequivocal event but is rather an ongoing process  during which various variables can affect the profitability of the invention. Similarly, it raises the question of whether the worker is entitled to a share in the profits if the employer sells the patent and does not exploit it directly.

That said, both the second option, and particularly the third one raise a further problem which it whether a concrete ground for suing as opposed to a conceptual ground for suing is cause to turn to the tribunal? Perhaps there is a difference from when the clock starts to tick, and the time period when the tribunal has the authority to relate to the employee’s claim for compensation. This means to say that it may be sufficient for there to be a conceptual claim for the tribunal to have authority, but a concrete right is required for the Statute of Limitations clock to start ticking. In the regard one should note that in Actelis Networks vs. Yishai Ilani (3 Feb 2010) discussed below, the tribunal concluded that one can request compensation prior to actual exploitation occurring.

In this instance, the tribunal sees no reason to rule on the issue of when the seven years Statute of Limitations period starts since the Complainant’s case was filed more than seven years after all the candidate dates.  Below claims by complainant to prevent the Statute of Limitations applying are discussed.

The Statute of Limitations as per re Schechter

Seven_year_itch.jpg

The Applicant relates to the decision ruled in217/86 Mordechai Schechter vs. Abmatz LTD, p.d. 44(2) 846, following which Section 73b of the Israel Paten Law was amended to state that the Statute of Limitations does not apply to patent cancellation requests. Dr Levy considers that the Schechter right to request a patent cancellation comes into effect when the Applicant for Cancellation has an interest in the patent being cancelled. So there is no single Statute of Limitations of seven years from when a patent issues, as stated in paragraph 5 of the decision:

When is the point at which the right to sue becomes grounds to sue? If we use a metaphor, what is the point at which a grain of sand in an oyster becomes a pearl? When translating this picture to the issue before us and to answer the question, when does the right to challenge the validity of a patent become grounds for filing a cancellation proceeding that starts the Statute of Limitation clock? In this instance, the cancellation period for filing a cancellation proceeding only starts when the Applicant for cancellation has a personal right to have a patent thrown out of the register.  (which also serves the public interest).  

In re Schechter, Judge Netanyahu explains that the rationale behind the establishment of the time frame in this manner is to enable the public to challenge the validity of the patent. The rationale for this is the purity of the register:

To block the possibility of attacking a patent on grounds of the Statute of Limitations or laches would lead to the result that after the period has passed, the patent would become an absolute right which contradicts the spirit behind The Patent Law. There is no policy or logic to justify a patent becoming inviolate from direct attack by cancellation proceedings after seven  years when the same reasoning allows a patent to be enforced for 27 years or more. What logic is there to make things difficult for a responsible person who wars that applicant to check the status of a patent in advance and to make is easier for someone to defend himself during infringement proceedings for an ‘at risk’ product launch? The logical conclusion from the perspective of Patent Law is that Patent Law is incompatible with laches and Statute of Limitations and does not coexist with it.

Judge Netanyahu explains that the conceptual right is a public right to have patents cancelled. However, only if someone is interested in cancelling the patent is there a concrete right to request for cancellation. The period for so doing starts with the day that the concrete right comes into effect:

This way, that differentiates between the conceptual right and the concrete grounds for an action lead to the following conclusion: The right to cancel a patent is a ‘right open to every person’, it is a fundamental concrete right that remains simple until it aggregates into a concrete right and an issue develops for the Applicant for Cancellation. Only then does the clock start running. So where the cancellation request is filed by a third party, and not the patentee who is owns the invention, the public is drawn in by virtue of their conceptual right to the concrete private claim. However, this is not the claim of the appellant. The claim is made on behalf of the public –that the invention is not patentable. Until there is a private concrete claim to use the patented invention, the clock does not start ticking.

The present case is different. The right to submit for a patent to be cancelled is a right that the Patent Law gives the public; that means to say that anyone can submit a cancellation request. The claims for compensation for inventing is conceptually limited to the employee inventor as a personal right that he has by virtue of inventing. The employer’s obligation is, to the extent that the tribunal decides that it exists, is an in personam contractual right to the specific employee and not a general in rem public right. Thus the conceptual right, i.e. that of compensation and the concrete right, which is that which initiates the seven year period of the statute of limitations- both are private rights that exist between employee and employer and do not extend beyond this relationship.

