More Coffee!

March 23, 2017

EdenFollowing on the heels of the Izhimis family feud, we now report on a competing marks proceeding between Abu Shukra Import Export and Marketing Ltd and Strauss Coffee B.V.

Again, this relates to Turkish coffee. On 2 May 2013, Abu Shukra filed Israel TM application number 255526 in class 30 shown alongside.

This ruling relates to all over packaging designs being used as trademarks and to branding concepts. to my mind, it also raises issues of monopolies and market abuse, but this is beyond the competence of the adjudicator and commissioner to relate to, although I think judges might see things differently.

22263EliteOn 16 July 2014, but before Abu Shukra’s mark was examined, Strauss filed Israel TM Application No. 266680 for Coffee, roasted coffee, roasted and ground coffee and coffee substitutes, all in class 30, and also Israel TM Application No. 266683 for Turkish Coffee, roasted Turkish coffee, roasted and ground Turkish coffee and Turkish coffee substitutes, all in class 30. Strauss Coffee’s marks are shown alongside.

[At this stage we note that Strauss Coffee owns the Elite brand among many others. Strauss employees 14,000 people in 20 countries. The empire was built on their Turkish coffee brand, but they also now own Sabra, the leading hummus brand in the US, are partners with Yotvata dairies and Yad Mordechai Honey – MF]. Read the rest of this entry »


A Storm in a Coffee Cup

March 20, 2017

This ruling relates to competing rights of different relatives to register and use trademarks for a family business that eventually split up. The marks were registered by a cousin living in Ramallah, and cousins living in East Jerusalem applied to have the marks cancelled on various grounds including passing off, misleading marks, inequitable behavior and lack of use.

234876 LOGOChain Stores of Izhiman Coffee Company own two trademarks: Israel Trademark No. 234876 for the logo shown alongside, and 234877 for the Arabic and English word mark
بن ازحيمان IZHIMAN’S COFFEE.

Maazen and Shapik Izhimian applied to have the mark’s canceled under Section 39 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972, and further under Section 41 for lack of use.

The mark was first applied for by Muhammad Musa H’alad Izhiman in January 2011, and after examination, was registered on 2 May 2012 for “coffee and coffee spices in class 30.” On 27 February 2014, the mark was assigned to Chain Stores of Izhiman Coffee Company, a Palestinian Company based in Ramallah that was owned by Muhammad Musa H’alad Izhiman and his two sons Kassam and Nasser.

On 5 March 2014, the brothers Maazen and Shapik Izhimian who own a Jerusalem based business in Bet HaBad Street, for marketing and trading in coffee and spices under the name “Izhiman’s Coffee” and who are cousins of Muhammad, submitted a cancellation request. In July 2014, the owners Chain Stores of Izhiman Coffee Company submitted their response.

The Background

EnjoyMuhammad, his three brothers and the Applicants for cancellation are all members of the same clan, that were involved in the family business established by Musa, Muhammad’s father, together with Mahmud, the father of Maazen and Shapik in the 1980s. The company had three addresses, the Ramallah address, the Jerusalem address now run by Maazen and Shapik, and a third branch in Abu Dis.

In 1994, Muhammad fell out with his brothers and nephews and received sole ownership of the Ramallah store. His three brothers and the nephews shared the Abu Dis and the Bet HaBad Jerusalem shops and opened a further outlet themselves in Ramallah. In 2000 the applicants for cancellation and Muhammad’s three brothers opened a fourth branch in Salah Shabati Salahadin Street in East Jerusalem. In 2008, these partners ceased to cooperate, and Maazen and Shapik were left with the Jerusalem Store in Bet HaBad Street.

love.jpgMaazen and Shapik submitted an affidavit written by Maazen and a second one from Riyadh Ghazi Halaq, the owner of a coffee shop near the Bet HaBad address that buys his raw coffee from them. The mark owners responded with an Affidavit by Nasser Muhammad Musa Izhiman, Partner and authorized signatory. At the end of September 2016, the Adjudicator of IP, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi held a hearing and the witnesses were cross-examined.
Read the rest of this entry »


Frankenstein’s Monster

February 6, 2017

265232.pngIt sometimes happens that a second applicant files a similar trademark application to a previously filed mark that is pending. in such cases, a competing marks proceeding is initiated. the first to file gets some credit for so doing, but the main issue in determining which mark goes on for examination is the amount of usage by the two parties and good faith, or rather bad faith.

