Unipharm Without Representation wins Interim Proceeding in Opposition Against Novartis

February 22, 2018

Background

galvusIsrael  Patent Application No. 176831 to Novartis is titled “COMPRESSED PHARMACEUTICAL TABLETS OR DIRECT COMPRESSION PHARMACEUTICAL TABLETS COMPRISING DPP-IV INHIBITOR CONTAINING PARTICLES AND PROCESSES FOR THEIR PREPARATION ” the patent application is a national phase of PCT/EP/2005/000400. It relates to a pharmaceutical used in the treatment for diabetes known as Vildagliptin (previously LAF237, trade galvus moleculenames Galvus, Zomelis,) which is an oral anti-hyperglycemic agent (anti-diabetic drug) of the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor class of drugs. Vildagliptin inhibits the inactivation of GLP-1[2][3] and GIP[3] by DPP-4, allowing GLP-1 and GIP to potentiate the secretion of insulin in the beta cells and suppress glucagon release by the alpha cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claims of the Parties

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion and Ruling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No costs are awarded.

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

COMMENT

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

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

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


Repeated Requests for Reconsideration Smashed

February 22, 2018

smash batmanBack in May 2017 we reported that Talber Pop LTD owns Israel trademark number 240598 “SMASH” for Notebooks, stationery, diaries, binders; gift wrapping paper, paper gift wrapping bows, paper cake decorations, paper party bags, loot bags, cello bags, paper party decorations, paper party hats, paper tables cloths, paper napkins, banner made of paper and/or cardboards; all included in class 16, and Backpacks, sidepacks, back bags, side bags, sport bags, tote bags, book bags, school bags, food bags, pencil cases sold empty, wallets, waist packs, briefcases, bike bags, toiletry cases sold empty, fanny packs, suitcases, umbrellas, umbrella covers; all included in class 18. They also own a second Israel trademark number 241238 for SMASH in class 14 covering watches, chronometers and their parts, and that Smash Enterprises Pty LTD submitted a request to cancel the Talber Pop LTD marks or to allow their marks to be co-registered.

The parties were interested in coexisting, but MS Shoshani Caspi considered it against the public interest in view of the likelihood of confusion. See here.

Ms Shoshani related to the request, but first detailed the conditions for reconsideration.  The correct way to attack a judicial ruling is by Appealing to a higher court, and not by way of reconsideration. See Appeal 5012/01 Jacobovitz vs. Lerner 11 July 2001 where the following is stated:

Parties that argue and return over again to the court cannot expect an advantage. If the party considers that there was a mistake in the ruling, they should timely file an appeal.

Nevertheless, the case-law allows reconsideration in two instances: where there has been a significant change in circumstances that justifies reconsideration, and where there was a technical error in the ruling. See Appeal 7869/17 E.R.M. Properties vs.Daniel Ohr, 23 November 2017 where Judge Minz of the Supreme Court ruled that:

The rulings of this court recognize two circumstances where a ruling can be reconsidered in a reconsideration, other than interim injunctions which are explicitly legislated in regulation 368 of the Civil Procedure Regulations. The first instance is where there has been a significant change of circumstances, and the second case is where the court made a serious and clear technical error – see Appeal 1474/11 Strauss Marketing vs. Orman, paragraph 13, 14 July 2011; 3604/02 OKO vs Shemi p.d. 56(4) 505, 508 (2002), and Tami bin Nun and Tal Habakin “Civil Appears p. 427 edition 3, 2012.

Over the years there has been a worry that parties would make improper use of the opportunity of interim procedures to request reconsideration (see for example, 8420/96 Margaliyot vs. Mishkan Bank HaPoalim for Mortgages LTD (31 July 1997). So it was established that courts can simply throw out such requests on the grounds of improper use of the court proceedings, particularly where the party requests reconsideration over and over. That written in 5168/01 Reuveni vs. Ben Harush 28 Oct 2001 is relevant here:

RepeatFiling repeat requests that are minor improvements of the original request puts an unreasonable burden on the courts. Requesting reconsideration as a routine event is burdensome, and prevents the court providing a service for all its users.

