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 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.
Bill introduced to Parliament that will pave the way for parallel importers in Australia.
Proposed laws favouring the parallel importation of goods are currently being considered by the Australian Parliament. The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Productivity Commission Response Part 1 and Other Measures) Bill 2018 (Bill) was introduced to the House of Representatives on 28 March 2018.
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.
On 9 March 2018, Byron Bay brewery Stone & Wood lost an appeal in the Australian Full Federal Court of Appeal to Brunswick based brewer Thunder Road with respect to their respective uses of the word PACIFIC for their rival beers.
Stone & Wood sells craft beer, including its best-selling beer “Pacific Ale”. Thunder Road launched its “Thunder Road Pacific Ale” in 2015, which it renamed “Thunder Road Pacific” later that year following letters of demand from Stone & Wood.
On 22 January 2018, Justice Martino of the Supreme Court of Western Australia delivered his judgment in the case of Milankov Designs & Project Management Pty Ltd v Di Latte & Anor, a copyright infringement case in respect of house plans.
Mr and Mrs Di Latte engaged the plaintiff, Milankov Designs & Project Management Pty Ltd (Milankov), to design and prepare drawings for a home to be built at the Di Lattes’ property. The agreement provided that Milankov would prepare plans for stages of the design and build process – first, the development stage and, second, the construction drawing stage. The Di Lattes agreed to pay Milankov a percentage of the build cost, to be billed to the Di Lattes at various stages throughout the process.
After Milankov had prepared the stage one plans (including plans submitted to council for building licence approval) and the Di Lattes had paid several invoices issued by Milankov, the relationship between the parties broke down. The engagement contract was terminated by the Di Lattes, and Milankov promptly wrote to the Di Lattes putting them on notice that Milankov owned copyright in the plans it had created and that the Di Lattes were not entitled to reproduce the plans without its permission, including by building the house at their property.
Nonetheless, the Di Lattes proceeded to engage an architect to create plans including construction drawings by copying Milankov’s plans, and then to construct a house in accordance with the design.