If one party is guilty of inequitable behaviour, their application will almost certainly be stayed. Where there are genuine independent filings of two applications for the same or very similar mark by different applicants, such that the second mark is filed before the first one is registered and they are co-pending, then the more widely used, better known and more intensively advertised mark proceeds to examination, and only once this mark is allowed or canceled, does the second mark  proceed to examination, where, in all likelihood, the registration of the first to be examined mark will prevent the registration of the second mark.

frankensteinIP Factor was approached by Best Foods Ltd. to file the logo shown above as a trademark application in classes 29 and 30. An application was filed and received the Application Number  IL TM 265232.

Prior to this being allowed, a second applicant, a Mr Doron Frankenstein filed Israel TM Application 261955 for the identical mark in the identical classes and so, on 10 May 2015, a competing marks proceeding was initiated as per Section 29 of the Ordinance.

On 4 November 2015, the parties were given three months to file their evidence, and were informed that failure to do so would result in their application being considered withdrawn and their application canceled as per regulations 24 and 25.

Best Foods Ltd cooperated with us and we filed their evidence. However Mr Doron Frankenstein did not file evidence and on 1 January 2017, the Trademark Department of the Israel Patent Office gave his attorneys were given seven days notice to file their evidence or their application would be deemed withdrawn.

Essentially Regulation 22 provides a three-month period for providing evidence, and authorized the Commissioner to cancel the application if no evidence is filed, or to grant an extension if reasonable to do so. Regulation 24(b) states that if the conditions of Regulation 22 are not met, the Application is considered as canceled, and the Applicant is informed accordingly.

The period for providing evidence was 14 February 2016 which is long past, so Israel TM Application 261955 to Frankenstein is considered withdrawn, and costs of 2000 Shekels are awarded to Best Foods Ltd. Application Number  IL TM 265232 was examined and has now been allowed.

COMMENT
It seems that Mr Frankenstein was a distribution agent for Best Buy Ltd. It could have been interesting to see who would have prevailed in a competing marks proceeding in such a case, i.e. whether the distributing agent may be entitled to rights in a mark registered locally. However, in this instance, since no evidence was filed, the substantive issues were not addressed.


Big Deal – The Long Awaited Decision.

January 12, 2017

ynet big-dealAt last we bring you the ruling concerning the registerability of Israel Trademark Application No. 234855 to Yidiot Internet, the website portal of Yediot Achronot in light of previous registered word mark for BIG DEAL owned by a chain of discount stores.

The main issues discussed are whether the existing mark can be considered as a well-known mark and whether there is a likelihood of confusion or evidence of actual confusion between the chain of discount stores and the Internet portal.

For those who’ve missed the earlier chapters in this exciting case, we first reported on this case back in 2014 see here. We then reported on an interim skirmish, and most recently, on a request to strike evidence in September 2016. This is the decision. However, we note that it may be appealed through the courts, so there could be sequels.

The mark was filed in Class 35 back in 2011 for promoting sales of third-party goods via coupons and the like. Ynet purchased the BigDeal.co.il for this purpose back in 2010.

big-deal-storeThe  mark was opposed by H.A.B.Trading Ltd which has run a chain of discount stores called Big Deal since 1993, that peaked at 14 stores and now includes 8 stores selling bargain goods. Since September 2009, H.A.B.Trading Ltd owns Israel Trademark 131862 for the word mark BIG DEAL, also in Class 35, for “stores selling toys, kitchenware, disposables, domestic goods, children’s clothes, books and drawing books”.