In re Jakobovitz, then registrar of the Supreme Court Boaz Okan noted that:

The creative multiplication of proceedings, notices, reconsiderations and the like, are symptomatic of loose and unravelling systems (Appeal 502/00 Airport Authority vs. Epkon. There is no place to create cross-species rulings that damage the finality of the Court’s decision and may cause the legal proceedings to drag on forever., by misusing the civil procedures and wasting legal resources.

On 30 December 2015, Smash Enterprises Pty LTD requested to cancel the Talber Pop LTD’s marks for SMASH in classes 16 and 18.

The request for cancellation followed Smash Enterprises Pty LTDs attempt to register SMASH as a trademark in class 21 that was refused under Section 11(9).

Smash Enterprises Pty LTDs  application no 274301 is for Containers for household or kitchen use; household or kitchen utensils; containers for beverages; containers for food; heat insulated containers for beverages; heat retaining containers for food and drink; insulated containers; lunch boxes; isothermic bags; bottles including water bottles (containers); beverage coolers (containers); drinking containers; portable coolers; ice containers; ice packs; plastic containers (household utensils); lids for household or kitchen containers; tableware, including plates, dishes, drinking glasses, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and jugs, all being of plastic materials; cooking utensils for use with domestic barbecues; storage boxes, baskets and containers for household use; household rubbish containers (bins); glassware for domestic use; ceramic tableware; baking trays; storage jars; cooler bags; thermally insulated bags for food and drink. In class 21.

Talber Pop LTD’s mark 24059 is for Watches of all kinds; chronometers and part thereof and accessories; all included in class 14, for Notebooks, stationery, diaries, binders; gift wrapping paper, paper gift wrapping bows, paper cake decorations, paper party bags, loot bags, cello bags, paper party decorations, paper party hats, paper tables cloths, paper napkins, banner made of paper and/or cardboards; all included in class 16, and for Backpacks, sidepacks, back bags, side bags, sport bags, tote bags, book bags, school bags, food bags, pencil cases sold empty, wallets, waist packs, briefcases, bike bags, toiletry cases sold empty, fanny packs, suitcases, umbrellas, umbrella covers; all included in class 18.

coexistOn 26 January 2017, the parties jointly requested coexistence following a mediation proceeding connected to a civil complaint filed by Smash Enterprises Pty LTD against Talber Pop LTD (Civil Complaint 65168-12-16). The request for coexistence under Section 30 was submitted with a copy of the agreement between the parties.

On 26 April 2017, Ms Shoshani Caspi explained in detail why she considered coexistence to be inappropriate as follows:

Thus the Arbitrator Ms Shoshani Caspi finds herself considering two identical marks for the word SMASH for two different entities that cover inter alia the same goods which creates a strong risk of confusion.

As part of their joint submission. the parties should have provided a detailed explanation why TM 274301 in class 21 should be registerable together with TM 240598 in class 18. This wasn’t done, and the parties have provided no explanation as to how to avoid confusion. The request for coexistence is refused. The parties have until 1 June 2017 to inform whether they wish to conduct a cancellation proceeding.

On 16 October 2017 a first request for reconsideration of the decision of 26 April  was received.  In that framework, the party who had requested cancellation noted that they were abandoning the 274302 and 274158 marks for SMASH in classes 18 and 16, despite the fact that the coexistence agreement didn’t relate to those marks. Additionally, the mark owner noted that they were prepared to strike the term ‘food boxes’ from the list of goods of Israel TM 240598.

On the same day, the Adjudicator Ms Shoshani Caspi again rejected the coexistence agreement stating:

There is before me a request for reconsideration of coexistence of the marks based on the agreement reached by the parties, following my rejecting this possibility in my ruling of 24 April 2017. The parties chose to ignore the significant obstacles that prevent coexistence that were stated in paragraphs 18, 21 and 24 of my previous decision. So the petition is rejected.

