Bifurcation in the Interest of Efficiency

November 1, 2016

bifurcatedIn Germany, the courts that rule on patent infringement are not authorized to rule on validity. This makes Germany a preferred litigation jurisdiction for bringing European IP cases. Israeli courts can and do rule on validity of patents and designs in infringement cases. Usually having one court review everything is more efficient, however, this is not always the case.

52245Israel Design Application Number 52245 to My Bondi Ltd. was filed on 23 February 2012 and issued on 23 July 2014. The design is for a multipurpose holder as shown.

In May 2015, My Bondi sued Urban Cofix Ltd and Tabor Publicity Ltd in the Rishon le Zion Magistrates Court claiming infringement of the design. The case is 42290-05-16.

In response, Tabor Publicity Ltd filed a cancellation proceeding against the allegedly infringed design, claiming that it had published prior to the design registration application being filed.

My Bondi have asked for the cancellation proceeding to be stayed until the Rishon le Zion court rules on infringement. They claim that the court will consider additional claims including that of validity, so staying that proceeding will cause a miscarriage in justice.

Tabor Publicity Ltd object to staying the cancellation proceeding. They claim to have already asked the court to stay the infringement ruling until the patent office determines validity of the design registration. They note that in the statement of defence submitted to the court they noted that they would be challenging the validity of the design registration and that the magistrate’s court lacked juridical competence to rule on validity issues. They do not consider that having the Israel Patent Office consider validity will result in a miscarriage of justice since the validity of the allegedly infringed design is a preliminary issue that should be dealt with first.

In the meantime, on 16 August 2015, the Rishon le Zion magistrate’s court transferred the case to the Central District Court as the correct court for ruling on design infringement, but this happened without considering the staying request.

RULING

The bone of contention in the proceeding before the Commissioner of Patents, Designs and Trademarks relates to advertising the product on the Facebook page of the Applicant prior to the registration application being filed. The alleged infringer claims that this advertisement shows the point of novelty thereby destroying the novelty at the time of filing which is a necessary condition for registration.

From their Counter Statement requesting suspension pending the court ruling, the design owner does not deny the publication but claims that the publication was a genuine mistake.

The purpose of suspending a proceeding is “to prevent overly burdening the opposing party and to prevent unnecessary problems for the courts”. See Appeal 8/78 El Okvi vs. Israel Lands Authority, p.d. 29 (2) 477. 483.

In this instance the parties agree that the question of the validity of the mark in the light of the prior publication is the legal issue common to the two proceedings. Clearly the District Court has additional issues to consider, such as unjust enrichment and passing off, etc. which are beyond the legal competence of the Commissioner of Patents to address.

The range of issues before the District Court is wide, and will take longer than merely ruling on the validity of the design registration. The second defendant is a registered third-party to the validity issue. However, the issue before the Patent Office is a focussed one that relates only to the validity issue in light of prior art that all parties acknowledge the publication of.

The main case was transferred to the District Court which has not considered the case at all. Furthermore, in their statement for the defence, Tabor Publicity raised the validity issue and noted that it would approach the Patent Office for a ruling on that issue. Consequently, the Deputy Commissioner rules that it is more efficient for him to rule on the validity issue as per the 1925 Design Regulations which gives the Requester for Cancellation a number of weeks to provide evidence and the design owner a further month.

In conclusion, the cancellation request is allowed to continue and the parties are forewarned that attempts to extend the proceedings before the Patent Office will be considered in light of the progress of the case before the District Court to prevent unnecessary delays.

Cancellation Request Re Israel Design No. 52245 Interim Ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha, 11 September 2016

COMMENT

Design litigation does indeed go directly to the District Court, and is appealed to the Supreme Court. The patent office has vastly more experience than any District Court judge in ruling on whether internet publications are prior art. Whether the publication was intentional or not is irrelevant.

 

 

 


Israel Patent Office Rules Costs for ‘Unnecessary’ Design Cancellation Proceeding

September 11, 2016

costs-awardThere are very few Israel Patent Office rulings or Israel court rulings relating to designs. However, they do occur.

Israel Design No. 53151 to SHL Alubin ltd relates to a profile. It was submitted for registration on 6 September 2012, and issued on 19 December 2013. On 31 December 2015, it was canceled following a Court Order obtained by Silver Hong Kong Israel, who then requested real and actual costs to be awarded.

Silver Hong Kong Israel filed for cancellation on 10 August 2014. SHL Alubin ltd denied all charges. In parallel to the cancellation procedure, a complaint was filed with the Haifa District Court – Civil Matter 21470-03-14 SHL Alubin LTD vs. Exstel LTD.  Before the Israel Patent Office could hear the case, the District Court issued a ruling on 29 December 2015, canceling the mark.

To complete the picture, the design owner SHL Alubin LTD filed a request to hold the court’s ruling, but on 27 January 2015, that request was rejected and the design cancellation was published in the Israel Patent Office journal.

At that stage, a request for costs was filed, for the work done until that time, including filing statements of case, submitting evidence and counter-evidence. To support the request for costs, the Applicant submitted an affidavit from the CEO of Silver Hong Kong Israel ltd., with receipts for official fees and a breakdown of hours per month spent on the project. The breakdown was created for this request for costs, but was not detailed.

Silver Hong Kong Israel ltd. rather oddly claimed to have invoices that they were not submitting for secrecy reasons unless asked to.  On 10 May 2016, Applicant submitted invoices together with a statement from the CEO. The invoices were for consultation from the agent of record for each stage of the proceedings and totaled $35,567.5 (approx. 140,670 Shekels) for 42.5 hours of senior attorney time and 187.5 hours of junior attorney time, and a further 832 Shekels for official fees and 1500 Shekels for incidental expenses, not previously claimed.

Silver Hong Kong Israel ltd. considered the costs appropriate for the stage reached. They claimed that the court filing was forced on them as Alubin threatened to sue them for registered design infringement. However, since Alubin’s claims and designs were indefensible, their behaviour should be sanctioned, and this should be reflected in the costs ruled.

Silver Hong Kong Israel claimed that Alubin had hidden the functional nature of their design when filing the application, and this was what resulted in the design eventually being canceled. Silver Hong Kong Israel further alleged that Alubin hid the court proceedings from them and made it difficult for them to obtain details of the proceedings before the courts.

Alubin countered that the invoices were made out to a different company, VeMetal ltd., and there was no indication of a connection between that company and the plaintiff here.

There are very few Israel Patent Office rulings or Israel court rulings relating to designs. However, they do occur.

Israel Design No. 53151 to SHL Alubin ltd relates to a profile. It was submitted for registration on 6 September 2012, and issued on 19 December 2013. On 31 December 2015, it was canceled following a Court Order obtained by Silver Hong Kong Israel, who then requested real and actual costs to be awarded.

Silver Hong Kong Israel filed for cancellation on 10 August 2014. SHL Alubin ltd denied all charges. In parallel to the cancellation procedure, a complaint was filed with the Haifa District Court – Civil Matter 21470-03-14 SHL Alubin LTD vs. Exstel LTD.  Before the Israel Patent Office could hear the case, the District Court issued a ruling on 29 December 2015, canceling the mark.

To complete the picture, the design owner SHL Alubin LTD filed a request to hold the court’s ruling, but on 27 January 2015, that request was rejected and the design cancellation was published in the Israel Patent Office journal.

At that stage, a request for costs was filed, for the work done until that time, including filing statements of case, submitting evidence and counter-evidence. To support the request for costs, the Applicant submitted an affidavit from the CEO of Silver Hong Kong Israel ltd., with receipts for official fees and a breakdown of hours per month spent on the project. The breakdown was created for this request for costs, but was not detailed.