The Opposer’s Claims

The Opposer filed and received a trademark application for the term BIG DEAL in capital letters. This means that they have exclusivity to the words, regardless of stylization. They have used the mark and various stylized logos for years. The opposer’s registered mark is well-known, is identified with them and so the Applicant’s mark is not registerable under Section 11(14) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972. Read the rest of this entry »


Requesting Enlargement of A Deposit of Costs

January 8, 2017

The Krasnyi Octybar and Rot Front Joint Stock Companies own four Israel trademarks: 184179, 182758, 182759 and 182763. Each covering a long list of goods in class 30, including such things as for waffles; confectionery for decorating Christmas trees; cakes; pastries; peanut confectionery; almond confectionery; pasty; cocoa; cocoa products; caramels [candy]; sweetmeats [candy]; liquorice [confectionery]; peppermint sweets; coffee; crackers; meat pies; farinaceous foods; candy for food; fruit jellies; marzipan; custard; honey; ice cream; sherbets [ices]; muesli; mint for confectionery; cocoa beverages with milk and coffee beverages with milk; coffee-based beverages, tea-based beverage, chocolate beverages with milk, chocolate-based beverages, cocoa-based beverages; lozenges; petits fours [cakes]; biscuits; pies; fondants; pralines; gingerbread; chewing gum, not for medical purposes; sugar; cake paste; confectionery; rusks; sandwiches; almond paste; tarts; cakes (Edible decorations for-); halvah; bread; tea.

Five companies including the Roshen Confectionery Corporation,  Dealer B&D International Ltd, Kjarkov Biscuit Factory, Dolina Group Ltd and Latfood Ltd have filed cancellation requests against these marks.

The marks owners have requested that the sum that the challengers are required to post as a guarantee against legal costs in the event that the mark owners prevail be increased by a further 130,000 Shekels, or by whatever sum the commissioner sees fit. The request was submitted together with 90 pages of appendices and a copy of an Affidavit from the legal counsel of the mother company, however the original Affidavit was not submitted. The challengers opposed the request to increase the guarantee. A hearing has been set for the 17th and 18th of January for cross-examining the various witnesses.

The background to the request for guarantees is two requests for cancellation of the marks. Roshen Confectionery Corporation and  Dealer B&D International Ltd have requested the cancellation of 184179, 182758 and 182759 trademarks, and the Kjarkov Biscuit Factory, Dolina Group Ltd and Latfood Ltd have requested cancellation of the 182763 mark.

Following requests for guarantees that were filed in March 2015, the Adjudicator of IP Ms Yaara Shshani Caspi ruled on 21 June 2015 as follows:

In light of the above, and considering all the circumstances of this case and the general considerations used to determine the magnitude of the appropriate deposit, the first two challengers are to jointly deposit 75,000 Shekels and the second group of three challengers are also to jointly deposit 75,000 Shekels, and this should be done within 21 days.

The present request includes suspension of the proceedings until the deposit is increased.

The Parties’ Allegations

The mark holder claims that increasing the deposit is required because following the original decision there have been changes in circumstances that warrant increasing the deposit. These new circumstances include the expectation of long and complex proceedings and a number of cross-examinations. Furthermore, the case is complex and it transpires that the costs are expected to be higher than originally anticipated. The additional costs are incurred by the two groups of challengers retaining separate counsel and making unnecessary requests. A further claim is that it was not previous clear but now is transparently so, that there will be a massive amount of evidence and documents and a hearing that will be conducted largely in Russian, requiring simultaneous translation. The mark owners nevertheless reiterate their opinion that the likelihood of challengers prevailing and the marks being cancelled are very slim. The amount of the deposit, standing at 150,000 Shekels, is too low and not proportional to the costs that will be requested if the cancellation attempts fail and so this is a classic example of where increasing the deposit is warranted.

