Thursday, 29 June 2017

"The Great Intellectual Property Trade-Off"

Tim Harford ("The Undercover Economist") is, I find, always worth reading, and here is his take on the intellectual property system via the BBC (the website article is based on a programme on the World Serve). Nothing new in saying that there is a trade-off involved in the intellectual property system, of course, we have known that for a long time, but it's good to see it aired in this way. The chilling effect of James Watt's steam engine patents is interesting, and I hadn't fully appreciated that before (nor that Watt also suffered because of other patents). Remember though that the patent system was in its infancy in those days, and modern patent legislation is unlikely to allow this to be repeated.

Mr Harford cites "the economists Michele Boldrin and David Levine". ("The economists"? Surely there are more than two?) Their book Against Intellectual Monopoly can be downloaded from here. They are from Washington University of St. Louis, Economics Department, and have done a lot of work on the economics of intellectual property (though what bears a date seems to be ten or more years old). The idea of the book is intriguing, but I am somewhat concerned about the lack of information about publishers - of course self-publication is perfectly respectable, but I'd like to see something objective to enable me to judge whether to spend time reading it (or to suggest my students read it). At first glance, it looks like a popular rather than a scholarly work. It lacks footnotes, though there are extensive notes at the end of each chapter. I would also like to know when it was written - I haven't found a reference to a source later than 2005 yet. Mr Harford should give his readers a bit more information, although I don't expect high levels of academic rigour in his work (that's one of its attractions). When I read more of the book I will write more about it.

And while I am writing about the BBC - "The Bottom Line" on Radio 4, presented by Evan Davis, had a recent episode entitled "Corporate Espionage". It's currently available to download as a podcast here. It features serial inventor and entrepreneur Mandy Haberman, patent attorney Vicki Salmon and investigator-cum-author Chris Morgan Jones. Different intellectual property rights get a little confused but it's definitely worth listening to.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Google in record fine for abuse of dominant position

Google has been fined a record €2.42 billion (more than twice as much as expected, and indeed twice as much as the "bung" given by the UK government to persuade the DUP to maintain it in office) for abusing its dominant position, contrary to Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Commission found that the search engine gave illegal prominence to Google's comparison shopping service. Unless it terminates the abuse within 90 days, the company will become liable to daily penalty payments up to 5% of the global turnover Google's parent, Alphabet.

Too much to do to write more about it here but I will get back to the story later. If you want to know more here is the Commission's press release.

Monday, 19 June 2017

India: Balancing Competition - SEP Injunctions

SEP Injunctions and the Balance of IPRs and Competition in India is a posting on the IP finance blog by Mike Mireles, linking to an article in the Financial Express by Professor V.K. Unni of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta entitled 'Promoting Innovation: Moving Towards a Better Intellectual Property Regime'. 

The balance between IP rights and competition law is of course a crucial one to lawyers in either of (or, more likely, both) those disciplines. The learned Professor notes that the the Delhi High Court has recently considered whether the competition authorities are entitled to consider possible abuses of dominant positions by owners of standards-essential patents, and has concluded that they can, which sounds rather like the process that the Court of Justice went through many years ago to reconcile the provisions of the (then) Treaty of Rome with national intellectual property laws. But it's not for me to tell you what IP Finance, or Prof Unni, said - follow the link and read it for yourself. As my students might find themselves doing next year ...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Theft: A History of Music

Thinking about how to engage students coming to intellectual property law for the first time is something that occupies my thoughts quite a lot these days. A copyright comic might be just the answer - and if it deals mostly with the law from that other common law jurisdiction across the Atlantic, that's not necessarily a disadvantage if the purpose of the exercise is to kindle interest rather than teach hard law. And if it has "theft" in the title I will be prepared to suspend my usual reaction to the connection of that concept with intellectual property.

