Israel Supreme Court Overturns Ruling Forbidding Copying Fashion Designs

February 21, 2018

necklines

Back in December 2016 Israel fashion designer Gadi Elemelech sued Renuar, a chain of selling women’s clothing for selling clothing that was confusingly similar to his haute couture dress. The dress in question appeared in Elemelech’s 2013 collection, and in Renuar’s 2014 range. The legal grounds for the action were the Israel Trade Related Torts Act 1999. Judge Gidon Ginat ruled that a chain-store that copied a range of designer clothing should cease and desist, and that Renaur should pay damages of 55,000 Shekels and a further 35,000 Shekels legal costs.  Civil Tort 5366-12-14 Elimelech vs. Renuar Ruling by Gidon Ginat, 22 December 2016.

The ruling was appealed to the Israel Supreme Court which overturned it, canceling Judge Ginat’s ruling without costs to either side. Instead of a long detailed ruling, the three judge panel ruling is barely two lines, and simply states that simply copying a product is not enough to obtain a legal sanction against the copier, with a reference to paragraph 18 and citations of the Apropos 945/06 General-Mills vs Meshubach ruling (Bugles).

COMMENT

This ruling essentially means that non-registered designs are in the public domain and cheap copies of various articles, from foodsnacks to fashion clothing can’t be litigated unless the design is registered, apart perhaps from specific cases where there is some additional issue (A.Sh.I.R.).


New Israel Patent Commissioner Makes Purpose Driven Interpretation of Patent Term Extension Legislation to Transfer Protection from One Drug to Another

December 21, 2017

Wyeth submitted a request for a patent term extension for Israel Patent Number 120701 titled “2 – PHENYL – 1 – [4 – (2 – AMINOETHOXY OR PROPOXY) ) – BENZYL] – INDOLE COMPOUNDS AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS CONTAINING THEM ” The patent issued on 26 December 2005 and the basic 20 year protection period will run out on 18 April 2019.

CONBRIZAOn 17 June 2012 Conbriza was registered in the Israel register of drugs. Conbriza contains bazedoxifene acetate. This was the first Israeli registration of Bazedoxifene for medicinal purposes and so, on 19 October 2015, a patent term extension order issued for Conbriza, until 14 April 2022.

DuaviveOn 16 November 2016, the drug Duavive which contains bazedoxifene acetate together with conjugated estrogens was registered in the Israeli register. The Applicant explained that Duavive is a more modern version of Conbriza which Pfizer (which owns Wyeth) had developed and is marketing in Israel.

The treatments are both for treating the symptoms suffered during menopause, such as the so-called hot flushes.

calculation

On 22 May 2017, the Wyeth informed the patent office that Conbriza was taken off the drug register and Duavive was registered. Wyeth claimed that the change should not affect the patent term extension since both drugs contained bazedoxifene, and that the patent term extension should be calculated from the first of the registrations.

Following this notification, the Applicant was invited to attend a hearing under section 149 before a ruling issued. The Applicant did want to attend such a hearing and on 5 July 2017 the Commissioner Ophir Alon indicated that in the hearing, which was held on 31 July 2017, the Applicant would explain why they felt that the provisions of Section 64(vii)(3) should not apply in this case.

Ruling

Section ii(1) of Chapter D of the Law deals with patent term extensions. Inter alia, Section 64D of the Law states that:

64D. The Registrar shall not grant an extension order, unless the following conditions have been met:

(1) The material, the process for its production or its use, or the medical preparation that incorporates it or the medical equipment was claimed in the basic patent and the basic patent remains in effect;

(2) In respect of a medical preparation—a medical preparation that incorporates the material is registered in the Register of Medical Preparations under regulation 2 of the Pharmacists Regulations (Medical Preparations) 5746—1986 (hereafter: Pharmacists Regulations);

(3) The registration said in paragraph (2) is the first registration that allows the material to be used in Israel for medical purposes;

(4) No extension order was granted previously in respect of the basic patent or in respect of the material.

From here, it is clear that the condition for giving a patent term extension is that there is a registration of a drug that includes the active ingredient and it is the first registration that allows the active ingredient to be prescribed in Israel, which was not previously subject to a patent term extension.

