26 April, 2016

Links A-OK - Hyperlinking to Infringing Material Online is OK, Says AG Wathelet

Since the CJEU's decision in Svensson the fate of hyperlinking in a European context has been up in the air, especially when it comes to copyright infringing materials and directly linking to that content. This is an incredibly important issue, and one that might have ramifications beyond our wildest imaginations, leading to great issues to how the Internet operates in today's world. While the CJEU deliberates its decision in the matter, Advocate General Wathelet provided us with a preview on the potential swing of the CJEU's vote in an opinion that was awaited by many.

The case of GS Media BV v Sanoma Media Netherlands BV dealt with the sharing of images online, specifically linking to images that have been deemed to infringe copyright. Sanoma Media, the publisher of the famous magazine Playboy, had commissioned a photographer to take photos for the magazine of Britt Dekker, a Dutch TV personality. Prior to their publication in Playboy the photos were leaked, and found their way onto an Australian file data storing website Filefactory. These images were then published on the website of a Dutch tabloid magazine, GeenStijl, who linked directly to the photos' location on Filefactory (where they could be downloaded as a zip file). Despite Sanoma's demands to do so, GeenStijl refused to remove the link to the website, although they were eventually removed from Filefactory. After pursuing GS Media through the courts, GeenStijl repeatedly posted new links to the photos in subsequent articles about the litigation, and the matter eventually ended up for the CJEU to decide.

The questions referred to the CJEU essentially dealt with whether the sharing of a hyperlink on another website containing infringing materials would be a 'communication to the public' under the InfoSec Directive.

In his opinion, AG Wathelet summarized the first question asked from the court as "...whether Article 3(1) of [the] Directive... must be interpreted as meaning that the provision on a website of a hyperlink to another website operated by a third party, which is accessible to the general internet public and on which works protected by copyright are made available to the public, without the authorisation of the copyright holder constitutes an act of communication to the public". Additionally, the Advocate General had to give an opinion on whether this question would be impacted by knowledge on part of the sharing party as to the lack of consent to share the content, and whether the previous publication of the work (or lack thereof) is of any relevance.

What remained a point of contention in the case is the findings in both the Svensson and BestWater cases, which the Advocate General first addressed. What both of the cases ultimately boiled down to was that the provision of hyperlinks to works that are freely available would not amount to a 'communication to the public', and therefore escapes infringement. Authorization of the initial publication was never an issue (although not approved in BestWater), or seemed to affect both decisions according to his opinion.

Ultimately, the Advocate General looked at the two criteria set out to establish a communication to a public, meaning looking at whether there has been 'an act of communication', and that it has been done to a 'public' (or a new public, considering Svensson).

Some links can lead to unsavory results
In answering the first criterion, the Advocate General took the position that the provision of a hyperlink to another website containing infringing works would not be an act communication, explaining that: "Although it is true that hyperlinks posted on a website make it much easier to find other websites and protected works available on those websites and therefore afford users of the first site quicker, direct access to those works, I consider that hyperlinks which lead, even directly, to protected works do not ‘make available’ those works to a public where the works are already freely accessible on another website, but merely facilitate the finding of those works". The Advocate General therefore distinguishes between the provision of the materials, and the finding or accessing of those materials, even if they infringe or not. What seems important in his opinion is the initial provision of the works, and not their subsequent sharing even via hyperlinks. He further iterated this position through the decision in Football Association Premier League and Others, where the intervention of the materials (and their subsequent provision for the first time as infringing copies) was key, which a hyperlink would not do, as it does merely facilitate an already available work. He concluded that "...in order to establish an act of communication, the intervention of the ‘hyperlinker’ must be vital or indispensable in order to benefit from or enjoy works". In his opinion GS Media therefore did not communicate the works, as their intervention was not indispensable in order to access the infringing works. He also considered that, as the question was answered in the negative, the question of a lack of authorization (and knowledge thereof) was irrelevant, even through 'nefarious' intentions.