Silver Hong Kong Israel ltd. rather oddly claimed to have invoices that they were not submitting for secrecy reasons unless asked to.  On 10 May 2016, Applicant submitted invoices together with a statement from the CEO. The invoices were for consultation from the agent of record for each stage of the proceedings and totaled $35,567.5 (approx. 140,670 Shekels) for 42.5 hours of senior attorney time and 187.5 hours of junior attorney time, and a further 832 Shekels for official fees and 1500 Shekels for incidental expenses, not previously claimed.

Silver Hong Kong Israel ltd. considered the costs appropriate for the stage reached. They claimed that the court filing was forced on them as Alubin threatened to sue them for registered design infringement. However, since Alubin’s claims and designs were indefensible, their behaviour should be sanctioned, and this should be reflected in the costs ruled.

Silver Hong Kong Israel claimed that Alubin had hidden the functional nature of their design when filing the application, and this was what resulted in the design eventually being canceled.

Alubin countered that Silver Hong Kong Israel based their case on the District Court case that they were not a party to. Silver Hong Kong Israel were granted access by the judge and this enabled them to file and prosecute the cancellation proceedings with minimal additional work.  Since the case never went to a hearing, this should be reflected in the costs awarded.  The cost request was a random list of hours and persons without details of the work allegedly done on behalf of Silver Hong Kong Israel, and the total amount of hours claimed was grossly inflated.  The invoices were made out in the name of V Metal ltd., not Silver Hong Kong Israel, and there was no link between the invoices and the work done.

Silver Hong Kong Israel countered this by explaining that V Metal ltd. was a sister company with common owners.

Commissioner Asa Kling noted that Section 46 of the Patent & Design Ordinance 1926 provides that:

In any legal proceeding before the Commissioner under this Ordinance, the Commissioner may rule what he considers to be reasonable costs, can decide which party should pay the costs and how they should be paid.

 [MF – there is an Israel Design Law pending legislation, but until it enters into force, design law is covered by this rather archaic ordinance].

The case-law establishes that the losing party should pay real costs. However, the courts can decide if the actual costs were reasonable, proportional and necessarily incurred in fighting the case, in the specific circumstances. The costs must be proportional to the issue being considered, so that the successful litigant recovers his costs but doesn’t punish the loser. See Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva Cooperative for Marketing Israel Produce vs. the Body Authorized to Grant Import Licenses of the Ministry of Trade & industry, 30 June 2005 paragraph 19.  The various considerations have been weighed up in a long list of patent and trademark rulings by the Israel Patent Office, and are appropriate for design litigation as well.

 

To be awarded real and actual costs, the successful litigator must show that the proof, a breakdown of hours and an agreement for compensating counsel.  Once the successful party provides a detailed costs analysis, the onus is on the losing party to pick holes in the costs request. This is stated in Paragraph 225 of the Tnuva ruling:

Once the detailed request for costs is substantiated – the burden of proof switches and the onus is on the loser to show why the costs are exorbitant, based on their being unreasonable, unnecessary and / or disproportional. 

The claim that Silver Hong Kong Israel could have based their case on the District Court filings was a general allegation and was substantiated in any way. Examination of the submissions to the Israel Patent Office dies imply that a significant amount of real work was performed on behalf of Silver Hong Kong Israel.  The case before the Israel Patent Office has a different statement of case, and evidence to support that statement of case. The court proceeding is not a substitute that can be cut & pasted.  Alubin claims that the costs incurred were unnecessary but there are no concrete examples and the company does not back this claim with evidence.

Alubin considers the whole submission was unnecessary since the case was never heard by the Israel Patent Office. Commisioner Kling rejects this position as  something that Silver Hong Kong Israel could not have predicted and the fact that the case before the Israel Patent Office was never ruled on its merits does not render the filing of the case frivolous or unnecessary.

In light of the above analysis, Silver Hong Kong Israel are entitled to real costs. However, Silver Hong Kong Israel did not originally submit details of the actual costs incurred. There is a difference between the identity of the party to the cancellation proceeding and the entity to which invoices were issued and due to the invoices not being submitted in a timely manner, this was not fully explained. This and the fact that the original request for costs was not detailed, can fairly be taken into account in a costs ruling under Regulation 512b of the Civil Regulations 1984, which allows the courts to consider the parties’ behaviour.

 Taking the above into account, costs of 832 Shekels and legal fees of 80,000 Shekels are awarded to Silver Hong Kong Israel , to be paid within 30 days or the sum will be index linked and interest will be incurred.

Costs re cancellation proceeding for Israel Design No. 53151, Ruling by Asa Kling, 3 August 2016.

 


Publication on the Internet Prior to filing Israel Design Applications

July 26, 2016

Shoe publicity     Shoe publicity 2

Background

This ruling clarifies the extent that apparently pre-filing date publications on the Internet may be used to prevent design registration in Israel.

Although there is draft legislation making its way through the system, in Israel designs are currently protected by the archaic Patent and Design Ordinance of 1924, a legacy from the British Mandate. One of its oddities is that absolute novelty is required and there is no grace period. An even odder oddity is that only absolute local novelty is required and someone bringing a design into Israel for the first time is entitled to register it prior to importing and is entitled to up to 15 years of protection.

The previous Commissioner, Dr Meir Noam, grew tired of waiting for the Knesset and the Ministry of Justice to get their acts together and in a Commissioner of Patents Circular decreed that publication on the Internet, particularly in the design registers of foreign patent offices that are accessible on line from Israel via their websites,  would be considered as available in Israel and novelty destroying. Although arguably ultra vires, the Circular was never challenged. There remains a question as to what other Internet publications are novelty destroying, and the present ruling addresses this issue.

A third oddity is that unlike much of the rest of the world where Examination of designs is only for conformance to formalities, in Israel design applications are substantively examined in terms of novelty and the Examiners may search newspaper press-releases, Applicant’s website and, it transpires, various web-sites offering goods for sale.

This case

Naalei Nayot (1994) LTD submitted several Israel design applications including Application Nos. 55280, 55283,55288, 55289, 55291, 55270, 55271, 55278 and 55279. All these applications were submitted on 26 February 2014 in class 2(04) that covers footwear, socks and stockings.

The applications were submitted together with other design applications that were either registered or were abandoned due to issues raised during the examination process. These nine applications were rejected in a single office action of 17 June 2015 which resulted in the Applicant requesting a hearing that was subsequently held on 18 October 2015.

The nine applications fall into three categories as follows:

  • Applications 55288, 55291, 55270 and 55279 were considered as lacking novelty and originality as required by Section 30(1) of the Patents and Design Ordinance 1924. These rejections were based on two Facebook advertisements on the Applicant’s Facebook page. These advertisements from 20 February 2014 preceded the application date and appeared to show the shoes.
  • Applications 55280, 55283, 55289, 55291 and 55271 received office actions on 5 February 2012 that alleged a lack of novelty and originality as required by Section 30(1) of the Patents and Design Ordinance 1924 on the basis of sales illustrations from various advertisements. When the applicant responded to the objection, the Examiner again forwarded a publication on Naalei Nayot’s Facebook page.
  • Application 55278 was rejected on the basis of an advertisement on the Applicant’s website. In this instance, during the hearing, the Applicant withdrew the application and a decision issued on 18 October 2015.

Regarding the other eight applications, the Applicant does not consider the advertisements and the Facebook advert that the Examiner cited as being novelty destroying prior art.

The Applicant argued that advertisements by others are third-party Internet adverts that are not connected to the Applicant and should therefore be considered carefully. The websites are frequently updated marketing sites, and so their trustworthiness is suspect. In particular, the dated consumer comments relating to products, some of which are anonymous, may not have related to the specific products at all!

