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, saying 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


Cancellation Proceedings Against an Israel Patent for a Modular Support Bracket

April 6, 2017

Figs for ACMoshe Lavi registered Israel Patent No. 157035 titled “MODULAR SUPPORT BRACKET”. A competitor, Zach Oz Air Conditioning LTD and Zach Raz filed to have the patent cancelled on grounds of invalidity. They seem to have botched the attempt, but I think that this ruling is a poor one.

Background

In the past, Lavi has tried enforcing the patent against Zach Oz Air Conditioning LTD. (Back then, around 2004, I was engaged as an expert witness by Counsel of the Defence, Soroker Agmon. In my Expert Opinion, I argued what is known as ‘the Gilette Defense’ stating that the correct interpretation of the claims was much narrower than that which Lavi and his lawyers Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Bratz (Pearl-Cohen) was using and Zach Oz’ support bracket was not infringing. Furthermore, if one considered that Zach Oz’ brackets were within the ambit of the claims, the patent would not have issued in the light of the myriad of prior art shelf support brackets.  On the day of the trial, Lavi dropped the charges and Zach Oz agreed not to infringe the patent.

It was not the first time that Pearl-Cohen have tried to assert a patent against a competitor that was not infringing. They tried this in the US on behalf of Source Vagabond against Hydropak. In that instance, the New York District Court fined Pearl-Cohen and the lawyers actively handling the case $187,308.65. That ruling was then Appealed to and upheld by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals).

Frustrated by repeated bullying by Moshe Lavi and Pearl-Cohen, Zach Oz filed a cancellation proceeding against the Israel patent. Confusingly, their Attorney is called Pearl. It is not Zeev Pearl, but another practitioner.

Pearl-Cohen submitted a rather ambitious attempt to have the case thrown out as Zach Oz had not argued invalidity when accused of infringing, and Pearl-Cohen argued that this was a sort of in absentia estoppel since they could have raised the argument back then, and didn’t. The Commissioner threw that argument out, and allowed the cancellation proceeding to proceed.

The cancellation proceeding has now run its course and the following article Read the rest of this entry »


Alternative Dispute Resolution Copyright in an Ark Curtain

January 9, 2017

parochet cloth.JPG

Haggit Weingarten is a talented graphic designer. She designed a parochet (curtain for ornamenting the Ark of the Synagogue) where she and her family pray in Petach Tikveh. After finalizing the design with the Synagogue, Ms Weingarten approached a company that did computerized embroidery that specializes in similar ritual items and paid them to fabricate a parochet with her design which is a stylized arrangement of a well known phrase found in Isiah 52:8. The curtain is more modern that the dark velvet or satin curtains that include Stars of David, lions, the Menorah or Ten Commandments that are ultra conservative, but it is not overly modern. The resultant curtain is shown alongside having in her Synagogue. The embroidery company were very complimentary of her design.

parochet-laviSome months later, a member of her community spent a weekend in a Kibbutz Hotel and was surprised to see a curtain with the identical design hanging in the Synagogue of the hotel. Ms Weingarten was rather annoyed about this, and after a little bit of research discovered that the embroidery company was offering the curtain in their catalogue of designs and on their website. Now furious, she got her attorney-in-law husband to write a cease and desist letter requiring that the design be removed from the catalogue and from the website and that the company pay 5000 Shekels compensation.

The company argued that graphic designers made nowhere near that amount for designing embroidery and made a counter-offer of a velvet bag for the husband to store his ritual prayer shawl in.

Dr Ben Spungin who is a patent attorney at IP Factor, prays in the same Syngagogue. The Weingartens contacted him and we decided to help. I was near the Kibbutz one day that summer and took a photograph of the curtain, which by that stage was a three piece suite set including  a cover for the Bima – the central table used for reading from the Torah, and a smaller cloth for the lectern.

The problem was that court proceedings could take 2-3 years and the total award would be unlikely to cover the legal costs which was why the embroidery company could take such a cavalier attitude to their infringement.