Section 64L states the cases where a patent term extension lapses. In 64L(3) it is stated that:

64L. An extension order shall laps in each of the following instances:

(3) If registration of the medical preparation that incorporates the material was cancelled—on the day on which the registration was cancelled;

Thus the wording of the black letter law seems to be that if the registration including the active ingredient is cancelled, the Patent Term Extension is cancelled as well.

The Applicant’s claim is that in cases where the company that registered the first drug has a number of registrations for different drugs containing the active ingredient, the Legislators did not intend that the protection period would lapse simply because one of these was cancelled. Rather, the legislators intended that only in cases where at some time after the issuance of the extension period, there are no registrations of drugs including the active ingredient in Israel, the extension period would lapse. In such an instance, where there are no drugs on sale in Israel there is no legitimacy in keeping the patent term extension active and so Section 64L(3) applies.

The Applicant claims that since Duavive contains the active ingredient and was registered before the registration of Condiza was cancelled, one or other preparation containing the active ingredient was continuously registered in Israel and so the patent term extension remains in force.

The Purpose of the Patent Term Extension Regime

As known, the term of a patent is 20 years from filing in Israel [or from the PCT filing date – MF] subject to paying extension fees. This period is the accepted balance between the desire to encourage inventors on one hand, and to enable the population to benefit from technological advances on the other.

balance

This balance has a special regime for pharmaceuticals and medical devices that is given by Section B1 of Chapter 4 of the Law. This regime compensates patentees for delays in registration but allows the generic drug industry to prepare for market entry to the benefit of the population as a whole. Where the conditions of the Law are met, it is possible to extend patents for pharmaceuticals and medical devices by up to five years.

This is how things were presented on page 18 of Appeal 8127/15 Israel Association of Industrialists vs. Mercke Sharpe and Dohme Corp, 15 June 2016:

The purpose of the extension period is to compensate the patentee for the period of patent protection that is de facto lost due to the amendment of the patent law. The period of protection in Israel and other countries having patent term extensions takes into account the period that the patentee takes to register the drug which is longer than the period lost by the patentee. However, in the Draft Amendment by the Committee for Constitution, Law and Justice it is stated that the extension is for the period that the patent for the drug is registered but regulatory approval by the Ministry of Health has not yet occurred, and so the extension is identical to this period. Either way, the main purpose is to provide fair compensation to the patentee.

Explaining section 64L(3)

As stated previously, there are two possible interpretations to Section 64L(3) of the Law. In the first explanation the words “registration of the medical preparation that incorporates the material was cancelled” relates only to the first registration, as defined in Section 64D(2), so that when the first registration is cancelled, the patent term extension ends.

The second explanation, proposed by the Applicant, is that one should understand the words “registration of the medical preparation that incorporates the material was cancelled “ as relating to all drugs that include the active ingredient and not merely the first one to be registered, so that there are no drugs including the active ingredient on the register.

Ofir Alon

The New Commissioner Ophir Alon considers that the interpretation is in line with the rationale of the Law proposed by the Applicant. As stated previously, the intention of the legislator was to compensate the patentee for the period required to register the drug. Section 64D of the law refers to the conditions for granting a patent term extension. The purpose of 64D(2) of the Law is to ensure that the active ingredient has undergone registration, and that of 64D(3) to ensure that that this was the first instance of the active ingredient being registered.

Since these conditions are fulfilled, it does not seem that there is much significance in the first registration specifically, that its cancellation requires cancellation of the patent term extension and cancelling the compensation that the law provides the patentee, whilst the active material remains registered, albeit with other active ingredients.

Registration of more advanced or better drugs that include these active ingredients is desirable.  Such registration is likely to require additional registration by the Ministry of Health. Adopting an interpretation under which the cancellation of the first registration for which the patent term extension period was calculated automatically results in the cancellation of the patent term extension will lead to a situation in which the patentee who has several registrations will have to keep the registration of a drug not being sold in force merely to keep the patent extension in force. This is artificial and not desirable.

However, accepting the second interpretation allows the patentee to cancel or not renew the first registration whilst keeping the patent term extension in place to protect additional drugs subsequently registered. This prevents circumstances where a patent term extension is in place but no drugs are registered for sale in Israel.

