Patent Office Closures – Pesach 2018

March 27, 2018
The Festival of Pesach celebrates Human Freedom and the birth of the Jewish people.
The Israel Patent Office will be closed from Friday 30 March 2018, and all deadlines falling in the period that the patent office is closed, are suspended until the Israel Patent Office reopens on Sunday April  8th 2018.

 

WIPO, the UKPTO and some others are closed on 2nd April 2018 for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Easter follows the full moon and more or less coincides with Pesach of course, as Jesus’ Last Supper was Seder Night.

Coincidentally, the China State Intellectual Property Office will be closed for the Tomb Sweeping Festival from Thursday April 5 through Saturday April 7th 2018. To the best of my knowledge, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Pesach or Easter.


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.


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.


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

December 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Ruling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment

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

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


Israel Supreme Court Upholds Decision Re Appellation of Origin

November 26, 2017

cheese and wineIsrael is a member of the Lisbon Convention for the Appellation of Origin. This is an international convention beloved of the French and frowned upon by the common law countries. Essentially food and drink associated with certain places is entitled to wider protection than mere trademark protection, so that only Scotland can make Scotch Whiskey. Only France can make Champagne and Cognac. Parmesan cheese and hams must come from the Parmesan region of Italy, and so on.

There are now two Israeli whiskey producers. Israel makes Kosher bubbly wine and brandy and a very wide range of cheeses that mimic English, French, Italian, Dutch and Greek types. The labeling is carefully controlled in accordance with the rules.

Israel boasts one Appellation of Origin: Jaffa for citrus fruits.

jaffa orangeCalling something Jaffa, Jaffas, or in Hebrew יפו, יבא, יפאס is not merely a trademark infringement, but also infringes the special law governing this appellation of origin “The Law for Protecting Origins and Indication of sources 1965” gave special protection for Jaffa and variant spellings for citrus fruits. Subsequently, special amendments to the Trademark Ordinance in 1968 widened the protection of the Jaffa mark to prevent its usage for a wider range of goods, and forbade marks that include the word Jaffa as only part of the mark. The amendment to the trademark ordinance takes this protection very seriously, and instead of merely providing financial remedies, prescribes incarceration for infringers.

126 EL AL Poster, Two Flight Attendants in Orange Uniforms by 747, Marvin G. Goldman Coll'nelal posterBack in the Sixties, Israel was a banana an orange republic. The largest export sector was fruit and vegetables and oranges were the flagship product. The posters alongside, used by ELAL – Israel’s national airline gives an indication of the importance and symbolism of the orange in that era.

The Council for Producing Plants and Their Marketing owns rights in the word Jaffa as a geographical application of origin.

Yehuda Malchi tried to register Israel Trademark Application Numbers 20542 and 220581 for OLD JAFFA, for preserved, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; eggs, milk and milk products; edible oils and fats; all included in class 29 and for coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, semolina, tapioca, coffee substrates, cereals, breads and baked goods, sweets, ice-creams, honey, yeast, baking powder, salt, vinegary sauces (flavorings) and spices in class 30, respectively. Israel trademark no. 237678 covering soaps, perfumery, essential oils, cosmetics, hair lotions and dentifrices, all included in class 3 had previously issued without opposition. In an action combined with an opposition by the Council for Producing Plants and Their Marketing to Israel Trademark Application Numbers 20542 and 220581 , the Israel trademark 237678  (Old Jaffa) was canceled. The ruling may be found here.

Having appealed the Israel Patent Office ruling and that of the District Court, Yehuda Malchi appealed to the Israel Supreme Court.

EtrogJudge Hendel’s ruling included an interesting side comment in which he noted that Chief Rabbi Kook, who was the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa and the surrounding agricultural villages from 1904 until the outbreak of World War 1, had backed a campaign to promote using Jaffa etrogs (citrons) for the Sukkot ritual, rather than those from Korfu and Italy, which held much of the European market. Judge Handel thus argued that Israel was traditionally blessed with citrus fruit and that Jaffa was the hub of the trade a hundred years ago.