Both group of challengers consider the request to increase the deposit should be refused since the ‘new circumstances’ were already fairly obvious when the original request for costs was made. The second group of challengers considers this to be a vacuous request filed in bad faith simply to stretch out the proceedings.

Ruling

Ms Yaara shoshani Caspi did not consider that the circumstances had changed since the original request for a deposit was ruled on. For example, where there are five parties challenging two groups of marks it is not unpredictable that there will be lots of witnesses to cross-examine. Since the challengers are Russian companies, it was always expected that their witnesses would testify in Russian and simultaneous translation would be needed, as is the fact that there are two groups of challengers. The massive amount of evidence was also expected and Ms Shoshani Caspi considered that these grounds were all considered by her in her original ruling regarding the size of an appropriate deposit.

With regard to the likelihood of the challenges prevailing and the marks being cancelled, there is no way to consider the likelihood or otherwise of the challenges be successful at this stage since the witnesses have not been heard and have not yet been cross-examined. At least this is the theoretical state of affairs. Since the challenges are on the basis of inequitable behaviour in the original filings, there is a high level of proof that the challengers will be required to submit to establish their case since they will have to positively show that many years ago the mark holders intentionally appropriated marks that were not theirs.

Nevertheless, the fact that the challengers have a difficult task ahead is not justification to increase the deposit that they have already placed. There are no unexpected circumstances not considered in the original ruling considering the size of the deposit.

The request to increase the deposit is refused. However, Ms Shoshani Caspi does not see the request as indicative of inequitable behaviour designed to make the trademark cancellation proceedings unnecessarily complicated. that said, the mark owners should nevertheless pay costs to the challengers for requiring them to respond to this request. The mark owners will therefore may 1500 Shekels to the first group of challengers and a further 750 Shekels to the second group and will do so by 15 January 2016 or interest will incur.

In cancellation proceedings concerning 184179, 182758, 182759 and 182763 trademarks, Ruling on increasing size of deposit by Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi, 28 December 2016.


KANEX – Cancelling a Trademark and Posting a Bond to Cover Costs

October 31, 2016

KANEX is a trademark owned by Chen Writing Instruments Ltd. It covers “Staplers, paper-punches, staple-pins, lever arc mechanism and all other office requisites (other than furniture) all being articles of stationary included in class 16.

Kanin India (Pvt) Ltd. filed a cancellation proceedings under section 39 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972. Both sides have submitted their evidence but the hearing which is typically the next stage of cancellation proceedings has not yet occurred.

Now both sides have filed interim requests. Kanin India have requested permission to file supplementary evidence, and Chen Writing Instruments have requested that Kanin India post a bond to cover legal costs should Kanin lose the cancellation proceedings.

Filing Additional Evidence

The general course of cancellation proceedings is set out in the 1940 regulations. Kanin India’s request to submit additional evidence at this stage contravenes the general order of things.

The additional evidence includes two Israel court rulings:

  • 2430/98 Kangaroo Industries Regd. vs. Guard Writing Instruments (1995) LTD.  (30 July 2007)
  • 18116/02 Guard Writing Instruments (1995) LTD.  vs. Chen Writing Instruments LTD (11 Sep 2007).
  • Three affidavits from Ehud Berman, manager and owner of Guard Writing Instruments (1995) LTD. that are dated from 1998, 2004 and 2016.
  • Copies of letters from 1998 sent by Kanin India (Pvt) Ltd., which were attached to Mr Berman’s affidavit from 30 July 1998.
  • Copies of additional letters sent by Kanin India (Pvt) Ltd in 1999 that allegedly mention the trademark

The request to submit the additional evidence was supported by an affidavit signed by Adv. Rami Artman, Kanin India (Pvt) Ltd’s legal counsel, testifying that the evidence only reached him after he had made the original submission of evidence, and that he could not have obtained evidence that he was unaware about.