In summary, it appears that the correct interpretation of the Law is to compensate the patentee for the period he could not exploit his patent whilst waiting for regulatory approval, which includes protecting the public interest by promoting development of new treatments, and these aims are achieved by the interpretation allowing the extension to stay in force as long as there are drugs that include the active ingredient.

This interpretation serves the purpose of the Law and the public interest as it provides an incentive for the patentee to develop new versions of its drugs, that are more advanced or more efficacious than the original treatment, and allows the cancellation of registrations that are n longer marketed.

The Commissioner is aware that linguistically, the objective pronoun “the medical preparation” apparently relates to the medical preparation mentioned previously. Nevertheless he does not think that a literal reading helps to clarify things in this instance. For example, if we were to take a literalist approach to understanding section 65L(3) we would wonder what the legislator intended by “including the ingredient” at the end of the section, since it is clear that the medical preparation whose registration was the basis of the patent term extension includes the active ingredient, as stated in Section 64D(2):

(2) in respect of a medical preparation—a medical preparation that incorporates the material is registered in the Register of Medical Preparations under regulation 2 of the Pharmacists Regulations (Medical Preparations) 5746—1986 (hereafter: Pharmacists Regulations);

FROM THE GENERAL TO THE SPECIFIC

The cancellation of the Conbriza registration occurred after Duavive was registered, and so in one form or another the active ingredient was continuously registered from when Conbriza was registered until today.

So, by applying a purpose-driven interpretation to Section 64L(3), the registration was never cancelled and from when the patent term extension was issued until today, the medical preparation was under continuous protection.

The medical preparation Duavive includes the bazedoxifene ingredient together with conjugated estrogens. In other words, to create continuity in the registration, the active ingredient has to be identical to the one for which registration was granted. The Patent Term Extension for Israel Patent No. IL 120701 will remain in force subject to the Applicant submitting an Affidavit that the combination of the bazedoxifene ingredient together with the conjugated estrogens does not create a new material. This affidavit must be submitted within 30 days of this ruling.

Ruling concerning the Patent Term Extension for Israel Patent No. IL 120701 for bazedoxifene (Conbriza and Duavive), Ophir Alon, 15 October 2017

COMMENT

This ruling could be a baptism of fire for the new Commissioner.

The main question that the appointment of a new commissioner generates is whether he will favour the drug development industry or the genetic drug industry. The sums of money generated every day of a patent term extension and in supplementary patent protection for variants such as changes in dosage regimes is enormous. In this regard, Israeli companies are involved as both generic players and as drug developers. Despite TEVA being the world’s most successful generic drug provider, It was Teva’s Copaxone falling over the so-called patent cliff that caused the massive drop in share prices and layoffs, rather than lost sales of generics.

Here the Commissioner has taken an analytical approach to the law, trying to understand the rationale rather than the most literal interpretation. This is in line with guidelines penned by Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak who was known for such interpretations, which perhaps less charitably and more formalistically could be described as subverting the Law as legislated to further lofty aims as he saw them. Such creative interpretations coupled with him declaring that Basic Laws were constitutional and reading into them powers that the Knesset never intended, has led to judicial activism that those on the right see as undermining the Knesset as legislator, and those on the left see as saving democracy from the people’s elected representatives.

I remember litigators that represent the drug developing companies saying during Dr Meir Noam’s term as Commissioner, that, until he was replaced, their clients could not get justice. I do not know if this was fair. Dr Noam was a chemist, and generally where he accepted Unipharm’s arguments that an opposed patent application lacked novelty or inventive step, their arguments were persuasive, or at least seemed so to me. Nevertheless, in practice, he did rule in favour of the generic companies, but his rulings held up on Appeal.

At the start of his term in office, the previous Commissioner, Adv. Asa Kling, could not rule on cases where one side was represented by Reinhold Cohn or Gilat Bareket because of a perceived conflict of interest. Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc. received regulatory approval for a pharmaceutical preparation described in IL 154325.

From the affidavits submitted by employees of the agents for applicant (Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys) it is clear that, despite the firm being organized and having procedures in place to cover patent term extensions, there was human error. The deadline was missed and this was discovered seven months later.

