Isscar Opposes Hanita Patent for Milling Tool

June 15, 2017

Hanita Metal Factory ltd. applied for Israel Patent Application No. 177336 and, on allowance, it published for opposition purposes. Isscar opposed the patent issuing.  The applicant requested to amend the specification and neither Isscar, nor the public opposed, so the opposition concerns the amended specification.

The parties submitted their statements of case and evidence and then a hearing was held on 10 January 2017. The parties then submitted summaries and the Opposer filed their response to the summary.

The Application in question is titled “Chatter resistant end mill” and has one independent claim with seven dependent claims. The independent Claim 1 of the Application is as follows:

“A chatter-resistant end mill or shell mill or burr, comprising a shank portion and at least one cutting portion divided into a plurality of teeth by flutes disposed between said teeth, each tooth having at least one cutting edge,
Wherein a first angle separating said cutting edge of a first tooth from the cutting edge of a second tooth adjacent to said first tooth in a first direction is different from a second angle separating second cutting edge of said first tooth from the cutting edge of a third tooth adjacent to said first tooth in a second direction opposite the first direction,
Wherein a third angle separating the cutting edge of said second tooth from the cutting edge of a fourth tooth adjacent to said second tooth in said first direction is equal to an equal spacing angle defined by a value of 360 degrees divided by the number of said plurality of teeth,
Wherein one flute of the flutes is disposed between two adjacent teeth which are spaced apart at an angle exceeding said equal spacing angle, the one flute being wider and deeper than another one of the flutes.”

Thus the claimed invention includes a shank portion, a cutting portion, flutes, a tooth, a cutting edge, and various spaced apart cutting elements having angles defined in the dependent claims which are fairly clear when read together with the figures shown below.

Milling toolThe basis of the Opposition was various patents, catalogues and Russian metalworking standards. The claims were considered as claiming more than the disclosure deserved and that they were insufficiently supported. The Opposers also claimed that the effective date of the Application should be post-dated to the date of the claim amendment and then the claims could be disqualified by the Applicant’s own prior art.

The cutting tools claimed were carbides and the Russian standards were for Stainless steel cutting tools. The Applicant considered the standards were therefore irrelevant.

RULING

The burden of proof in patent opposition procedures is initially on the Applicant, see 665/84 Sanofi vs. Unipharm ltd. and 645-06-13 Unipharm vs. lilly Icos 25 January 2014. The Opposer does have to bring evidence to support their challenge (see Il 143977 Astra Zeneca vs. Unipharm, but then the Applicant has to prove that the claims are patentable.

In this instance, the grounds of the Opposition are lack of novelty, lack of inventive step, and insufficient disclosure as required by Sections 4, 5 and 13 respectively.

Novelty

Section 4 defines the novelty requirement as follows.

  1. An invention is deemed new if it was not published, in Israel or abroad, before the application date—
    (1) by written, visual, audible or any other description, in a manner that enables a skilled person to make it according to the particulars of the description;
    (2) by exploitation or exhibition, in a manner that enables a skilled person to make it according to the particulars thus made known.

To cancel the Novelty of an Application a single piece of prior art has to fully describe the elements of the invention in a manner that enables persons of the art to make the invention. See Appeal 345/87 Hughes Aircraft vs. State of Israel p. d. 44(4) 45 (page 105 of the ruling).

The first rule is that to prove novelty destroying prior publication one has to identify a single document that describes the invention in its entirely and it is not sufficient to create a mosaic of different documents to create a general picture.

Hughes also states that:

A general description is insufficient to remove novelty if it is not enabling and does not provide enough signposts leading to the invention of the patent.

The requirement for showing the invention is explained in Appeal 4867/92 Sanitovsky vs. Tams ltd et al, p.d. 50(2), 509:

On one hand, the defense of a patent includes not just that described in the claims, but also the core of the invention [MF – what the British case-law refers to as the pith and marrow in a somewhat odd mixed metaphor] (section 49). On the other hand one can claim a lack of novelty when accused of infringement (section 4) not just when a piece of prior art describes all the elements of the invention, but also then the prior discloses the core of the invention.

The essence of the invention is that part that is central and essential to the workings of the invention in contradistinction to elements that can be substituted for or left out entirely. the main core will remain protected even if an essential element is switched for another that performs the identical function. 
Page 515-516.