Hendel also noted that very little of the sprawling urban conurbation around Jaffa is devoted to agriculture today, but since the amendment to the Trademark Ordinance explicitly prevents use of Jaffa as part of a mark, the phonetic or visual similarity between JAFFA and OLD JAFFA is not relevant. He thus upheld the District Court’s ruling.

COMMENT

I am naturally formalistic (which is considered a dirty word in Israeli legal circles), and generally think that where the democratically elected legislative passes a clear law, the judges should follow that law. I am against judicial activism which I see as undermining the Knesset. (That is not to say that recent government attempts to prevent charges being brought against active ministers, to prevent the Prime Minister from being indicted for corruption are the finest examples of parliamentary legislation).

Nevertheless, I think that Judge Hendel could have and should have struck down this law providing wide and special protection for Jaffa oranges. The reason why is not merely that the brand does not indicate oranges from the Jaffa region grown by Jewish agriculturists on Kibbutzim, but rather that it does not indicate oranges grown in the contested region of Israel – Palestine at all! In order to provide year round supplies to world wide markets, oranges grown in South Africa and Australia are sold under the Jaffa brand. Thus the unique and distinctive taste of Jaffa oranges is not a result of the terroir of the Holy Land at all.  This travesty means that BDS supporters are not merely depriving Arab orchard owners with Thai foreign workers of their livelihood in an attempt to harm Israel politically, but are also harming the black workers in townships around Johannesburg.

Since the Council for Producing Plants and Their Marketing does not restrict usage of the mark to Israel grown oranges, why shouldn’t the special designation be cancelled?

In fairness to Judge Hendel however, we note that Yehuda Malchi was not represented and suspect that the sad state of affairs described above is unknown to him.

For the record, we note that it is ill-advised to appeal to fight legal battles, including submitting Appeals to the Supreme Court without legal representation.


Retroactive Extension Granted for Reporting a Lecture Disclosing a Patent Application Prior to Filing

October 10, 2017

Background

retroactivePatentability requires that a patent is novel, inventive and useful at the priority date, which is the effective filing date.

The Novelty requirement is absolute, but there are three exceptions given in Section 6 of the Israel Patent Law 1967:

  1. A publication of the invention without consent of the patentee is not novelty destroying, provided that patentee files an patent application promptly on learning about the publication;
  2. Display at a exhibition is not novelty destroying, provided a patent application is filed within six months;
  3. A scientific lecture is not novelty destroying, , provided the registrar was given advanced warning and a patent application is filed within six months.

Section 164 gives the Registrar (Commissioner) wide discretionary powers to extend missed deadlines.

In this ruling, the Deputy Commissioner considers whether the advanced warning of Section 6(3) can be extended retroactively under the discretionary powers given by Section 164, i.e. if the Applicant can inform the Commissioner of a scientific lecture post facto and pay extension fees, so that the lecture by the inventor is not considered as novelty destroying prior art.

The Case

Japan flagOn 6 March 2012, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. filed Israel Patent Application Number 218495 as a National Phase Entry of PCT/JP2010/053032 titled “Therapeutic Agent for Chronic Pain” that was itself filed on 26 February 2010. The PCT application claimed priority from JP 2009-211021 filed on 11 September 2009.

On 27 August 2009, i.e. before the priority date, the “Conference Proceedings of the 69th Tohoku District Meeting of the Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Medicine” were published. One of these was titled  “An example of complete response of ariprazole against refractory head and neck pain associated with depression”.

A significant amount of the scientific work that was the basis of the patent application and of the conference paper was disclosed in a lecture on 12 September 2009. The Patentee claims that the PCT application was filed within six months of the abstract, and claims priority from the priority application and so the PCT application benefits from the grace period under Section 30 of the Japanese Patent Law.

On 22 July 2010, prior to entering the national stage in Israel, the Agent for Applicant requested an extension to the deadline of Section 6(3). The Head of the PCT Department refused this, since the notification of the publication was not provided in advance, and he considered that only time limits given in the Law can be extended.