The Advocate General then considered the question of whether the act of communication was done to a 'public'. He outright rejected the applicability of the 'new public' consideration borne in Svensson, deeming it not applicable in this instance (and potentially in other instances as well as a result). This would only be applicable when the work has been authorized, and thus accessed illegally for the benefit of a new public (i.e. from behind a pay-wall). Even if it applied in the event of a lack of authorization, the above intervention considerations would still apply, negating the assessment as the hyperlink would not add to the potential public that already could access the materials. He concluded that question 2 would therefore be answered in the negative.

The Advocate General made general observations as to this issue and the Internet: "...aside from the fact that, in principle, the posting of the hyperlinks in the main proceedings does not, in my view, constitute a ‘communication to the public’... I consider that any other interpretation of that provision would significantly impair the functioning of the Internet and undermine one of the main objectives of [the] Directive... namely the development of the information society in Europe. Such an interpretation could also distort the ‘fair balance of rights and interests between the different categories of rightholders, as well as between the different categories of rightholders and users of protected subject-matter’". He further emphasized the necessity of hyperlinking for the functionality of the Internet, and the lack of ability of Internet users to check sources of materials and whether they were authorized or not. If the posting of hyperlinks were to infringe copyright, users would not post them as readily, which would impede the development of the worldwide web.

The opinion leaves the matter quite open, and departed from the CJEU's previous considerations in Svensson and BestWater. Whether the CJEU follow the Advocate General's opinion remains to be seen, but as he wisely raised in his opinion, hyperlinking is essential to how the Internet works, and a balance has to be struck between the provision of links, but the protection of intellectual property from those seeking to blatantly benefit or even undermine this privilege. This writer will await the CJEU's decision with great intrigue, and hopes they will follow along the lines of the Advocate General.

Source: IPKat 

18 April, 2016

Bowled Away - 8-Second Cricket Clips Infringe Copyright

As a major consumer of North American sports, this writer is very reliant on the provision of highlights for this favorite sports, enabling him to keep on track with the latest developments and just to indulge in great sporting feats. Even highlights, however, are big business, being an important draw for new (and old) viewers to subscribe to TV or on-demand services providing full games in many sports, or just servicing as a vehicle to sell more merchandise through official channels. The emergence of social media has changed this dynamic, allowing for the provision of live highlights or video clips, showcasing sports events as they happen, with or without the blessing of the sporting organizations. With this in mind, would short clips of sports activities constitute copyright infringement or would app creators be allowed to let their users share these moments as they please?

The case of England And Wales Cricket Board Ltd v Tixdaq Ltd dealt with an app called Fanatix, which, among providing sports news, allowed for its users to record clips (up to 8 seconds long) using their smartphones or tablets, and sharing them with like-minded sports fans who might not be able to follow the action live (encapsulating mostly the 'highlights' of an event). The clips could be viewed through the app or on Fanatix's social media pages. The England and Wales Cricket Board own the rights to broadcast all video on cricket matches played in England and Wales, and upon noticing clips of cricket games broadcast via the Fanatix app, took its owner Tixdaq to court for copyright infringement.

Tixdaq argued that their use of the works was within the remit of fair dealing, specifically for the purposes of reporting current events under section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. As such, the substantiality of the copying needed to be assessed, including for the purposes of infringement. Justice Arnold considered both parties' submissions, and saw that substantiality is to be assessed considering "...elements which reflect the rationale for protecting broadcasts and first fixations, that is to say, the investment made by the broadcaster or producer". One should not confuse this with the requirement of originality in relation to other types of works (as the case concerned broadcasts, not e.g. literary works). He summarized the correct test as the consideration of "...the degree of reproduction both quantitatively and qualitatively, having regard to the extent to which the reproduction exploits the investment made by the broadcaster or producer".

In his early consideration of fair dealing, Justice Arnold noted that any use made for the purposes of reporting current events would have to take into account "...whether the extent of the use is justified by the informatory purpose".

Citizen journalism: the backbone of an informed society
Justice Arnold then moved onto the interpretation of the phrase 'for the purpose of reporting current events'. In his judgment, the phrase should be interpreted objectively, yet liberally, so as to allow for the effective facilitation of free speech. The use, even in the remit of free speech and fair dealing, would still have to be assessed to the extent the material is used is justified by the informatory purpose.