See also See also Appeal 793/86 Michael Porat. vs. Z.M.L. Modern Medical Equipment, p.d. 44(4); 578 pages 583-584.

The Opposer considers that the claimed elements are described in the prior art. A brief summary of the art cited by the Opposers follow’s.

F10 is a “Drilling Groove Milling Cutter” that relates to a four-edged drilling groove milling cutter having end and peripheral cutting edges.”

F13 is titled “Roughing and Finishing Rotary Tool Apparatus and Method” and is described as follows:

“The rotary cutting tool of the present invention employs roughing and finishing blades on the same tool to produce roughing and finishing cuts in one cutting operation. The rotary cutting tool preferably has a roughing flute adjacent to each roughing blade and a finishing flute adjacent to each finishing blade. In highly preferred embodiments, the finishing flutes are smaller than the roughing flutes… The flutes are therefore preferably unequally spaced. In some highly preferred embodiments, the blades are unequally circumferentially spaced and are immediately behind the flutes. At least one finishing blade preferably extends radially farther than at least one roughing blade.”

Witness for the Applicant, Mr Hina admitted that element j of the application is mentioned in both F10 and F13:

Commissioner: … to the best of my understanding, we have just asked a very simple question, does F10  as translated into English in F10A show the 360 degree divided into sections, yes or no? If so, please refer to where it shown in this publication.

Mr Hina responded No.

Patent Attorney Luzzatto : you write that element j is not found in F13, correct?

Mr Hina: I repeat there is something not defined in the indices.

The test explained in Hughes Aircraft requires one publication to teach all elements. Since this is not the case, the claimed invention is novel.

Inventive Step

The second grounds for cancellation was a lack of inventive step contrary to Section 5 which states:

An inventive step is a step which does not, to an average skilled person, appear obvious in the light of information published before the application date in ways said in section 4.

Unlike Novelty which requires a single document to teach an invention, an Inventive Step can be disqualified by a number of citations that provide a picture of what was known at the Application date:

The basic question of inventive step is determined by considering the total professional knowledge in the relevant field, and to do so it is legitimate to join different publications into a general picture Appeal 3314/77 [1] page 209. However, one must always bear in mind that the joining together of the disparate documents must be obvious to persons of the art at the date in question; for if it requires an inventiveness to do so, particularly where scattered crumbs of knowledge are gathered together – the general picture obtained is not obvious and one cannot say that the patent has no inventive step.” –page 111.

See also Sanitovsky pages 515-516 and Appeal 793/86 Michael Porat vs. Tzamal Modern Medical Equipment, p.d. 44(4) 578, 585.

Thus unlike novelty where a single document is required to teach an invention, as far as Inventive Step is concerned, one can combine disparate documents so long as it would have been obvious to an average person of the art to do so.

Appeal 47/87 Hasam Reliable Defense Systems vs. Abraham Bahri, p.d. 45(5) 194 states that to show a lack of inventive step, one may cobble together different pieces of prior art.

The question of inventive step is determined by comparison to professional knowledge in the relevant field by combining disparate references without forgetting that their combination has to, itself, be obvious, so that if it requires an inventive step to combine the publications, particularly where disparate elements are collected from all over the place, the picture is not obvious and one cannot state that the invention lacks an inventive step. 

Thus one has to consider whether persons of the art would have a motivation to combine the publications at the relevant date. See Opposition to IL 138347 Sarin Technologies ltd. vs. Ugi Technologies, 14 January 2008.

The US case-law developed a thumb rule for inventive step by combining publications or known elements under which one has to consider the teaching, suggestion or motivation to make the combination (see Section 51 of the ruling).

Further on (paragraph 51):

The Board of Appeals of the European Patent Office takes an approach known as the “could/would approach” to consider if a combination includes an inventive step. A combination of known elements is not considered obvious merely because a person of the art could have combined them, unless he would have been motivated to combine them to achieve some advantage.

Mr Bulhov testified that when designing a new tool bit, persons of the art deal with two issues” judder and removal of the scrap. There is no dispute that cutting tools with different angles were known and that the angle separation could provide stability. Mr Bulhov testified admitted that prior to the filing date, milling at two different angles was known.

The first piece of prior art cited, which was a catalogue from 2003, shows that Applicants were marketing a four angled milling bit, where two of the angles were different.  The accompanying text stated “Chatter-free machining, avoids resonance vibration due to patent pending flute form design and constant, unequal flute spacing.”