The Applicant supported their position from a ruling by Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha concerning design application 51593 and 50594 Tequila Cuervo, S.A. DE C.V. (9 June 2014), to the effect that a publication on a sales website does not necessarily knock out the novelty of a subsequently filed design application. As stated in paragraphs 44 and 45 thereof:

In our case, due to the nature of the website, it is reasonable to accept that the images and prices of goods shown will be updated in response to market changes. Unlike news-like content that is clearly dated or official press-releases and the like, the contents of advertising websites cannot be clearly dated and thus cannot be used to reliably establish a date for information published.

The above should not be understood to imply that only official websites of patent offices around the world have the required standard for the patent office circular (which states that applications for designs submitted in other jurisdictions that are accessible over the internet from Israel are considered as prior art preventing design registration in Israel where, under the current regime from 1924, only local novelty is required – MF) The circular allows other official publications to be relied upon including internet catalogs, and applicant’s websites so long as they enable a clear date to be established. Where the source of the advert is the applicant itself, in a press release or on applicant’s website, the applicant can respond to allegations of prior publication.

The challenge to the Office Action is, therefore, the date and trustworthiness of the advertisement cited by the Examiner as being prior art.

The applicant’s challenge to the Facebook publications cited by the Examiner fall into two categories. The first is that they are not full disclosures in that they do not show the design in full. Applicant submits that the cited publication shows a cupboard or a shoe box and the shoes included are not fully visible. The view is from above and from a distance, and does not teach the design to the extent it is taught in the application itself. The Applicant claims that the Facebook advertisement is not directed to consumers and is inherently different from sales sites that enable to the consumer to select and rotate the image of products displayed. They are inherently different from a catalogue or from a vendor’s website.
A second challenge raised by the Applicant is that the Facebook citations against the second group were first raised in a second office action during reexamination. Thus, with regard to the Facebook citation, we are not concerned so much with the fact of publication as per section 30(1) of the Ordinance, but with the degree of exposure of the design in the advertisements predating the filing date, with respect to their photographic quality.

Publication on General Sales Sites

After examining all the publications in vendors’ websites, the present Commissioner, Asa Kling, declared that the publications are reliable. As to the date of the publication, where this is not included within the advertisement on the website, it is possible to determine this from readers’ feedback which is dated. One can assume that if on a specific date there is a web surfer’s comment on an Internet page regarding a product for sale, that product was on sale at least on the date of the response. The content of the responses leaves no doubt that the products illustrated were those that are under discussion in this ruling.

One has to be careful when relating to Internet publications (see Request for Trademarks 187385 and 187386 (GHI) and the opposition to trademarks 200701 and 200702 (GHI stylized) in Gemology Headquarters International vs. Gemology Institute of America 28 May 2012 (henceforth GHI). In our case, after further consideration of the publications that the Examiner relied upon, it is determined that there is reliable information regarding the publication of the design in the general sales sites. As the inquiry stands up to the warning given earlier with regards to the Tequila case, the burden of proof is on the Applicant to show that the publication relied upon by the Examiner is unreliable and insufficient to serve as prior publication of the requested design.

As stated in GHI, the assumption may be rebutted by an expert opinion of by other means that the publication was not at the time indicated on the site, but the Applicant has failed to bring such proof.

This is similar to citations brought as prior art in patent applications. Of relevance in this regard is the notice from the European Patent Office concerning Internet citation (Official Journal EPO 8-9/2009 (the underlining is by Commissioner Kling):

“Establishing a publication date has two aspects. It must be assessed separately whether a given date is indicated correctly and whether the content in question was indeed made available to the public as of that date. The nature of the internet can make it difficult to establish the actual date on which information was made available to the public: for instance, not all web pages mention when they were published. Also, websites are easily updated yet most do not provide any archive of previously displayed material, nor do they display records which enable members of the public – including examiners – to establish precisely what was published and when…. Finally, it is theoretically possible to manipulate the date and content of an internet disclosure (as it is with traditional documents). However, in view of the sheer size and redundancy of the content available on the internet, it is considered very unlikely that an internet disclosure discovered by an examiner has been manipulated. Consequently, unless there are specific indications to the contrary, the date will be accepted as being correct”.

It is emphasized that as far as the surfers’ comments are concerned, it is evident that the website content was available for a long period, and this is sufficient to remove the novelty of (anticipate) subsequently filed design applications in Israel where there is no reason to assume that a host of readers comments all had their dates changed.

Having ruled that the dates are reliable, there is no dispute that the designs in the Internet website are fully disclosed and this renders the discussion regarding the quality of the Facebook publication moot, as is the question of when the partial publication on Facebook occurred. Thus the website publication of 55271, 55280, 55283 and 55289 is considered sufficient to render the applications unregisterable and the Examiner was correct to refuse them.

Publication on Facebook

There is a further claim that the publication on Facebook was never intended for the consumer. The Commissioner admits that he didn’t understand this claim. The intended recipient of a publication is irrelevant to the fact that there was a publication. The Examiner was correct that the fact the pictures were publicly available is sufficient to destroy the novelty of a subsequently submitted design application. This position is supported by the authors of Russel-Clarke and Howe on Industrial Designs, 8th ed., Sweet & Maxwell (2010), where, on page 13 it is stated:

In general there will be publication if articles to which the design is applied are manufactured, displayed or used in such a way that members of the public will or might see them. It is not necessary that the articles should have been sold. Prior use does not mean use by the public, but use in public as opposed to use in private.

According to the Examiner, the illustrations allow the shoes to be appraised by a visual test, in that the pictures of the featured design may be compared with other designs and what is required is a general appreciation of the design and not all the minor features thereof. The Examiner considered that the Facebook advertisement shows that stylistic elements of all the shoes shown in the illustration in sufficient detail to be novelty destroying.

Section 2 of the Ordinance defines a design as follows:

“Design” does not only mean the outline, shape, example or decoration that makes a mass-produced article distinctive, whether by hand, by machine, by chemical treatment, by a separate shape or an adjoined part, as it appears to the viewer in the finished product, and as can be visually determined. The term design does not include any method or principle or anything else other than a mechanical object.

In Appeal 7125/98 “Miforal Industries Jerusalem vs. Klil Industries LTD 57(3) 702 Nevo 8 May 2003, in paragraph 10 of the ruling this is explained:

The correct comparison needs to be made by comparing the general impression that a design makes on the eye of the relevant consumer. The emphasis is on the general impression from the article considered in its entirety., where the assumption is that the consumer does not have an experts attention to detail, but is also more interested that a passer-by Appeal 1187/94 Sela Concrete Devices LTD vs. Ackerstein Industries LTD [8] 291.

Thus in many fields, a design will be examined in its entirety rather than being analyzed into constituent elements. See  Patent Office ruling concerning designs 22424, 22433, 22783, 23767 Klil Industries LTD of 7 August 1997

By applying the general visual appearance test of the Ordinance as fleshed out in the case-law, the question in our case is whether the normal consumer exposed to a picture in an advertisement on Facebook would be sufficiently impressed by the general appearance that he would identify the shoes for which design applications were filed. The Commissioner considers this unlikely.

The nature of the Facebook advertisement is high-resolution coloured photographs. However, the photos show some of the shoes almost in their entirety and others are only partially visible. The soles of none of the shoes are visible.

As the Applicant noted, viewing the photographs on Facebook is insufficient to give a feel for the whole shoe, since each show is only shown from one specific angle which is a general front birds-eye view. The photos do not show the design elements of each shoe, such as decorative elements in detail. As the Applicant explained, apart from the question of the intention of the advertisement, the publication of the shoes in these advertising photographs is not the same as their display on a website showing all angles.