On 22 October 2017, the parties again requested reconsideration for a second time, restating their positions and claiming that their agreement does not leave room for confusion between the marks. On 25 October 2017, a detained ruling was issued that again rejected the coexistence stating:

I have not found that an error occurred in my ruling of 26 April 2016 (or indeed of that of 16 October 2017). The parties return and make exactly the same claims a third time. Consequently I do not find that there has been a change in circumstances from those under which the original decision and the appeals were given that justifies further reconsideration. Although unnecessary to do so, I note, again, that we are talking about an attempt to register exactly the same mark for goods having a similar commercial nature, without the appropriate and fitting difference between them. Consequently, the petition[ for coexistence]  is rejected a third time.

nagOn 11 January 2018, the parties submitted a third request for reconsideration of the 25 October 2017 ruling, raising the same arguments. Additionally this time the mark owner requested to remove the term “cases (files) of..”

The Deputy Commissioner does NOT consider this amendment as being a “Significant change in circumstances or a technical error that warrants reconsideration of the ruling of 26 April 2017.

The third request for reconsideration is rejected. The Adjudicator is not happy with attempts to negotiate with the court of the Israel Patent and Trademark Office by unsupported requests for reconsideration. She considers these requests adds to the workload of the patent office staff and requires detailed responses and is inappropriate. She considers it would be appropriate to rule costs against the parties to be paid into the public fund but will refrain from doing so this time.

Ms Shoshani Caspi’s problem is that sports bags and school bags may be in different categories from food storage bags and flasks but the requested mark is for words and school bags and sports bags do sometimes have pockets for food, so she considers that different suppliers cannot use the same word mark for these goods, despite registering in different classes (19 and 21). Indeed, in absence of evidence to the contrary, the goods can be considered as complimentary  goods in the same broad category that are often used together, such that the reasonably consumer will assume a common source. See the HRA Laboratoire Pharma vs. Fr Shapira Eyal ltd ruling of 28 December 2017:

With respect to complimentary goods, one has to consider if there is a tight relationship between them, that one is required or significant to the other, or that the consumer is likely to consider that the provision of the goods is the responsibility of the same supplier.

The parties have still not provided any evidence that undermines the Adjudicator’s conclusions regarding a commercial link between the goods, and have only made unsupported statements to the effect that the food packaging supplied by the requester for cancellation is not sold in the same stores as the bags of the mark owner.

Thus, as determined more than once in this proceeding, the certain similarity between the goods listed in issued mark no. 240598 in section 18 and those in application 274301 in class 21, and the identical nature of the two marks (both word marks for SMASH), leaves a high likelihood of similarity which may result in consumer confusion.

As to the obligation undertaken in the coexistence agreement by the mark owners not to use a stylize graphic rendering of SMASH, this was discussed in the 26 April 2017 ruling, and can simply be recited: “it is difficult to ignore the situation where the patent and trademark registrar allows the parties to make use of the word in any style they see fit, merely because of a narrow contractual agreement between the parties, and the trademark register does not faithfully match the trade situation.”

The parties repetitively made shallow claims that the District Court endorsed the coexistence agreement and gave it the status of a court ruling. Examination of the agreement, sections 3 and 4 thereof, indicate that the mark owner obliged himself not to object to the registration of the word “SMASH” by the requester for cancellation in classes 16 and 18, and the requester for cancellation obligated himself to cancel the requests for cancellation.  It is assumed that the learned legal representatives (Eitan Mehulal for Smash Enterprises and Eyal Plum for Talber Pop) did not intend to accidentally claim that this can be interpreted as the court endorsing the right for the Smash Enterprises mark to be registered, since it is known that the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks has the sole authority to register marks under Section 17(a) of the Ordinance. Thus one has to assume that the court endorsement of the coexistent agreement only obliges the parties themselves.