In the name of Kanin India (Pvt) Ltd., Adv Artman argued that the additional evidence is relevant to rights in the marks and due to their importance, their late submission should be allowed. As the hearing had not yet occurred, there was no reason not to allow their inclusion.

Chen Writing Instruments Ltd. argued that Adv Artman’s affidavit was insufficient and that the evidence was irrelevant to the cancellation proceeding. Furthermore, the evidence was known to the applicants of cancellation when the first round fo evidence was submitted, and since they did not present it at that stage, they were estoppled from submitting it at this later time. If this additional evidence is allowed, it will cause additional and significant expense to Chen Writing Instruments Ltd., and thus Chen Writing Instruments Ltd were entitled to compensation for this damage.

DISCUSSION

As a general rule, evidence is preferably submitted in one lot. (See 2813-07 Unipharm vs. Merck & Co Inc. Section 22 (30 January 2013); See also 579/90 Rozin vs. Bin-Nun p.d. 46(3) 738 (1992) section 8, and also Zusman Civil Evidence Procedures 1995 (509-510).

Nevertheless, the case-law provides considerations that justify later submissions of evidence, particularly the relevance of the submission and the importance of allowing substantive justice to occur. See 1297/011 Michaelovich vs. Clal Insurance ltd. p.d. 55 (4) 577 (2001) 579-580; the stage of the proceedings reached; could the party have brought the evidence at an earlier stage; why the evidence submitted earlier (see Rozin section 8), and whether the opposing party can explain away or contradict the further evidence (391/80 Leserson vs. Workers Residences Ltd. p.d. 38(2) 237 (1984) section 3).

In addition to these considerations, the Commissioner of trademarks has wide discretion to deviate from formal requirements and to accept additional evidence since Regulation 41 grants the Commissioner discretion to deviate from the procedures:

Neither side will add evidence in cases before the Commissioner, however the Commissioner may, at any time allow additional evidence to be submitted as he sits fit, and to adjust costs accordingly.

The commissioner may rely on any of the considerations that courts have allowed, but additionally, may rely on regulation 41 because of the public good inherent in the register. See, for example. competing marks 242735 and 24250 Razer (asia Pacific) PTE Ltd vs Razor USA LLC (14 October 2014), and cancellation proceeding 114996 Hosan Marketing (USA) Ltd vs. Nobel Fashion (1981) Ltd (24 April 2006).

It appears from Mr Berman’s affidavit from 1998, that the Application for cancellation is justified as there was inequitable behaviour in the filing of the Application. However, the way in which this evidence was submitted makes it problematic to allow its inclusion.

It appears from Mr Berman’s affidavit that only part of the evidence available was submitted by the Opposers, and no evidence was submitted as to why the rest of the evidence was not also mae available. The papers were filed in one submission without explanation or organization, and without an affidavit explaining the submission. True, the Agent for the Applicant submitted an affidavit explaining that he had only now learned about the evidence. However, the client did not submit an affidavit or statement explaining the significance of the evidence or why it was not submitted earlier. The commissioner is not convinced that he should accept evidence on the basis of the attorney’s submission. One has to allow the mark owner to cross-examine the challenger and the agent of record cannot represent his client if he himself is signed on an affidavit. this seems to contravene section 36 of the Rules of Ethics for Attorneys 1968 which allow the attorney to testify to technical procedural issues but not to substantive matters. See the request to cancel 187385 aned 187386 Gemological Institute of America and opposition to 200701 and 200702 Gemology Headquarters International (28 May 2012).

Although the commissioner has great flexibility and discretion to allow additional evidence to be submitted, he can also use this discretion to ignore evidence under Section 80 of the Regulations. In this instance, there is no apparent justification to allow late submission of evidence and the Applicant hasn’t even made a case to justify where such late submission should be allowed.

There is something in the trademark owner’s complaint that the additional evidence is being submitted late in the proceedings without due justification.