Publications F18 and F19 are Russian standards titled “End Mills with Cylindrical Shank” and ” End Mills with Tapered Shank” respectively.

The Commissioner rejects Applicant’s claim that the standards merely recommend the invention but do not require it, since that is not sufficient to make the invention non-obvious, and establishes that the relevant features were known in the art. See Opposition to IL 166626 Teva Pharmaceuticals vs. Astra Zeneca LTD, 11 March 2017. https://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2017/04/20/patent-to-astrazeneca-successfully-opposed-by-teva/

F18 and F19 are Russian language documents that are difficult to date, but the most recent versions are 1996 which was 10 years before the filing date of the present invention. Although in Russian, the documents are directed to tool makers and are prior art in all respects Page 21 of F18 and page 4 of F18 states that “Mills shall be manufactured with non-uniform circumferential tooth pitch as shown in Fig. 3 and Table 3.”

Specific cutting angles are given for the various grooves.

The Applicant argues that since these specifications relate to high-speed steels and not carbides, they are not relevant. The Applicant considers that judder in carbides is a more serious problem. The Commissioner considers that the Applicant’s claim is weak as the claims and indeed the specification are not limited to carbides or indeed, to other specific materials. The Applicant has not explained why the choice of cutting tool material would lead to the assumption that the angles are different and the publications themselves, though directed to HSS do not teach away from other materials.

Thus element J is taught by F18 and F19 and persons of the art could be expected to combine this with other elements to reduce judder.

Publication F10

Publication 10 teaches a milling tool with two pairs of flutes, such that each pair of flutes has the same angle.  The Applicant alleges that this teaches against having three separate angles as claimed, and thus F10 cannot be combined with F18 and F19 and does not teach the claimed invention.

It appears that the invention described in F10 combines two properties: the cutting surfaces are of different lengths and the angles of the flutes. The invention claimed in F10 directs persons of the art to combine wide flutes with long cutting surfaces:

“Therefore, according to the invention, larger chip spaces are provided for the long cutting edges having the unfavorable chips than for the short cutting edges having the favorable chips… By the interaction of the two features, the invention provides the possibility of optimum coordination of cutting edge length and chip space on the drilling groove milling cutter.”

The large scraps created by the large cutting edges require large flutes. Thus flutes 10 and 11 in Figures 2 and 3 of F10 are larger than flute 12 and 13. Thus F10 teaches the additional element claimed:

“On account of their width, the chips produced by the main drilling cutting edges require larger chip grooves than the chips of the intermediate drilling cutting edges. For this reason, the pitches 10, 11, located in each case in front of the rake faces of the main drilling cutting edges, as far as the next intermediate drilling cutting edge are configured to be greater than the pitches 12, 13 in front of the rake faces of the intermediate drilling cutting edges.”

F133

A publication is considered as being prior art that may be combined with other publications if a person of the art would consider it obvious to do so. Citing R. Carl Moy, “Moy’s Walker on Patents”, 4th ed. 2009, p. 9-48 – 9-50 the Commissioner concludes that where the publications are trade publications in the field of interest one can assume that persons of the art would know about them, and the publication in question relates to milling tools with different sized flutes to minimize judder.

In light of the above, the Commissioner considers that the principles of reducing judder by different width flutes are known and together with F19 and F19, 4 and 5 fluted milling tools are known.

Furthermore, the dependent claims lack inventive step. These relate to difference cutting edge angles along the shank. Such variations are described in F13 and F13a and are referred to as unequal flute spacing. Thus the dependent claims are also not patentable. Claims 2and 4 claim standard ranges for the angles. Claim 4 claims different dimensions as described in F10 and claims 5 and 7 describe variations taught in F13 and F1a. Claim 8 relates to standard cutting edges.

Thus the Application lacks inventive step.

Adequate Disclosure

Section 13a of the Law states that:

the specifications shall end with a claim or claims that define the invention, on condition that each said claim reasonably arise out of the subject described in the specification.

This means that the claims define the scope of protection sought. The claims should be interpreted with respect to the specification taken as a whole, including the text and drawings. See Hughes 65.