On 15 August 2010, the Applicant responded that they would file a second request on entering the national stage into Israel and would provide written and verbal arguments justifying an exception, and, on 16 May 2011, a further notice refusing the extension was issued by the patent office.

On subsequently entering the National Phase into Israel, and with reference to Section 48D(a) of the Law, the Applicant noted that, prior to entering the national phase into Israel, they had requested an extension to Section 6(3), and appended the decision of 16 May 2011.

During the Examination, the abstract from 27 August 2009 was cited against the claimed invention as being novelty destroying. Consequently, the Applicant requested a hearing to discuss whether the Section 6(3) deadline is extendible and, if so, whether the circumstances in question justify the Commissioner retroactively extending the deadline under section 164.

Discussion

Sections 6 and 164 are reproduced below:

  1. The right of the owner of an invention to be granted a patent shall not be affected by publication said in section 4—

(1) if it is proved that the matter published was obtained from him the owner of the invention or his predecessor in title and was published without his consent, and if the patent application was filed within a reasonable time after the publication became known to the applicant; or

(2)(a) the publication was by the owner of the invention or his predecessor in title in one of the following ways:

(i) display at an industrial or agricultural exhibition in Israel or at a recognized exhibition in one of the Convention States, of which official notice was given to the Registrar before its opening;

(ii) publication of a description of the invention at the time of a said exhibition;

(iii) use of the invention for the purposes of the exhibition and at the place of the exhibition;

(b) the publication was by use of the invention, even without its owners’ consent, at the time of the exhibition, at the place of the exhibition or outside it, on condition that the patent application was submitted within six months after the exhibition opened;

(3) publication was by way of a lecture by the inventor before a scientific society or by publication of the lecture in official transactions of the society, on condition that the Registrar was given notice of the lecture before it was delivered and that the patent application is filed within six months after the aforesaid publication.

Section 6(3) lists three conditions, that if fulfilled, render the prior publication as not damaging to the patentability of the patent. The first condition relates to the nature of the publication and to the reasons for it happening. In this instance, it relates to a lecture by the inventor before a scientific society or the publication of the lecture in the formal society conference proceedings. There is no doubt that the publication in question fulfills these conditions.

The third condition relates to the period from which the publication occurs and the date of filing of the patent. The proceedings were published on 27 August 2009, and the international publication was on the 26 February 2010. The Applicant claims that one should see the date of filing of the PCT Application designating Israel, as being the date as far as Section 6(3) is concerned. The Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha considers that the Applicant is correct in this regard.

Section 48(c) of the Law is an exception to Section 15 that states that a PCT Application designating Israel, receives a date as per the PCT Convention:

48C. The provisions of this Law shall apply to applications addressed to Israel, with the changes specified in this Chapter and with the changes specified below:

(1) the provisions of sections 11, 14, 15, 17(a) and 20 shall not apply;

(2) the provisions of section 16 shall apply to an application, in respect of which the applicant met the conditions prescribed in section 48D;

(3) the date of the application shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Convention;

(4) the provisions of section 165(a) shall not apply to information published under the Convention in respect of applications;

(5) notwithstanding the provisions of section 168(a), documents published according to the Convention in respect of applications shall be open for public inspection.

In accordance with Section 11(3) of the PCT Conventions, the filing date of the PCT application is considered as the National Entry Date in all designated states:

(3)  Subject to Article 64(4), any international application fulfilling the requirements listed in items (i) to (iii) of paragraph (1) and accorded an international filing date shall have the effect of a regular national application in each designated State as of the international filing date, which date shall be considered to be the actual filing date in each designated State.”

In light of this, the effective filing date in Israel is the filing date of the PCT Application designating Israel, and so the Applicant has fulfilled Section 6(3) of the Law.

The Applicant does not dispute that he did not fulfill the second condition requiring informing the Commissioner of the lecture before it happened. However, he alleges that it is within the Commissioner’s Authority to extend this deadline using the powers granted to him under Section 164 of the Law.