When weighing up the integrity fo the register against the additional work required to take into account mountains of evidence submitted without proper labeling in an appropriate manner and at an innappropriate stage, the Commissioner ruled that the District Court ruling and the Affidavits of Mr Berman may be submitted together with their appendices within 30 days. The additional material that was not submitted with an affidavit may not be submitted as the trademark owner cannot cross-examine on them.

The Request to Place a Bond for Costs

The mark holder has asked for the Applicant for cancellation to post a bond of not less than 100,000 Shekels to cover legal costs, expenses and damages should the cancellation action be rejected.  The Request is based on section 353a of the Company Law 1999 and section 519 of the Civil Law procedures 1984. Furthermore, the mark owner has requested that the proceedings be stayed until such a bond is posted.

The mark holder considers the request justified since the Applicant for cancellation is a foreign limited liability company (an Indian company) without assets in Israel. Furthermore, the Applicant has not filed any evidence of their financial state. The trademark owner contends that the Applicant is acting in bad faith, is making the proceeding unneccessary complicated by submitting late evidence with a low chance of prevailing, requiring them to post a bond is justified.

To support the request for a bond, an Affidavit from Mr Isaac Neiman, the CEO of the mark holder was submitted together with the request.

The Applicant for cancellation claims that the mark owner’s request to stay proceedings is simply  a ploy to allow them to continue using the mark whilst preventing the Applicant from importing products into Israel.

The Applicant considers the likelihood of the cancellation request being allowed as reasonable, and considers the size of the bond requested to be disproportionate and inappropriate for an Indian company.

Section 353a states:

If an Israeli or foreign limited company files a legal proceeding in an Israel Court, the court is allowed, at defendant’s request, to require the applicant to post a bond to cover legal expenses in the event of the action being dismissed, and can stay proceedings until such a bond is deposited, unless the court is convinced that the Applicant has the resources to pay its bills.

The parties do not disagree that the commissioner can request such a bond deposited. Such bonds have been placed from time to time, see Israel Trademark No. 242256 East and West Stores Ltd. vs. East and West Importers Ltd. (27 August 2012); The Mooi cases Densher vs. Mewah Brands  and Oui Gruppe GmbH & Co. vs. Mis El High Fashion (1992) Ltd. The guidelines for such cases are given in Appeal 10376/07 LN computerized engineering vs. Bank HaPoalim (2009) paragraph 13:

From that stated above, the court reviewing a request for bail to be posted by a plaintiff who is a company to ensure that costs are covered, should first of all consider the financial status of the applicant. This is the first clause in the law, but this does not stop here. If the court is not satisfied that the plaintiff can pay his fees should the defendant prevail, the court should consider whether placing bail is appropriate or not. This stage requires considering the legal rights of  the parties and the status of the parties. The general situation is that a bond is required, and a decision not to require one is an exception to the general state of affairs.

See Appeal 10905/07 Naot Oasis Hotels ltd/ et al. vs. Zisser (13 July 2007, 23 May 2011).

Furthermore, in LN Engineering it was ruled that one does not consider the likelihood of prevailing unless the case is very clear-cut.

In other words – if, for example, the chances of prevailing are high, it may be appropriate not to request a bond but there are two points: (a) the proof is on the plaintiff to show that their case is very good, and (b) it is generally inappropriate to enter a protracted analysis of the chances of prevailing and these should only be considered if they are very good or very poor.

Since the general position is that bonds should be required and the Applicant is a foreign limited company without Israeli assets, the Applicant has failed to to provide justification for NOT requiring them to post a bond. No evidence was submitted about the companies’ finances.

As to the specifics of the case, the onus is on the applicant to show that he should NOT place a bond, and in this instance, one notes that the Applicant made the strange move of late submission of evidence, and was also responsible for various delays and extensions at various stages. Nevertheless, at this stage, it does not seem appropriate to look into the merits of the case. In conclusion, the Applicant has not persuasively argued that they should not post bail.