A large part of grabbing a student's attention is finding a route into intellectual property law from somewhere they already know and like. Music provides an excellent entrée into copyright law - probably not Mozart, but possibly some of the more recent and high-profile cases, the two most celebrated of which were US cases (but there are many from the UK too). Music copyright is precisely what James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins’ new scholarly comic book tells us about. It is (the blurb tells us) 'a celebration of these and other musicians and composers who crossed barriers and built the playlist of extraordinary Western music from ancient Greece to classical to hip-hop. Published by the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, “Theft: A History of Music,” brings these artists’ musical borrowings to the forefront, saying that instead of stifling creativity, such “thefts” were essential to musical cross-fertilization and creation of new genres.'

The blurb continues: 'But the book also comes with a warning: At every point of new musical innovation, there was resistance and efforts to control music, whether it was from philosophers, the church, or politicians.'

You can read the full article here, and listen to James Boyle discuss the comic on NPR's The State of Things. The mere fact that it's the work (partly) of Jim Boyle is enough to sell it to me: he's an excellent writer and lecturer and I have enjoyed his work in the past, although this is the first comic book of his that I have read (the first comic book of any kind that I've read, since I gave up "war bluds" at school). I read it, pretty much in one sitting, and found it stimulating, entertaining and informative. It's going to be an ideal introduction to copyright concepts in courses I teach in the future, and best of all (coming as it does from individuals and an institution committed to the furtherance of the public domain) it's a free download. What  more could you ask?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Positional goods

Many things bother me about the state of the world. One idea that made a deep impression on me when I first read about it in "Social Limits to Growth" by the  late Fred Hirsch is what he called positional goods. I took a couple of Prof Hirsch's courses at Warwick, and learnt a great deal from them (I could have learnt a great deal more, but a memo from him tucked inside my copy of "Social Limits" explains why I didn't: it starts "I don't seem to have been seeing you at the seminar lately ..."). I bought his books, and remember struggling to read "Social Limits" during a sleepless night at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, when camping in a tent brought on an attack of asthma and I spent several hours sitting in the Hillman Avenger in which my brother and I had travelled to the event. But I digress - except that this explains why my attempt to read the book were less than successful.

I did, however, take on board the idea that there are limits to growth. If everyone moves to the countryside because it's pretty and quiet, it will cease to be pretty and quiet. This is happening right now all around me. And contemplating what I think JK Galbraith identified as the problem of private affluence and public poverty (highlighted by the appalling death toll in the Grenfell Tower fire, which must have at least something to do with the public sector being starved of money), I wonder how the super-rich imagine they will derive any pleasure from their wealth if, as they travel between their City base and their place in the country, they have to negotiate traffic jams and potholed roads, or a rail system brought to a halt by defective signals or a "jumper" (a "person under a train", in official language). Even if they fly, they will see plumes of smoke from burning tower blocks. Not every day, of course, but once in a decade is much too often.

So, houses in the countryside are positional goods. They rely for their value on scarcity. This thought brought me to something else which has troubled me for years (though it is not something that would ever bring about the end of the world*), namely parallel imports of luxury goods. Trade mark owners resist parallel imports because they interfere with their pricing strategy, which is based on maintaining exclusivity, which means that luxury branded goods are positional goods like country cottages. Consumers - some of them, anyway - want to be able to buy them cheap from Tesco, but the whole point about positional goods is that if they are available cheap from Tesco they are no longer worth having.

Hirsch also wrote about the commercialization effect (and yes, he did spell it with a "z"), under which supplying something commercially diminishes the quality of a good or service. Or, to put it another way (as Wikipedia does) "market exchange ... diminishes the inherent value of the transaction by subordinating social well-being to the commodification impulse." And that leads me to think about commodification (a topic on which Marx had a lot to say), which seems to me to be what intellectual property law is all about - taking intangible creations and turning them into something that can be traded. There's a lot to think about here, and I think it is now high time I read the book (which I notice I bought in 1980 at the bookshop at Conservative Central Office, and that in itself raises some interesting questions).