Patent Deadlines are generally extendible, apart from the deadline for filing an opposition, the deadline at which a patent lapses (but can be restored), the grace period for renewals, and deadlines relating to patent term extensions. Other than these, the Registrar (Commissioner) has wide discretion to grant extensions. This is clear from Section 164 of the Law, repeated below:

164.—(a) The Registrar may, if he sees reasonable cause for doing so, extend any time prescribed by this Law or by regulations under it for the performance of anything at the Office or before the Registrar, except for the times prescribed in sections 30, 56, 57, 61, 64F, 64M; however, for purposes of section 10—

(1) the Registrar shall not extend the time prescribed by subsection (a)(1), unless he is satisfied that the application in Israel was not submitted on time because of circumstances over which the applicant and his representative had no control and which could not be prevented;

(2) the Registrar shall extend the time prescribed by subsection (a)(2) only as long as the application has not yet been accepted and if he is satisfied that a mistake was made innocently.

(3)The Registrar may make the extension of times conditional on conditions as he deems fit.

(c) An application for extension of a time may be submitted within the time or after it.

(d)Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (b) and the provisions of any other Law, if the last day of the period prescribed in section 10(a)(1) falls on a .day that is not a work day, then the period shall end on the first work day thereafter; this provisions does not derogate from the power to extend beyond the time prescribed in section 10(a)(1).

The Examiner considered that this condition is not a deadline that can be extended and so the Commissioner does not have jurisdiction under Section 164.

The Deputy Commissioner notes that as far as the publication in question is concerned, the Applicant acted in good faith opposite the Patent Office. Firstly, even before entering the national phase the Applicant requested an extension to inform the patent office, when filing, he noted the request on the Application form and listed the reference in the list of disclosed prior art in accordance with the duty of disclosure under Section 18 of the Law. When discussing the requirement in the hearing, the question arose as to whether the Applicant should have appealed Dr Bart’s ruling. Perhaps the Applicant should have Appealed under Section 161 but the Deputy Commissioner does not consider it too late to discuss the issue substantively, nor does she consider the failure to appeal as being inequitable behavior.

The main issue under discussion, is whether the requirement to provide advanced knowledge of a publication is a deadline that can be retroactively extended under section 161, i.e. whether this is an exception to the rule.

To answer this question, it appears appropriate to consider the underlying purpose of the condition and its source. Section 11 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property 1883 states that the signatory states should provide temporary protection for a period not exceeding that defined in section 4 of the Convention (grace period) for displaying an invention or design at an official exhibition. Indeed, allowing exhibited goods to be protected was one of the aims of the convention:

“(a) Since lack or inadequacy of protection of industrial property at international exhibitions was one of the reasons which promoted the conclusion of the Convention, it is natural that the principle of such protection should already have been included in the original text of the Convention of 1883. It was then the intention to oblige the member States to take necessary legislative measures to that effect but to leave them free in determining the ways and means of achieving this end.”

GHC Bodenhausen Guide to the Application of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, as Revised at Stockholm in 1967 (1968) page 149.

Since the individual states had wide discretion regarding their national legislation and the administrative requirements for obtaining this protection, the basis for the pre-exhibition notice, which is largely unique to Israel, is not part of the convention itself. Additionally, examination of the pre legislative proposed law does not provide an explanation.

The Law in many jurisdictions does not require a pre Exhibition notice of intent to exhibit to be submitted to the patent office. The Japanese Patent Office requires sub mission of the patent application together with a notice within six months of the exhibition. (See Hiroya Kawaguchi “The Essentials of Japanese Patent Law” (2007) p. 31.

A similar requirement for submitting a the notice of an exhibition together with the application is found in Section 55 of the European Patent Convention:

“(1) For the application of Article 54, a disclosure of the invention shall not be taken into consideration if it occurred no earlier than six months preceding the filing of the European patent application and if it was due to, or in consequence of:

(a) an evident abuse in relation to the applicant or his legal predecessor, or

(b) the fact that the applicant or his legal predecessor has displayed the invention at an official, or officially recognized, international exhibition falling within the terms of the Convention on international exhibitions signed at Paris on 22 November 1928 and last revised on 30 November 1972.