In Appeal 8802/06 Unipharm vs. Smithkline Beecham from 18 May 2011 it is stated: that:

In accordance with Section 13 of the Patent Law, the protection of the invention is determined by the claims that define the invention, and not be the specification as understood in Section 12, which includes the title and description (see Hughes p. 68); however one can refer to the specification to explain the nature claims  (see Appeal 2972/95 Yosef Wolf and Partners, ltd. vs Beeri Press Limited Partnership,

A ‘Greedy’ claim is one that attempts to protect more than it discloses. The extent that this term can be used with reference to the requirements of Section 13(a) is given in Appeal 1008/58 American Cyanamid vs. Lepitit et al. page 261 from 4 April 1960. See also Opposition by Teva to IL 142809 to Pharmacia AB from 26 February 2015. .

The Opposer claims that claim 1 is greedy in that it has much wider scope than is supported by the specification. The Applicant disputes this and argues that following the voluntary amendment, flute B is defined as the longest and deepest flute:

“Wherein one flute of the flutes is disposed between two adjacent teeth which are spaced apart at an angle exceeding said equal spacing angle, the one flute being wider and deeper than another one of the flutes.”

Page 8 does state that flute B is deeper and wider than flute A

“The flute 32 relating to angle B is wider and deeper than the flute 34 relating to angle A, so as to improve coolant feed and facilitate chip clearance and removal when teeth work with higher feed per teeth compared to equal tooth space dividing (by angle A).”

The specification provides that the angle of flute B is large than the angle of flute A. Amended claim 1 requires that the angle of flute B is the largest angle. This is not supported in the specification which only compares flute B with flute A. So amended claim 1 is not fairly supported by the specification.

Conclusion

Claim 1 is not-inventive and also is not adequately supported. The Opposition is accepted and IL 177336 is rejected. Costs may be claimed in accordance with circular MN 80.

COMMENT

I accept that the claims encompass combinations of known elements to create a cutting tool that is new.  I also accept that unless one limits oneself to a specific tool design, the claims will always be wider than that demonstrated. My problem is that the type of features described are functional rather than aesthetic. At present, Israel design examiners consider functional features as non-patentable. We could even extend this and consider such cutting tool elements as replaceables and use public policy to restrict protection.  If, however, we wish to encourage research and development of better performing cutting tools, we should provide some sort of protection for them to prevent immediate copying. Israel does not have a petty patent system or protection for purely functional design. It seems to me, therefore, that combining elements from different publications for tool bits to create a novel bit, should be patentable. We could limit the protection to combinations described and maybe the claims are overly wide. Perhaps what is missing here is dependent claims for specific tried and tested drill bits.

By training, I am a materials scientist and engineer. My PhD research was in hard metals and coatings. I did not study milling and though I understand the purpose of the various elements, I am inclined to agree with the Commmissioner that there is a rebuttable assumption that a design element known for a HSS tool would not be appropriate for a carbide tool. However, carbides are much harder and hence more brittle. Optimizing a new tool is not intuitive and probably is the result of much experimentation, but I don’t know if the combination has an inventive step. Shamgar’s guidelines in Hughes Aircraft are fine and dandy, but one really needs experts on cutting and milling to determine whether the combination of known elements in a new product of this type does or does not include an inventive step.


Patent Application for Poultry Processing System Refused By Examiner is allowed by Deputy Commissioner

June 9, 2017

One of the nice things about the Israel patent system is that the Applicant has the right to appeal Examiner’s claim rejections to the Commissioner. The process is rather smoother, cheaper and faster than Appeals in Europe and the US.

Israel Patent Application Number IL 190482 to Ecolab Inc titled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ON-SITE RECLAMATION, RECONDITIONING AND REAPPLICATION OF POULTRY PROCESSING WATER” is the national stage entry of a PCT application US/2006/038333 submitted in October 2006.

poultry processingThe invention relates to recycling water used for processing poultry and reusing for the same purpose. The first office action of 14 January 2013 found the Application non-patentable due to it lacking an inventive step over US 2005/0016934. The Applicant requested allowance under section 17c, based on the corresponding Australian issued patent no. AU 2006303885 that had issued in 2011. However the Examiner considered that the Applicant should deal substantively with the obviousness objection before the patent could be allowed.

On 8 December 2016, after five rounds of claim amendments, the Examiner finally refused the application under regulation 45 of the Patent Regulations 1968.

In the meantime, the corresponding Canadian patent, CA 2618436 issued with virtually identical claims. However the US patent application was refused, as was an Appeal to the PTAB, due to US 6,182,833 to Zittel, US 6,802,984 to Perkins and US 5,470,472 to Baird, none of which were cited in Israel.