* Although as my old friend - as in, he was a friend a long time ago, but I have not seen him for many years - Sir Michael Fallon once said, "it's not the end of the world - but you can see it from there". No, I won't tell you of where he was speaking.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Oxford Comma

Although it is certainly not a point of interest only to intellectual property lawyers, this cautionary tale is as relevant to us as it is to any other species of lawyer. The Oxford (or "serial") comma is often considered to be of interest only to the worst sort of pedant (though "pedant" isn't actually a bad thing to be at all, not on the proper meaning of the word). It can however be crucial to the interpretation of a piece of writing - as a company in Maine found out recently.
Relying on a statute which exempted from an obligation to pay overtime to employees engaged in “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution" of certain perishable products, it did not pay overtime to employees engaged solely in distribution. The District Court decided that distribution was a "stand-alone exempt activity", but the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that the lack of a serial comma to mark off the last listed activity meant that the provision was ambiguous. The state's default rule of construction required the court to resolve the ambiguity in favour of the beneficiaries of the exemption, namely the drivers. So, for want of an Oxford comma, the drivers got their overtime payments.
It wasn't that the court decided that the absence of the comma was in itself determinative: and I think it would clearly have been wrong had it so decided. To give the words the meaning contended for by the employers, it would have been necessary to obey the rules about parallel construction, inserting a conjunction (in this case "or") between "storing" and "packing", to make clear that "packing for shipment or distribution" was one activity. But how often do you see that rule obeyed?
Thanks to Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions Blog for alerting me to the story.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Eminem in dispute about use of music in NZ party's election campaign

The amount of trouble that using popular music for election campaigns causes seems to be limitless. Not every party can rely on Lord Lloyd Webber to arrange some conveniently out-of-copyright Purcell for the occasion (though the Rondeau from Abdelazar is better known as the theme used by Benjamin Britten for his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which makes it a strange choice for a Conservative Party campaign tune though it's certainly stirring enough). It features at the end of this election broadcast from 1992 - which is worth watching in itself, I think, reminding us of a very different political era.

New Zealand's National Party, for a campaign in 2014, didn't try Lord Lloyd Webber, but instead went for a piece called "Eminem-esque", which it bought from a stock music purveyor. An odd choice of artist, and genre, for a centre-right party to associate with, you might think, and it gets worse because unfortunately for the Nationalist Party it sounds very like Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" - an even more unwelcome association, you'd have thought: alluding to any song with the word "lose" in the title can't be a good idea. As the BBC reports, it has led to a copyright infringement suit. You can hear both pieces played in court here. Neither has the judge dancing in the aisle, and I'm left with the feeling that I would want to punish any political party that inflicted either piece on me. But that's not the point.

There are more and more cases like this coming to the courts - not the English courts, necessarily (I can't think of any cases like this) but there are plenty of others from elsewhere, whether involving politicians or not. There's a recent piece about it on IP Watch which mentions a new "scholarly comic book" (what an interesting concept) by James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, about which I am going to post separately.

In the last couple of years there's been Led Zeppelin v Spirit and Marvin Gaye (the estate of) v  Robin Thicke and Pharrell WilliamsAs a recent programme on BBC Radio 4 showed, there is a lot of activity in the area - with a new profession of forensic musicologist emerging as an important part of the picture. The fear of being sued for copyright infringement has a significant chilling effect on creativity, and especially on improvisation. A consequence of the fact that control doesn't lie with the musicians, but with the suits of the record company, and an illustration of how big business isn't content with the limited exclusive rights given by the copyright system, but strives to turn them into a true monopoly.

But back to the story ... The Nationalist Party seems to have taken the view that, if there were a copyright problem, it was the stock library's problem rather than theirs. I doubt New Zealand copyright law is different enough from ours to make that proposition any less risible than it would be if trotted out by an infringer here. Whether "Eminem-esque" does infringe copyright in "Lose Yourself" is another matter, but it does seem like a strong possibility.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Debate rages over controversial copyright standard for the web

New Scientist reports that a new standard that is intended to enable web browsers to deal with digital rights management software is proving controversial. The Encrypted Media Extensions mechanism replaces browser plugins, which have a bad track record for security. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is seeking to standardise EME, to avoid compatibility problems across different browsers.

The controversy stems from fears that EME might introduce security flaws into browsers, and as tampering with DRM systems is illegal under many countries' laws (including the USA and EU Member States) researchers will not be able to check for bugs.