We prepared a Statement of Case and noted that under copyright law, the graphic artist was entitled to (up to) 100,000 Shekels compensation for copyright infringement, and a further 100,000 Shekels for infringement of her moral rights to be identified as the artist. In case the embroiderers would argue that this was a design for manufacture and not a work of art, we noted that under the A.Sh.I.R. ruling, the artist was entitled to up to 100,000 Shekels compensation under the Law of Unjust Enrichment.

We sent a copy of the Statement of Case to the embroiderers. Their lawyer got the embroidery company to take the curtain off their website and out of their catalogue, and  then contacted us to negotiate a settlement.

Now whilst the law provides grounds to sue for up to 200,000 Shekels, followers of this blog will note that court rulings vary widely from 2000 Shekels to maybe 50,000 Shekels for copyright infringement of this nature. Ms Weingarten did not include her name as the designer on the original curtain for her Synagogue. Nor would she be expected to. Arguably however, this puts a zero value on her moral rights to be recognized as the artist. More significantly, the original Cease & Desist letter from her husband valued the infringement at 5000 Shekels. Still, the curtain had now gone forth and multiplied into a family of three embroidered cloths. With both lawyers phoning their clients and a little haggling, a settlement was agreed that was more than the Weingartens had originally asked for and even after paying us a small commission, was still more than they would have received.  Justice was served in that the embroiderers ended up paying more than they would have otherwise, not including their own legal expenses. The issue was settled in less than three months.

It should be appreciated that mediation and arbitration are faster alternatives to court proceedings. As this was not a court ruling in the public domain I am not naming the infringing company, but in court rulings, the parties are identified. To avoid adverse publicity it is often in the parties’ interest to avoid going to court.


Revival of IL 132540 Opposed

September 18, 2016

chequeBack in June 2015 we reported that an attempt by the patentee Yehuda Tsabari to revive Israel Patent Number IL 132540 titled “A method and System for Direct Transfer of Funds via Magnetic Cards” and covers using credit / debit cards to gift money into the account of celebrants. It is designed for use by guests at weddings and Bar Mitzvas, and is a variation of what a refer to as a hardy perennial – it is the sort of invention that seems to be reinvented every few months, and I have provided consultations to several would be entrepreneurs, and have even drafted and successfully prosecuted patent applications for variations of the invention in the past.

paymentTsabari’s patent was abandoned due to failure to pay the fourth renewal for years 14 to 18. The Patent Office agreed to allow the revival subject to their decision publishing for opposition purposes. On publication, Going Dutch Ltd opposed the revival claiming that the patent was knowingly and intentionally abandoned, and the present decision is a substantial ruling on their opposition.

Tsabari’s application was filed on 24 October 1999 and the patent was allowed on 13 April 2004. The fourth renewal was due on 24 October 2013 but was not paid, and six months later, the patent lapsed as per Sections 56 and 57 of the Israel Patent Law 1967.

reinstatementOn 7 July 2014, Mr Tsabari filed a request for reinstatement together with an affidavit, arguing that the reminder was sent to the wrong address as the Israel Patent Office has failed to update its records with his new address, despite his updating them. According to the Affidavit, in 2005, on receiving the patent, Mr Tsabari requested that a change of address from the address of the Attorney-of-Record to his own address be entered into the Patent Office records. Despite his request, the Israel Patent Office sent a reminder for the renewals to the offices of Dr Mark Friedman, the Agent of Record. According to Tsabari, it was this mistake by the Patent Office that caused the patent to become abandoned. In support of his contention, Mr Tsabari produced a receipt for 272 Shekels which was the fee for updating the patent office register. Tsabari further claimed to have wanted the patent to remain in effect and had attempted to enforce it both in the District Court and in the Patent Office. Furthermore, he’d taken immediate action for reinstatement as soon as he’d learned that the patent had become abandoned.

reinstatement2In light of the circumstances described in the request for reinstatement, Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha was convinced that conditions for reinstatement under Section 60 of the Israel Patent Law 1967 were met, and, in her ruling of 24 July 2014, she ordered the notice of intent to reinstate published in the patent office journal for opposition purposes.