Furthermore, with respect to the articles under discussion,one cannot deny that the heel of a shoe is a significant design consideration. For many of the shoes shown, the heel is not illustrated, nor is the view from behind, which is of significance to the purchaser as will be detailed hereinbelow.

For example, with reference to design application number 55288,  the Facebook illustration does not show the heel engaging straps of the shoe, but only the front upper section.

With reference to Application Number 55279, the Facebook photograph leaves a difficulty in determining whether the shoe is a high-heeled shoe or a platform shoe. There is also a difficulty in understanding the internal profile of the shoe which is clear from the figures submitted. The show of design application number 55291 is not clear from the Facebook image which does not show clearly if the shoe has a high heel or not, and what the back-of-heel straps look like. These are, however, clear from the images of the application as filed.

Application 55270 is shown on Facebook, but the position of the back-of-heel strap and of other elements such as floral decorations is not clear. Thus it appears that the Facebook images do not reveal the design in its entirety.

Applications 25280, 55283, 55289, 55291 and 55271 are not clearly shown on Facebook.

In conclusion, Application numbers 55288, 55291, 55270 and 55279 were rejected whilst Applications 25280, 55283, 55289, 55291 and 55271 were allowed to be registered, (as noted previously 55278 was abandoned prior to the hearing).

Ruling by Commissioner Kling concerning various shoe design applications submitted by Naalei Nayot, 1 June 2016.

COMMENT

This ruling provides much needed clarification regarding to what extent a design shown in a photograph on an Internet website is novelty destroying. However, I respectfully submit that the commissioner is wrong in this case. (Actually that’s not strictly true. The Commissioner is right by definition. It is only a court ruling that can over-turn his decision. What I mean is that I think that the standard for an image to be novelty destroying should not be the same as for registering a design. A registration should include front, back, left, right, top and bottom plan views, and also a perspective view. I think that an earlier publication of a view that observers see should be adequate to anticipate a design application and to render it non-registerable.

After the Christian Loboton case, I understand that some people choose shoes because they have a particular colour sole and are willing to pay a premium for this. Actually this isn’t true. Some people are willing to pay more for a particular designer’s products, and will accept red soles as a distinguishing trademark. Clearly the arrangement of grips and studs on the soles of sports shoes have a purpose, and whether the ankle is strapped in or not is also of some interest, but, like the height of a heel, it is functional. Women wear high heels to look taller (yes I’ve also seen Kinky Boots and accept that they also cause the buttocks to clench sexily). Essentially heel size is functional. I think that people primarily choose the aesthetic elements of a shoe design based on the impression it provides to someone looking down from in front. It is for precisely this reason that the Facebook adverts show the shoe from this perspective.  A good design will be available for different sports with different grips on the sole and, I suspect, will be available in low, medium and high heel options. Furthermore, whether a shoe has high heels or not is usually visible from a raised front view.

Without viewing the particular images and the specific shoe designs it is difficult to challenge the Commissioner’s ruling, but I am skeptical.  I think that Former Deputy Commissioner Smulevezh was correct in the Ackerstein kerb-stone decision to rule that one views kerb-stones from the top and front and thus a publication not showing the underside and back surfaces is still a publication. I think this should apply to shoes as well; most people wear them on their feet at ground level. They chose shoes to compliment outfits based on what the shoes look like from a bird’s-eye view from the front. This is not a bird’s-eye view at all. It’s the view that others, and indeed the wearer himself / herself see.

I can accept that a purchaser may be interested in what the inside of a shoe looks like, but I do not consider this to be part of the aesthetic design protected by a design registration. Shoes are designed to be worn. When worn on a foot, the inside design features of a shoe are hidden, as is the sole.  I would expect Naalei Naot to complain about competitors making shoes that are otherwise identical except viewed from underneath or when considering the inside. This is why they register designs. An otherwise identical shoe to one that is registered design, that is differentiated by having a tartan lining and a manufacturer’s signature written on the part of the sole connected to the heel that does not get appreciable wear, should, in my opinion, be considered infringing.


The Minimal Requirements for Design Registration in Israel

June 8, 2016

Israel Design Application Number 55635 is for a “Wardrobe Integrated with Roller Shutter” [sic]. From the Hebrew title, I presume “Wardrobe with Integrated Roller Shutter” The Application was filed on 25 May 2014 in class 6(04).

The Figures, reproduced below, were a little primitive and were rejected as the Examiner considered they showed a wardrobe (closet) and a roller blind, but not a specific design for a specific combination of the two. Thus, the Application described a concept and not a specific design for an article for manufacture and thus could not be registered.

wardrobe design

In response, the Applicant responded that the Figures did not show two separate articles, but rather showed a wardrobe with built-in roller blind. Furthermore, the combination was a new article of manufacture that attracted the interest of wardrobe purchasers, resulting in this wardrobe selling better than others [presumably with sliding or hinged doors, but it is a long time since I went wardrobe shopping – MF].

The Examiner was not convinced and argued that the figures were schematic and indicated a concept and not an article of manufacture. For example: the wall thickness is not indicated; the tracks for the roller blind are not shown; it is not clear if the blind rolls upwards or downwards [surely both – MF] and there is no switch or strap for controlling the blind [here the Examiner is presumably drawing an analogy to the roller window blinds that are ubiquitous in Israel and are activated by a strap, usually at the right side of the wardrobe. Here the term roller blind is actually misleading. What generally occurs in wardrobes, cupboards and the like, and is particularly common in kitchens, is that a verneer door is cut into strips that are then mounted onto a backing cloth. The door is thus able to articulate, and is pushed up (or sideways for vertical strips) and along a track that goes under the roof or the cupboard and down the back so that when open, the door fits over and behind the void. That as may be, what is clear is that the Applicant and Examiner are not understanding each other – MF].

The Applicant requested a hearing before the Commissioner, which was scheduled for 3 February 2016.

Prior to the hearing, Applicant submitted a Statement of Case in which he argued that the applied for design is not merely a direct functional result of the intended use and the combination of roller blind and cupboard, and that although combining known elements, was a unique combination of elements never hitherto combined.

The Applicant also noted that he’d obtained a Notice of Allowance in the US for what he considered an identical application.

 

US design

The Applicant and his legal representative (Adv. Yaniv Kehat) attended the hearing armed with the US figure but not the Israel figure, which he considered identical.

The Commissioner considered the US Figures more detailed and clearer, and that they provided wall thicknesses, for example. What was interesting was that the Applicant considered these unnecessary detail and of minor relevance to the appearance of the wardrobe.

The issue, therefore, is what is the minimum detail required to register a de minimis design under the Israel Design Ordinance 1924?

Section 2 of the Ordinance states:

A ‘design’ means the outlines, shape, example or decoration of an article of industrial manufacture, whether by hand, by machine or by chemical action., separate or together with the article, that are clearly perceived by the viewer of the finished article, but does not include a product or building principle or anything that is essentially a mechanical device.

From the above, and as affirmed by the Supreme Court in 7125/98 Micromal Industries Jerusalem vs. Klil Industries, P.D. 57(3) 710-711:

The protection is given for the unique design of an article, as perceived and noticed by the relevant consumer, in such a manner as to influence the choice of purchase.

The end clause of the definition of design in the Ordinance states that a design that defines the functionality of a device cannot be protected as a registered design. the meaning of the term functionality is as defined in Patent Law. There is always a tension between non-protectable functionality and registerable designs, see 430/67 Sharnoah LTD et al. vs. Tnuva Agricultural Cooperative of Israel LTD., P.D. 22(1) 114-116:

A mechanical device whose structure is dictated by usage, may be patent protectable but cannot be registered as a design. The only registration that the Commissioner can give is for a specific design which provides more than that needed for it to perform its function, but the fact that a specific design has functional advantages does not preclude it from being registered.