Section 164 A1 of the patent law states that:

164.—(a) The Registrar may, if he sees reasonable cause for doing so, extend any time prescribed by this Law or by regulations under it for the performance of anything at the Office or before the Registrar, except for…section 64… …unless he is satisfied that the application in Israel was not submitted on time because of circumstances over which the applicant and his representative had no control and which could not be prevented;

The Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha threw Reinhold Cohn a life-line by ruling that mistakes were unavoidable, thereby allowing a missed deadline for requesting patent term extensions to be retroactively extended despite the Law being unequivocal that the deadline was not extendible. For more details, see here.

The patent term extension legislation has been amended several times, in the third, seventh and eleventh amendments to the Israel Patent Law.

The third amendment was ambiguous and in an ex-partes ruling affecting three patents in what is now known as the Novartis ruling, Then Acting Commissioner Israel Axelrod understood that the amendment was designed to give a real advantage to the drug development companies and they could choose the country to base their patent term extension on.  This was not what the Knesset intended and the amendment was again amended in what was the Seventh Amendment of the Israel Patent Law, to tidy up this and other ambiguities of the original amendment. Israel Axelrod, who was widely expected to be appointed as Commissioner but instead, was side-ways promoted to the Beer Sheva District Court.

In 2006, under intense pressure from the US who put Israel on their special 301 Watch List of countries not properly protecting Intellectual Property, the State of Israel amended their Patent Law again.

Arguably the Commissioner is correct that the purpose of the Law is to strike a balance between the conflicting interests. Arguably, however, as in the Novartis ruling and subsequent amendment, the intention of the legislators remains to provide narrowest possible intention to rules governing patent term extensions, to encourage generic competition, thereby favoring local industry over foreign companies, and providing cheap medicine. We should bear in mind that the legislation was the result of heavy US protectionist pressure, and in the same way that the US government tries to benefit US interests, it is (at least arguably) legitimate that the Israel Law is intended to protect local interests as much as possible.

Teva is not, of course, the only Israel company to bring a drug to market. Neurim managed to patent Circadine which is a treatment for insomnia based on melatonin, and also obtained patent term extensions around the world. In the UK, the patent office refused to grand a patent term extension arguing that the active ingredient was used in a treatment for sheep.  Judge Arnold upheld the patent office’s position, see patent term extensions for Neurim which was appealed to the House of Lords, and Lord Robin Jacobs referred it to the European Court of Justice ECJ in his last ruling on the bench. The ECJ took a similar position to that of the current commissioner, preferring an interpretation that considers the rationale behind the law to a literalist ruling.

The main problem with ex-partes rulings is that arguments of the other side are not heard.  It is not inconceivable that Duavive works and Conbriza didn’t, not because of a new material being developed but because of some symbiotic effect between the bazedoxifene ingredient and the conjugated estrogens. In this instance, Duavive was developed by Wyeth/Pfizer but it is not inconceivable that such a drug could be developed by a third party. If the Conbriza formulation is not on sale and no other drug by the patentee, should Wyeth-Pfizer be entitled to a drug term extension past the main patent lapsing? Another hypothetic question worth considering is that an active ingredient protected by a patent term extension could actually not be so active at all, and could be co-dispensed with a drug that itself is active, but cannot be patented. The combination could be protected by the patent term extension in a scam designed to defraud the public. I am not alleging that this is the case here. I have no ideas what conjugated estrogens do or how they work. I am merely highlighting a slight logical flaw in the Commissioner’s reasoning.

That as may be, this ruling is a brave but reasonable one. Being ex-partes it cannot be challenged directly, but could be challenged by TEVA, Unipharm or some other generic company launching a Bazedoxifene containing formulation during the extension period.  The Knesset could also decide to amend the Patent Extension Law to rule out this interpretation if they deem fit to do so.


Cost Ruling in Moshe Lavi vs. Zach Oz – A failed attempt to get a poorly written patent canceled.