As we are dealing with the authority of the Israel Patent and Trademark Office, it should be noted that Section 30a allows and does not obligate the commissioner to allow coexistence of identical or confusingly similar marks. Furthermore, in the court ruling 48837-03-14 Biosensors Europe SA  vs the Patent Office 22 February 2015 it was stated that “the burden of proof that there is no confusing similarity is on the companies interested in parallel usage, to show that they have been using the mark in parallel for many years and it has not caused the public to be confused”. For more discussion, see here and here. As stated above, in this instance the parties have not met this burden.

not a rubber stampThus it is ruled that the parties legal representatives (Eitan Mehulal for Smash Enterprises and Eyal Plum for Talber Pop) failed to submit appropriate evidence to support their request for coexistence under Section 30a of the Ordinance, and merely supported their request with the in personam coexistence agreement. The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks is NOT a rubber-stamp that endorses agreements between warring parties and though allowed to, is not obliged to consider them. The main obligation of the Commissioner is to maintain the integrity of the trademark register and this includes ensuring that there is no likelihood of misleading the public. This forum has established many times that a request for coexistence by the parties does not exert much influence on deciding whether or not to allow such coexistence under section 30a, and is at best an indication that coexistence may be possible that has to be considered with all the considerations, see Supreme Court ruling 1611/07 Micha Danziger cs. Shmuel Mor, 23 August 2012. 

On 3 January 2018, the Adjudicator gave the parties 14 days to submit their evidence, i.e., until 17 January 2018, or the cancellation proceeding would be closed.  The parties have failed to provide such evidence and have also failed to request an extension. The Adjudicator has not ignored the request from the parties to provide guidance for how to restrict the lists of goods to allow coexistence, but she is not clear why this is necessary in light of all the decisions referenced, and does not intend to provide such guidance.

Conclusion – since the Requester for Cancellation has not provided evidence to support his case as asked to, and since no request for extensions of time were submitted, the cancellation proceedings against Israel Trademarks 240598 and 241238 are closed. The Requester for Cancellation is not prevented from filing a new trademark cancellation request if it will be conducted in accordance with the timeframe.

Israel Trademarks 240598 and 241238 “SMASH”, Decision to reject Cancellation Request by Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi,  18 January 2018.   

 

 


Israel Supreme Court Overturns Ruling Forbidding Copying Fashion Designs

February 21, 2018

necklines

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

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

COMMENT

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


CORRECTION Re – Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation

February 13, 2018

mistakesI try to be factually accurate and helpful to my readership. However, occasionally mistakes happen. A couple of days ago I posted about the Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation to be held in Israel under the auspices of the AIPPI in Israel between 30 April and 1 May 2018.

I received a press-release from the Israel Patent Office with a link to the website of the conference, so took details from there. I noted that the opening speakers were two Israel Nobel Laureates:

  • Prof. Ada Yonat, The Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology.
  •  Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, Technion

I commented that both were certainly eminent scientists in their fields, but if the conference organizers want Nobel Laureates to talk about the Economics of Innovation, one or both of Israel’s Nobel Laureates in Economics would be a better choice.

mistake EinsteinI’d like to think that the conference organizers follow my advice, and I do note that some of my criticisms of the first and second International Conferences have been addressed this time around, but I doubt that within a couple of days of my posting my criticism, the organizers would disinvite two such distinguished speakers. Nevertheless, they are not coming.

francis gurryInstead the current program as advertised has a video greeting from Mr. Francis Guri [sic], WIPO president – a gimmick I enjoyed at a premiere cercle IP conference last year. Watching a VIP on-screen is not that exciting as in the flesh, and to be honest, I don’t think there is a major demand for autographs from WIPO presidents. (Indeed, when I was Guest of Honour at the AIPPI International Conference in Paris a few years back, I don’t recall anyone asking me for my autograph). Nevertheless, we assume that Francis Gurry (which is the correct spelling and should be corrected in the program) is perfectly competent to give an informed lecture on various aspects of IP. We suspect however, that his words of welcome will be more platitudes than substance.

ASHER_D._GRUNISThe opening session is instead being given by Judge (retired) Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court of Israel 2012 – 2015 on “Judge made law in the field of intellectual property”. Judge Gronis gave several IP decisions over his long and illustrious career, such as Toffiffee, Adidas, Dior, Shemesh restaurantsBalugan – Spinmaster, etc.

aharon aharonJudge Grunis’ talk is being followed by one by Mr. Aharon Aharon, CEO, Israel Innovation Authority. The title of Mr. Aharon Aharon’s talk is not published in the program, but it is clear that he has some influence over Israel govt. policy regarding promoting innovation.