With the widespread use of DRM, without which film studios would not make their products available on services such as Netflix and Amazon, take-up by the browser-makers is unavoidable, and W3C's approval almost inevitable. But standardisation is often the enemy of innovation: and in this case, it might also be the enemy of security.



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Friday, 24 March 2017

How much intellectual property is a good thing?

The World Intellectual Property Organisation tells us that it was a Record Year for International Patent Applications in 2016 and that there was "strong demand" for international trade marks and registered designs. Applicants from the U.S. led the patents field, as they have done for 39 years, with Japan second and China third. “In an interlinked, knowledge-based global economy, creators and innovators are increasingly relying on intellectual property to promote and protect their competitive edge around the world,” said Director General Francis Gurry, which actually strikes me as such a bland statement that it was hardly worth saying. Of course there is no way of measuring success qualitatively, so a crude quantitative measure is the only one available, but even so it is surely a mistake to consider more patent applications to be unequivocally a good thing.



The days when patents protected big inventions passed a long time ago. I doubt that any of last year's PCT applications were for today's equivalent of the steam engine or the hovercraft, or even the dual-cyclone vacuum cleaner. There might be a blockbuster drug in there somewhere, and that should be a matter for celebration when (and if) it becomes apparent, but the mere fact that thousands of patent applications have been filed is meaningless in terms of technological development and benefit to human kind (although one can understand why patent agents, patent attorneys and patent office bureaucrats might be pleased). Please don't confuse the number of patent filings with the amount of innovative activity in the world - much of it is probably mobile phone companies building their portfolios, the better to defend themselves (or counter-attack) when they are sued for infringement by their competitors. Not an edifying use of the intellectual property system, IMHO. But applauding the number of applications rather than the real achievements of patent protection is another symptom of the modern disease of confusing means and ends.



One interesting fact emerges from reading to the end of the press release: the Hague Agreement is most-used for furniture designs, and the leading user of it is a Dutch company. Who'd have thought? But then again, who'd bother with a registered design to start with? What is there in furniture design that's truly novel? No doubt I am missing something ...



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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Famous Hartlepudlians

When I was an articled clerk (for the benefit of young people, this was what we used to call trainee solicitors) in Teesside (not, trademarksandbrandsonline.com note, "Teeside"), and many of the firm's clients frequented the crown court there, it was scarcely imaginable that it would be the venue for a copyright case. But there was nothing criminal in the copyright law in those days, so no reason for the idea to cross our minds.
Now a man from my home town - indeed, a short distance from my old family home, from a road down which we walked the dog every evening - has been convicted of an offence under (presumably) section 297A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, having advertised and sold adapted IPTV boxes - which were designed to enable users to receive encrypted broadcasts without paying the broadcaster for the privilege. As well as a ten-month "bender", as I recall suspended sentences were called in the days of my articles (his sentence being suspended for 12 months), a Proceeds of Crime Order required him to pay £80,000 and costs of £170,000 were also awarded against him. Painful.
The prosecution was brought by Hartlepool Trading Standards department, following an investigation by the National Trading Standards North East Enforcement Team. The original referral came from FACT, which appears now to be the full name of what was the Federation against Copyright Theft - one of those organisations whose names make me cringe but who do, at least sometimes, a good and useful job. Mr Mayes, the defendant, had been caught selling these boxes to pubs and clubs all over the place, placing advertisements which claimed they were "100% legal". He charged £1,000 each, which is probably an attractive price compared with the fee a broadcaster would charge for the sort of public showing licence a pub or club would need. The FACT report (https://www.fact-uk.org.uk/seller-ordered-to-pay-250000-for-illegal-tv-boxes/) says that often they didn't even work - perhaps his business model relied on the customers not going legal over something which was pretty clearly illegal, whatever his advertising stated.
Trademarks and Brands Online's report, which is where I first read about the case but which contains nothing not in FACT's press release except the misspelling, is here.