December 20, 2017

Figs for ACMoshe Lavi owns Israel Patent No. 157035 titled “MODULAR SUPPORT BRACKET” which describes  a support bracket for an air-conditioner unit. He’s tried to enforce it in the past against Zach Oz Airconditioners LTD, and the parties came to an out-of-court settlement.

Lavi then sued again, and Zach Oz countered by applying to have the patent cancelled. This attempt was unsuccessful and a ruling upholding the patent issued on 5 March 2017.

Lavi then applied for costs under Circular MN 80. According to Lavi and his attorneys, Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Brats, the costs incurred in fighting the Opposition were a fairly massive 526,750.058 Shekels!? We assume that there is a typo here, and the costs requested were just over half a million Shekels and not just over half a billion shekels, as that would be ridiculous even for Pearl Cohen. It seems that they charge in dollars and not Shekels, and are unaware of the need to round up to the nearest 5 agarot.

Lavi claims that he is entitled to the real costs incurred, which are reasonable, necessarily incurred and proportional in the circumstances. He accuses Zach Oz of acting in bad faith by challenging the validity of the patent. His counsel appended a list of legal counsel’s hours, invoices, and an affidavit by Moshe Lavi.

The Respondents Zach Oz, confusingly represented by an Adv. Pearl (not Zeev, even he is aware that fighting both sides of an opposition proceeding is not acceptable) claimed that the costs were unreasonable and some were unnecessary or disproportional. They also claimed that it was Moshe Lavi who acted inequitably. They note that the case-law states that costs are not meant to be a punishment, and the costs in this case were unreasonable and were incurred due to unnecessary wariness by the patentee. Furthermore, the adjudicator is supposed to take into account the public interest and importance in maintaining the integrity of the patent register. Awarding inflated costs in cases that they lose, would discourage people from challenging the validity of patents and would prevent access to legal recourse.

Ruling

The winning party is entitled to costs incurred in legal proceedings. However, the arbitrator is not obliged to rule actual costs, and is required to consider the specifics of the case and judicial policy. See paragraph 19 of Appeal 6793/08 Loar LTD vs Meshulam Levinsten Engineering and Subcontracting Ltd. 28 June 2009.

In the case-law it was ruled that for the Applicant for actual costs to prove that they are reasonable, proportional and necessary in the specific circumstances. See Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva Cooperative for Marketing Agricultural Produce in Israel Ltd. et al. vs. The Authority for granting Import licenses et al. p.d. 70(1) 600, 615 from 30 June 2005. The limitation of costs to being necessary and proportional is:

To prevent a situation wherein the costs awarded are too great, and will discourage parties from seeking justice, will create inequalities and make court proceedings unnecessarily costly, limiting access to the courts. (Appeal 2617/00 Kinneret Quarries ltd. cs. The Nazareth Ilit, Planning and Building Committee, p.d. 70(1) 600, (2005) paragraph 20.

The amount of work invested in preparing submissions, their legal and technical complexity, the stage reached in the proceedings, the behavior of the parties before the court of the patent office and with regard to opposing party, inequitable behavior of the parties, etc. All these are considerations that should be taken into account when considering “the  specifics of the case”.

In this instance, the patentee did win his case and is entitled to recoup costs, and the losing party does not dispute this. However, in this instance, the patentee is not entitled to the requested costs for reasons detailed below.

Firstly, after consideration of the case and the submissions, none of the parties appear to have acted inequitably. It is not irrelevant that neither party has related to the decisions made in this instance, including the main ruling. This is because there is no evidence of inequitable behavior by the parties. Similarly the affidavits are acceptable. In this regard, it is not reasonable to accept the patentee’s allegation that the challenge to their patent was baseless. The file wrapper shows that the challenger made a reasonable and fair attempt to show that the patent was void, based, inter alia, on prior art.

Furthermore, as to the costs requested, the adjudicator, Ms Shoshani Caspi did not think that they were reasonable, essential or proportional, as required by the Tnuva ruling.

The expert opinion of the expert who attended the hearing, costs of 29,685 Shekels including VAT were incurred. This was considered reasonable. It also appears to have been necessarily incurred. However, the Applicants did not need to use lawyers to prepare the expert opinion’s opinion for him, whilst claiming costs for him preparing his opinion as well. This is a double request for costs and should be eradicated.