The main claim is as follows:

“1. A treatment system for on-site reclamation, reconditioning, and re-use of poultry processing water, wherein said treatment system is connectable to a washing system, said treatment system comprising:
(a) an inlet line connected to a first receptacle within the washing system forcollecting said processing water leaving said washing system;
(b) a rotary filter, said filter retains solids greater than 0.001 to 0.010 inches, wherein the inlet line is connected to the rotary filter for filtering debris from the processing water collected in said first receptacle;
(c) a channel for removing said debris filtered from said rotary filter;
(d) a dispenser comprising equipment for preparing an antimicrobial solution, and a plurality of spray nozzles positioned proximate to said filter;
(e) a second receptacle for collecting water and antimicrobial solution from the rotary filter and from the dispenser, said second receptacle having a fluid capacity of 100 to 2000 gallons;
(f) piping for circulating said processing water through said washing system and said treatment system and for returning said processing water to said washing system; and,(g) a plurality of air operated diaphragm pumps for circulating the processing water through said piping;
wherein said dispenser is configured for dispensing antimicrobial solution and water onto said filter, and wherein the treatment system comprises only one disinfecting mechanism consisting of the dispenser as a source of antimicrobial solution and the rotary filter and second receptacle as receptacles of antimicrobial solution.”

The Examiner’s decision to reject the Application was based on the following reasons:

  • The application lacks inventive step over US 2005/0016934;
  • The Applicant failed to explain why the invention was an improvement over the prior art, especially US 2005/0016934, and did not provide data showing that it was more efficient. Consequently, the Examiner considered that adding the anti-microbial solution during or after filtering were equivalent and the differences were well understood to persons of the art.
  • Since over US 2005/0016934 shows a rotating filter with sprinklers, there is no technical problem to add ozone to the filter in addition to or instead of the oxidation described in over US 2005/0016934.

The Applicant responded by offering to add a further element to claim 1, thereby narrowing the scope of the patent and providing an inventive step.

The additional narrowing feature is as follows:

“(d) a dispenser comprising equipment for preparing an antimicrobial solution, and a plurality of spray nozzles positioned proximate to said filter, said dispenser spray nozzles configured for dispensing antimicrobial solution continuously onto the filter for 10-60 seconds every 5 minutes to 5 hours; ”

The Applicant similarly applied to amend independent claim 9 as follows:

“(e) dispensing an antimicrobial solution and water onto said filtering apparatus by means of dispenser comprising a plurality of spray nozzles positioned proximate to said rotary filter by spraying water onto said filtering apparatus for between 10 to 60 seconds every 5 minutes to 5 hours at a force of between 0.6 to 6 pounds-force when measured from 12 inches away from said filtering apparatus and constantly spraying said water at a force of between 0.1 to 0.5 pounds-force when measured from 12 inches away from said filtering apparatus, thereby removing the retained solids from said filter thus forming a waste stream and removing bacteria from reclaimed water;”

The Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha considered this sixth claim amendment in a hearing on 24 April 2017.

Discussion

The claimed invention was considered novel, so the Examiner concentrated on inventive step over US 2005/0016934 as required by Section 5 of the Law.

Section 5 states:

Inventive Step is an improvement that is not considered self-evident to persons of the art based on publications preceding the Application date as per section 4.

Different approaches for determining inventive step are given in the ruling concerning IL 219732 to Celgene Corporation. According to both the US and the British approaches, one has to identify the prior art available to persons of the art, to identify the differences and to determine whether there is an inventive step that wasn’t known to persons of the art at the relevant date.

In 345/87  Hughes Aircraft Company vs. State f Israel p.d. 44(4) 45 (1990) paragraph 49 it was established that the inventive step does not need to be big.

The prior art relied upon by the Examiner is US 2005/0016934 which describes a system for recycling water after processing poultry by treating the used water to remove solids, fats, oils, and pathogens for reuse of the water in further poultry treatment.

The common elements are: two receptacles for collecting the water, one of which is for collecting the water after use in the washing system; sprinklers, filters for filtering waste from the water after use; a pipe for removing waste, a pump for circulating the water through the system, and a diaphragm pump operating on compressed air to cause the water flow.