In determining whether the 8-second clips were a substantial amount, Justice Arnold saw that they indeed were, as every clip contained highlights and points of interest, and therefore value. Because of this value the copying would be substantial, even though in a quantitative sense it would not necessarily be.

Finally, Justice Arnold addressed whether the use would fall under fair dealing. He briefly accepted that contemporaneous sporting events could be classed as current events for the purposes of section 30(2), however excluding any possible footage of interviews and punditry (within limits). This can also include 'citizen journalism', under which the use within the app does somewhat fall. Justice Arnold deemed that the use of the material was not reporting of current events under the section, as the video clips posted "...were not used in order to inform the audience about a current event, but presented for consumption because of their intrinsic interest and value". The objective of the app was also purely commercial, and designed to utilize the clips to their fullest in the collection of revenues, rather than as a medium for sincere journalism. The copying of the works therefore infringed the copyright owned by ECB.

The case is very interesting, especially in the context of new age media and 'citizen journalism'. Even though the app's use of the works was clearly nothing but an attempt to benefit from the blatant sharing of clips of cricket games, subsequent changes to the app forced users to 'report' more on the action, clearly being driven towards the use under fair dealing. One can think of other social media outlets, such as Twitter or Vine, where extensive commentary might not be possible, as potential candidates that might fall foul of section 30(2) if taken to court. Nevertheless, the case was a curious one, and a lesson for all aspiring app makers to heed copyright when making their apps.

Source: Technollama

06 April, 2016

A Gleeful End - TV Show 'Glee' Infringes Comedy Venue's Trademark

Whether you are old or young you cannot have escaped the phenomenon that was the TV show Glee, which reached its peak popularity some time just before the turn of the first decade in 2000. The show was a teen drama, encompassing musical elements on top of the usual teen drama fare (very much in the spirit of glee clubs in the days of yore). Even with its upbeat style, the show, or rather its name, has not existed in pure glee, but has faced a prolonged challenge in the UK over its name. With that said, would the show have its last song as "Glee", or were they able to defend their moniker?

The recent decision of Comic Enterprises Ltd v Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation dealt with a series of comedy clubs in the UK called The Glee Club, existing in Cardiff and Birmingham, among other cities. The owners of the clubs, Comic Enterprises, registered the logos of the clubs as UK trademarks in 2001. The marks incorporated the club's name in a stylized fashion, including a spotlight in the background of the name with each constituent part of it being roughly of equal size. The TV show "Glee" (focussing on the antics of a alee club at a fictional US high school) ran between the years of 2009 and 2015, garnering huge success both in and off the TV format, prompting Comic Enterprises to take them to court for trademark infringement and passing off after the clubs' owner noticed the similarities between the two names.

What the Court of Appeal had to address was whether Fox infringed the registered trade mark under sections 10(2) and 10(3) of the Trade Marks Act 1994, and whether they were guilty of passing off.

Under both sections 10(2) and 10(3), infringement is assessed on the basis of six factors: "(i) there must be use of a sign by a third party within the relevant territory; (ii) the use must be in the course of trade; (iii) it must be without the consent of the proprietor; (iv) it must be of a sign which is identical with or similar to the trade mark; (v) it must be in relation to goods or services which are identical with or similar to those for which the trade mark is registered; and (vi) it must give rise to a likelihood of confusion". The first four factors were not disputed, as the show was indeed shown in the relevant territory (the UK); the mark was used in the course of trade (a commercial TV show); there was no consent over its use by Comic Enterprises; and the mark was identical with or similar to the registered mark (the Glee Club/Glee).

No room for song and dance after Lord Justice Kitchin's judgment
The final two factors look at whether the use of the mark was for similar or identical goods or services (i.e. is a club the same as a TV show in terms of use), and whether, as a result, there would be a likelihood of confusion between the goods and services. This is a matter of assessing, among other factors, "...their nature, their intended purpose and their method of use and whether they are in competition with each other or are complementary". Equally, the two marks have to be compared through the perspective of the average consumer. Without similarity there cannot be infringement, so this is very important.