(2) In the case of paragraph 1(b), paragraph 1 shall apply only if the applicant states, when filing the European patent application, that the invention has been so displayed and files a supporting certificate within the time limit and under the conditions laid down in the Implementing Regulations.”

In the US, the exhibition of the invention is part of the one year general grace period for inventor disclosures – See §35 US Section 102b of the US Patent Law and Daniel J. Gervais International Intellectual Property: A Handbook of Contemporary Research (2015) p.45.

From here it is clear that the Israel Law is somewhat unique in requiring prior notification. In light of the difference between the Laws and the legislative being silent regarding whether or not this period can be extended, the question of the interest that the Israel Law intended to protect by requiring prior notification of exhibition or lecture becomes important.

There are three possible purposes that come to mind.

  1. One possibility is to protect the inventor who, prior to exhibiting or lecturing, must determine that the exhibit or lecture will not damage his future protection. By providing notification, the Commissioner can obtain the disclosure and will be reminded of the Section 6 exception. If the inventor does not receive the authorization to exhibit, he can quickly file an Application before the publication. This paternalistic rationale, even if a positive thing, is somewhat exceptional on the IP horizon.
  2. Another possible purpose is certainty of the public regarding whether a prior disclosure is legally and not merely factually novelty disclosing or not. In other words, the public wishes to know as early as possible, if an invention is to be patent protected or if it is in the public domain. Even if this is an appropriate aim, it is not achieved by the requirement for earlier registration under section 6(3) of the Law, since such notification is not known to the public prior to the patent application becoming available for public inspection 18 months after filing (and until fairly recently, only on allowance). At the time that the patent file wrapper is available for inspection, it makes no difference if the Patent Office was informed of the exhibition or lecture in advance or after the event. Thus the public reliance on publication is different from the reliance on national phase entry which interested parties can and do follow, see for example, 23511-05-12 Mindcake LLC vs. Israel Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, 17 January 2013:

Thus, the extension of the national phase entry deadline is a matter of significance, since when this date passes, the invention is immediately transferred from the patentee to the public domain, who is allowed to make use of the invention according to their will.

In this instance, we cannot assume that this reliance is relevant since the public learn about the exhibition approval long after it has issued, so long as it is before the patent wrapper itself is open for inspection.

3.A third aim might be to provide the Commissioner with the tools to determine whether a prior art publication is indeed at a scientific or recognized exhibition or not. For such an aim, the Deputy Commissioner does not consider that prior notice makes much difference. The onus is on the patentee to convince the Commissioner, who is not required to make investigations. So in cases where the Applicant is unable to convince the Commissioner that the exhibition should not be novelty destroying, his request will be refused. From here it is clear that any evidentiary problems will work against the Applicant and we therefore return to the first suggestion that the purpose is to protect the Applicant.

This is not the first time that the Court of the Patent Office has considered this issue. In re IL 68447 to Byong Wha Suh (published on 29 February 1984), the Commissioner was petitioned to extend the Section 6 time-frame. After considering the European Patent Law, the Commissioner reasoned that one could indeed extend the deadline for informing the ILPO and reasoned as follows:

“We state immediately that in our Opinion, section 164a of the Israel Patent Law is sufficiently broad to allow the Section 6(2)(a)(1) deadline to be extended.
The Section allows deadlines that are stated in the Patent Law or the Regulations to be extended, and the wording is not limited to procedural deadlines (such as the deadlines for filing and responding in contentious proceedings), but also allows extensions of deadlines that can affect the validity of a patent. This can be learned from the wording of Section 164 which specifically excludes extending deadlines for paying renewal fees for lapsed patents. This teaches that the legislative body did not see fit to prohibit other deadlines being extended at the Commissioner’s discretion.