The reciprocity of the relationship between the Exploiting the Invention and Claims for Compensation

reciprocity

The supplicant Dr Levy claims that there is a reciprocity between the Exploiting the invention by the employer and the ability of the inventor to claim compensation. She claims that as long as the employer exploits the inventions, the worker’s right to compensation is continuously regenerating.

The tribunal rejects the supplicant’s claim in this regard. Such reciprocity does not accord with the wording of the Patent Law and does not accord with the underlying logic.

In re Schechter, Judge Netanyahu stood firm in her belief that the rationale was to allow the public to attack registered patents, and stated that:

As stated previously that the perspective at the base of the patent law and the public aspect is to ensure the ‘purity of the register’. I also explained that since the commissioner has limited tools to test that patents have correctly issued, the system relies on the public and encourages them to submit challenges. However, the most effective challenge is by persons with a personal interest, whether claiming that he is the true inventor, or claiming that he is exploiting the invention and considers that it does not deserve patent protection, and whether he attacks it directly [by cancellation proceedings] or indirectly by at risk product launch, allowing the patentee to sue him, and him being able to use invalidity defense], no one will exert the effort or costs for a thorough inquiry into the questions raised, which may be complicated and require expert testimony, as well as someone with a personal interest.

In parallel with the public right to challenge the validity of a patent, the patentee has the right to claim damages for patent infringement. This right mirrors the right to attack the patent. The patentee has a monopolistic right to the invention but only if it is held to be protected by a valid patent.  Thus he can protect his invention  from infringement, but only as long as there is a valid patent.

In cases of expensive infringement, the infringer infringers the patentee’s rights each time that he uses the patented invention without permission. So each act of infringement is free standing.  However, individual acts of exploitation by the patentee are not individual grounds for the employer inventor to claim compensation that each reset the clock. Section 132 of the Patent Law fixes that a service invention “shall become the property of the employer”.  Due to his contribution, the employee inventor has a right to compensation. So the action creating rights for the inventor is a single event.

Nevertheless, the patent law does not ignore the complicated employer-employee relationship, and the conditions that can develop during the life of an invention.  The inventor can return to the tribunal if it can proven that “the conditions existed at the time of the ruling have changed”.  As stated in Section 136 of the Law, there has to have been an earlier ruling for the worker to be entitled to return to the tribunal. Thus section 136 is a special arrangement that that Law provides the worker, so as not to leave him unprovided for. But one should not assume asymmetry between the employers utilization of a patent and the right of the employee inventor to compensation such that each utilization restarts the Statute of Limitations period.

(The arrangement of Section 136 is similar to the entitlement of the estranged wife to support by the husband pending divorce. The financial support is not final and can be revisited if circumstances change, as, for example in Appeal 442/83 Moshe Pam vs. Deborah Kam, p.s. 38(1) 767 on page 771).

However, this is not really relevant to the issue of finality in the employer-employee case. The issue is when the employee can first request compensation? In marital support, personal law applies and there is a tendency to consider a woman that is tardy regarding claiming support, as giving up on it. In cases where the general law applies, the period of aging is very short in the amendment to Section 11 of the Family Law (Support) 1959. Nevertheless, if there is a submission for support prior to the period of the appropriate Statute of Limitations, the parties can claim for changes due to changes in circumstances.

It is noted that the significance of Section 135 of the Law is not the aggregation of circumstances that makes it possible to sue for compensation for making an employee invention. The purposes is established in the heading “Guidelines for Establishing Compensation”, and these are only the guidelines for the tribune to use when considering compensation:

  1. In making a decision under section 134, the compensation and royalties committee shall also take into account the following factors:
  • the capacity in which the employee was employed;
  • the nature of the connection between the invention and the employee’s work;
  • the employee’s initiative in making the invention;
  • the possibilities of exploiting the invention and its actual exploitation
  • (expenses reasonable under the circumstances incurred by the employee in order to secure protection for the invention in Israel.