A big point of contention in the assessment of similarity was the trial judge's 'wrong way round' determination through evidence, or in other words, that the registered mark evoked a connection with the TV show, rather than the other way around (the more typical test for similarity). After discussing all submitted evidence anew, Lord Justice Kitchin determined that the evidence did indeed create a likelihood of confusion, however acknowledging some of it having little probative value. This is an interesting point, as the case clearly accepts 'wrong way round' evidence, and as such this could be used in other cases to prove a likelihood of confusion.

Finally, Lord Justice Kitchin turned to the matter of infringement, due to substantial errors made by the trial judge in their initial judgment. He ultimately found that there was indeed infringement under section 10. The two marks were deemed to be similar, even with the fact that the word "glee" was a common word.  Additionally, the goods and services offered by the two parties were sufficiently similar, although the similarity of a TV show and a club were challenged by the defendant. Lord Justice Kitchin specifically mentioned the context of the marks' use, and even though he accepted that the connection between the two was loose on the face of it, there still was a possible connection, especially with a world tour planned for the TV show incorporating a live element to the mark's use. He ultimately found a likelihood of confusion between the two marks. A potential changing of economic behavior by consumers based on this confusion would also cause detriment to the claimant, especially in the light of a need to change their marketing to further distinguish themselves from the TV show.

He also agreed with the trial judge and dismissed the passing off claim made by the claimant, as a likelihood of confusion is to be distinguished from misrepresentation, which is crucial for a passing off claim. As the defendant's use of the name was not to pretend the TV show was associated with the comedy clubs (although the mark was confusingly similar) and thus was not a misrepresentation.

The case is an interesting one, and shows that 'wrong way round' confusion is a legitimate argument, even though one could consider it unorthodox under the letter of the law. Nevertheless, this writer agreed with Lord Justice Kitchin, and wonders whether the case will see a further appeal, especially because of an outstanding issue on the compatibility of section 41 under EU law (specifically Directive 2008/95/EC). This remains to be seen, but it seems that the show will have to be rebranded in the UK, even after its end some time ago.

Source: IPKat

24 March, 2016

IP Iustitia Turns 3!

Yet another year has passed, and IP Iustitia takes a moment to celebrates its 3rd anniversary! Both the year 2015 and early 2016 have been very eventful in the IP space, and this writer for one does enjoy taking a breather to commemorate this great occasion, if only briefly.

In its inception in early 2013, I never imagined this blog being this popular and drawing in this much interest in the IP community as it has today. Through the blog I have gotten to meet some amazing people (virtually or physically) and to share my meager musings with thousands of people; something which I do not take for granted! It has been a thrilling ride, and one that I aim to keep going for years to come.

As in earlier anniversary editions, here are some details on the blog's current numbers, figures and statistics, should you be interested in knowing what three years of active blogging might entail.

  • The blog has been visited by over 110,000 people from dozens of different countries, with the US, UK and other English speaking countries forming the bulk of the visitors. 
  • The blog's Twitter account, @IPIustitia, has amassed an amazing 767 followers (as of today) over these three short years, including a great deal of retweets, likes and discussion surrounding posted articles.
  • The blog also hosts nearly 200 articles discussing a myriad of topics and cases. Should you find that a topic or case that you would want has not been discussed, please email me at jani.ihalainen(a)gmail.com and suggest it.
  • The blog has over 200 subscribers via its Feedburner RSS service, with more subscribing via other services as well. 

But, as always, the reason why I keep writing these articles is above all else you, the reader. Although the blog's beginnings were mainly as a platform to indulge my own academic curiosity (and still is), the feedback, thoughts and connections I have made through it have been what keeps me writing and sharing my thoughts with you all. Whether you are a loyal reader, or merely a casual passer-by, I wanted to say from the bottom of my heart: Thank you! The IP community is a great one, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it, and to share this topic with many of you who are truly passionate and incredibly knowledgable about IP.