On 23 November 2014, Going Dutch Ltd opposed the reinstatement. Going Dutch Ltd brands itself Easy2give and was active in an initiative to provide a credit card based gift service at functions and events.

oppositionIn their Opposition, Going Dutch Ltd claimed that the reinstatement was contrary to Section 60 and should not have published. As a fall-back position, they argued that if the revival be upheld, they should be considered as having relied on the patent lapsing and should be indemnified from being sued for infringement, and could continue to utilize the patent under Section 63 of the Law.

In their counter statement of case, the Applicant contended that they did NOT want the patent to lapse. In support of this contention, the Applicant described attempts to commercialize the invention, and included a few appendices to support the claims. However, the Applicant requested that the appendices remain confidential, claiming that they were trade-secrets under the 1999 trade-secret act, and, in her decision of 7 May 2015, The Deputy Commissioner agreed to these remaining confidential.

The patentee also described attempts to enforce the patent against Check-Out Ltd in the District Court, and Check-Out Ltd.’s attempts to have the patent cancelled in a proceeding before the Israel Patent Office. Also, attempts at collaboration with Check-Out Ltd. that were aborted for financial reasons were described.

The Opposer’s Claims and Evidence

The Opposer, Going Dutch Ltd claimed that the reinstatement was contrary to Section 60. They contended that no reasonable excuse was given for the renewal not being timely paid and they argued that the request for reinstatement was inequitable. The 272 Shekels receipt shown by Tsabari was not for a change of address at all. Rather, it was the second renewal paid in 2005 and so the Applicant did not show evidence that the patent lapsed unintentionally. It was evident that the payment in 2005 had nothing to do with the patent lapsing since five years later, in 2010, despite the change of address, one of the owners managed to renew the patent.

The Opposer alleged that Tsabari wanted the patent to lapse. The Opposer learned this from Tsabari’s lack of activity in this area from when the patent was filed until the date of the Opposer’s submission, which indicates that the business had failed and the applicant had lost interest. The business failure of Check Out Ltd. which was a potential partner, further supports the allegation that Tsabari had abandoned the patent.

In cross-examination in February 2013, it transpired that Tsabari was aware of the Opposer’s activities back in 2013, and this supports the opposer’s contention that reinstatement was not sought immediately on learning that the patent had been abandoned.

As supporting evidence to their claims, the Opposer, Going Dutch Ltd, submitted an affidavit of Mr Guy Giyor, who was a founder and former CEO of the Opposer. Mt Giyor testified that the Opposer was established as a company offering various event related services including credit based presents at events. Mr Giyor testified that the Opposer had relied on Tsabari’s patent lapsing and Tsabari’s lack of  business activity  in developing their own initiative. Furthermore, Mr Giyor testified that Going Dutch Ltd started marketing in June 2014, after the patent had lapsed.

 Applicant’s Claims and Evidence

The Applicant detailed his attempts to monetize the patent, and repeated his claims from the application to revive, that the patent had lapsed due to a technical error of the Israel Patent Office, which continued to send reminders to the wrong address, despite a request to change the address of record submitted in 2005.

The Applicant also claimed that the Opposer was acting inequitably and in bad faith since the opposer had started commercializing their invention before the patent had lapsed, and had, in fact, infringed the patent. The Applicant for revival substantiated his claim by submitting newspaper articles that showed that Mt Guy Giyor had taken actions in 2012 and had set up a company in 2012 with the intention as stated in its constitution, of enabling wedding presents to be made at events via credit cards. The Applicant backed his claims with an affidavit.

On 3 February 2016 a discussion was held before the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha, during which both the Applicant and the CEO of the opposer were cross-examined on their affidavits.

Discussion

The legal basis for opposing reinstatement of a lapsed patent is Section 61 of the Law, as follows:

Anyone may oppose a request to reinstate a patent within three months of the decision to allow reinstatement publishing, based on a claim that the Commissioner should not have authorized reinstatement.