There are, however, differences between the cited art and the claimed invention. The filter in the claimed invention rotates and is situated after the first receptacle, whereas that in the system described in US 2005/0016934 is upstream of the first receptacle so that the water is filtered before the anti-microbial solution is added.

The addition of the anti-microbial solution in the claimed invention is by sprinkling onto the rotating filter at an earlier stage that in the cited art wherein the anti-microbial solution is added after two filtration stages. Furthermore, in the system of the application, the anti-microbial solution is added in one stage, in the filter, so there is one disinfectant stage that occurs concurrently with the filtering. In contradistinction, in the cited art, there are two disinfectant stages, where ozone is first used, and then chlorine is added (see [0027] and [0030]. Introducing ozone into the system requires a second stage wherein the ozone acts on water in the receptacle to kill microorganisms in the water. The addition of chlorine is actually optional and it is introduced at different stages not detailed in US 2005/0016934.

The claimed invention includes a dividing system with sprinklers that includes equipment for preparing the antimicrobial solution and sprinklers for its introduction into the filters such that water without the antimicrobial material is continuously sprinkled whereas the water with the antimicrobial material is intermittently added as per the claims. In US 2005/0016934 the water flows continuously.

The Applicant claims that the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are sufficient to provide an inventive step, since the early addition of the antimicrobial solution enables it to act continuously without needing to wait. Furthermore, in the claimed invention the filtering and sterilizing are combined, whereas in the cited art, the washing of the filter is only intended to remove waste.

The Applicant argued that the long period in which the antimicrobial solution is in the system allows a weaker antimicrobial system than that required in the cited art.

RULING

The Deputy Commissioner considers that the differences between the cited art and the claimed invention require persons of the art to apply an inventive step. At least the Examiner failed to cite similar features found in related systems that are required to substantiate the allegation of lack of inventive step.

The Deputy Commissioner disagrees with one allegation of the Examiner; that the Applicant failed to explain the advantages of the claimed invention over the prior art. The Deputy Commissioner does not consider that the Applicant has to provide external evidence that the invention is superior to the prior art. The advantageous feature(s) have to appear in the specification at the time of filing so that the Applicant does not invent during Examination. Furthermore, a different system that is not necessarily superior, but which operates in a different manner may be patentable, if the differences are not obvious to persons of the art.

In light of the above, IL 190482 is allowed for publication for third-party opposition.

COMMENT

The Deputy Commissioner notes that the Israel Law refers to an inventive step and then explains that a non-obvious difference that is not necessarily advantageous is all that is required.

To my mind, the US law requires the claimed invention to be non-obvious, whereas the UK and EP approach requires an inventive step. The wherein clause in the US points out a non-obvious feature, and the characterized by clause in Europe points to an inventive step. The two requirements are not the same.

That as may be, the US board of appeal rejected the invention in light of specific art. I think that for purposes of efficiency, the Deputy Commissioner should have referred the application back to the Examiner to consider that art in light with Israel law since one assumes that oppositions or cancellation proceedings will raise the issues found persuasive in the US. Then again, perhaps it is better for the Commissioner or a judge to consider such issues.


Unipharm Successfully Opposes Novartis Patent for Panobinostat Lactate Salts

March 26, 2017

PanobinostatThis ruling relates to an opposition against a patent application by Novartis for Panobinostat  which is a hydroxamic acid  that acts as a non-selective histone deacetylase inhibitor (pan-HDAC inhibitor).  On 23 February 2015 the drug received FDA accelerated approval for use in patients with multiple malignancies, and on 28 August 2015 it was approved by the European Medicines Agency for the same use.

The Opposer claimed that the drug was described in the Applicant’s earlier published PCT application and was thus both anticipated (known) and obvious. The Commissioner rejected the anticipation claim but accepted that in light of the earlier publication, it was obvious and lacked an inventive step.

Due to the ruling being rather interesting but only available in Hebrew, and since these Israeli rulings can and do have an effect on validity of corresponding patents elsewhere, I have translated the decision in full. At the end I have made some general comments.

Background

NovartisNovartis AG filed Israel Patent Application Number 195087 titled “ANHYDROUS LACTATE SALTS OF ANHYDROXY-3-[4-[[[2-(2-METHYL-1HINDOL-3 YL)ETHYL]AMINO]METHYL] PHENYL] – 2E-2-PROPENAMIDE AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS COMPRISING THE SAME” as a national phase of PCT/US2007/070558 that was filed on 7 June 2006 and claims priority from US 60/804523 and US 60/869993, two US provisional patent applications filed in June and December 2006 respectively. The Israel national phase entry was submitted on 3 November 2008 and, on allowance, published for opposition purposes on 31 October 2012.