Please keep sending me your thoughts, questions and feedback via email, and do subscribe to the above services if you do enjoy what IP Iustitia has to offer.

Here's to a great 4th year!

21 March, 2016

A Positive Signal - No Liability for Providers of Free WiFi, Says AG Szpunar

As discussed on this very blog over 6 months ago, free public WiFi is something we all take for granted, even if just a little. Having access to the worldwide web at most restaurants, coffee shops and even the Underground in London is nearly ubiquitous in the developed world, and one that presents both opportunity for its users and liability for those who provide it, especially when it comes to the infringement of intellectual property rights. The CJEU has been slated to answer the question of third-party liability for those who provide free WiFi in the case of copyright infringement, and awaiting that the opinion of Advocate General Szpunar has given their answer as to this highly important question.

The case of Tobias McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH deals with Tobias McFadden, who owned a business selling and renting lighting and sound systems for various events, and offered free WiFi access at his store for any visiting patrons. The Internet connection offered had no password protection, nor did Mr. McFadden monitor the users taking advantage of the free WiFi. In early September 2010 such a user downloaded a song illegally using his WiFi connection, and Sony Music subsequently took him to court for copyright infringement as a liable third party.

The Regional Court of Munich referred the matter to the CJEU, who had to answer several questions relating to Article 12(1) of the E-Commerce Directive, pertaining to whether the provision of the WiFi would amount to the provider as being a mere conduit, or whether they would be liable for the infringement indirectly.

The Advocate General grouped the questions into two more specific references: "...whether a professional person... who, in the course of business, operates a free, public Wi-Fi network, falls within the scope of application of Article 12 [as a mere conduit]", and therefore is not liable for the infringement of any other parties using that WiFi (questions 1-3); and, if Article 12 does apply, the he needs to interpret the limitation of liability of intermediary service providers in that Article (questions 4-9).

The Scope of Article 12

The scope of Article 12 hinges largely on the potential economic nature of the provision of the service, as defined in Article 2(a) of the same Directive, and the meaning of 'providing' access to a network under Article 12.

A lack of WiFi would cause some issues
The Advocate General addressed the first point by concluding that the provision of free WiFi would indeed be an economic activity, as "...where, in the course of his business, an economic operator offers Internet access to the public, even if not against payment, he is providing a service of an economic nature, even if it is merely ancillary to his principal activity". The Advocate General added onto his point, setting out that the provision of the Internet access necessarily takes place in an economic context, that "[a]ccess to the Internet may constitute a form of marketing designed to attract customers and gain their loyalty. In so far as it contributes to the carrying on of the principal activity, the fact that the service provider may not be directly remunerated by recipients of the service is not decisive.". What remains key here is the ancillary nature of the free WiFi, and this writer agrees, since even if they WiFi is not the focal point of the business, it drives foot traffic and adds value to the provision of the main service, creating a service of economic nature (which is important, since nature does not necessarily mean direct economic benefit)

He then turned to the matter of the meaning of 'providing' access to a network, determining that it means "...that the activity in question enables the public to have access to a network and takes place in an economic context". The intent of projected role of the provider is not relevant, but merely the provision of the service in the above economic context.

The Advocate General then concluded that: "...Articles 2(a) and (b) and 12(1) of [the] Directive... must be interpreted as applying to a person who, as an adjunct to his principal economic activity, operates a Wi-Fi network with an Internet connection that is accessible to the public free of charge".

Interpretation of Article 12

Questions 4-9 concerned the specific interpretation of Article 12, and will be dealt with in more brevity below, although discussed quite extensively by the Advocate General. The questions are, specifically, whether a national court could penalize an intermediary service provider, in the event of infringement through their service, awarding damages, costs or an injunction as the form of the penalty (questions 4-5). Additionally, if this would not be generally possible, whether it would be possible to limit the extent of Article 12 (question 6), or through other unwritten requirements (questions 7-8). Finally, the last question asks for the limits of any injunctions that may be awarded against an intermediary service provider (question 9).