It is true that there is no positive reference to Section 6(3) in Section 164 of the Law. Section 164 does, however, allow the Commissioner to retroactively allow extensions. The Applicant is correct in his claim that “so long as the Commissioner receives notification of the lecture before it is given” relates to time limits, even if not explicitly. It is also clear that this time passes with the lecture and so any time thereafter misses the stated deadline for the action.

To the extent that the advanced deadline is paternalistic, prohibiting extending the time limit will not enable the intent to be achieved. From here, the Deputy Commissioner deduces that the Commissioner (and by transfer of powers, she herself) has the authorization to extend the time limit.

It is true that the Commissioner has wide discretionary powers under Section 164, the extent of which changes with circumstances. Application of Section 164(a) to give a retroactive extension will be depend on the nature of the process, the specific circumstances, and the weighing up of the Applicant’s interest and the public’s interest. See Appeal 2826/04 Recordati Ireland Ltd vs. Commissioner of Patents, 28 October 2004.

Section 164 of the Law, cited above, that allows the Commissioner to extend deadlines, does not extend to all of the dictates of the Patent Law (for details of the things that the Commissioner does not have discretion to extend deadlines, see Friedman page 172-178). In this instance, the Court of First Instance correctly noted that the Commissioner can extend deadlines before or after they pass, as stated in section 164(c), so long as he sees a reasonable justification for so doing, but the issue is not one of legal authority, but rather of the correct use of that authority. In Appeal 248/95 Fabio Perini S.P.A v. Industrie Meccaniche Alberto Consani S.P.A., Judge Winograd considered the correct interpretation of Section 164 of the Law (in the original version prior to the third amendment). The Court supported the liberal interpretation granting extensions for filing Oppositions, stating that Opposer serves the public interest and the integrity of the Register, and not merely his own interest by filing Oppositions, and the range of things that the Commissioner is allowed to extend is wide.

As ruled in the IL 110548 Opposition Shmuel Sadovski vs. Hugla Kimberly Marketing Ltd. (12 August 2010), the relevant considerations for deciding that a justification is reasonable is the extent of the delay and the explanation for it. The extent of the delay can affect not just the perceived behavior of the Applicant and whether it is reasonable, but also whether the public can be considered to have relied on that behavior.

In this instance, the Applicant first approached the committee with explanations that do not seem unreasonable. The difference between the Israel Patent Law and that in Japan and many other countries goes a long way to justify the mistake made. Indeed, the Applicant made a submission via their attorneys, prior to entering the national phase so as to address the issue as early as possible. As to third parties relying on the delay, it does not seem that this can be construed as being in any way connected to them not contacting the Patent Office prior to the lecture, as explained hereinabove.

Nevertheless, this ruling is given ex-partes at the request of the Applicant, without the public being represented, and at this stage third parties do not have standing. Third party standing will only occur if and when the patent is allowed. In light of the above, the Deputy Commissioner rules that the application can continue to examination without the prior publication in the form of the lecture acting as novelty destroying prior art, using discretion under Section 164 (b) of the law which states “The Commissioner is authorized to extend deadlines as he sees fit”.

Conclusion

The request is accepted and the deadline for informing the patent office is retroactively extended on condition that a fee be paid from the time of the publication of the Application having been filed on 27 August 2009, until the national phase entry into Israel on 6 March 2012. It is noted that the submitted notice that informed the patent office of the prior disclosure was rejected by the Examiner, and the Applicant could have appealed that decision within 30 days, so extension fees would anyway be due.

The retroactive extension is granted contingent on any Oppositions submitted after allowance being considered on their merit, with the issue of this extension being considered legitimate grounds for inter-partes challenge.

Ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha re Section 6 publication of IL 218495, 24 September 2017


Changing of the Guard

July 11, 2017

changingThe various professional organizations representing the IP profession in Israel (LES, AIPPI and IPAA) cosponsored a reception to honour outgoing Commissioner Asa Kling and incoming commissioner Alon Ophir.