India: The Trademark Rules, 2017: Process made simpler, Faster, Start-up friendly but dearer

In a constructive attempt to streamline, simplify and expedite the trademark registration processes, the Trade Mark Rules, 2017 have been notified and came into effect from March 6th 2017. In consonance with the National IPR Policy, 2016, the Rules also introduce specific provisions for Start-Ups and Small Enterprises to stimulate and promote innovation and creativity among such entities.

The Salient Features of the Rules are as follows:

GENERAL:

  • Definition of Start-Ups and Small Enterprise introduced.
  • Number of Forms has been reduced from 74 to 8. 
  • Procedures relating to registration as Registered User of trademarks have been simplified. 
  • Provisions have been introduced to serve all applications, notices, statements and other documents electronically - from applicants to the Registry and vice-versa.

OFFICIAL FEES:

  • Government Fee applicable for various trademark registration related activities has been simplified by reducing the number of entries to just 23. 
  • Filing fee of a new application has been increased by about 125 %. (INR 9,000.00).
  • Renewal fee increased close to 100% (INR 10,000.00). 
  • Fee for expedited registration process increased by 100% (INR 40,000.00).
  • Handling fee for Madrid Applications increased by 150% (INR 5,000.00).
  • 50% discount on the new filing fee for Individuals/Start-Ups/Small Enterprise. 
  • To promote e-filing, the fee for online filing has been kept 10% lower as compared to fees for physical filing.
  • Fee for extra characters (beyond 500 characters) in the description of goods/services has been done away with.

EXPEDITED PROCESSING OF APPLICATIONS:

Provisions laid down for expediting the registration from filing through registration on payment of higher fees. Earlier, only examination of application could be expedited.

REPRESENTATION OF SOUND MARKS:

Sound marks applications to be also accompanied by reproduction in MP3 format (not exceeding thirty seconds’ length).

EXPEDITE OPPOSITION PROCEEDINGS:

  • Provision to file counter statement to the notice of opposition as soon as it is made available online. 
  • The requirement of serving a copy of opposition notice shall be dispensed with if a counterstatement has already been filed based on electronic copy of notice available online. 
  • No scope for seeking extensions in case of filing evidences. 
  • The number of adjournments for hearings reduced to 2 for each party and each adjournment shall not be allowed for more than 30 days.
  • Mandatory costs up to INR 10,000.00 to be awarded to either the Applicant or the Opponent (depending on the case) for not contesting opposition proceedings thereafter. 

WELL-KNOWN TRADEMARKS:

  • Modalities for determination of a trademark as a well-known mark have been introduced for the first time. 
  • Application to be filed with an exorbitant fee of INR 1,00,000.00 per mark and only through e-filing.

VIDEO-CONFERENCING OF HEARINGS:

Provisions have been laid down to hold personal hearing through video- conferencing or other audio-visual communication devices.

RENEWAL OF REGISTRATION:

The window for renewal of registration now opens one year prior to the date of expiration as against six months under the old Rules.

EXTENSION OF TIME:

Any extension of time, as specifically allowed under the Trademarks Act, 1999, shall not exceed one month.

ASSIGNMENT OF TRADEMARKS:

  • Providing a duly certified copy of original document, instrument or deed purporting to transfer the title will suffice; an original instrument or deed is no longer necessary. 
  • Filing of Affidavit along with the application for recordal of assignment is no longer required. 

STATEMENT OF USE:

  • All applications (except with the intent to use) shall contain a statement of use with respect to ALL goods or services mentioned in the application.
  • An affidavit testifying such use (if application claimed prior user date) along with the supporting documents has to be filed.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Land Rover defends the DEFENDER trade mark

There are few vehicles as iconic and instantly recognisable as the classic Land Rover. It has captivated car enthusiasts for decades, and has appeared in several mainstream action films such as The Expendables, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and in somewhat of a modified form in James Bond: Spectre. It is no coincidence that the vehicle has appeared in such films, as its heavy duty, military like structure gives an impression of assertiveness, functionality, efficiency and reliability.

To the dismay of many, Jaguar Land Rover discontinued production of the Land Rover Defender in January 2016. However, it did not discontinue the trade mark registrations which protects the model name. Instead, it is working on a replacement, although traditionalists are expressing doubts about whether it will be worthy of bearing the same name.