In answering question 4 and 5 the Advocate General saw that the limitations of liability for intermediary service provides would extend to damages and pecuniary claims, such as for costs. In his view this is precluded by Article 12(1), and would have an impact on the development of the service provider's business, irrespective of it being damages or punitive costs. He did, however, accepted the possibility of injunctive relief, and any ancillary penalties thereto. In summary to questions 4 and 5, he stated that "Article 12... precludes the making of any order against a provider of mere conduit services that entails a finding of civil liability against that service provider... [it] therefore precludes the making of orders against intermediary service providers not only for the payment of damages, but also for the payment of the costs of giving formal notice or other costs relating to copyright infringements committed by third parties as a result of the information transmitted. It does not preclude the granting of an injunction, non-compliance with which is punishable by a fine".

In relation to questions 6,7 and 8 (seeking to clarify the possible exclusion of actions taken against intermediary service providers), the Advocate General sought to strike a balance per recital 41 of the Directive. In his opinion, the Advocate General saw that there should be no limitations imposed on actions that can be taken against providers, though taking into account their actions when the infringement is brought to their attention. He also observed that the conditions under Article 12(1) are non-exhaustive, and could be added to with additional unwritten requirements.

Finally, he turned to the final 9th question, which asks whether national courts could impose injunctions on service providers against future infringement on their network. He saw that this was indeed possible, but this injunction could not impose a future obligation of monitoring the network or breach any other EU or national legislation (including the basic human rights afforded in the European Convention on Human Rights). He summarized that the injunction can only issued if the provider cannot, or will not, address the infringement in one of three measures: the termination of the internet connection (of the infringer); password-protection of the connection; or the monitoring the connection, but only to ensure the future infringement of rights using the same connection (observing time limitations on said monitoring).

The ultimate decision of the CJEU is pending, and will potentially impact the provision of free WiFi in the EU should they not follow the AG's opinion in this matter. This writer expects them to follow the opinion, as it clearly shows a practical and functional approach to a complex, and sensitive question. Should they not do so, the provision of free WiFi could be severely hindered, or even ended by some providers, which would be a big problem for those who cannot necessarily afford their own connections. Either way, this writer is anticipating the CJEU's decision with great interest.

Source: IPKat

10 March, 2016

All Packed Up - UK Supreme Court Rejects Trunki Appeal

Community Registered Designs rarely get their time in the spotlight, but the Supreme Court's decision on the Trunki saga has been one that many intellectual property practitioners have been waiting for. The case is an important one, and sets the tone for the future of 3D registrations as designs, potentially impacting the vast amount of CRDs that use these types of illustrations (mainly through the use of CAD imaging) as their registration. With bated breath this writer awaited the decision, which was published yesterday.

The case of PMS International Group Plc v Magmatic Limited dealt with the Trunki travel case, designed by Robert Law in the late 1990s (at the time called the 'Rodeo'). The case is intended for kids, allowing them to ride the suitcase as well as use it in its traditional sense, incorporating child-friendly animal themes in its finished look. Mr. Law subsequently sought registration for the design, and attained his CRD in 2003 (No. 43427-0001), exclusively licencing the sale and manufacture of the design to Magmatic Limited, his own company. The registration used CAD imaging in the illustration of the Trunki suitcase, using a degree of tonal contrast to showcase the different components of the design (incorporating no decorations apart from the tonal differentiation of the wheels, "horns" and the strap at the top, for example). PMS International, having noted the success of the Trunki case, designed and manufactured its own version called the Kiddee Case, which incorporated a very similar design and child-friendly decorations (although, as the Court noted, with some distinct elements in the decorations and/or colors used). Magmatic then started the proceedings over the infringement of their design, ultimately culminating in the Supreme Court's decision.

What the Supreme Court had to answer was whether the Kiddee Case "...produce[s] on the informed user a different overall impression" from the registered Trunki design, therefore not infringing the design. This includes, to put it plainly, the appearance of the two products, especially in the light of the features shown in the CRD, reflecting the choices of the applicant at the time of filing (restricting or broadening the registration based on the inclusion or exclusion of features and/or ornamentation).