The functionality of an article does not prevent it being registerable as a design…There are those who say that the most functional design is the most aesthetic, but where a design is totally dictated by the function that the article is to fulfill and it is known that at the time of registration of the design there was no similarly efficient alternative for achieving the desired functionality, it cannot be registered as a design.

The reason is that where other designs for achieving the intended utility exist, one can no-longer claim that the design is totally dictated by function, and there is no mixing of design and patent registration, as someone else can fabricate his article with similar functionality, but a different design that the registration cannot prevent. 

These considerations were used in the 2010 ruling concerning design numbers 44701, 46834 and 46835 to Petia LTD where it was stated:

One should consider whether the entire design is defined by the function. That means whether the design has an aesthetic element or whether the whole design is functional.

Thus the design application should provide the view that attracts customers and should be more than functional. the Examiner should consider whether a finished design is submitted, such that consumers can tell the difference between protected and non-protected designs with similar functionality.

As to the quality of the Drawings – this issue has been discussed with respect to 47337 and 47338 Global Opportunities Investment group (2/8/12) section 14:

The Figures and drawings of a design are the common language between the designer and the consumer who purchases or uses the article and whose eye the examiner is supposed to judge by 7125/98 Micromal Industries Jerusalem vs. Klil Industries, P.D. 57(3) 710-711; 1187/94 Sela vs. Akerstein 5756 (2), page 291. The currently submitted images are not in the form that the consumer can understand. The requirement is different from that of Engineering drawings which provide full details for assembling or constructing an article and are a common language between designer and manufacturer, and require dimensions, details of hidden elements, sections and internal elements which are not part of the design (for registration purposes).  The requirement of the design illustration may be learned from the purpose of the registration and from the relevant case-law: 

The importance of design registration, like all other public registrations, is to provide public information regarding that protected. If the certificate does not clearly show what is protected, this purpose is not achieved (TA (central) 09-06-21130 Oren Yoram Packaging LTD. vs. Scholnick H.Y. LTD et al. 7 Oct 2010 paragraph 21). The figure itself must teach the properties protected by the design. If the figures do not show the main property in primary clear view, it must be concluded that such a design registration does not protect this property – section 22.

The appearance of the design should cover the attributes and aspects of the specific article as the finished good appears. A design will not issue for a figure that covers a range of different articles, as the scholars Russel Clarke and Howe wrote in their book: On Industrial Design (8th ed.), page 122, section 3-080:

“If the application for registration is framed in such a way that what is sought to be registered is not a single appearance (i.e. of shape or pattern), but a range of different appearances, which all embody the general features which are claimed by the applicant, then those features are too general, and amount to a method or principle of construction. In other words, any conception which is so general as to allow several different specific appearances to be made within it, is too broad and will be invalid.”

And from the general to the specific:

From the drawings submitted to the Israel Patent Office one can only see the general lines of the cupboard without design features that emphasize the uniqueness. For example, the figures do not provide the capacity, the wall thicknesses and the design of the roller blind. the top view is not clear – from the front and top there seems to be something there, but from the isometric projection there doesn’t seem to be anything covering the roller. Consequently the design is not clear enough to relate to a specific wardrobe and one could conclude that the figures are schematic for a whole class of wardrobes with different wall thicknesses.

The figures submitted (and allowed) in the US provide this additional information and give an indication of wall thickness and capacity.

At this stage, before substantial examination, I see no reason not to allow the Applicant’s conjecture that there are different ways of combining a roller blind and a wardrobe. Nevertheless, the Israel application should show the unique design feature of the combination, whereas it merely gives the general outline, and, if it were allowed to be registered, would provide protection for the combination without limiting to a specific design.

The design application may therefore be rejected. However, Applicant has requested switching the figures to those (more detailed ones) allowed in the US which are not schematic. This option came up at the hearing, and Regulation 53 allows figures to be corrected or switched if they are procedurally flawed and the amendment does not disadvantage third parties and the Commissioner considers it acceptable. This is allowable so long as the replacement figures are clearly for the same design and do not affect the priority date or require the Examiner to perform additional searching.

In this instance, the differences are minor but important. The US figures are for the same design but provide a design whereas the Israel figures are schematic illustrations of a design concept. The US design is clearly a narrowing of the protection and does not add new matter.

In conclusion, Applicant may replace the Figures on record with those of the US registered design patent within 30 days, or the Examiner’s objections will remain in force.

Ruling concerning Design Israel Application No. 55635 Balas Design LTD, Asa Kling, 20 April 2016

COMMENT

Note, the Commissioner has NOT stated that the replacement figures will be allowable. The obvious problem is that the US accepted the design.

In this instance, the Applicant was confused between a patent which can issue for a unique combination of elements, and a design. That said, a design for a wardrobe is quite interesting due to its simplicity.

Wardrobes are essentially boxes, but they have relative height-to-width-to-depth proportions, albeit typically standard and defined by the function, where the height of the rail should enable dresses or knee-length coats to hand clear, the overall height should fit into a room. The depth should accommodate hangers and is typically about 55 cm. There is generally internal features such as a hanging rail or shelves, however, these can be disclaimed. The width of wardrobes with hinged doors are usually multiples of 40 cm. A rail of longer than 80 cm typically bends too much. The thing about roller blinds or sliding doors is that they can be any width. Sliding doors do not allow unrestricted access as typically there are two doors and when open, half the wardrobe is inaccessible, and the doors can be moved from one side to another. A roller blind is a good solution for a door, in that the entire front may be opened at once, and there are no protruding doors to walk into. Thus roller blind provides additional functionality that other door systems lack.Then again, roller blinds require maintenance and roller mechanisms are inherently less reliable than sliders or hinges.

The Applicant has a valid point regarding wall thicknesses. If the design was granted for something where careful measurement showed that the wall thickness was 20 cm, and someone used 1 inch plywood 2.6 cm to fabricate what is otherwise the same design, I think a judge would see this as copying and the design as infringed. There is, therefore, an interesting de minimis issue of what is required to define a box with a roller blind as a design for a wardrobe.

Why should the inside matter? Come to that, when purchasing a wardrobe, the top (and back views) are rarely of importance. The purchaser does not see the top which is typically above eye level. See the 2009 decision for similar consideration regarding bottom and back surfaces of a kerbstone.

The deficiencies, or otherwise, of the Figures is, in my opinion, of limited interest. The real question is what is required for a design to be considered registerable and not merely functional.

Arguably a roller blind for a wardrobe is an aesthetic feature. I would argue that it is a functional solution for cases where swing doors are inappropriate due to confinement, whilst allowing access and viewing of the entire contents which sliding doors do not accomplish.  (I don’t accept that cupboards with roller blinds have never been thought of. Kitchen cabinets with roller blinds exist and shop display cabinets, particularly for chilled goods, often have a roller mechanism for closing at night. Storage units sometimes have roller blind doors. Thus I would not consider this a patentable invention).

The problem is that wardrobes as objects of manufacture come in a limited range of standard sizes. This is a rectangular box of standard dimensions with a draw blind door. Filing half a dozen variations will prevent competitors. Sure, a carpenter could still make one-off solutions, but this would effectively corner the market for prefabricated wardrobes. I don’t consider wall thickness as being an issue. The design is the same whether the wardrobe is fabricated from plywood, timber or medium density particle board (MDF).