In LN Engineering, it was ruled that bail should be proportionate to expected costs if the Applicant loses:

Once the second inquiry is concluded with a conclusion that the Applicant should indeed post bail, the third inquiry commences, to ascertain the appropriate bond that is proportionate and balances the various interests. Paragraph 13 here.

The mark holder has asked for a bond to be set at 100,000 Shekels, and notes that actual costs so far have been 50,000 Shekels, but one has to note the large additional submission of evidence that has now been made.

Consequently, the Applicant has to deposit a personal promissory note for the full amount requested within 30 days for the case to move forwards.

CONCLUSION

The District Court ruling and its appendices may be submitted. Mr Berman’s statement and its appendices may be submitted, but no further evidence will be allowed.

The Applicant will personally guarantee payment of costs of  100,000 Shekels should the cancellation proceedings prevail, and in consequence of this late submission, the applicant will pay 8000 Shekels legal fees within 30 days.

Interim Ruling by Asa Kling re cancellation of 130585 (KANEX), 28 September 2016.

COMMENT

This is a cancellation proceeding. There is nothing to stop the Applicant from filing a second cancellation proceeding immediately on this one being rejected.  No trademark is ever inviolate. It is therefore appropriate to review all the evidence available and to rule on substance not on formalities. It therefore seems clear that evidence should be allowed to be submitted at any stage. However, if the stage is not the correct one, costs should be awarded against the late submitter. Similarly, evidence submitted without a proper affidavit or in a format not acceptable, should be objected to, giving the submitter an opportunity to correct the defects, and awarding costs to the opposing party.


Wet-wipes, The Issue of Inventorship and the Responsibilities of the Patent Attorney

September 22, 2016

wetnap-were-ready-for-any-messThis ruling concerns a product that resulting from the contributions of two people who were formerly friends. A patent application was filed that named both people as both inventors and applicants. Later, after powers-of-attorney signed by each of the named inventor – applicants had been filed, there was an attempt to ‘correct an office error’, to list one of them as an inventor only. The corresponding PCT application and the national phase entry applications, including two issued patents in the United States only bore the name of one inventor and applicant. In an Opposition ruling the Israel Patent Office has now accepted that the second named inventor is indeed an inventor and also an owner.

Apart from emphasizing the need to determine who is the inventor and who is the owner of an invention when the patent is filed, the need to put everything into writing, and the dangers of working with friends, the case raises interesting questions regarding what contribution to reducing a patent to practice entitles someone to recognition as an inventor and whether this standard is the same in all jurisdictions. It also raises interesting questions regarding the duties and responsibilities of the patent attorney to ascertain the facts, or at least to avoid signing on contradictory statements regarding ownership and invention in different jurisdictions.

BACKGROUND

IL 152867 titled “Tissue Container With Auxiliary Compartment”is a patent application for a package of wet-wipes
rc-chairswith an adjacent container for nappy cream. The Application was filed back in November 2002 and listed Boaz Krystal and Liat De-Vries as inventors and owners. The patent application was allowed at the end of June 2010.

Subsequently, an Opposition was filed by WET-NAPS LTD and Liat De-Vries on 4 October 2010 under Section 31(3) of the Israel Patent Law 1967 on the grounds that Boaz Krystal was not in fact an owner, and that the patent was exclusively owned by Ms Liat De-Vries.
affidavitsMr Boaz Krystal and his wife Mrs Dorit Krystal each submitted affidavits. Mrs Liat De-Vries submitted a primary affidavit and a supplementary one in response to Mr Boaz Krystal’s affidavit. Wet-Naps Ltd. is owned by Mr Ilan De-Vries, who is Mrs Liat De-Vries’ husband. He also submitted an affidavit on behalf of the company.  Mr David De-Vries, a patent attorney at Reinhold Cohn & Partners who drafted and filed the application and is a cousin of Mr Ilan De-Vries, Ms Ronit Tal who is an acquaintance of Liat De-Vries and Mr Yoram Hadar who is an industrial designer, also submitted affidavits. A hearing was held and the parties submitted their summaries.