The Court had to deal with the disagreement between Justice Arnold and Lord Justice Kitchin in the first instance and appeal decisions, which dealt with the absence of ornamentation and the effect of the included two-toned coloring in the CRD documentation as detailed above. Lord Neuberger, handing down the unanimous decision of the Court, dealt with the disagreements in three parts, discussing each affecting element individually per the Court of Appeal's decision.

The horned animal appearance

In the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Kitchin considered that Justice Arnold had not fully given weight to the overall impression of the CRD as a 'horned animal', and the distinction between it and the more 'insect' appearance of the Kiddee Case, resulting in the Kiddee Case not infringing the design.

The Supreme Court agreed with Lord Justice Kitchin, and determined that Justice Arnold had not given proper weight to the overall appearance of the two cases. This is clearly a subjective assessment on Lord Neuberger's part, and this writer, although can see his point, will disagree that the judge did not consider the overall impression. Justice Arnold seemed to focus on the suitcase shape of the CRD, rather than its fanciful impression, and both perspectives can be accepted, however, he did not entirely dismiss the impression the design made as an animal or creature with 'horns'.

Decoration of the Kiddee Case

Similarly, Lord Justice Kitchin disagreed with Justice Arnold on the ornamentation of the Kiddee Case, and the lack thereof in the CRD. In his mind, the lack of ornamentation made the overall impression of the CRD seem more like a horned animal, whereas the ornamentation in the Kiddee Case highlighted its distinction from the former as a bug with antennae (or a tiger with ears), forming a wholly different impression on an informed user.

Intricate design or not, Trevor struggled with suitcases
The Supreme Court, again, agreed with Lord Justice Kitchin, confirming that "...the absence of decoration on the CRD reinforced the horned animal impression made by the CRD". Lord Neuberger did, however, consider that the inclusion of some ornamentation could potentially detract from the overall impression given as a horned animal, if sufficiently distinctive or eye-catching. This writer would wholly disagree with Lord Neuberger, and thinks that the lack of ornamentation should focus the inspection on the non-fanciful elements of the infringing product, and should not be included in the consideration of overall impression. What is important in the CRD is the shape or design of the product, and the lack of ornamentation should focus the assessment on just that, the design, rather than additional elements that can (arguably) be irrelevant to the design of an item, rather than its aesthetic appearance.

Lord Neuberger did address the appellant's concerns over the lack of ornamentation and its impact on a CRD (or in subsequent infringement actions), albeit obiter. In his mind the "... absence of decoration can, as a matter of principle, be a feature of a registered design" and that "...if absence of ornamentation is a feature of a registered design, that does not mean that because an item has ornamentation, it cannot, for that reason alone, infringe the registered design in question: it merely means that the fact that an allegedly infringing item has ornamentation is a factor which can be taken into account when deciding whether or not it does infringe that design".

His Lordship focused on the images as CAD images, rather than line drawings, and determined that the lack of ornamentation (although including colors and/or textures) would be treated as potentially distinguishing in the former, but not the latter. The inclusion of ornamentation reinforced the former point on distinction as different creatures, rather than be a full point of contention in its own right. He concluded that (again, obiter) "...the point of principle [is] that absence of ornamentation can be a feature of a Community Registered Design".

The two-toned coloring of the CRD

The final point of contention was Lord Justice Kitchin's disagreement in the use of tonal colors in the CRD, meaning the difference in color (gray and black) in some features, like the wheels or the strap on top. In his mind, the difference is an intention to include contrasting colors, rather than to simply distinguish the components, which implies a desire to use those contrasting colors in the actual registration as defining features. This brought into focus the color scheme of the Kiddee Case, further impacting the above assessment on its overall impression through these ornamental features. Arguably one can agree with the Supreme Court here, as the inclusion of different colors will be taken as that, even if the clear intention to differentiate the parts was not there at the time the application was drafted. Whether this is necessary or useful for the purposes of CAD drawings is beyond this writer's knowledge, but would be an interesting aspect of discussion if this is indeed the case.