UnipharmUnipharm opposed the application on 3 January 2013. Subsequently, on 26 June 2013, Novartis requested to correct the application and, since neither Unipharm nor anyone else opposed this, the application was corrected and this ruling concerns an opposition to the amended application.

The parties submitted their claims and evidence and a hearing was held Read the rest of this entry »


Exforge Patent Successfully Opposed in Israel, despite surviving an Opposition based on similar citations in Europe

November 7, 2016

Exforge is a blockbuster drug sold by Novartis for lowering blood pressure that combiexforgenes two medications in a film-coated tablet It contains amlodipine, a dihydropyridine-type calcium channel blocker, and valsartan, an angiotensin II receptor antagonist (ARB or A2RA); typically formulated as the benzenesulfonate salt.

Israel Patent Application No. IL 140665 titled “USE OF COMBINATION COMPOSITIONS COMPRISING VALSARTAN AND AMLODIPINE IN THE PREPARATION OF MEDICAMENTS FOR THE TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OF DIABETES ASSOCIATED WITH HYPERTENSION” relates to the drug.

In an Opposition to the Patent Application issuing, the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha, has ruled that the combination of two active ingredients, each individually known for treating high blood pressure, into one pill for ease of dosage is not inherently inventive where the separate efficacy of the active ingredients is known, as are other two component pills for treating hypertension. Though claimed by applicants, there is no evidence of a synergy between the active ingredients.  The Patent Application is therefore ruled not patentable in Israel and significant costs were awarded to Teva and Unipharm. We expect that the decision will be appealed. This decision may have a knock on effect regarding patents for the same drug abroad and may encourage Teva to proceed with at-risk launches of generic competitors in other jurisdictions.

A translation of the ruling follows:

Read the rest of this entry »


Wet-wipes, The Issue of Inventorship and the Responsibilities of the Patent Attorney

September 22, 2016

wetnap-were-ready-for-any-messThis ruling concerns a product that resulting from the contributions of two people who were formerly friends. A patent application was filed that named both people as both inventors and applicants. Later, after powers-of-attorney signed by each of the named inventor – applicants had been filed, there was an attempt to ‘correct an office error’, to list one of them as an inventor only. The corresponding PCT application and the national phase entry applications, including two issued patents in the United States only bore the name of one inventor and applicant. In an Opposition ruling the Israel Patent Office has now accepted that the second named inventor is indeed an inventor and also an owner.

Apart from emphasizing the need to determine who is the inventor and who is the owner of an invention when the patent is filed, the need to put everything into writing, and the dangers of working with friends, the case raises interesting questions regarding what contribution to reducing a patent to practice entitles someone to recognition as an inventor and whether this standard is the same in all jurisdictions. It also raises interesting questions regarding the duties and responsibilities of the patent attorney to ascertain the facts, or at least to avoid signing on contradictory statements regarding ownership and invention in different jurisdictions.

BACKGROUND

IL 152867 titled “Tissue Container With Auxiliary Compartment”is a patent application for a package of wet-wipes
rc-chairswith an adjacent container for nappy cream. The Application was filed back in November 2002 and listed Boaz Krystal and Liat De-Vries as inventors and owners. The patent application was allowed at the end of June 2010.

Subsequently, an Opposition was filed by WET-NAPS LTD and Liat De-Vries on 4 October 2010 under Section 31(3) of the Israel Patent Law 1967 on the grounds that Boaz Krystal was not in fact an owner, and that the patent was exclusively owned by Ms Liat De-Vries.
affidavitsMr Boaz Krystal and his wife Mrs Dorit Krystal each submitted affidavits. Mrs Liat De-Vries submitted a primary affidavit and a supplementary one in response to Mr Boaz Krystal’s affidavit. Wet-Naps Ltd. is owned by Mr Ilan De-Vries, who is Mrs Liat De-Vries’ husband. He also submitted an affidavit on behalf of the company.  Mr David De-Vries, a patent attorney at Reinhold Cohn & Partners who drafted and filed the application and is a cousin of Mr Ilan De-Vries, Ms Ronit Tal who is an acquaintance of Liat De-Vries and Mr Yoram Hadar who is an industrial designer, also submitted affidavits. A hearing was held and the parties submitted their summaries.