I did a little ‘googling’ and found plenty of websites offering wardrobes with roller blind drawers of different types. Should the ‘mere functionality’ objection be used exclusively for refills and internal spare parts having design requirements that are defined by usage, to prevent manufacturers of cars and the like having a monopoly on spare parts?

This case is of relevance to the smartphone wars in that to a large extent, Apple’s design is minimal and simple, creating an elegance. However, to obtain a large screen in a small device of minimum thickness with rounded corners for protection leaves little options. In Apple vs. Samsung, the European and US courts found differently and whilst cynics will state that the US found in favor of a US company, the case was a difficult one to call.


Michel Mercier Coexistence Agreement Refused by Israel Patent and Trademark Office

April 10, 2016

Michel Mercier 2

As previously reported, Campalock LTD (formerly Michel Mercier LTD) and Michel Mercier previously reached a coexistence agreement which was rejected by the Israel Patent Office who fined both parties for wasting the court’s time.

To recap, on 13 November 2011, Kampalook LTD (previously Michel Mercier LTD) filed a word mark application (IL 240628) for Michel Mercier in class 21. On 2 December, Michel Mercier filed Israel trademark no. 251414 in classes 3, 8, 11, 21, 35, 41 and 44. Since the identical mark was submitted by two different applicants, both in class 21, a competing marks procedure was initiated.

According to an Affidavit submitted by Mr Avshalom Hershkowitz, the Deputy CEO of the company, Mr Mercier is an entrepreneur and inventor in the field of hair care, who created both the brand that carries his name, and the company. The company owns the patents and designs for hair untangling equipment invented by Michel Mercier.

Over the years, differences of opinion between the company and Mr Mercier resulted in the parties requesting the court’s arbitration.

Following a negotiated settlement, the parties have now requested that the mark for the hair brushes remain the property of the company, but the same mark for hair cleansing and other treatments, and electronic and manual hair styling equipment, hairdressing services and schools remain the  property of Mr Mercier. However, this agreement was not presented to the Israel Patent and Trademark Office.

Now the companies request that both marks be allowed to register.

The parties stated their case and attempted to convince the Israel Patent and Trademark Office that parallel registration was allowable under Section 30.  The parties considered their case an exception that justified coexistence. The parties argued that they have been effectively coexisting for over a year without problems and without any customer complaints or confusion. Furthermore, in addition to the name Michel Mercier, the company’s products include the term “by Campalook”. Forbidding coexistence would make filing abroad difficult as the Madrid Protocol could not be used and the parties further noted that the USPTO had agreed to register the two marks.

Section 30 states as follows:

(a) Where it appears to the Registrar that there is current use in good faith, or where there are other special circumstances which in his opinion justify the registration of identical or similar trademarks in respect of the same goods or description of goods by more than one proprietor, the Registrar may permit such registration subject to such conditions and limitations, if any, as he may think fit. (Amendment No.7) 5770-2010 (b) A decision of the Registrar under subsection (a) shall be subject to an appeal to the Supreme Court; an appeal as aforesaid shall be filed within 30 days of the date of the Registrar’s decision; in the appeal, the Court shall have all the powers conferred upon the Registrar in subsection (a). (Amendment No. 7) 5770-2010 (c) The appellant shall give notice to the Registrar of the filing of an appeal under subsection (b) within 30 days from the date of its filing. (Amendment No. 7) 5770-2010 (d) In an appeal under subsection (b) the Court, if so required, shall hear the Registrar

The Equitable behaviour and desires of the parties themselves are necessary but not the only considerations. The parties wish to part company and have reached an agreement that the Patent Office is not party to. Since the Applicant was himself unhappy with the agreement at one stage, it went to arbitration. The parties now want the Patent Office to ratify the agreement, despite most details being obscure. Nevertheless, there is no indication of inequitable behaviour.

However, the Patent Office is also responsible to protect the public interest and coexistence agreements that mislead or confuse the public regarding the source of goods cannot be ratified. In this regard, the deputy commissioner referred to the Karl Storz vs. Bausch and Lamb decision from 2009, and to the biosensors ruling of the District Court.

In this instance, the two parties do not have an ongoing business arrangement, but the mark is the same and the goods and services are in the same class. Furthermore, Michel Marcier remains seen as the source of goods and the company has had to add their name to indicate otherwise. However, the addition of the company name is not part of the applied for mark and they could stop adding it. Furthermore, it does not imply a lack of relationship with Michel Mercier.  Since Michel Mercier is a real person who is active in the field, a reasonable consumer would assume an ongoing  relationship with him.

It is true that the USPTO allowed registration to both parties. However, with reference to the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure,  it appears that the USPTO will allow different legal entities to register the same mark(s) if it considers that there is a connection between them:

Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(d), requires that the examining attorney refuse registration when an applicant’s mark, as applied to the specified goods or services, so resembles a registered mark as to be likely to cause confusion. In general, registration of confusingly similar marks to separate legal entities is barred by §2(d). See TMEP §§1207–1207.01(d)(xi). However, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has held that, where the applicant is related in ownership to a company that owns a registered mark that would otherwise give rise to a likelihood of confusion, the examining attorney must consider whether, in view of all the circumstances, use of the mark by the applicant is likely to confuse the public about the source of the applicant’s goods because of the resemblance of the applicant’s mark to the mark of the other company. The Court stated that:

The question is whether, despite the similarity of the marks and the goods on which they are used, the public is likely to be confused about the source of the hair straightening products carrying the trademark “WELLASTRATE.” In other words, is the public likely to believe that the source of the product is Wella U.S. rather than the German company or the Wella organization.

Therefore, in some limited circumstances, the close relationship between related companies will obviate any likelihood of confusion in the public mind because the related companies constitute a single source”.

In Israel Law, there is no similar clause that allows a connection between separate legal entities to be sufficient for them to be considered a single source. However, where companies are daughter companies of the same concern, under certain circumstances it may be possible to allow them to own confusingly similar marks (See Seligsohn 1973, Page 55).

This case is different. The Agreement between the parties is more of a divorce than anything else. It states the lack of connection between Michel Mercier and the company. It is not clear what was disclosed to the USPTO and their decision to allow the two marks to coexist has not been endorsed by a court. The decision is not sufficient to be relied upon as a comparative ruling of a foreign judiciary.

The lack of problems caused over the twelve months of coexistence de facto is also of limited value since it is not clear that the consumers purchasing the hairbrushes were aware that there was no ongoing connection with Michel Mercier. It does not seem that any attempt was made to poll the customers.

Furthermore, 12 months is a short period.  In the Biosensors ruling, Judge Schitzer  noted that in that case, the coexistence on which registration in parallel was requested was two years, but the cited case law related to very much longer periods.

Whilst it is true that the company  Campalock LTD owns the various patents and designs, that not necessarily mean that trademarks be considered in the same manner. The designs and patents may be the basis of the sold product range and can be bought and sold, but the name is the public face of the company and has to identify the source of the goods.

Certainly allowing the marks would facilitate international trademark registration by Campalock via Madrid, but traditional national registration remains an option and the ease of registration abroad via the Madrid Protocol is not a relevant consideration for the Israel Patent and Trademark Office to consider when ruling on whether to allow two competing marks to coexist.

 

 

 

 


Israel Patent Office Denies Authority to Reinstate a Lapsed Design After Grace Period, Despite Proof of Timely Payment

March 9, 2016

Pigeon post

Gabi Bakshi has two registered designs that have lapsed. Design Number IL 40188 is for a dove shaped sculpture. It was registered in January 2005 and renewed in November 2009. It then lapsed because the second renewal wasn’t timely paid. The six month grace period ended on 17 July 2015. Gabi Bakshi also registered Israel Design No. 48297 which is for a variant of 40188. This variant was filed in September 2009 and registered in November 2009. It should have been renewed on 17 January 2010 together with the 40188 design since, as a variant design it was not entitled to longer protection than the parent.