I view the change of opening speakers favorably, as both should have something to say that is relevant to IP issues which may well not be the case with Nobel laureates in science, despite their eminence in their fields.

For reviews of the first Israel AIPPI conference From IP to NP (net profit) see here and here. For a review of the Second Israel AIPPI conference here.

The second mistake in Sunday’s post, noted by both IP KAT and leading Israel Trademark Attorney, Neil Wilkof, and by Patent Attorney David Silver, was that I put the price for Israelis which is 1600 Shekels down as $1600 by mistake. I have corrected that typo is Sunday’s post.


Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation

February 11, 2018

aippiThe Israel Chapter of the AIPPI is hosting their third Conference on the Ecomomics of Innovention between 30 April and 1 May 2018, which is a few weeks after the 6th Best Practices in Intellectual Property Conference organized by Kim Lindy and the In-House Forum, and three weeks before the 140th INTA conference in Seattle (which coincides with Shavuot.

I am posting this to give those interested in attending advanced notice of the event. However, as the program at the link is labeled not for distribution, it may be premature to comment on the topics covered and the speaker list.

NobelWhat is impressive, however, is that the opening addresses include two Israel Nobel Laureates:

  • Prof. Ada Yonat, The Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology.
  •  Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, Technion

what-is-economicsNobel Prizes are not given out like sweets, and being able to hear presentations by two Nobel Laureates without having to go to the Swedish Academy of Sciences is no-doubt an impressive draw. It occurred to me, however, that if this conference was really about the economics of innovation, It would make more sense to invite Professor Daniel Kahaneman or Professor Robert Aumann. It seems to me that these laureates, being economists, would have more of value to say about the subject of the conference.

I have read Professor Kahaneman and watched interviews of him on television. I have also heard Professor Aumann lecture (and been bird watching with him in the Golan – but that’s a different story). Both are accomplished speakers and apart from their subjects actually being economics, their fields of expertise are less specialized and more accessible to a wider audience than those of the keynote speakers.  Except the Conference on the Economics of Invention is not about the economics of invention. The title is simply a form of branding that enables the organizers to bill it as the third conference.  That said, the sessions as currently advertised do look interesting and varied, and one expects that participants will not be disappointed.

Like any two-day conference that is held every couple of years, the subject matter of the tentative program is a reasonable attempt to cover a wide range of topics and to try to ensure that there is something for everyone. As there appears to be parallel sessions, one assumes that most people will be find something of interest most of the time, and one can’t really ask for more.

The conference costs 1600 Shekels for two days ($480) which seems good value for money when compared to similar conferences overseas. For Israelis there is both less traveling and Kosher food. For overseas visitors, Israel is a great place to come for a conference and to tag on a pilgrimage to the holy sites and/or trips to the various Roman archaeological remains that are as impressive as those in Italy or elsewhere. it is also a great destination for ornithologists or simply for those looking for a beach holiday and good restaurants.


A ballsy trademark ruling

January 30, 2018

SodKGaA & Henkel AG filed a series of Israel trademark applications (Nos.  258658, 258797, 258798 and 259500 as shown alongside.258658

The marks cover Bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use, rinsing agents for laundry and tableware, stain removing preparations; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations, chemical agents for cleaning metal, enameled sheet metal, wood, cork, porcelain, ceramic, glass, plastic, leather and textiles; spot remover; soaps not for personal use, perfumery, essential oils in class 3, “Disinfectants and deodorants other than for humans and animals”. In class 5, and Sponges, brushes, cleaning cloths, cleaning purposes, hand-operated cleaning appliances, devices for dispensing sanitary cleaning and fragrance products, partially with the addition of disinfectant, included in class 21.

The Israel Trademark Department refused to register the marks on the grounds that they lacked inherent distinctiveness as indication of source, since they were the shape of the products themselves. The marks were also refused under Section 8(b) of the Ordinance 1972, as not having acquired distinctiveness through use.