Lord Neuberger agreed with Lord Justice Kitchin, and saw that the inclusion of contrasting colors in the registration (with or without the intent to do so) bares a need for the items to be compared in the same vein, i.e. through an assessment of not only shape, but color as well. He concluded that "...the design claimed in this case was for a wheeled suitcase in the shape of a horned animal, but that it was not a claim for the shape alone, but for one with a strap, strips and wheels and spokes in a colour (or possibly colours) which contrasted with that of the remainder of the product". The Supreme Court therefore upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, and saw that the Kiddee Case did not infringe the CRD and made a different overall impression to the Trunki.

The Supreme Court also rejected a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU, determining that there is no question that requires answering, even in the light of the consideration that a lack of ornamentation could be a feature, which will remain a point of contention.

The case clearly will alter CRD practice, especially when CAD images are quite often used as the basis of the registration (with line drawings clearly being the preferred option from now on). What this writer finds perplexing is the lack of concrete answers, especially in the light of the question of a lack of ornamentation as a feature, and further laments the Supreme Court's rejection of a referral to the CJEU on these points. Lord Neuberger restricted his comments to obiter only, and a lack of referral will leave this question in the shade for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the Trunki saga has been an eventful one, and this writer has enjoyed the ride, but is saddened by the Supreme Court's lack of answers and an arguable wrong outcome.

04 March, 2016

Free to Sing - 'Happy Birthday to You' In Public Domain After Settlement

The recent saga dealing with the song 'Happy Birthday to You' has been discussed at length by many intellectual property commentators, including in this very blog here and here. The ownership of the copyright in the song, and the licencing practices surrounding it handled by Warner/Chappell, have been a big point of contention, with a recent ruling by the District Court of Central California declaring the copyright in the works to not reside with Warner/Chappell due to a lack of proper transfer of the rights to the ultimate entity. Warner/Chappell undoubtedly would have appealed the earlier decision, but the matter has since come to an abrupt end after a settlement between the relevant parties.

Per the Settlement Agreement, accessible here on Scribd, there are some terms of interest that must be mentioned.

The Settlement was a bitter-sweet end for Lisa
Section 2.1 of the Agreement mandates the establishment of a Settlement Fund, aimed at remunerating those who have paid licencing fees for the use of the song 'Happy Birthday to You'. The maximum amount allocated to the fund, if needed, would be $14 million, clearly demonstrating the understanding that there will be a considerable amount of entities with the relevant Settlement Class (considering that each licence is roughly $1500). This would include all persons who have paid such licencing fees since the 3rd of September 1949 (including, among others, to collecting societies or direct licences to Warner/Chappell). Even so, the realistic periods and sums of payment are set for two specific groups: payments made on or after the 13th of June 2009, or payments made before that date. The former group is entitled to all of their payments, but the latter only a share of 15% of what they have paid out. The difference, according to the claimant's lawyers, is due to the Statute of Limitations, enabling them to recoup some of their costs even in the absence of a proper claim due to the limitation period.

Additionally, section 2.2 sets out an express relinquishment of all claims of ownership over the song, and a requirement to no longer pursue any fee payments over the use of the song. Furthermore, the parties agree that the song is (under all likelihood, outside of any third-party claims in rights) in the public domain after the 8th of February 2016. However, Warner/Chappell did expressly defend their position in the settlement, and retained their position as the holders of the rights in the song. This seems to be mainly a point of principle, as the settlement does dictate that the song is in the public domain.

The Agreement also stipulates certain actions that need to be taken, such as the creation of a website and other administrative duties involved with the settlement and the payment of the settlement fees.

Arguably, the settlement is not much to write home about, but is an important illustration of the importance of challenging even the oldest, most well-known rights, when needed. The first instance decision set the tone for the settlement, and it shows in the one-sidedness of the Agreement, especially in the financial side of things. Nevertheless, the Happy Birthday saga has been an interesting one, and this writer, although underwhelmed by a settlement rather than a prolonged legal battle, is happy that we can all once again sing the song where ever and when ever we want.

Source: Ars Technica