In his Affidavit, Mr Lavi claimed that the challenge to his patent caused him to spend $137,901.37 including VAT. This is the 499,065.058 Shekels requested by the Applicant, excluding the expert opinion. The Affidavit explains that this sum includes his legal counsel’s work, couriers, printing, etc., however, no evidence of couriers and printing costs were given, and it appears that these incidentals were included in the invoices from his legal representative. To provide evidence for the legal costs incurred, invoices from PCZL were appended which included the hours spent by attorneys working on the case.

One cannot ignore the fact that the list of work done included demanding extensions, attempts to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, interim proceedings that the opposing party won, an appeal of the refusal to throw the case out, https://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2015/03/08/il-157035-if-one-accused-of-infringing-a-patent-does-not-challenge-its-validity-is-the-accused-estoppeled/

and other costs that are not essential and thus not reasonably chargeable to the other side.

double dipThe attempt to roll these unnecessary costs to the losing side and the double charging for the expert witness are inappropriate to use an understatement, and one assumes that these requests were made inadvertently as they were signed by educated attorneys that are well versed in the relevant legal processes.

Furthermore, after a detailed review of the file, Ms Yaara Shashani Caspi concluded that the case was relatively simple and there were neither particularly complicated legal or factual questions. Consequently, it is difficult to accept that the request for costs of 499,065.058 Shekels [sic] including VAT is reasonable, essential or proportional in the circumstances. It will be noted that as ruled in the Tnuva case (paragraph 19). The real costs that the patentee incurred is only the starting point and not the end point of the costs ruling.

It transpires that the time spent in each round was very large. For example, 65 hours was spent on a request to cancel an expert opinion, and 44 hours on the request for costs, etc. The Applicant did not provide an acceptable justification for these figures.

In light of the above, legal costs will be awarded by estimation, and in addition to the 27,685 Shekels (including VAT) to the expert witness, a further 150,000 Shekels (including VAT) are awarded in legal fees.

The deadline for paying the costs is 30 days, then interest will be incurred.

Legal Costs Ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi in cancellation proceedings of IL 157035 Moshe Lavie vs. Zach Oz, 25 October 2017.

Comment

The whole case was mishandled by Zach Oz, who could and should have won the original infringement case in court, but decided to accept a poorly worded out-of-court settlement. By any reasonable attempt to construe the claims so that the patent was not anticipated by support brackets for shelves, Zach Oz’ supports were not infringing. In other words, they could have used the Gillette defense.

Ms Shoshani Caspi’s criticism of PCZL overcharging and double dipping is appropriate in this instance. The attempt to have the case thrown out on a creative estoppel based on not having challenged the validity of the patent when sued for infringement was ridiculous. Ironically, this patent is not worth the costs spent on litigating it. This is a clear instance of lose-lose by all concerned except the lawyers.


Copyright in Numerology

December 12, 2017

numerologyNumerology is any belief in the divine, mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names and ideas. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.

gamatriya chartIn gamatriya, each letter of the Hebrew Alphabet is assigned a corresponding number. the first nine letters are numbered 1 to 9, and the next nine are assigned the numbers 10, 20, 30, etc. The final four letters are assigned the values 100, 200, 300, 400.

The word alphabet comes from the Greek Alpha Beta, and the word gamatriya comes from Gamma – t(h)reeya. That said, the Greek alphabet was based on the Hebrew and Phoenician precedents. The Latin letters were derived from the Greek ones.

The issue in question here, is whether copying sections of verbal lectures and publishing them in writing is considered copyright infringement.

In coming to their verdict, the Supreme Court has reviewed the differences between the onld and new, law, what fixation is required and in what circumstnaes a publisher or distributor can be considered as innocently infringing.

The Case

Sharon Ron is a numerology lecturer. In 2002 Ela Shonia attended his numerology course at the Association for Promoting Awareness in Haifa. At the lectures, handouts and exercises were distributed by Ron. In 2003, Shonia and a fellow student called Sarah Vakhnin attended private lessons given by Ron at his home in Kfar Sava.

