In McD Asia Pacific LLC v. Hungry Jack’s Pty Ltd  FCA 1412, fast-food giant McDonald’s and Australian dinner-time rival Hungry Jack’s faced off in the Federal Court of Australia over their burger names BIG MAC vs BIG JACK and MEGA MAC vs MEGA JACK.Read More
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) refusal to register the trademark “Trump too small” violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.Read More
The USPTO on April 21, 2023 proposed a variety of changes to the pre-institution requirements and briefing process for post-grant proceedings, including both IPRs and PGRs. Among the proposed changes are broad amendments to the discretionary denial frameworks, which are intended to provide clarity, curb abusive litigation tactics, and generally align procedure with the objectives of the AIA. The deadline for submitting comments and suggestions related to these rules is June 20, 2023. The proposed rules provide valuable insight into the future of post-grant proceedings before the PTAB. An overview of these changes is outlined below, and additional details follow.
- Parallel Proceedings – The USPTO is considering changes to the Fintiv framework, including the elimination of current factors 1, 2, and 5, a requirement for a Sotera stipulation, and a grace period that would exempt petitions filed within 6 months of service of the complaint from being discretionarily denied under this rule.
- 325(d) Framework – The USPTO is considering a rule that would reign in the application of discretionary denial under 325(d) by limiting its application to art or arguments that had been “previously addressed,” or actually evaluated by the patent office as articulated on the record, such as in a rejection, notice of allowance, or examiner interview. Mere citation in an IDS will no longer meet the standard. Prior art will only be considered “substantially the same” where it contains the same teaching relied upon in the petition, and that teaching was addressed by the patent office.
- Serial Petitions – The USPTO is considering replacing the existing framework for serial petitions with a rule that will deny any serial or follow-on IPR petition filed by: (1) the same petitioner; (2) a real party in interest to that petitioner; (3) a party with a significant relationship to that petitioner; or (4) a party who previously joined an instituted IPR filed by that petitioner. There will be an exception where the earlier petition was not resolved on the merits of the petition, or where exceptional circumstances are shown.
- Prior Adjudications – The USPTO is contemplating stricter requirements where a prior final adjudication by a district court or in a post-grant proceeding upheld the validity of claims that substantially overlap the challenged claims, essentially requiring the petitioner (1) either has standing to challenge the validity of the patent in district court or intends to pursue commercialization, (2) was not a real party in interest to the party who unsuccessfully challenged the claims, and (3) meets the heightened burden of compelling merits.
- Micro and Small Entities – The USPTO is mulling changes that would protect under-resourced entities by denying institution where the patent owner (1) claimed micro or small entity status at the time of filing; (2) did not exceed a gross income cap in the calendar year preceding filing of the petition; and (3) was commercializing a product covered by the challenged claim at the time of filing.
- For-Profit Entities – The USPTO is contemplating a rule that would deny any IPR or PGR petition by a for-profit entity that has not been sued or threatened with infringement of the challenged patent, is not otherwise practicing in the field of the challenged patent, and is not in “substantial relationship” with an entity to which the rule would not apply.
The USPTO has also proposed changes to the disclosure requirements, what constitutes compelling merits, and termination by settlement filing requirements. An in-depth discussion of each suggested change is included below.Read More
AC Milan is one of Europe’s most decorated football clubs with seven European Cup/Champions League titles and 18 Serie A (Italian league) titles. However the Rossoneri, as the club is affectionately known, recently came up against an unfamiliar opponent in an unfamiliar field of play, being in the General Court of the European Union (the General Court), following their attempts to register their club crest as a trade mark.Read More
The High Court of New Zealand in Energy Beverages LLC v Frucor Suntory NZ Limited  NZHC 3296 ruled that energy drink company Frucor Suntory NZ Ltd’s (Frucor) non-traditional green colour trade mark was valid. This decision is a rare example of a New Zealand based Court analysing non-traditional marks and highlighting the difference to Australia’s position. A full copy of the decision can be found here.Read More
In a recent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling, based on a referral from the Stockholm Court of Appeal, the CJEU considered whether the distinctiveness of a sign that is to be applied to specific services should be assessed with regard to what is customary in the relevant sector. A full copy of the decision can be found here.
The Court clarified that, in the context of trade marks for services, the assessment of a sign’s distinctiveness should not always involve an assessment of norms and/or customs of the sector.Read More
CJEU determines no likelihood of confusion between footballer’s “Messi” figurative mark and earlier MASSI mark.
Whilst debate will continue to rage as to whether Messi or Ronaldo is the world’s best male football player, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU”) has ruled that Argentine superstar can register his name as a trade mark after an almost decade long legal battle.
In an interesting decision for trade mark fanatics, irrespective of their interest in football, the CJEU stated that Lionel Messi’s reputation could be taken into account, without any evidence of said reputation being provided, when weighing up whether the public would be able to determine the uniqueness of Messi’s mark.Read More
The EUIPO recently upheld an opposition by DC Comics to protect its reputable SUPERMAN mark from a similar sign, despite the applicant’s sign covering a different class of goods. The decision confirms that, for there to be a sufficient risk of injury under Article 8(5) EUTRM, the public must perceive a ‘link’ between the sign and the earlier mark. The mere fact the two marks cover different classes of goods and services is not inherently a barrier to such a link. Here the link arose largely from the earlier mark’s reputation, and commercial connections between the two classes in question.
Some will see the EUIPO as swooping to the rescue to protect the hard-earned reputations of brands; others will see this as an unreasonable expansion of rights beyond a mark’s designated classes, and a Kryptonite to legitimate activity.Read More
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recently confirmed that when assessing the actual use of a mark and the scope of protection afforded by a trade mark, the defining factor is the way in which it is perceived, and it is irrelevant that it is classified as a figurative or a position mark. In the CJEU’s decision in ECLI:EU:C:2019:471, the CJEU rejected German shoemaker Deichmann’s appeal to have Spanish competitor Munich SL’s trade mark revoked. The case revolves around the registered mark below, depicting a solid line cross on the side of a dotted outline of a shoe.Read More
Playgro Pty Ltd v Playgo Art and Craft Manufactory Limited  FCA 280
Manufacturers selling products into Australia be warned: the fact you are located outside of Australia will not protect you from infringing Australian trade marks. This was the message the Federal Court handed down in the recent decision of Playgro Pty Ltd v Playgo Art and Craft Manufactory Limited  FCA 280.
Playgo was a Chinese manufacturer of children’s toys sold for many years under the “PLAYGO” trade mark. Playgo agreed to supply its toys to a number of well-known Australian retailers, who then imported the products into Australia and sold them in stores across the country. Australian company Playgro commenced proceedings against Playgo, arguing that it infringed various Australian registered trade marks for “PLAYGRO”.