The event was held on Sunday in the Israel Yaffe conference center just North of Tel Aviv.

As an IP blogger, I felt obliged to attend and to write about the event. However, it was singularly non-memorable.

About 90 practitioners turned up, including some of the senior members of the profession that rarely patronize IP events. Other senior members were absent. This could, however, be due to vacations and the like.

dinosaurNachman Cohen-Zedek, as the last of the dinosaurs, spoke some words of introduction. I could not tell what he said, and nor could the other participants sitting in my area. The acoustics were poor and most of the speakers forgot to talk into the microphone. Asa used a projector to show a power-point presentation, however, it was out of focus and poorly illuminated, so apart from noting that the talk was illustrated with a steady increase in pink clouds with writing on them, I can’t actually report what he spoke about.

TOMERAs he is wont to do at various events, Dr Zebulum Tomer took the microphone, ostensibly to ask a question but in practice to give a little speech. He clearly believes that his one man crusade against poor pharmaceutical patents is a public service, which it is. However, those developing drugs are also serving a public interest. I don’t think anyone needed reminding that he is not an attorney but an industrialist. He reminds everyone at all events. The lawyers present generally look down on industrialists, and are certainly jealous of his competence in opposing patents which outshone that of anyone present.  The patent attorneys probably were a little jealous, still half wishing we actually made something instead of pushing paper.

Alon OphirThe person compering the event noted that Alon Ophir is the second commissioner named Ophir and that we will have to relate to him as Ophir the Second or some such to avoid confusion. This was a reference to former Commissioner Martin Oppenheimer who Hebracised his name to Michael Ophir. Commissioner Ophir seemed very young. He is a Kippa wearing practitioner which fueled speculation about whether his appointment reflected activism in Bayit Yehudi, the political party that the Minister of Justice represents. The press releases about Commissioner Ophir’s appointment mentioned how impressed the committee was regarding his vision. I was disappointed that he did not explain what his vision was. He noted that obviously outgoing Commisioner Kling did a great job, what does seem to be his focus is in decreasing pendencies and making the patent office ever more efficient. He expressed surprise and disappointment that more Israeli applicants were not first filing in Israel and accelerating examination to get an opinion before having to file abroad and applying the discount when filing PCT applications. He attributed the failure to ‘probably inertia’. Whilst accepting that some practitioners do use time-honoured strategies without consideration of changes, I don’t think this is the whole answer, and hope that the commissioner tries to listen and discuss with the profession instead of assuming that they are all lazy. I had to leave early as I had a ride with another attorney, who on leaving the hall early told me that we would be stuck in traffic. I suggested that perhaps we should go back in and leave later. He thought for a minute and said that he’d prefer to be stuck in traffic. I think this says it all.

With the attraction of introducing a new commissioner and thanking his predecessor, and with July being generally a quiet month, this was an opportunity to hold a stimulating event with the participation of some of the senior practitioners. The organizers chose to invite paid up members instead of reaching out to potential members, and did not consider how to make the event fun or intellectually stimulating. I think this is a shame and a lost opportunity.  It was however, correct and proper that an event happened.

I went on to a Bat Mitzva party. The 12 year-old girl celebrated by completing a tractate of the Talmud. it was the type of event where friends of the parents are Western immigrants with higher degrees and there were a number of patent attorneys present. One noted that his clients filed patent applications in Israel but did not want to speed up examination, and he thought that the changes in recent years whereby one cannot simply suspend examination indefinitely and cannot suspend at all without paying to do so, were commissioner efficiency drives that served no purpose. Readers in the know will not be surprised to learn that the practitioner was ex Fenster & Fenster. This approach, which enabled amending the spec and claims in light of infringers and deferring prosecution and allowance unless a patent was needed, was, though legal, nevertheless an abuse of the system. However, it does emphasize that practitioners are supposed to work the system for the benefit of their clients. Commissioners are supposed to ensure that the system works efficiently and such abuses don’t take place. We are on different sides of the fence.