The Commissioner’s authority to publicize the decision to reinstate a patent is based on Section 60 of the Law, which defines three conditions for reinstatement that are all required to be fulfilled:

  1. The renewal fee was not paid for reasonable reasons
  2. The patentee did not intend to abandon the patent
  3. The request for reinstatement was filed soon after realizing that the patent had lapsed.

When ruling on an Opposition to reinstatement, the Commissioner has to reconsider whether the conditions are fulfilled in light of the evidence brought during the opposition.

There is a difference in evidentiary requirements for authorizing reinstatement subject to publication of the decisions for opposition purposes as per Section 60 of the Law, and the evidentiary requirements to affirm that decision under Section 61 of the Law. During an opposition, the Opposer challenges the Commissioner’s determination that there are grounds for reinstatement and has to provide a strong case that the Commissioner erred in the assessment.  For more details, see the discussion on reinstatement of IL 15211 which lapsed due to failure to pay the fee; Gershon Eckstein et al. vs. Mezer Peles, Limited Paretnership of Kibbutz Mezer, published 1 April 1984.

After consideration of the claims and evidence of the parties, the Deputy Commissioner concluded that the non-payment of the renewal fee was not actually due to reasonable circumstances.

In the request for reinstatement, the Applicant claimed that the non-payment was due to a mistake of the Israel Patent Office, which, despite his request to the contrary, did not change the address of record. consequently, reminders sent  from the Patent Office did not reach their destination. As evidence of the request to change the address of record, the Applicant produced a receipt for payment of a Patent Office fee of 272 Shekels.

Here it is noted that in the past, as ruled in the Gershon decision, lack of payment of Renewal fees due to the Patentee forgetting has been recognized as a scenario where reinstatement is possible under Section 60 of the Law. See the Eckstein ruling and also the Opposition to reinstate IL 14548 Reuven Margulies vs. Exra Darrel et al. , 12 January 1972. However nowadays, in a slew of decisions on this matter, it has been ruled that failure of the Israel Patent Office to send reminders does NOT constitute reasonable grounds for revival, since tracking these deadlines is the responsibility of the patentee. See, for example, the decision re IL 185526 Chaled A’quad et al. from 24 October 2012, since we are now in an age where the patentee can easily track renewal dates, the onus is on him to show that a patent lapse wasn’t due to negligence or abandonment.

In the decision to allow reinstatement, the Deputy Commissioner had noted applicant’s attempt to update their address and their apparent relying on the Israel Patent Office to remind them of the renewal and the Patent Office’s apparent failure to do so. However, in the hearing on the Opposition to that decision it transpired that back in 2005, a payment was made to renew the patent and not to request updating of the patentee’s address. In a more rigorous examination of the patent office records it transpires that there is no evidence of any request to update the patent office record as to the address of the patentee and no evidence that any fee for this was paid. Back then, the fee for renewals was 272 Shekels and for amending the register was 204 Shekels, so it clear that the payment receipt was for the renewal and not for amending the register.

On presentation of the evidence that the fee paid was for the renewal, the Applicant for Reinstatement (Patentee) was unable to provide further evidence for requesting a change of address and, since he’d kept a copy of the renewal fee, one assumes that he would have kept a copy of the fee for change of address had it been paid. The Applicant neither provided evidence for the alleged request to change address nor any other reasons or evidence justifying the renewal not being timely paid.

The patentee who was not represented, requested to understand why he was being cross-examined, and this was explained to him as follows:

The relevant questions as far as this hearing is concerned are whether you wanted to abandon the patent, and, if you did not intend abandoning the patent, was the failure to pay the renewal fee due to a reasonable reason, and so the question as to whether you were informed of the renewal and whether you are still in contact with Dr Friedman (the agent of record) or not, are the the most relevant questions to this discussion. (Protocol Page 26 line 12).

In addition, the Deputy Commissioner was somewhat surprised that the patentee did not call Dr Mark Friedman to testify that he had not sent a reminder regarding the fourth renewal. Dr  Friedman’s testimony would have shed light on whether actions were taken after issuance to keep the patent alive and what instructions were given to Dr Friedman regarding renewal of the Patent.