Jaguar had registered two trade marks for DEFENDER, these being a UK mark registered in 1989 for ''motor land vehicles and parts and fittings therefor; all included in class 12'' and an EU trade mark registered in 2014 for ''land vehicles; motor vehicles; motor land vehicles''.

A Canadian Company called Bombardier marketed a recreational off-road vehicle under the name ''Defender''. Jaguar alleged that this infringed their trade mark under Regulation 207/2009 art.9(2) of the Trade Marks Act 1994, on the basis that it would lead to a position of (1) double identity and (2) likelihood of confusion.

Bombardier only defended the former claim as they had no defence to the infringement action. They issued a counterclaim for partial revocation on the ground of non-use for five years under Section 46(1)(a) of the Trade Marks Act 1994.

They also argued that the trade mark was invalid under Regulation 207/2009 art.52(1)(b) and Section 47, as its scope contained too wide a specification of goods and services. The purpose of this argument was to establish that the trade mark had been registered in bad faith, a tactical move on Bombardier's part.

Issue 1 - Partial Revocation for Non-Use

Bombardier began by arguing that Jaguar Land Rover had only used the DEFENDER mark for part of the class in which it was registered, namely on the single Defender series only, despite being registered for ''Land Vehicles; Motor vehicles; motor land vehicles; parts and fittings for vehicles''.

However, the defendant could not attack the EU trade mark for non-use. It was filed in 2014 and the five-year period had not elapsed. The judge therefore did not consider the matter any further, as even if the UK trade mark were to be revoked the EU claim would still lie.

Issue 2 - The UK Act vs the EU Regulation - Partial Revocation on grounds of bad faith

Bombardier alleged that Jaguar Land Rover had made their application in bad faith, on the basis that they did not intend to use the mark DEFENDER for any other land or motor vehicle except to the models they had applied it to.

Unlike the domestic Trade Marks Act 1994 which requires an applicant for registration of a UK trade mark to make a declaration of use or intention under Section 32(2), the EU Regulation does not require that the applicant must be using or have a bona fide intention to use a trade mark. Therefore, invalidity on the grounds of bad faith could not be established in respect of the EU trade mark.

Nugee J clearly felt somewhat constrained as there was a conflict between the UK Act and the EU regulation. He referred to comments made by Jacob J, who in Laboratoire De La Mer Trade Marks [2005] EWCA Civ 978 said that ''there is simply no deterrent to applicants seeking very wide specifications of goods or services…with all the greater potential for conflict that may give rise to''. He then went on to say that it would be a strange position for somebody to be able to ''register a mark when he has no intention whatsoever of using it''.

However, Nugee J went on to say that because the matter was concerned with the Regulation, the Court was bound by it by virtue of Section 3(1) and Schedule 1 of the European Communities Act 1972 and Article 19(1) of the Treaty on the European Union.

Issue 3 - Was Jaguar in bad faith?

Nugee J analysed the legislation and the relevant authorities, and arrived at the conclusion that ''neither the Regulation nor the case law provides a basis that would enable the court to find that there is bad faith in view of the size of the list of goods and services in the application''. There, the partial revocation claim on the grounds of bad faith failed, affording no defence to the double identity infringement.

Issue 4 - Was the EU application made in bad faith?

Due to the ''expressions of disquiet'' of other judges, Nugee J then felt he had to consider what is exactly is meant by bad faith for the purposes of EU trade mark law, and particularly whether Jaguar was in bad faith in this respect.

In the case of Trillium (Case C000053447/1, March 28, 2000), the Cancellation Division helpfully defined bad faith for these purposes as ''the opposite of good faith''. Although that provides an inadequate consolation as to its meaning, they went further, explaining that it ''generally implies or involves, but is not limited to, actual or constructive fraud, or a design to mislead or deceive''.