The Applicant claimed that the marks are registerable since they serve in practice as a trademark, have acquired distinctiveness through use, and the choice of shape is not a result of real aesthetic or practical considerations. The Applicant requested a hearing, and submitted the following evidence:

  • An opinion by Mr Oshik Roshnik, marketing consultant, who held a public survey regarding how well known the marks were. Mr Roshnik attended the hearing and the survey and his conclusions are detailed below.
  • An affidavit from Ms Danielle Rabinowitz who is the product manager for Henkel Sod ltd, which is fully owned by the Applicant. Her testimony affirmed the sales in Israel and abroad and the investment in advertising and promotional activity. Ms Rabinowitz also attended at the hearing.
  • An Affidavit of Ms Cecile Leroi the International Marketing Manager of the Applicant, who testified regarding sales.

A large quantity of marketing material was appended to the affidavits.

sod balls.jpg

From the evidence it appears that the products are sold in Israel in blister packs that have transparent fronts. The mark Sod appears clearly on the packaging, which is the brand for these and other products of the Applicant in Israel. The Sod mark is recognized as being a leading brand in Israel.

juggling four balls

The Applicant claimed that since January 2014 they have invested 15 million shekels in advertising and marketing in various telecommunication channels, including point-of-sale. As a result of this intense marketing, some 6 million units have been sold, which is 30% of the market. These statistics support the Applicant’s contention that the marks have acquired distinctiveness.

The Applicant’s legal counsel emphasized that the marks were registered in a number of countries, including the EUIPO. The Applicant is also prepared for the mark to be registered under Section 16.

Discussion

toffiffee

The tests for validity of a trademark registration for the shape of an article was given in the Supreme Court ruling 11487/03 August Storck KG vs. Alfa Inuit Food Products LTD, of 23 March 2003. These tests are summarized in Circular 033/2016 Trademarks: Emphasis on Examining trademarks from 15 December 2016 as follows:

  1. The requested shape has to serve as a trademark in practice
  2. The requested shape cannot be significantly aesthetic or practical.
  3. The shape has acquired distinctiveness through use

This topic has been widely discussed in the case-law and literature in Israel and abroad. The tests have been largely adopted due to comparative law, and so we can use foreign rulings to aid us in coming to a conclusion.

Nevertheless, the Deputy Commissioner does not consider that the applied for mark fulfils the Supreme Court’s criteria.

The Mark Does Not Serve As a Trademark in Practice

The question asked in this context is whether the public and the applicant see the shape of the mark separately from other marks that are applied to the product to indicate the source, thereby serving as trademarks. As clarified in Berkeley “Kerly’s Law of Trade Marks and Trade Names“, 15th ed. (2011) p. 197, from a UK decision regarding the registerability of the shape of a container:

The relevant question is not whether the container would be recognised on being seen a second time, that is to say, whether it is of memorable appearance, but whether by itself its appearance would convey trade mark significance to the average customer.”

The things are stated regarding containers, but this is also true regarding the shape of the products themselves, since these are not generally considered as being trademarks by the public, and the packaging includes the well known word mark Sod as a trademark indicating the source of the goods. It is true that sometimes a single object will have more than one trademark on it, each being independently registerable. However, in such cases it is difficult for the manufacturer to demonstrate that the public afford each element weight as a trademark: See J. Thomas McCarthey in McCarthey on Trademarks and Unfair Competition (2011), pages 7-12:

“When a label or advertisement contains a cluttered morass of claimed marks in many words, slogans and designs, no one of these things is likely to make a significant trademark impression on customers. If a given designation is a trademark, that should be immediately evident to the ordinary buyer. If it takes extended analysis and legalistic argument to attempt to prove that a designation has been used in a trademark sense, then it has not.”

kitkatThe need for the public and the manufacturer to rely on the shape of the product as an indication of the source of the product is required for it to be registerable has been discussed recently in the UK decision [2017] EWCA Civ 358 Société des Produits Nestlé SA  v. Cadbury UK Ltd. (Kit Kat). In this ruling, the court affirmed the ruling of two lower courts that the shape of the KitKat snack bar is not registerable. In that case, the issue of the burden of proof for registering a product shape was referred to the CJEU:

The judge thought that the answer to this question was not clear and depended upon what was meant by “use of the mark as a trade mark”. As he put it: does it require the applicant to show that, as a result of the use of the mark, consumers rely on the mark as a trade mark, or is it sufficient that consumers recognise the mark and associate it with the applicant’s goods?”