The failure to provide testimony from Dr Friedman has negative evidentiary weight. Without a reasonable explanation, one can assume that Dr Friedman’s testimony would not have helped the patentee – See Civil Appeal 548/78 Ms. Anonymous vs. Mr Anonymous, p.d. 35(1)736, 760 (1980):

The Courts have always considered that a party to a decision will not fail to provide evidence that is in his favour. Failure to bring such evidence without clear explanation indicates that such evidence would act against his interests. This assumption is well rooted in both civil and criminal rulings, and the more important the evidence, the more clearly is it not being brought indicative that were it to be brought, it would act against the party bringing it. See Civil Appeal Naftali Schwartz vs. Raminoff Company for Trading and Building Equipment LTD. (Nevo 27 July 2008).

The lack of a connection between the change of address of the patentee and the non-payment of the renewal is evidenced by the fact that eight years later, in 2013, the patentee did pay the third renewal. This was clarified after the hearing when the Patent Office checked their records. This fact was reported to both sides in the 22 February decision, but the patentee did not relate to this in his summation.

The above is sufficient for the opposition to reinstatement to be successful.

Although not necessary to do so, the Deputy Commissioner added that the evidence shows that the patentee was tardy in monetizing his intellectual property. The Applicant showed that four years passed between the patent issuing and the first draft of an agreement with a credit company, and that agreement was never signed. Nearly 5 years passed from the patent issuing until the patentee had a detailed specification for a system based on the invention. The various cases between the patentee’s company Shai For You (Shai means gift) and Checkpoint seemed to have lapsed with Checkpoint going bankrupt in 2014 (see 8870-10-09 Shai For You vs. Check Out LTD 7 January 2014) and Checkpoint’s challenge of the validity of this patent was also abandoned in November 2012.

It is noted that patentee alleged that Check Point abandoned their case due to them collaborating with the patentee. However, since Check Point had requested an extension of time, doubt is cast on the patentee’s version of events.

The Applicant testified that he’d known about the Opposer’s actions back in 2013, which he alleged, infringed the patent.However, the Applicant failed to take any action, and did not even send a Cease and Desist Letter. This also indicates that the Applicant had lost interest in the patent.

CONCLUSION

Instead of justifying his request for reinstatement, the Applicant chose to attach the Opposer, accusing him of tardiness and inequitable behaviour and of attempting to commercialize the patent before it was abandoned.

Mr Giyor even testified that he knew about the patent and undertook various examinations via a private detective t ensure that the sole licensee, Shai Four You LTD> was no longer active. This indicates that he thought that Shai Four All’s patents could be enforced against him. Since Giyor’s company was established in 2012, it does not seem that Giyor had relied on the patent lapsing, and had launched his competing service in May 2013, as is clear from one of his publicity films on the Internet.

Anyone can oppose the reinstatement of a patent. The incentives for so doing are usually economical, typically the desire to utilize the patented invention. In this instance it appears that the Opposer started using the patent prior to it lapsing and waited for the patent to lapse rather than cooperating with the patentee.

equitableIt will be appreciated that the Duty of Equitable Behaviour applies to all fields of law (see Sections 39 and 61 of the Law of Contracts 1973), and the rights to a hearing are not exceptions to this rule see Bagatz 566/81 Eliyahu Amrani vs. The Supreme Rabbinical Court p.d. 37(2) 1 (7 August 1982).  Although this cannot be taken into account in the Opposition itself,  and the Opposer has proven that the patentee had not shown that the abandonment was unintentional as required by Section 60 of the Law, this can be taken into account when ruling on costs. Consequently, due to the Opposer utilizing the patent knowingly prior to it lapsing, no costs are awarded.

Opposition to IL 132450 to Yehuda Tsabari (Shai Four You) by Going Dutch Ltd, ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha, 31 August 2016.