On 28 December 2015, Mr Bakshi requested reinstatement of both designs. He claimed to have paid the renewals on 16 November 2014 and to have posted the renewal receipts for the second renewal to the Israel Patent and Trademark Office by registered mail but it was never received and so the design lapsed.  The appended receipt shows that  the 40188 design was renewed but there is no evidence that the 48297 variant was renewed. At a hearing, Mr Bakshi renounced the 48297 variant but alleged that he believed that the 40188 design was renewed in a timely manner.

Ruling

Section 33(4) of the Design Ordinance requires requesting an extension within five years and the regulations grant a six month grace period. Citing 30704 and 3705 Moshe Harel and 560/92 Klil Industries, the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha considers that unlike lapsed patents, the Commissioner does not have the authority to reinstate a lapsed design after the six months grace period has passed.  In this instance, the fact that the Design registrant had paid the renewal fee and sent it to the patent office does not help as it was not received.

Based on the decision concerning design numbers 35866 and 35867 to Eli Yashar, where a request for extensions is made, the Commissioner can extend the period of a design if two conditions are fulfilled. One has to both timely request an extension and to pay the fee.  Without requesting an extension, paying the fee is not enough.

Consequently the request for renewal was not granted. Mr Bakshi may appeal the decision to the District Court which can, if it sees fit, order the extension to be entered into the register.

COMMENT

I suspect that Mr Bakshi may be entitled to copyright protection and to protection under the Law of Unjust Enrichment as per the A.Sh.I.R. decision, but haven’t seen the designs.

I wonder if Pigeon Post might have been more reliable than registered mail?


A scratch line on a profile as a trademark indicating origin

February 11, 2016

If a design feature on a profile serves to indicate the origin of that profile, it may be registered as a trademark.

Israel trademark application 240319 filed by AL-SHURKAH ALWATANEYA LISENAET AL-ALAMENYOM WALPROFILAT (National Aluminum & Profile Co.) or NAPCO is such a mark.

240139

The mark, as shown above, was applied for aluminium profiles in class 6.

To some extent, the mark is reminiscent of the three-stripe Adidas mark, but it seems that the intention here is to monopolize a nonfunctional scratch like indentation anywhere on any profile as an indication of origin. Furthermore, if the scratch were to have a function, such as engaging a seal or the like, it could still infringe.

To avoid such problematic protection, the applicant clarified that the mark was a lengthwise 120 degree scratch on non-significant parts of the profile.

We assume that non-significant parts is to exclude such scratches that serve an aesthetic or functional purpose.

The applicant requested immediate fast-tracked examination as new requirements of the Israel Standards Office required manufacturers of products for sale in Israel to have registered trademarks identifying the goods.

After a hearing at the Israel Patent Office, the mark was allowed with the above clarification and disclaimer on 28 November 2012.

On 27 February 2013, Extal LTD filed an opposition, claiming that the mark lacked distinguishing characteristics as required by Section 8a of the Trademark Ordinance 1972 and was confusingly similar to their mark and thus was non-registerable under Section 11(13) and was thus against the public ordre, was not registerable under Section 11(5), would create unfair competition, false identification of the origins of the goods, dilution of Extal’s reputation and was thus not registerable under Section 11(6).

This scratch seems to have caused an awful lot of trouble.

The opposer, Extal, was established in 1988 and claims to specialize in developing, manufacturing, designing and marketing quality aluminium profiles. The firm is active internationally and in Israel, and has invested in advanced manufacturing equipment, automated storage and powder painting. In 2005 Extal bought up the reputation and IP rights of Mipromal. This and sales in 2011 and 2012 of hundreds of millions of Shekels are the basis of their claims to a wide reputation in Israel.

In 1988 the Opposer filed Israel Trademark Number 121163 in class 6. The mark appears as follows:

121163

The mark lapsed in 2006 due to failure to pay the renewal fees and was resubmitted in August 2011 and, following office actions, was split into two marks, Israel TM Application Numbers 253416 and 240117, each consisting of one of the elements above. Those applications were suspended pending this hearing. The Deputy Commissioner noted that scratches on the side of profile are standardized symbols for marking sections of extrusions, and the intention of the mark is a protrusion along a profile or an indention on a profile.

Extal claimed that the single scratch/protrusion has become well known in Israel and is marked on and identified with their products. The pending application is confusingly similar to their well known mark and is used to mark aluminium profiles with a triangular scratch along the profile. The distribution channels and target consumers are identical. Since the requested mark is recognized by the Israel Standards Institute as indicating that the goods come from Extal, allowing NAPCO to register the mark contravenes public order.

Extal alleged that NAPCO’s marks were filed in bad faith, since they were filed soon after their marks lapsed, and further alleged that NAPCO had filed false information.

NAPCO filed their statement of case on 14 April 2013 and denied most of Extal’s allegations but admitted that the two companies’ products were aimed at the same target audience in Israel. NAPCO claimed to have independently invented the scratch sign and to have used it since 1996, and for many years in Israel thereby developing a reputation for their products. NAPCO argued that Extal’s 121163 mark was neither a protrusion or a scratch and could not protect a scratch on an aluminium profile. To the extent that it could have provided some protection for whatever it protected, Extal had abandoned the mark. Furthermore, the publications supplied by Extal indicated that they were marking their goods, de facto, with a protrusion not an indentation.

Both sides filed numerous affidavits from employees and from people in the industry. The witnesses were cross examined in March and June 2014.

One of Extal’s arguments was that a lengthwise scratch along a profile is to minimal to serve as an indication of origin and was unacceptable under Section 8a of the Ordinance. We find this argument odd for Extal to submit since they were concurrently prosecuting a similar mark themselves. We think that the statement could fairly be used to estoppel their application.

That as may be, Ms Bracha noted that the Israel Standards Organization requires that profiles are marked. Since they are extruded in long lengths and then cut to size, a mark at one end or another is insufficient and manufacturers mark their profiles with (combinations of) protrusions and / or scratches. The Israel Standards Organization keeps a register of the various manufacturers marks but also requires the manufacturers to register trademarks. See Accumulated Regulations 7012, 30 June 2011 Section 2.2. The regulation came into effect for imported profiles on 30 November 2012.

Clearly the Israel Standards Organization regulations are not binding on the Israel Trademark Office which may refuse a mark considered as generic, as too similar to a competing mark, or for some other reason. However, the guidelines for examiners considering trademark profile markings as trademarks require them to take into account the Israel Standards Organization’s regulations when considering whether marks are inherently distinctive or have acquired distinctiveness. Thus the profile itself is functional or aesthetic and longitudinal scratches or protrusions (certainly on non-visible faces) serve as an indication of source.

There are a number of such marks with two or three indentations or protrusions such as 96177 (Extal), 96178 (Extal) 67008 Klil and 124975 (Extel). None of these have accompanying explanations.

NAPCO’s mark is a single scratch but it includes a clarification that “the mark is a lengthwise 120 degree scratch on non-significant parts of the profile.”  Thus NAPCO’s mark has inherent distinctiveness and is designed to distinguish its products from those of competitors.

The question remains whether it is indeed distinctive and whether it could create unfair competition.

Section 11(6) states that a mark that could confuse the public, falsely indicate the origin of goods or promote unfair competition may not be registered.

