2017/18 was an intriguing 12 months in the Australian patent landscape, with Courts being called upon to deliver decisions in relation to a number of issues that have not previously been judicially considered. The judgments delivered in this period have dealt with the patentability of methods claims deploying genetic information, patent term extensions for “Swiss-style” claims and whether applying to list a product on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme constitutes an act of patent infringement.
Small businesses and individual rights holders are set to benefit from the Intellectual Property National Pilot Scheme in the Federal Circuit Court
A specialist IP list in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC) is open for business, with the goal of achieving quick, cheap and effective dispute resolution of intellectual property matters.
The Intellectual Property National Pilot Scheme commenced on 1 July 2018 and appeals to small and medium-sized enterprises, individual rights holders and young innovators who may have previously avoided the court system even though they had a legitimate right or a good defence, but found that it simply wasn’t worth the fight.
On August 16, 2018, the U.S. Federal Circuit addressed when the inter partes review (IPR) time bar clock begins to tick. See Click-to-Call Tech. LP v. Ingenio, Inc., Slip Op. 2015-1242 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 16, 2018). The en banc Federal Circuit addressed whether the one year estoppel clock begins for a properly served complaint when the complaint is subsequently dismissed without prejudice. The panel found that the § 315(b) time bar applies. The filing of such a complaint, though later voluntarily dismissed, has previously formed the basis for declaratory judgment jurisdiction where the initial defendant later brings a validity challenge. See TransWeb, LLC v. 3M Innovative Props. Co., 812 F.3d 1295, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2016).
On Monday, August 13, 2018, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a notice updating the Trial Practice Guide. The update provided revisions to Sections I.G. (Expert Testimony), II.A.3. (Word Count and Page Limits), II.D.2. (Considerations in Instituting a Review), II.I. (Reply to Patent Owner Response and Reply for a Motion to Amend; Sur-Replies), II.K. (Challenging Admissibility; Motions to Exclude; Motions to Strike), II.M. (Oral Hearing), and Appendix A (Sample Scheduling Order). The update further contemplates additional revisions that will be released on a rolling basis when applicable.
On 2 July 2018 the Federal Court of Australia dismissed Frucor Beverages Ltd’s appeal regarding the registrability of the colour Pantone 376C with respect to the energy drink ‘V’.
The Frucor mark in question, Australian trade mark no. 1496541, was first filed with IP Australia on 5 June 2012. Registration of this mark was opposed by the Coca Cola Company on two grounds. First, Coca Cola alleged that while the trade mark was filed for Pantone 376C, the swatch attached to the application that visually demonstrated the colour was not actually Pantone 376C. Furthermore, it argued that regardless of the colour actually filed, it was not capable of distinguishing Frucor’s goods from other similar goods and services. The Registrar of Trade Marks dismissed the first ground of opposition but supported the second and the registration was denied.
Proceedings recently commenced in the Federal Court of Australia by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) serve as a reminder of the ability to use the trade mark system to protect Geographical Indications (GIs) in Australia. The use and protection of GIs in Australia will be of particular interest to followers of the Australian-European Union free trade negotiations, where GIs have been flagged by the European Union as a critical issue.
April 26, 2018 is a remarkable date: first it’s World IP Day celebrating IP around the world. Second, and this is unique, the British IP Minister Sam Gyimah MP announced that the UK ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPC Agreement). By doing so the UK agreed to be bound to both the UPC agreement and the UPC’s Protocol on Privileges and Immunities (PPI). The UPC will be a court common to the contracting member states within the EU having exclusive competence in respect of European Patents and European Patents with unitary effect.
The Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) brought a declaratory judgement action against Ford Global Technologies (Ford), the holding company for much of Ford Motor Company’s patent portfolio. ABPA argued that design patents are inappropriate for auto-body parts and, in the alternative, that Ford’s design patents were unenforceable against the members of ABPA because the patent rights had exhausted upon the first sale of the vehicle. (Automotive Body Parts Association v. Ford Global Technologies, LLC, Case No. 2:15-cv-10137 (E.D. MI Feb. 20, 2018).) The Court held that Ford’s designs for their vehicle components were indeed eligible for patent protection and further that the design patent rights were not exhausted when the vehicle was first sold. Id. at 2.
On October 4, 2017, the Federal Circuit held en banc that the proper interpretation of 35 U.S.C. 316(d) and (e) requires the Petitioner in an inter partes review (IPR) to prove all propositions of unpatentability, including for amended claims. Aqua Prods., Inc. v. Matal, No. 2015-1177 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 4, 2017). The en banc Court further determined that the PTAB must consider the entirety of the record when assessing the patentability of amended claims under 318(a), not merely the face of a motion to amend.
The Aqua case resulted in five opinions totaling 148 pages, each presenting views on judgment and underlying rationale, ultimately leading to a narrowly tailored holding. In the decision, the Federal Circuit made clear that the burden of persuasion of patentability does not rest with the Patent Owner; instead, it is left to the Petitioner to establish that any proposed amended claims are not patentable.