Archive for May, 2015

Canadian Copyright Term Extensions

By Richard Stobbe

As we noted in our earlier post (See: this link) the bill known as Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 was tabled in the House of Commons on May 7, 2015. It passed Second Reading in the House of Commons on May 25th and is now with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

The bill proposes to amend the Copyright Act to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings and performances fixed in sound recordings.

Copyright in a sound recording currently subsists until the end of 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the first fixation of the sound recording occurs. However, if the sound recording is published before the copyright expires, then copyright protection would be extended to the earlier of the end of 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the first publication of the sound recording occurs and the end of 100 years after the end of the calendar year in which that first fixation occurs.

The bill is expected to pass. Stay tuned.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

No comments

What, exactly, does industrial design protect?

By Richard Stobbe

What, exactly, does industrial design protect? The recent decision Zero Spill Systems Inc. v. Heide, 2015 FCA 115, reviewed this question. In the trial level decision, Zero Spill sued a competitor for infringement of Canadian Industrial Design No. 86,793 (the ’793 Design), based on the competitor’s sales of a similar-looking tray. The ‘793 Design protected a fluid containment tray for use in oil field operations. The Federal Court decided that there was no infringement because many features of the ’793 Design were in some way functional, and were therefore unprotectable under the Industrial Design Act by virtue of section 5.1(a) of the Act. The court of appeal reversed in part and clarified:

1. First, the Court made it clear that the right to sue for industrial design infringement depends on registration. Without a registered industrial design, there can be no basis for infringement. With a registered design, the law recognizes a presumption of validity. In other words, a presumption that the registered industrial design complies with the Act.

2. Secondly, it is worth noting that this presumption favours the owner, and places the onus on the alleged infringer to plead invalidity. If invalidity is not raised in the defence, and evidence is not raised on the issue of invalidity, then the court cannot make a determination of invalidity.

3. Third, the Court said clearly that “functional features of an industrial design may be protected by the Industrial Design Act.” Looking at section 5.1(a) of the Act, it is clear that features that are dictated solely by a utilitarian function of the article are ineligible for protection. Therefore, “features may be simultaneously useful and visually appealing.” The Court went so far as to say that Industrial Design Act would serve no purpose if it did not protect functional features. Only those features whose form are dictated solely by function are not protected.

Talk to experienced IP counsel at Field Law for advice on exploring the possible advantages of industrial design protection for your products.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

1 comment

Trade Dress Updates: “Beauty” does not cut it

By Richard Stobbe

A recent decision of the US Federal Court (see: Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. May 18, 2015) reviewed the jury decision in Apple’s famous infringement lawsuit against Samsung. You may recall that Apple’s 2011 lawsuit alleged that Samsung infringed Apple’s utility patent rights, design patents, and trade dress rights.

See our previous posts here Pinch and Zoom: Apple vs. Samsung and here Apple and Samsung: The Design Patent Wars Continue.

In the latest decision, the Federal Court left the design and utility patent verdicts untouched, but knocked down the finding of trade dress infringement, on the basis that trade dress cannot protect functional elements of the design.

The court observed that “Apple emphasizes a single aspect of its design, beauty, to imply the lack of other advantages. But the evidence showed that the iPhone’s design pursued more than just beauty.” In its conclusion, the court noted: “Apple has failed to show that there was substantial evidence in the record to support a jury finding in favor of non-functionality for the unregistered trade dress … Apple fails to rebut the evidence that the elements in the unregistered trade dress serve the functional purpose of improving usability. Rather, Apple focuses on the ‘beauty’ of its design, even though Apple pursued both ‘beauty’ and functionality in the design of the iPhone.” Accordingly, the court reversed the jury’s verdicts on the unregistered and registered trade dress claims.

Watch for our upcoming updates on Canadian industrial design law.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

No comments

Patent Licensee’s Standing to Sue for Infringement

By Richard Stobbe

Although you might not think so, given the proliferation of litigation, courts are actually very particular about who can bring a lawsuit. In order for a plaintiff to file a lawsuit, it must have ‘standing’ or put another way, “A court may exercise jurisdiction only if a plaintiff has standing to sue on the date it files suit.” A recent US case examined when a patent licensee has standing to sue for patent infringement.

According to the US court in Luminara Worldwide, LLC v. Liown Electronics Co.: Even if the patent holder does not transfer formal legal title, the patent holder may effect a transfer of ownership for the purposes of standing in a lawsuit if it conveys “all substantial rights in the patent to the transferee.” One of those “substantial rights” must include an “exclusive license” to practice the patent in question. In the event that a licensee obtains an exclusive license and all substantial rights, then the licensee is effectively treated just like a patent owner, and has standing to sue for infringement in its own name.

When negotiating patent licenses, ensure that you pay attention to the grant of rights. Do you intend to grant rights to permit the licensee to sue in its own name, or should that right be reserved to the patent owner / licensor?

In Canada, compare the finding of the Federal Court in the copyright context in Milliken & Co. v. Interface Flooring Systems (Canada) Inc.(FC): “A non-exclusive licensee does not derive any right, title or interest in the copyright that could give it the standing to sue. It has no right to sue alone in a copyright infringement action.”

Calgary – 07:00 MST

No comments

Apple Watch Design Patent

By Richard Stobbe

applewatchcapture.JPG
As we reviewed in our previous post – Industrial Design as a Competitive Tool – the value of strategic industrial design protection (also called a “design patent” in the US) should not be underestimated.

Yesterday, the USPTO issued a registration for the Apple Watch, which provides protection for a term of 14 years in the US. US design patents which are registered based on applications filed after May 13, 2015 will have a 15-year term. That would be 10 years if registered in Canada, though this term is soon to increase to 15 years once the changes to the Canadian Industrial Design Act come into force. Remember, industrial design law in Canada protects the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which are applied to a product. Functional elements are not protected. For protection, registration is required. While it is likely that Apple has filed a corresponding Canadian application, such a filing would most likely be based upon the US registration.

Will this be enforced against competitors? Probably – don’t forget that industrial design infringement formed the basis of successful recent claims by Blackberry (BlackBerry sued Typo Products LLC for infringement of U.S. Design Patent No. D685,775) and by Apple (Apple sued Samsung for infringement of Apple’s D504,889 design patent).

Talk to experienced IP counsel at Field Law for advice on exploring the possible advantages of industrial design protection for your products.

Calgary – 08:00 MST

No comments