One could argue that clause (4) regarding actual exploitation of the invention is forward looking and does not require a certain knowledge that this will be the case. This was why the Legislative also included Section 136 which enables the tribunal to revisit and reconsider cases rule don under section 134 if they consider that the circumstances have changed. From here it can be seen that if a first request was filed during the seven year period, the conditions underpinning the Statute of Limitations apply and both the employee and his employer have certainty that the issue can be reconsidered. This is whilst the tribunal can request possibilities of the invention being utilized at all times, and even early on, before there is practical usage.

As the tribunal ruled in re Actelis Networks vs. Yishai Ilani (3 Feb 2010) in Section 9 of the ruling, that actual usage is not required to give the employee the right of standing before the tribunal:

The claim that the request is theoretical and premature since there is no actual exploitation in practice is rejected. Section 135 states that one of the conditions for determining the amount of compensation is the possibility of implementation if the invention. So there is no need for actual implementation and the request for compensation is not premature.

In the Actiles case it is noted that the previous tribunal considered it had authority to hear the case despite no actual exploitation. The content of the ruling is based on tests in law, and it is possible that the tribunal will postpone ruling until a later date, such as when there is actual exploitation, if this circumstances require this, as per section 136 of the Law.

Not knowing the Law

ignorance.jpg

Contrary to her assertion, the question of whether or not the Applicant had knowledge of her right to turn to the tribunal is not relevant to the concrete basis of her claims under Section 134. Section 8 of the Statute of Liberty states as follows:

If the claimant is not aware of the main grounds for claiming due to reasons beyond claimant’s control, and which with reasonable care, would still have been unable to prevent, the period for calculating the claim aging is calculated from when the claimant was first aware.

However, Appeal 1960/11 Almog vs. General Medical Services, 6 May 2013, page 7 states that Section 8 of the Statute of Limitations includes the objective test regarding when the period starts, but the burden of proof of its existence was only leaned later falls on plaintiff:

This claim is incompatible with the Guy Lipel, Donenfeld and Ganaim rule. It is difficult to argue that the period for reckoning the Statute of Limitations will start with receiving a professional medical opinion or when the law or a precedent becomes known. Otherwise, the clock for the Statute of Limitations is in the plaintiff’s control, which contradicts the rationale underlying the concept of claims aging. Section 8 of the Statute of Limitations gives both objective and subjective tests:

I will also note that since Section 8 of the law is an exception to the general rule of cases becoming aged, the burden of proof regarding retroactive awareness lies with the party claiming it (See Guy Lipel paragraph 41 and appendages.

It is true that not knowing the Law is not comparable to not knowing facts that would could have caused the plaintiff to file their suit; see Appeal 2919/07 State of Israel – Committee for Atomic Energy vs. Edna Guy Lipel, p.d. 64(2) 82, and paragraph 42 of the ruling:

The extent of the revelation: the law contains four conditions:

  • the existence of facts that were concealed from the plaintiff
  • the facts are significant and central to the claim
  • The plaintiff was unaware of these facts for reasons beyond his control
  • The plaintiff could not have prevented these reasons by taking due case

See Yehudai, page 204 and 1164/04 Herzliya vs. Yitzhaki, 5 Dec 2006. And note, the ruling states facts and not law, and so lately becoming aware of one’s legal rights is not considered retroactively becoming aware.

Furthermore, the facts required for the plaintiff to turn to the tribunal were known to her in fact long before the argument broke out on her retirement in 2013. The plaintiff claims a right to compensation for a number of inventions that she invented during her employment, the last being in 2006 at the latest. Dr Levy was aware of her contribution back then, and also was aware that TEVA had filed patent applications for these inventions.

In light of the above, the tribunal concludes that whichever date one considers as the period at which Dr Levy could have sought compensation, over seven years has passed and the complaint is thus aged.

Application of Section 9 of the Statute of Limitations

The Applicant added and claimed that even if the complaint has aged under section 6 of the Statute of Limitations, the defendant has admitted her right in section 2.2 of the agreement, and that some of the right___________________________________. Consequently, the Statute of Limitation should be calculated from when the defendant acknowledged her right.

Section 9 of the Statute of Limitations states that:

If the defendant admits in writing or before a court, whether during the seven year period or subsequently, that the plaintiff has rights, the period for the Statute of Limitations starts with that admission; and an action that pays out some of the rights is considered as such an admission.