wetnapWet-Nap Ltd manufactures, exports and markets wet-wipes. The company had a business relationship with Packtop Ltd., a company directed by Mr Boaz Krystal that distributes wet-wipes amongst other things.   At the time of filing, both the Krystals and the De-Vries couple were good friends.

roobarbs-shedThere is no argument that Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries met at the Wet-Nap Ltd factory, where Mr Boaz Krystal heard the idea of including baby ointment together with a package of wet-wipes from Mrs Liat De-Vries. There is also no argument that Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries had some kind of collaboration, to develop and improve this invention and to file a patent application for it. Eventually a joint application was filed in both Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries names. However, the parties disagree regarding Mr Krystal’s contribution to the development of the invention and consequently disagree regarding whether he is to be considered an inventor and owner of the patent.

The Main Documents in the Prosecution File Wrapper

roobard-and-custard-friendsThe Application was filed in November 2002 by Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys. The Application form lists both Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries as joint owners due to them being inventions. Both parties filed Powers of Attorney, and the Filing Certificate gives both names.

On 10 December 2002, Adv. David De-Vries of Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys submitted a notice stating:

office-error“Due to an office error, the name of the inventor, Mr Boaz Krystal was inserted as an Applicant. With our apologies for this, we are submitting a new cover sheet and application form in duplicate, listing Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries as joint inventors, but Mrs Liat De-Vries as the sole owner.”

On 10 December 2002, Adv. Edna Haruti, now Mr Krystal’s representative, submitted a letter in which it was stated that Mr Krystal was a joint owner together with Mrs Liat De-Vries as he had invented the tissue container with auxiliary compartment together with her.  Adv. Edna Haruti also noted that registration of the patent in the name of Mrs Liat De-Vries only was contrary to the agreement between the parties.

shimon-shalitOn 2 February 2003 Patent Attorney Shimon Shalit, then Senior Examiner in charge of formalities at the Israel Patent Office, responded to both Reinhold Cohn and to Mr Krystal that Mr Krystal could not be removed as an owner in the application as filed, since there was no indication that he had assigned his invention to Mrs Liat De-Vries prior to the application being filed. In absence of such proof, since Mr Krystal was not an employee of Mrs De-Vries, by virtue of being a co-inventor, he was also a co-owner.

(As an aside – On 12 March 2006 Mrs De-Vries submitted a divisional application of IL 152867 for certain applications of the invention. This divisional application (IL 174309) was examined, allowed and issued as a patent. On 1 December 2010 IL 174309 lapsed due to failure to pay the renewal fees. That patent is not directly relevant to this Opposition, but Wet-Naps Ltd and Liat De-Vries related to it in their claims).

procrastinateIn the protocol of a hearing held on 5 February 2007 before then Deputy Commissioner Noah Smulevezh it was decided to defer the issue of ownership until the examination of the application was completed. It was further ruled that Reinhold Cohn would be address of record, but would update Mr Krystal or his representative regarding actions taken to get his input before responding to office actions. The patent application was eventually allowed and published for opposition purposes, resulting in this opposition proceeding.

The Opposers’ (Wet-Naps Ltd and Mrs Liat De-Vries) Main Claims
wetnap

Mrs De-Vries and Wet-Naps Ltd claimed to have thought of the idea and developed the invention whereas Mr Krystal had merely provided technical drawings and a business plan for commercializing the product. They alleged that during the period in question, Mr Krystal provided technical and consultancy services to the company as almost an in-house service provider and as such, was exposed to the invention. They further claimed that Mr Yoram Hadar (industrial designer) and Patent Attorney David De-Vries provided sketches for the product that eventually evolved into the patent application. They further alleged that Mr Krystal had suggested a specific implementation (embodiment?) – storing the cream in a blister pack or sachets, which developed into  Read the rest of this entry »


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

September 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT

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


Publication on the Internet Prior to filing Israel Design Applications

July 26, 2016

Shoe publicity     Shoe publicity 2

Background

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

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

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

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

This case

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

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

The nine applications fall into three categories as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication on General Sales Sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication on Facebook

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

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

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

Section 2 of the Ordinance defines a design as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT

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

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

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

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