wetnapWet-Nap Ltd manufactures, exports and markets wet-wipes. The company had a business relationship with Packtop Ltd., a company directed by Mr Boaz Krystal that distributes wet-wipes amongst other things.   At the time of filing, both the Krystals and the De-Vries couple were good friends.

roobarbs-shedThere is no argument that Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries met at the Wet-Nap Ltd factory, where Mr Boaz Krystal heard the idea of including baby ointment together with a package of wet-wipes from Mrs Liat De-Vries. There is also no argument that Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries had some kind of collaboration, to develop and improve this invention and to file a patent application for it. Eventually a joint application was filed in both Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries names. However, the parties disagree regarding Mr Krystal’s contribution to the development of the invention and consequently disagree regarding whether he is to be considered an inventor and owner of the patent.

The Main Documents in the Prosecution File Wrapper

roobard-and-custard-friendsThe Application was filed in November 2002 by Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys. The Application form lists both Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries as joint owners due to them being inventions. Both parties filed Powers of Attorney, and the Filing Certificate gives both names.

On 10 December 2002, Adv. David De-Vries of Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys submitted a notice stating:

office-error“Due to an office error, the name of the inventor, Mr Boaz Krystal was inserted as an Applicant. With our apologies for this, we are submitting a new cover sheet and application form in duplicate, listing Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries as joint inventors, but Mrs Liat De-Vries as the sole owner.”

On 10 December 2002, Adv. Edna Haruti, now Mr Krystal’s representative, submitted a letter in which it was stated that Mr Krystal was a joint owner together with Mrs Liat De-Vries as he had invented the tissue container with auxiliary compartment together with her.  Adv. Edna Haruti also noted that registration of the patent in the name of Mrs Liat De-Vries only was contrary to the agreement between the parties.

shimon-shalitOn 2 February 2003 Patent Attorney Shimon Shalit, then Senior Examiner in charge of formalities at the Israel Patent Office, responded to both Reinhold Cohn and to Mr Krystal that Mr Krystal could not be removed as an owner in the application as filed, since there was no indication that he had assigned his invention to Mrs Liat De-Vries prior to the application being filed. In absence of such proof, since Mr Krystal was not an employee of Mrs De-Vries, by virtue of being a co-inventor, he was also a co-owner.

(As an aside – On 12 March 2006 Mrs De-Vries submitted a divisional application of IL 152867 for certain applications of the invention. This divisional application (IL 174309) was examined, allowed and issued as a patent. On 1 December 2010 IL 174309 lapsed due to failure to pay the renewal fees. That patent is not directly relevant to this Opposition, but Wet-Naps Ltd and Liat De-Vries related to it in their claims).

procrastinateIn the protocol of a hearing held on 5 February 2007 before then Deputy Commissioner Noah Smulevezh it was decided to defer the issue of ownership until the examination of the application was completed. It was further ruled that Reinhold Cohn would be address of record, but would update Mr Krystal or his representative regarding actions taken to get his input before responding to office actions. The patent application was eventually allowed and published for opposition purposes, resulting in this opposition proceeding.

The Opposers’ (Wet-Naps Ltd and Mrs Liat De-Vries) Main Claims
wetnap

Mrs De-Vries and Wet-Naps Ltd claimed to have thought of the idea and developed the invention whereas Mr Krystal had merely provided technical drawings and a business plan for commercializing the product. They alleged that during the period in question, Mr Krystal provided technical and consultancy services to the company as almost an in-house service provider and as such, was exposed to the invention. They further claimed that Mr Yoram Hadar (industrial designer) and Patent Attorney David De-Vries provided sketches for the product that eventually evolved into the patent application. They further alleged that Mr Krystal had suggested a specific implementation (embodiment?) – storing the cream in a blister pack or sachets, which developed into  Read the rest of this entry »