The UK court considered that the European Court’s position was that the public have to rely on the product shape as a source of origin, and not merely to recognize the product shape:

“Accordingly, I agree with the judge that it is legitimate for a tribunal, when assessing whether the applicant has proved that a significant proportion of the relevant class of persons perceives the relevant goods or services as originating from a particular undertaking because of the sign in question, to consider whether such person would rely upon the sign as denoting the origin of the goods or services if it were used on its own. Further, if in any case it is shown that consumers have come to rely upon the mark as an indication of origin then this will establish that the mark has acquired distinctiveness”

Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha does not consider that the survey and publicity material in the present case proves the Applicant’s contention.

In all cases, the word mark Sod clearly appears in the publicity material, and the advertisements all include the word Sod a large number of times. So it does not appear that the applicant is relying on the visual appearance of the product to indicate the origin thereof.

The extent in which the shape of the package is capable of serving as a trademark depends on the degree that they are different from that typical in the field. See for example, Israel Trademark Application No. 174402 Diageo North America, Inc. from 13 April 2011. The Applicant notes that they chose the mark to distinguish themselves from their competitors. The Applicant submitted a lot of material that shows that cleaning materials intended to be hung in the toilet bowl come in different shapes, however all of these include a hook and a perforated plastic case so that they can serve their function of hanging over the rim and allowing water to reach the cleaning material on flushing. The product in question is not sufficiently distinctive that it is recognized by the public as being a trademark. From the material submitted and from a personal search of the Internet it appears that such products come in various shapes and sizes including five flowers, three crescents three rectangles and so one. Most of the products are coloured and two colours are combined in a single product… Many are sold in transparent packages that have the manufacturer’s logo on the upper part.

The mark has not attained distinguishing character through use

There is a connection between the question of whether a mark serves as a trademark in practice and whether it has acquired distinctiveness. The Applicant has to demonstrate that through sales, etc., there is public awareness of the mark.

First and foremost, the Applicant has to show that the goods have a reputation, meaning that the public identifies the goods with the applicant or at least with a specific source, even if not identifying the applicant by name.
….
Continuous significant usage is not what is important, but rather the type of use:  if it is a use that identifies the product with the Applicant, see Appeal 18/86 Israel Venetian Glass Factory vs. Les Verries de Saint Gobain p.d. 45(3) 224, 238.

To prove a relationship between the product and supplier, the Applicant submitted Mr Roshinak’s survey. The questions were directed to respondents who admitted to being the purchasers of domestic hygiene goods for their homes. The respondents were first asked if they were familiar with the products for which the trademarks were sought (specifically the product having Israel TM Application No. 258658). It is noted that the respondents were not asked if they had purchased the product and so those who had seen the advertisements also responded positively and some 67% were familiar with the product. Mr Roshnak explained at the hearing that this is significant. In this regard, it is noted that the publicity campaign was conducted close to the survey and may well have affected the results. See Complaint 31706-01-12 Dan Design Center ltd vs. B.R.A.P. Projects ltd 19 June 2012.

survey3.JPGThose respondents  that responded positively to the first question were asked if the product was known in Israel. The Deputy Commissioner considers this is less relevant since it surveys what the respondents thought and not how well known the product was. In the next stage, the respondents were asked if they were familiar with other products of the same manufacturer and 65% were unaware of any other products or were not sure in their response.

The Deputy Commissioner considers this the most significant part of the survey. The purpose of a trademark is to link a product with other products of the same supplier. See Seligsohn Trademark Law and Similar Law 1973 page 1. If this connection does not exist, the shape of the mark does not serve as a trademark in practice.