 


Applicant Successfully Has Allowance of Patent Application Cancelled, Following Initiation of Opposition Proceedings

September 12, 2016

reexaminationUsually an Opposition results in an allowed patent being either cancelled, upheld or having its claim-set narrowed. Apparently, not always!

Israel Patent Application No. 240684 titled “GLYCOPYRROLATE SALTS” was filed by Dermira Inc on 19 August 2015. It is the national phase entry of PCT/US2014/19552 and so the effective filing date is 28 February 2014. It claims priority from two provisional applications and from two regular US applications, but the earliest priority claimed was 28 February 2013.

On 18 October 2015, the Applicants petitioned to make special under Section 19(a)(a)(2) of the Patent Law 1967 and requested allowance under Section 17c based on US 9,004,462.

After the application was allowed and published for Opposition purposes, S0l-gel Technologies ltd. opposed the patent issuing. They noted that the case had been allowed under Section 17c, but this was incorrect since the two regular US applications from which priority was claimed were continuations-in-part of US 13/781,390 which published on 15 August 2013.

In the US, the earlier patent application to which material is added in a Continuation-in-Part cannot be cited against the Continuation-in-Part. It is a little like a Patent-of-Addition in Israel.

Since priority is NOT claimed from US 13/781,390 which published 15 August 2013, it is prior art to IL 240684 since its publication precedes the filing of PCT/US2014/19552 on 28 February 2014. Consequently, as far as Israel is concerned, US 13/781,390 could be cited as prior art against IL 240684 and so allowance under Section 17c was wrong, as there is presumption of validity since US 13/781,390 (now US 8,558,008) was not prior art in the US, but is prior art against the Israel application.

Here’s the odd thing. US 13/781,390 was itself filed on 28 February 2013, so the PCT could have claimed priority from it!

In their statement fo case, the Opposer requested that the allowance be cancelled and the case returned to the Examiner for examination on its merits in light of the prior art (including US 13/781,390). The Applicant (represented by Pearl Cohen) agreed with this suggestion.

In his ruling, the Commissioner, Asa Kling, noted that only rarely can an allowed patent be returned to the Examiner. Patent prosecution is a one way street, and after allowance, the Examiner is no longer part of the process. Generally, opposed patents are either invalidated as lacking novelty and inventiveness, or the scope of their claims is narrowed, or, the opposition is overcome or withdrawn and the patent as allowed, is granted.

In this instance, both sides agree to the allowance being withdrawn and to the claims being (re)considered on their merits by the examiner in light of the prior art, including  US 13/781,390, thereby avoiding costly opposition proceedings.

The commissioner noted that agreement of the parties is not generally enough for odd solutions, due to their being a public interest. Generally one does not return an allowed patent application to the Examiners since the public is always third-party to such proceedings. See the ruling on request to cancel allowance of IL 219586 Fritz Collischan GMBH vs. Data Detection Technologies Inc., 9 March 2015, paragraphs 9 and 10 of the ruling.

However, it is clear that the Section 17c assumptions detailed in the Albermarle ruling do not apply here as inventiveness over US 13/781,390 was not considered by the US Examiner as it was not an issue in the States, and so the IPO cannot rely on the US Examiner’s ability, professionalism and integrity in this instance. In the circumstances, for the sake of efficiency, it was deemed appropriate to reexamine rather than to conduct an opposition. The Commissioner allowed the Section 17c allowance to be withdrawn and the case to be returned to the examiners for substantive examination on the merits.

The cancellation of the allowance now publishes for opposition purposes. Costs of 2500 Shekels are awarded to the Opposers; the low sum reflecting the early stage reached.

COMMENT

In this instance, the PCT application could and should have claimed priority from US 13/781,390. The  Opposers could have claimed both invalidity over US 13/781,390 and / or inequitable behaviour in requesting allowance under Section 17c from a continuation in part. There is a public interest in technologies remaining in the public domain. Thus I think this decision could be challenged in an opposition. Still, doing so takes resources and would incur costs. For the same reason that S0l-gel Technologies ltd seem happy with reexamination, I suspect that noone else will file an opposition to this ruling.