Numerology 3rd milleniumIn 2004, Shonia published a book titled “Numerology for the third millenium” which went to three editions, the last one in 2010. In 2010 Shonia published a second book titled Combined Numerology. Both books were published by Astrologue Publishing LTD.

Mishkal Publishing & Distribution LTD received the rights for both books in 2010, in a deal between Shonia, Astrologue and Mishkal dated 03/02/2010 [I am writing the date in numeric form as it may portend something – MF]. Ron sued Shonia, Astrologue and Mishkal in the Tel Aviv District Court in Appeal 8822/15, and counter Appeal 8822/15. [No doubt these file numbers have some mystical significance-MF].

On 20 March 2004 and on 3 February 2010, Shonia signed declarations Read the rest of this entry »


 Appeal Regarding Infanti Baby Seats Virtually identical to those of Fisher Price (Mattel)

September 19, 2017

fisher price swing seatBaby swing-seats that were made in China and are identical to Fisher Price swing seats, down to the image of a lion on the upholstery, were imported and sold in Israel under the brand Infanti. Fisher Price obtained an Anton Pillar injunction and seized 1830 seats from the Importers’ warehouse. However, the Nazareth District Court rejected all attempts to obtain compensation under copyright infringement of the lion design printed on the seat upholstery and in the instruction manual, trademark infringement for the Fisher Price logo shown in the illustrations of the instruction manual, the trade tort of Passing Off, and the catch-all Law Of Unjust Enrichment following A.Sh.I.R. The case was then referred to the High Court.

This ruling by a panel of Israel High Court judges considers whether copyright subsists for a product design or artwork printed on a product where no design was registered for the product and whether there are grounds for sanctions under the trade-law of Passing Off or under the Law of Unjust Enrichment. The legal advisor to the government filed an amicus brief clarifying the position of the government in such issues.

judge elyakim rubinstenThe main ruling was given by Vice President of the High Court, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein who first considered the basic relationship between design law and copyright. Then, he ruled whether part of something that could have been registered as a design is entitled to copyright protection, and if so, whether the lion character is copyright protected even if the swing chair could have been registered as a design. Are the respondents direct or indirect infringers of the Appellant’s copyright? Do they have the defense of being unaware? Does trademark infringement require intent? And finally is there Passing Off or Unjust Enrichment?

Essentially Judge Rubinstein and Fogelman found copyright infringement due to the lion character on the upholstery, and Judge Meltzer also found that there was passing off, due to the products being virtually identical. Judges Rubinstein and Fogelman rejected the claims of passing off since although Fisher Price clearly had a reputation, they did not necessarily have a reputation for the baby swing seat. Infanti’s copies, though virtually identical to those of Fisher Price, were packaged in different boxes and the boxes were clearly labelled Infanti. The product itself was also labeled with the Infanti brand.

The main ruling is given below, followed by additional comments by Judges Fogelman and Meltzer. Since this is an important ruling, I have translated it in full. At the end are some comments and criticisms.

Background

This is an appeal against ruling 39534-02-15 by Nazareth district Court judge, Ben Chamo which was given on 8 January 2015 and in which Fisher Price lost their claim regarding copyright infringement in a child’s swing seat.

The ruling addresses the relationship between copyright and registered design rights. Judge Rubinstein notes that in the modern consumer society, the design of consumer goods has an increasing importance, and that manufacturers invest heavily  Consequently, many goods are some combination of functionality and artistic expression which makes it difficult to classify such goods in a single IP category and raises difficult legal questions. This appeal relates to a list of such questions of which the relationship between design law and copyright is central.

The Appellant, Mattel Inc. is a US Company that owns Fisher Price which makes baby goods, etc. The Respondent, Dvaron Import-Export Co. Ltd, is a company that imports various baby products into Israel. They and their directors and share holders were sued.

infantiMattel / Fisher-Price learned through Sakal which imports their products into Israel, that the respondents have been distributing a baby swing seat manufactured in China and branded as Infanti, which is a copy of the Fisher-Price swing seat.  Read the rest of this entry »


Filing Baseless Patent Infringement Complaints in the US Can be Expensive

August 30, 2017
Octane fitnessIcon Health and Fitness sued Octane Fitness for patent infringement in 2009, claiming that Octane’s high-end elliptical machines infringed US Patent No. 6,019,710, which describes an elliptical machine that allows for adjustments to accommodate individual strides. After two years of litigation, a district court judge found that Octane’s machines didn’t infringe. Octane asked for an award of legal fees, but in 2011, a judge rejected the company’s bid. That decision was upheld on appeal.
It is very rare for US courts to rule costs. This has resulted in the so-called patent troll phenomenon, wherein companies sue for patent infringement on very shaky grounds assuming that they have little to lose.