In this instance, the majority of the public does not consider the product as associated with a particular supplier and this is clear from the fact that they did not know if the supplier sold other goods. In other words, the public surveyed were unaware of the source of the goods and did not connect the balls with other products marketed under the Sod mark. Since the Applicant acknowledges that Sod is a well known mark associated with a wide range of hygiene products, had they associated the product with Sod, they would have made a connection and mentioned other products.

The Applicant claimed that the acquired distinctiveness exists where the public associate a product with some supplier and not necessarily with a supplier by name. This is true. The principle was established in Appeal 18/86 Israel Venetian Glass Factory vs. Les Verries de Saint Gobain p.d. 45(3) 224, 238. However, in this instance, it is claimed that Sod is a ‘quality brand’ and so it is not reasonable to claim that the majority of the public do not know the brand. Furthermore, from the response to this question, it appears that the majority of the respondents do not relate the product with ANY supplier and for this reason cannot answer whether the supplier supplies additional products.

survey.jpgIn the final survey, the respondents were asked who manufactures or markets the product. This was a multiple choice question with the options Henke, Sod, some other supplier SPECIFY and do not know/not sure. This is a closed-ended leading question similar to that discussed in Opposition 112645 Mei Zach (Clear Water) Shlomo Zach vs. Teneh Industries 1991 ltd from 12 July 2007. Two of the four answers were correct. The others required the respondents to admit to not knowing or to suggest an alternative themselves. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that most respondents answered correctly. Furthermore, the respondents who answered correctly were not even required to remember the manufacturer/supplier’s name themselves….

leading questionMr Rohnak was asked about this during the hearing and responded that respondents are not ashamed to answer that they do not know, and so their choosing a correct answer is significant and indicates knowledge. Mr Roshnak did not think that wording the question differently and giving names of other manufacturers of hygiene products would have led to a different result. This response is speculative and is beyond his competence since it does not relate to making surveys and drawing results but rather to anticipating responses to questions not asked. The fact that most respondents elected “Sod” and not “Do not know” certainly raises the suspicion that the respondents answered that way as the question led them to do so, or because the way the survey was constructed led them to believe that this was the desired response.

Deputy Commissioner Bracha concludes that the survey does not prove that the public identifies the product with the source. Furthermore, it really indicates a lack of identification with any source.

By way of comparison, in the KitKat ruling, most respondents recognized KitKat as being an image of the snack without the name being suggested to them. Nevertheless, the court held that the manufacture does not rely on this recognition and the shape is not eligible for registration. In this instance, the public could not identify the source without leading questions that posed the correct response.

In evidence of acquired distinctiveness, the Applicant submitted an affidavit of the product manager. It is not denied that the Applicant invested large sums in promoting the product to the result that they captured a significant 30% of the market. However, this does not show that the public identifies the product with the supplier without the Sod mark clearly shown.

In light of the above, having concluded that the mark does not have distinguishing characteristics, it cannot be registered under Section 16 either.

The mark is therefore refused.

Ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha re 4 Balls Shape Mark to KGaA & Henkel AG 258658, 258797, 258798 and 259500, 18 December 2018.


Statute of Limitation for Compensation for an Employee Invention

January 28, 2018

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

Background

10-american-idol-judges

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

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

azilect

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

teva

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

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

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

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

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

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

swamped

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

The Main Claims of the Parties

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

compensation

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

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

give up

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

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

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

The paragraph remains confidential.

giving-up

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

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

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

window

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

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

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

DISCUSSION

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

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

Section 2 of the Statute of Liberties states that:

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

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

Section 6 of the Statute of Liberties states that:

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

conception

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

monkey tribunal

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

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

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

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

working together

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

concrete

The time when a concrete obligation was born

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

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

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

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

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

The Statute of Limitations as per re Schechter

Seven_year_itch.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

reciprocity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not knowing the Law

ignorance.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application of Section 9 of the Statute of Limitations

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

Section 9 of the Statute of Limitations states that:

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

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

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

time out

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

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

The Relative Strengths of the Employee and Employer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Barzani paragraph 32 it is stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT

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