In this instance, the question is different from that discussed in the caselaw, such as 10959/05 Delta Lingerie vs. Tea Board China, 2006, and  the Safari Surf and Enrico Coveri cases, in that the pending mark is arguably confusable with a non-registered mark. As Seligsohn wrote in his Biblical Epic monumental Trademark and Related Laws, Shocken 1973:

A mark will be considered as a misleading mark if the public would be mislead to believe that it was the mark of another. The English Courts have dealt with this issue and ruled that a mark that is confusingly similar to one that have been registered may not be registered. However, the Israel Law does not differentiate between a registered mark and one not registered but well known. In both instances the Commissioner will refuse the mark if he believes that it will confuse the public into thinking that the mark is that of the third party. Before the Commissioner takes this step, he must be persuaded that the established unregistered mark is so well known in Israel that the public will assume that the younger application is the product of the owner of the established mark.

Extal is the largest distributor of profiles in Israel will 20% of the market. Their mark is well known. The argument centered on whether Extal had a reputation for a single line mark as they claimed, or only for a single protrusion as NAPCO argued.

The Deputy Commissioner was persuaded that Extal has a reputation for a single line mark among the relevant market and fulfills the requirements set down in 18/86 Phoenician Glass vs. Les Verreries de Saint Gobain, PD 45 (3) 225, 245-146.

There is no doubt that the original 121163 application was for scratches or protrusions as both were shown and the description was for a single line on a profile wall. Furthermore, a letter from the Israel Standards Organization appended to the file wrapper also related to a single line. Furthermore, the registration at the Israel Standards Organization was for a single protrusion or a single indentation.

The Opposer, Extal, attempted to register the two marks in one application in 2011, but the Patent and Trademark Office ordered the application split into two applications, one for an indentation and the other for a protrusion.

The opposer had a registration, lost it unintentionally, but has marked their products with a single line since the 1990s. They also had registered a design for a profile with a single line.

About half of the opposer’s product are sold to warehouses, traders or wholesalers. A significant proportion of the products are sold to window and door manufacturers and to industry. The relevant public are thus wholesalers and tradesmen.

Extal claims that 99% of their profiles are marked and that the calendars they distribute to their customers in 1994 stated “One line – the indication mark of Extal Profiles”. Their 1996 catalogue has the letters ID standing for indentification along various images, and pointing to a line that is generally a protrusion, sometimes an indentation and sometimes not clear. The catalogue even states: NOTE – Extal’s identification mark – a single line.

A further catalogue from 2006 states Micropramel and Extel’s marks are one or 2 lines stamped on the profile. [The Hebrew word used indicates stamped into, but doesn’t rule out embossed, since the word is that used for coin manufacture- MF].

Mr Yatom, testifying for Extal, argued that the choice of protrusion or scratch was left to the technicians and both were considered as indicative marks.

The Deputy Commissioner Ms Bracha notes that most images show a protruding line but some show an indentation and she concluded that the relevant audience would consider both as being Extal’s marks.

She was also impressed that despite testifying that he and others in the field could differentiate between the two suppliers’ products, A Mr Altif failed to identify the source of a sample as did other witnesses. Rather damningly, a Mr Masaroy who testified for NAPCO had trouble identifying his client’s goods.

From Mr Altif’s testimony it transpired that after painting, other marks were eradicated. It was difficult to identify the source of goods and one had to cross-check profiles with those shown on invoices. Sometimes functional or aesthetic lines were confused with those allegedly serving as indication of origin. In practice, additional indications such as delivery papers were used to identify batches. He also indicated that there was a problem with fake imports on the market.

Although the registration had lapsed, the mark was still in use and was refiled a day before this case that is being opposed. Extal expressed doubts that NAPCO was using their mark.

Extel sent private investigators to eight distributors and, without relating to scratches or protrusions, these asked workers about Extal and NAPCO’s products and marks. The conversations were submitted as evidence. Whilst noting that the investigators knew what was expected of them, the Deputy Commissioner did not feel that they had concealed information as alleged by NAPCO . As transcripts and tapes were submitted, there was no need to submit a report. That said, the Opposer chose the distributors to send the private investigators to and could select companies that they had a good relationship with. Despite certain reservations about the private investigation, the Deputy Commissioner felt that the Opposers’ mark was well known and that they were considered as being a single stripe, without differentiating between protrusions and indentations.

As to Applicant’s good faith, it is noted that although they claimed usage of the 120 degree indentation from 1996, they do have other marks in use. The opposed mark was only registered with the Israel Standards Organization from 2013, which is AFTER the Applicant was aware of the Opposer’s claims to the mark. The marks were filed almost simultaneously but NAPCO requested accelerated examination. This and the large difference in market share indicate that NAPCO may have been acting inequitably.

NAPCO ‘s choice of mark remains unclear, but regardless of whether the mark was requested in bad faith, in practice it is confusingly similar to the Opposer’s mark and thus cannot be registered.

Since the mark is refused under Section 11(6) as potentially confusing the public, whether or not the Opposer’s mark is a well known mark under Section 11(13) is moot.

Nevertheless, although perhaps not a well known mark in the sense of Section 11(13) Extal does have a reputation in the industry.

The Opposition was allowed and the mark canceled. Nevertheless, as the Opposer had not filed clear marks and had not maintained their marks they were not entitled to full damages. Had the opposer’s mark been properly registered the applicant’s mark would not have been allowed and thus the opposition proceeding would have been superfluous. Showing a reputation in a non-registered mark made this opposition particularly difficult as it made it necessary to bring evidence of reputation and of Applicant’s bad faith in registering the design.

A firm claiming to be a market leader should be more professional in registering its marks to prevent a third party registering them. Similar considerations are true for the registration with the Israel Standards Office as well.

The parties’ behaviour in the proceedings and the intermediate rulings and cross-examinations and interference are also taken into account. Thus costs of 5000 Shekels including VAT are deemed appropriate.

COMMENT

At a Patent Conference at Bar Ilan University recently, the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks discussed the pending design law and noted that designs were being used to protect extrusion profiles.

That as may be, although scratches seem to be odd types of trademarks, it is not easy to permanently mark extrusions to indicate origin. Furthermore, apparently the first makers’ marks were scratches and the like on pieces of armour.

The issue of non-functional elements in an extrusion serving as a trademark has been discussed by the Israel Patent Office before see here.

The prime example of case-law in Israel concerning a well known but non-registered mark is the Chanel ruling of 1950, where some Israeli market his products Chanel and the well known brand Coco Chanel had not registered their marks in Israel. Another case of interest is the Versace saga here, here and here. I don’t think that the single scratch/protrusion is that well known. Extel has at least two other registered marks for two triangular scratches, two triangular and two domed protrusions, implying that the single triangular scratch can at best be one of several lines. Nevertheless, it may well be a recognized marking in the industry.

It seems that this whole case hinged around the issue of whether Extal had a reputation for a single line or for a single protrusion, and whether, if only for a single protrusion, whether the two are confusingly similar. There is no doubt that ten or twenty years ago Extal was claiming a reputation for a single line or stripe, but that is not the issue. Nor is the registration at the Standards Institute. The issue is what people in the industry see as being Extal’s mark. The Israel Patent Office, by requiring Extal’s application to be split, has already determined that a scratch and a protrusion are not the same. The private investigator’s testimony was less than satisfactory. Indeed, NAPCO attempted to get it struck from the record – see here. I note that the sorely missed UK IP Judge from Golders Green, Hugh Laddie, apparently did his own market research when considering likelihood of confusion, such as with the Burton fashion brand. I wonder if Ms Bracha could have usefully visited one of the many wholesalers in Talpiot or Givat Mordechai, or sent an Examiner, and thus determined first hand, whether Extal had a reputation for a single scratch line or not. Certainly one doubts that calendars from 2006 are being referred to, even if some may still be hanging on walls somewhere.