In this instance, Octane Fitness appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the case in 2014. In 9-0 vote, the court issued an opinion (PDF) making it much easier to get attorney’s fees. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion, holding that patent laws call for awarding fees in an “exceptional” case, which is “simply one that stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position… or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated.”

With that, the case was kicked back down to the lower courts. Under the new standard, the district court judge awarded $1.6 million to Octane over the objections of Icon lawyers.

On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld (PDF) that award in its entirety. The district court found that Icon’s claim construction arguments were “wholly at odds with the patent text, prosecution history, and inventor testimony,” The court also found that Icon included Nellie’s Fitness, an equipment distributor, as a defendant for the purpose increasing Octane’s legal costs.

The appeals judges found “no clear error in its analysis” and upheld the district court’s award. The panel dismissed a cross-appeal by Octane asking for a larger award, which would also cover litigation over the fees.

COMMENT

trollThe case is reminiscent of a frivolous law suit brought by Pearl Cohen on behalf of Vagabond Source, where the courts ruled that Source’s counsel (i.e. Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer pay $187,308.65 in partial attorney’s fees, but that Source not be sanctioned. Pearl Cohen appealed that ruling, and lost again in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

We think that such cost rulings are in order to prevent abuse of the system.

 


Israel Supreme Court Rejects Appeal from Shukha Trademark Infringers

June 9, 2017

shukhaThere are two branches of the Shukha family that market oil and other food stuffs: Sons of George Shukha ltd. and Antoine Shukha and Sons ltd.

Sons of George Shukha ltd, which also imports and distributes rice, have 27 registered trademarks including the name Shukra in English, Hebrew and Arabic.  The earliest registered mark is from 1984 but one mark is for Sons of George Shukra from 1930.

Over a six-year period, the Sons of George Shukha ltd attempted to enforce their marks through the courts with the parties reaching an agreement that allowed Antoine Shukra and Sons to use labels that include the name Shukra in a font size no larger than that for Antoine and Sons and together with a logo. The settlement, though ratified by the court, was not fulfilled and so Sons of George Shukha ltd. appealed to the Supreme Court. Antoine Shukra and Sons submitted various creative arguments arguing that since the size of their oil containers was larger, the agreed size of the label was no longer reasonable. They also claimed that the ruling only related to the name Shukra in Arabic. They submitted that two weeks to recall and remove all infringing products from the shelves was too short a period, and the penalty of 2500 Shekels for every day delay would cripple them.

Supreme Court Judge Amit pointed out that unless the penalty for failing to enforce was crippling, infringing parties would simply continue to prevaricate. He noted that in two of the three counts of continued infringement, Antoine Shukra and Sons acknowledged that they were infringing, and in the third case, where the issues that received court endorsement related to the size used for the name Shukra and to it being used together with a logo, even if there was some grounds to consider the Appeal based on font size, the infringers were not displaying the logo prominently. He refused to reconsider issues ruled on by District Judge but noted that the District Court judge had stated that the Appellants had made various claims in affidavits but withdrew them during the hearing, and had generally acted in bad faith.

Judge Amit noted that with financial penalties for failing to enforce, staying a ruling during Appeal was generally not appropriate since a monetary ruling could rectify any issues. Judge Amit refused to stay the enforcement, but granted a 30 days instead of 14 days for it to be enforced.  By the end of this period, the Appellants have to provide a full record od what was done to recall or relabel the infringing goods. Costs of 5000 Shekels were awarded to Sons of George Shukha ltd.

Appeal 4113/17 Sone of George Shukra ltd. vs. Antoine Shukra and Sons ltd. and various members of the Shukra clan and related companies. 8 June 2017