In this section, the term ‘admit’ excludes an admission that accompanies the Statute of Limitations.  

expiredThe defendant denies the allegation that the conditions of Section 9 should be implemented. TEVA argues that to reset the clock, they have to admit that the complainant has the right to turn to the tribunal, and has to admit that there is both an employee invention and a lack of agreement regarding appropriate compensation. TEVA considers that these have to be clearly and explicitly stated, both formally and in terms of content. They argue that this remains the case even if some compensation is paid by the defendant.

time out

Under Section 9 of the Statute of Limitations, the new period starts notice. Since the Complainant submitted her case for compensation for her worker invention on 20 April 2015, the notification restarting the clock has to have been submitted in the previous seven years. So the question is whether there was such a notification within the relevant period, such that the seven years have not passed.

Section 2 of the Statute of Limitations states that aging alone does not cancel the right. The question is whether the respondent’s behavior can be considered an admission, in the sense of Section 9 of the Law, that revives the plaintiff’s claim? The tribunal does not consider this to be the case. One should remember that the applicant’s right to sue depends on the fact that there is no agreement between the parties regarding compensation. Thus any time that the defendant claims that there is an agreement, he does not accept the right of the Applicant to turn to the tribunal, and this cancels the authority of the tribunal. The result is that not only does he not agree with the right to file a complaint with the tribunal but he denies the right of the tribunal. Paragraph 3.3 of the draft retirement agreement  that was offered in the negotiations is not an admission of the right to file a complaint to the committee. The draft agreement states “and will not have further monetary demands beyond that paid by TEVA. This means that the claim for compensation is a claim that cancels the committee’s authority.

The Relative Strengths of the Employee and Employer

tug of war.jpg

The Applicant claims that the Statute of Limitations requires that the understanding that the worker should request compensation for the employee invention close to when the invention was conceived forces the worker to enter into a fight with the employer. Such a fight could risk the future employment and this means that the employee is in a weakened position with respect to the employer.

In general, the employer-employee relationship favors the employer, as Head of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak stated in Appeal 6601/96 AES Systems  vs. Saar, p.d. 44(2) 850, paragraph 12:

Not only this. In the contractual relationship, the employer and the employee are not equals The Employer generally has the upper hand, and can dictate the terms of the employment. Judge Berenson discusses “the Employees weakness with respect to the employer who dictates employment terms”  (Appeal 4/75 Berman vs. The Office for Lorry Transport Pardes Chana –Carcur “Amal”” ltd [12] on page 722. The national Labor Court of Appeal stressed that “labor law assumes a basic condition that there is a fundamental lack of equality between employer and employee (re Checkpoint [29] page 312. It will be appreciated that this inequality changes over time. It is affected by the market and the workers’ unions. Nevertheless, as a principle one can state that the worker’s and the public  interest is to protect the employee’s creativity and work.

As to the assumption of inequality between employee and employer in the workplace, see. The words of the Head of Labor Court Steve Adler in Case 164/99 Dan Fromer s. Red-guard ltd. pd”a 34 294 (1999) paragraph 14:

Labor law takes it as granted that there is an inequality between the employer and employee and so certain clauses in the work contract are not upheld by the court, if one can assume that a reasonable worker would not have agreed to them without this coercion. This is similar to the worker signing a waiver of rights he is entitled to under labor law. It is stressed that as a rule, the worker signs such clauses out of lack of choice; since the worker wishes to be accepted to the workplace, since it is reasonable to assume that failure to sign would result in him not be employed.

However, alongside the determination that the worker is in a position of weakness, and the binding nature of the relevant legislation the case-law does recognize a legitimate employer interest, see Red-Guard paragraph 16:

 True, the Employer has his interests, and the worker, his interest. These interests are different from the public interest. However, we are not concerned in the interests of the parties. We are concerned with the legitimate interests of the parties. The legitimacy is determined by general considerations, principles and assumptions of the legal system. The legitimate public interest and the legitimateinterests of the parties are the same. Although one refers to thelegitimate interests of the parties, the intention is the public order in which some of the parties interests are defended and others are not.