Nugee J then went on to highlight the severity of a claim of bad faith and that the burden is on the defendant (the accuser) to prove it. Where a defendant seeks to establish that a claimant has acted in bad faith by applying for an unduly broad specification but is unable to establish a narrower specification which the claimant should have registered, the accusation will be ''manifestly unsustainable''. Despite attempts to do so, Bombardier could not establish a narrower specification, and as a result their claim failed.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The National Guild of Removers And Storers Ltd v Bee Moved Ltd & Ors; why the court couldn’t Bee Moved on both parts of the claim


In December last year, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court gave judgement in proceedings for passing off brought by the National Guild of Removers and Storers against ex Guild member, Bee Moved Ltd and its two director-shareholders ([2016] EWHC 3192 (IPEC)). The claim had two parts. The first concerned an alleged misrepresentation on the defendant’s website which led customers to believe that the defendant was a Guild member. This impression was created through a ‘moving checklist’ featured on the defendant’s website targeted directly at customers. The checklist gave customers advice which included to ‘check the fine print in your moving insurance’ but most importantly, ‘use a removal company who is a member of the National Guild of Removers and Storers.’ The defendant was unable to identify anything on the website which clarified this bullet point and showed that first defendant was not a member of the claimant.

The defendants relied on evidence given by the claimant in cross-examination accepting that all Guild members either expressly state membership or use the claimant’s logo to convey membership. The defendants sought to argue any member of the public would notice the absence of the claimant’s logo and therefore not conclude any trade connection had been established. The court held that it hadn’t been established that the public would even notice the absence of such logo on the defendants’ advertising. The judge could not Bee Moved on this part of the claim and held the implied representation was damaging to the claimant’s business and goodwill.

The court dismissed the second part of the claim showing they could Bee Moved in relation to this issue. The claim related to a further advertisement that was published on a third party’s website. The difference was that this advertisement expressly stated the defendant’s membership of the Guild. However, this statement had appeared by accident as a system failure caused the website to replicate itself from an earlier version. The judge accepted that when the advertisement was initially submitted to the website, the defendant was a Guild member. Therefore, as the defendants didn’t intend for the third party to show the advertisement or even be aware the advertisement was being shown, they couldn’t be held liable.


The claimant’s case on passing off succeeded against all three defendants in relation to the first part of the claim and failed on the second.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Unified Patent Court Agreement under threat?

It had to happen: the xenophobic press has noticed (courtesy of Douglas Carswell MP, the sole UKIP member in the House of Commons, who has tabled an Early Day Motion) that however hard Brexit may be it presently does not involve trashing the Unified Patent Court Agreement. Now that the Daily Express is reportedly on the case (see Intellectual Asset Management's report - I could not bring myself to investigate that rag's website, still less to drive traffic to it), I don't give much for the Agreement's future. I am amazed that, after all the hard work creating the Agreement (and all the other good stuff that has come out of the EU - of which even its sternest critic, if apprised of the facts, would surely agree there is some, even if it's only compensation for delayed flights), anyone should think it is a good use of scarce resources to undo it all and recreate something new that probably won't look very much different. Although, of course, the Unified Patent Court, by definition, isn't something the UK could do by itself.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Bulgarian radio in licensing dispute, relying on out-of-copyright music

Copyright spat forces Bulgaria radio to play old tunes, reports BBC News. Musicautor, the collecting society, is reported to be demanding three times as much in royalties as before - to bring it into line with other EU countries, it claims. The broadcaster says it can't afford to pay that much without damaging the service it offers.



Not all copyright music is off the air in Bulgaria, though. Dancho (or is it Jordan?) Karadjov, frontman of Bulgarian rock band Signal, isn't a member of Musicautor and hasn't been since 1990, and is letting the station broadcast his latest solo album, a copy of which he gave to the radio station's director. He obviously feels a debt to the radio station for the help it gave the band decades ago - in the 80s when I imagine that it wasn't very easy to be a Bulgarian rock musician. Although listening to my first piece of Signal music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U5jSxxUCWc - the title translates as "Farewell" which might indicate that I should have found somewhere else to start) I'm not sure that "rock musician" is quite the right expression. Perhaps I should dig deeper - but do I really want or need to become familiar with Bulgarian rock?



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