It seems that an arrangement based on an assumption that the employee is always in a position of weakness vis a vis the employer will create undesirable results. The purpose of the Patent Law is to incentivize the parties – both employee and employer, to create employee inventions, whilst regulating the property rights of the employer and the monetary rights of the employee. The employee’s rights are protected by a contractual agreement that arranges them or by the Tribunal for Compensation. Section 131 of the Law obliges the worker to inform the employer of the service invention as close to the time of inventing as possible. Section 132(a) of the Law obliges the employer to inform the employee of whether or not they intend to take ownership of the invention within six month of the notification under Section 131.

The arrangement of the Patent Law chooses to incentivize the parties to reach an agreement as early as possible. Neither the language of the law nor the context imply a separation between the period for informing the employer and the time frame for compensation.

One should remember that the employer has a real interest in knowing the employee’s intention to seek compensation for the service invention. This may be significant and can affect the management of the company and should be reflected in the balance sheet. So there is an importance for the employer that there is a Statute of Limitations to prevent the issue of compensation first being raised many years later, which could surprise the employer and cause significant financial difficulties.

It should be noted that the section 134 rights are not cognitive and do not provide social rights requiring special protection see the Application for Compensation (preliminary requests) Gideon Barzani vs. Isscar LTD, 4 May 2015 paragraph 30:

 We consider that section 134 which provides compensation,  are not cognitive. These are not social rights requiring special protection. In this light, but in a different context, the District Court ruled in Appeal 1843/-1 S.G.D. Engineering vs. Baruch Sharon, 25 January 1993, that  the question of employee inventions is not a social right, but a right in the invention under the Patent law. The conclusion that the right is dispositive concurs with the general cognitive nature of the write in re Shocker as ruled by judge Heishin.

In Barzani paragraph 32 it is stated:

Since conceptually the right is not a social right that requires protecting, as testified by Section 135, the legislation did not decide a cognitive right to compensation similar to the right to be named as an inventor under Section 42 of the Law. In these circumstances, the lack of such a condition in the law forces the understanding that the tribunal gives way to any agreement. It is noted that Dr Shlomit Yanivski-Ravid who champions the cause that the employees rights should be cognitive, establishes in her book IP and Innovention at Work, Theory, Practice and Comparative Law 2013, that the law as it is, is dispositive and if there is a contractual agreement, the tribunal does not have the right to intervene (see pages 305, 311).

The Supreme Court decided not to intervene in our ruling on re Barzani See Bagatz 4353/`4 Barzani vs. Isscar ltd. 8 July 2015.

The legislative body chose to apply the regular Statute of Limitations to employee invention compensation. Had it intended something else, it would have written this into the Patent Law, as indeed, some other legal systems have done. Dr Levy has related to special laws in Germany and the UK.  There is also reference to the law in France, Switzerland and Austria. It is accepted that there is interest in the balances found in these laws but it is the job of the legislative body to consider this, and we can only advise the Knesset to consider these arrangements and to adopt them if it finds it appropriate to do so.

We conclude that the request for compensation was submitted too late and the request for a ruling is rejected.

Bearing in mind the conclusion and the relative resources of the parties, each party will bear their own costs.

As a final comment we note that the arguments put forwards by the parties were of great help to the committee in addressing the issues raised which were considered for the first time and the legal counsel of the parties (Richard Luthi for Dr Levy, and Shin Horowitz for Teva) were of great help in understanding and ruling this complicated case.

The decision is of interest and will be published with the names of the parties, but the sides will have seven days to request that certain details remain confidential.

Ruling in Tribunal for Employee Compensation Levy vs. Teva, 25 May 2017 ruling by Prof. Engelhard, (then Commissioner) Asa Kling and Professor Doron Urbach.

COMMENT

I accept that there should be a Statute of Limitations for claiming an employee right but I do not find this ruling particularly convincing in its analysis regarding cancellation of a patent. I think the correct perspective is that an issued patent has a rebuttable assumption of validity but it may be challenged at any time by bringing evidence of lack of novelty or inventiveness, and doing so does not so much as cancel a patent in the way that a trademark is cancelled, but rather it shows that the patent should never have been granted it demonstrates that it is invalid rather than invalidates.